Thursday, September 25, 2008

Organizational Consistency

When I was in 6th grade, my classmates and I spent the winter playing organized intramural basketball after school. My class comprised a league of four teams (my team nicknamed themselves Phi Slama Jama, though Drexler and Olajuwon were noticeably absent), and we played two games side-by-side on shortened courts. It wasn't until 7th grade that my class had tryouts for one real team that would compete against other schools on the regulation court.

The high school varsity coaches, however, weren't waiting until even the 7th grade to build a winner.

As it turned out, the varsity basketball coach of the high school was my homeroom English teacher in 6th grade. Every now and again we were able to coax him into talking basketball rather than the subject at hand, a diversion that in retrospect he probably enjoyed as much as we did. Those talks and those seemingly chaotic intramural games had one thing in common: the flex.

The flex was a complicated offense, well complicated for 6th graders who could barely discern the difference between man-to-man and a box-and-one. By many accounts, it was complicated for high school varsity players as well, as it involved crisp passing and a lot of coordinated movement away from the ball. So, this small school in Northern Virginia that wasn't necessarily competing for national championships started teaching the flex offense... in the 6th grade.

Guess what offense we ran in the 7th grade? 8th grade? And so on.

There were two primary results from this process: 1) by the time anyone reached the varsity basketball team the flex offense was second nature and 2) we won a whole lot of basketball games - many more than our talent (or certainly my talent) would have ever dictated.

The point of this is that organizational consistency is absolutely critical for any successful venture. I don't care if you're building cars, running a platoon, or rating debt; consistency and the resulting discipline and cohesion are fundamental elements of high achievement.

Notice here that I am not judging the process in place - the merits of the flex offense or the efficiency of the assembly line. That's because there isn't necessarily one perfect way to do things, at least not that we've been able to find. In baseball there have been many successful strategies in procuring players, developing players, and winning at the Major League level. Regardless of the plan, if an organization adheres strictly to their plan, it will lead to concerted execution, and that execution will more often than not lead to success.

Readers have asked that I comment about the resignation of our hitting instructor, and this is my way of doing so. If Wally really didn't believe in our philosophy, then he absolutely did the right thing for everyone involved. I'm sure it was not fun for him to swim against the tide, and he realized that it wasn't good for the organization either. Again, this is not offering any judgment on who is right or wrong - that's immaterial, and there really isn't a right or wrong philosophy. This situation is simply an acknowledgement from all parties that for the Padres to be successful we need to believe wholeheartedly in the philosophies and practices that we, as an organization, adopt.

This also does not imply that our philosophies are set in stone, so please don't quote Emerson in the comments. In fact, I personally hope that both our continued work and intellectual curiosity reveal evidence that would force us either to refine or to tear down our current beliefs. That means we're learning and getting better. If and when that happens, though, we need to be prepared to implement our new knowledge in the Dominican Republic, Lake Elsinore, San Diego, and everywhere else in between. That is how we will be successful in our quest to become a championship organization.

29 comments:

Z.V. Sanders said...

Cases in support of your point: A's (as your all to familiar) and the Braves.

field39 said...

Why to the San Diego Padres continue to bring in players who can’t run The flex, and coaches who won’t teach it?

Floyd said...

Heh heh, I remember running that flex. We couldn't do crap with it. Hell, we messed up "T-Game", if they even run that anymore. Thanks for the jog back down memory lane!

You Know Me! said...

Can you comment on the petco fence situation. this is just going to keep coming up until its changed.

we have scored 829 more runs away than at home since the park was built. 660 more hits, 229 doubles, and 107 homers.

Not counting the triple, the padres have not done better at home in any major offensive category since moving to petco. That includes runs, hits, doubles, homers, batting average, OBP, SLG, OPS, and extra base hits.

the padres have been in 30th place(dead last in the majors) in one of those statistical categories at home 21 times over the last 4 years. 29th place 6 times, 28th 5 times, and in the bottom five 6 other times. the padres have never placed better than 17th in any statistical category at home since 04.

Guess how many times the padres have placed in the bottom 5 away from petco since 04 in any offensive statistical category? never.......

Away the padres have place 1st in 5 categories and in the top ten 20 times not including the five 1st places.

this proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that petco park has a enormous affect on our players both mentally and physically.

Adrian Gonzalez has commented multiple times publicly on how unfair this park is and if the fences arent moved in we will never keep players of his caliber.

ask Moores why he doesnt take some of the millions the padres are saving this year by cutting back on the payroll and move the fences in. we still may lose 100 games with that team but at least some games will be exciting.

the only excuse ive heard is that we've won at home. did anyone ever stop to think that we may have won even more games with a fair ball park.

is there any plans in place or even any consideration to change this huge problem?

