The Phillies front office is no longer a nerd-free zone.
According to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, Scott Freedman, from MLB's Labor Relations Department, has joined the Phils' front office. His job? To tutor Ruben Amaro and the rest of the braintrust on just what the heck WAR means.
Zolecki says Freedman has worked on salary arbitration cases, provided financial guidance to teams and gained a "deep knowledge of advanced metrics," whatever that means.
So while the Houston Astros have what is called a "Decision Sciences" department, and teams like the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays and, well, just about every other team in MLB, have entire departments dedicated to this stuff, the Phils' ace in the hole will be Freedman.
You know, if William Wallace can beat King Edward's armies with a skeleton crew, I guess the Phillies can do it, too. Although, based on Amaro's comments recently, it's doubtful this hire will mean anything.
"I don't know if it's going to change the way we do business, necessarily," Amaro said. "We still plan to be a scouting and player development organization, but I think it's important to get all the information and analyze not just what we're doing, but how other clubs are evaluating players."
Oh good. So Amaro is already basically saying that this hire isn't really going to effect his thinking on player evaluation or how they conduct business. So, that's awesome.
Scott Proefrock, Amaro's #2 man, weighed in after the announcement of Freedman's hiring was made on Tuesday.
"He's going to help us explore more thoroughly what the options are for using these metrics," Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said Tuesday. "We're looking at them to compliment the opinions of our scouts."
"He's got a wealth of experience at the global Major League Baseball level. It's simply a matter of educating ourselves to how some of our competitors value players. We may find something we are intrigued by, and we may find something we're not intrigued by. But we need to do more investigation and more research internally before we come to some conclusion about what may be right for us, in conjunction and certainly not to supercede what our scouts do."
In other words, the Phillies hired a guy to tell them all about the statistics that they're not going to use. Although, I do hear he knows a lot about Microsoft Excel, which will come in handy when Ruben wants to rank potential free agents acquisitions according to RBI totals.
Oh, and I found this last line by Zolecki amusing.
It remains to be seen how much the Phillies will use advanced metrics, but Freedman's arrival means they will have the stats at their disposal, in addition to a better understanding of what they mean and how they can be used to the club's advantage.
I didn't realize the Phillies didn't have access to all these statistics, guys. I didn't know all those helpful numbers had been hidden away in large paper files at the MLB Fan Cave for the last 10 years. I also didn't know Fangraphs and Baseball Reference were blocked by the Phils' internet security filters.
THEY NOW HAVE THE INFORMATION AT THEIR DISPOSAL. NO NEED TO LOG ON TO THE WORLDWIDE GOOGLEWEB, FELLAS.
But now that Freedman is here, he can bring the secret files with him. Hopefully they're not too redacted to be useful. Hopefully having the secret numbers will prevent them from using seven year old scouting reports to bring aboard useless players like Delmon Young and Laynce Nix. And hopefully, now that the covert documents are IN THEIR POSSESSION, they won't continue to ignore some of the intricacies of baseball that have allowed teams like the Red Sox, Cardinals and Rays to have so much success in recent years.
My guess is Freedman is very good at his job and everything, but that this hire also appears to be nothing more than window dressing and a response to criticism. How much is the team really going to listen to Freedman? How much information is he going to actually provide? Is he just going to be some guy who sits in his office throwing pencils in the ceiling while he tries to get Ruben Amaro on the phone for the 40th time this week?
However, maybe I'm too cynical. Maybe this IS just the first step. Maybe Freedman will actually become a valued member of the front office and help spur a new wave of intelligent baseball analysis in the Phils' front office. Maybe they won't turn him into the guy who sits behind home plate and holds the radar gun every night.
It was mentioned on the site last night that perhaps the Phils are wading into a pool they've never swum in before, and dipping a toe into that pool might be smarter then doing a head-first jump from the high dive. Perhaps Freedman will simply begin to advise the Phillies on the type of stats-guys they should be hiring. And maybe all of Amaro's comments that sound like hitting the brake pedal are simply a way of keeping his scouts happy.
My worry, however, is an exit interview at the end of the year that goes a little something like this.