I remember when my parents bought our first computer and I sat down to write my first program. It was back in the early 1980s when they brought home a TRS-80. We hooked it up to an old television, plugged in the cassette recorder that served as the external disk drive, and typed away on a flimsy keyboard. My dad and I spent hours writing a program that would simulate a craps game.
It was new, it was cool, it was powerful, and it was a ton of fun.
Today we learn that the Phillies are, like my dad and I in the early 80s, embarking on a new era of computer ownership and programming. Granted, it's probably a wee bit more powerful and sophisticated than what I was doing 30 years ago, but it's still a new day.
And for that, we should celebrate.
Here's the basic gist of the article in the Daily News this morning from David Murphy: the Phillies hired Scott Freedman at the end of 2013 to bolster their fledgling computer operations. Though we've heard very little from Freedman over the past year and a half, turns out the Phils have given him a smart intern and over a million dollars to build "a proprietary computer information system they hope will play a similar role to the Red Sox' well-known Carmine system, serving as a database for scouting reports, medical histories, statistical models, and more."
Murphy takes pains to point out that the Phillies are not trying to become the new Epsteins or Beanes of the world, but they are, perhaps begrudgingly, accepting the reality that they need to use modern baseball analysis in order to win baseball games.
This is great news, regardless of how high or low you are on the Phillies' front office.
Ever since Freedman was hired, other than an interview here at TGP, there's been deafening silence from the Phillies about his role and the team's use of analytics. As much as I am a big critic of the Phillies' front office, I wholeheartedly support their silence on this as a matter of team strategy. There are very strong reasons to keep quiet -- it prevents the media from mischaracterizing what you say and it prevents your opponents from knowing what you're doing. Silence can be a huge competitive advantage.
But, one of the consequences of silence is that ignoramuses who know nothing more than what is publicly available can say stupid things about the organization that are not based in reality. These things may be based in publicly-available reality, but not in what is actually happening. As an organization keeping quiet, you accept that risk and determine that it does not outweigh the benefit of being quiet. The Phillies, obviously, made that assessment and decided to keep quiet.
Until today, when Murphy's article appears showing the Phillies are not entirely retrograde with respect to modern analysis. Say what you want about the ESPN article claiming the Phillies are the worst in sports in this area, but I would venture a guess that Murphy's article stems from either his questions in response to that article or the team's wanting to counteract the perception the article created, or maybe both.
Which is a long way of saying that we now know something we didn't before, something the Phillies apparently wanted to keep quiet -- that they are doing the right thing and trying to meld traditional baseball scouting with advanced baseball analytics.
This by no means absolves the team of every sin and incompetency, but it is a great thing that has to make us more hopeful about the Phillies' future today than we were yesterday.