Geoff Young said...

You know me: You understand that the fences hinder the opposition's ability to score runs, too, right? And that moving in the fences could take away that advantage?

Alex said...

A) Haha, great post, the flex in middle school is quite impressive. When I was in middle school, my team ran the offense called "pass it to our best player and let him run isolation". Needless to say, it failed miserably most nights, but I certainly bought into it.

B) you know me!,

You site the discrepancies between the offense at home and on the road, but you neglect to mention the difference the pitchers. I'm too busy/lazy right now to get that information out, but take a quick look at the Padres home winning percentage vs road you'll see Petco doesn't hinder the Pads:

.527 at home vs .482 on the road over the past 5 season entering today.

Now, is Petco solely the cause for this discrepancy? No, there are other factors along with PETCO, but this should at least show that PETCO doesn't seemingly have an averse on the Padres outcomes, which is really all that matters.

Also, aside from home runs, I don't see how moving in the fences would affect the number of hits a team gets. If anything, that just makes for less ground opposing outfielders have to cover. Then again, Petco is a weird park, where balls in play are converted into hits at vastly low rates compared to the league average. I won't pretend to understand the explanation for this mystery

Paul DePodesta said...

field39,

That's a fair and reasonable question. As far as bringing in players who "can't run the flex" - that really isn't true.

Since Sandy arrived here in 2005, our drafts have focused on players who are natural fits for our offensive philosophy (Headley, Antonelli, Huffman, Kulbacki, etc), and our minor league system has gone from being ranked 29th by BA to 12th in a matter of a few years. More importantly, a handful of the players from these drafts have already made it to the big leagues. In terms of acquiring big league players who fit the system, that's a lot more difficult to do. Those players are in extremely high demand. Nevertheless, we have tried to secure those types of players. Remember, too, that this system should actually make any hitter a better and more dangerous hitter. It does not mean, however, that every player is going to end up looking exactly the same with identical stat lines. Everyone has their own natural limits in terms of ability, so the system will manifest itself differently with each player.

As far as coaches, we have yet to be in a position where an interviewee says, "I completely disagree with your philosophy" to which we respond, "You're hired!" In fact, Grady Fuson has gone to great lengths in our minor league system to find coaches and managers who buy into the plan and then to continue to educate them about it. At the ML level it's clear moving forward that our next hitting coach is going to have to be someone who is already a diehard believer.

You Know Me! said...

geoff young and alex:

Do you realize that most teams play better at home. in fact every team in the major league played better at home than on the road other than the angels who still managed to be 49-29.

being at home is a huge advantage no matter what park you play in. you have your fans behind you and you have the last AB.

i realize that our pitchers have an advantage in our park but the pitching splits between home and away are not nearly as different.

im not saying make it a bandbox im saying make it fair.

Alex said...

you know me!,

That is certainly true, which is why I said "there are also other factors in play". That being said, you'd really need to prove that the offense does markedly better on the road compared to the pitchers. Here are the differences in the past 5 years in terms of Plate Appearances per run

2008: Offense - 10.52 at home vs 9.11 , Pitching - 9.68 at home vs 7.16 on road
2007: Offense - 9.34 at home vs 7.92 on road, Pitching - 11.22 at home vs 8.08 on road
2006: Offense - 9.67 at home vs 7.79 on road ,Pitching - 9.38 at home vs 8.80 on road
2005: Offense - 9.82 at home vs 8.63 on road, Pitching - 9.91 at home vs 7.60 on road
2004: Offense - 9.26 at home vs 7.44 on road, Pitching - 9.05 at home vs 8.37 on road

With that in mind we merely subtract the pitching PA per score from the hitting ones for both home and road find out which side is more efficient.

2008: -0.84 @ home vs -1.95 on road
2007: 1.88 @ home vs 0.16 on road
2006: -0.29 @ home vs 1.01 on road
2005: 0.09 @ home vs -1.03 on road
2004: -0.21 @ home vs 0.93 on road

Add those 5 year totals up and this is the score

Home: 0.63
Away: -.88

Giving a difference of .75

It is clear the team is more efficient at PETCO than away from it in PETCO's 5 year history

That really doesn't address completely the issue of "all teams play better at home" but what I'd say to that is this:

Pitchers are prone to injury and fatigue than hitters, as a result, the more ways in which we can favor the pitcher presumably means that pitcher will get to throw less over the course of the year (because PETCO creates outs at a higher rate than the average stadium). If pitchers don't have to work quite as hard in terms of pitch counts and innings, that means they are less likely to develop injuries and fatigue that lead to ineffectiveness.

With hitters, that's really not too much of a proven issue. I feel it inherently benefits a team to have a pitching park because it will affect the attrition rates of pitchers

LynchMob said...

you know me! -

I s'pose I understand the spirit of what you mean by "fair", but when I think about it, I don't get it ... both teams play a game in the same park ... so the games are certainly "fair" ...

Do hitters have rights? Rights to more hits, more HRs? That's what I'm not understanding ...

You talk about "proof" of a mental and physical affect on Padre players ... but I'm not seeing anything besides proof that "park effects" exist.

You cite Adrian Gonzalez as someone who has commented on "unfair"ness ... I'd be interested to see a reference ... my guess is that he has commented about how relatively hard it is to put up good offensive stats ... that's different than "unfair" ...

As long as the Padres have a home-field winning advantage, isn't that more important than simply being good at "major offensive category"s?

There may be arguments for changing the configuration of Petco ... but "fair"ness isn't one of them for me ...

LM

LynchMob said...

So, a related question is this ... does the configuration of Petco align with the current Padre philosophy? And if so, how?

David said...

Paul,

I love the idea of organizational consistency but I've been hearing a lot of posturing from various sources in the organization including you and Sandy of Kevin Kouzmanoff.

Maybe it isn't fair to group you and Sandy together, but in response to a post on consistency I will assume the organization is basically on the same page. The other day, on the radio, Sandy claimed that Kouzmanoff has more potential than Headley. I felt like I was thrown a huge curveball here. At your Baseball Prospectus talk you also spoke about how Kouz's defense was underrated and so forth.

How much does plate patience really count? It obviously counts a lot if you talk to players in the minor league system and even if you read into Wally Joyner's quotes.

Obviously the "plan" here isn't to build a team of guys with bad OBP and free swingers but I don't see where the attachment to Kouz comes from. He has actually fallen in important stat categories like batting average (-0.012), BB% (-2.6), K% (+2.5), slugging (-0.022), RC/27 (-0.88), not to mention his 26-point drop in OBP overall. Kouz has not really been a patient hitter at any level.

My basic question is how can we claim to embrace OBP and then follow by running to Kouzmanoff's side every other second? Does he really have more potential than Headley? Can you define what we see as potential?

Padman42 said...

Mr Depodesta,
I am not trying to argue and say its a bad organizational model. In all honesty it is nice to see a guy like Antonelli come up and work every count, and doesnt have a high K rate.
My thought was what about the kids that were already on the varsity team when they started implementing the flex? Or a transfer student (lets say Larry Byrd) who has never run the flex. I guess the basketball reference doesnt quite work here as in basketball the team is a cohesive unit. In baseball when you're up to the plate you are an individual.
If the player cant run the flex, but is still a really good player, should it be the eh basketball coach (?) (Wally) job to keep on trying to teach them the flex? Or would it be fine for him to teach them other methods that suit their style better? I guess the entire point of the post can be summed up in "if a player does a lot better not running the flex, and the Wally is helping them with that, should the Mark Cuban (front office) intervene and say NO ONLY THE FLEX" (Because in my opinion thats why he quit)

Paul DePodesta said...

david,

I'm not going to get into which player I think has more upside, especially because both have big offensive potential - I'll just address Kouz since he is the crux of the question.

First it's important to remember that virtually all young players go through adjustment periods after reaching the ML level. This isn't just a few week or even a few months. Often times it takes a full three to four years for a player to blossom at this level. In Kouz's case, he only had about 300 pa's in AA and another 100 pa's in AAA before getting to the big leagues, so he was promoted aggressively.

After his admittedly horrendous beginning to the 2007 season, Kouz mashed. From early May until the end of the season (about 450 pa's) Kouz posted a .309/.362/.511 line, which was the best on the team and is almost identical to Adrian Gonzalez's stellar 2008. Those are huge numbers for a first year player.

If you combine those 4 1/2 months with the first 3 1/2 months of this season, Kouz hit .294/.344/.480 across about 825 pa's. Again, playing in this ballpark as a first and second year player, those are big numbers. There is no doubt, however, that Kouz has struggled over the last eight weeks, which has eroded his overall numbers for this season.

I would say that one reason (not necessarily the only reason) for that dip has been an increase in his swing percentage. He has been overly aggressive which has led to a decrease in his walk percentage and an increase in his k percentage.

We're still very high on Kouz because we have seen more than flashes (over 800 consecutive pa's) of very productive offense, and yet the most exciting part is that he can have a much better plan at the plate. Given what he has done with his current approach, imagine what he might do with an increase in plate discipline! Scary!

In short, his raw ability is very impressive, and if we can refine the skill surrounding that ability he will be an impact bat.

PS His defense rates as above average based on our system largely because of his outstanding range. Range is often difficult to rate for 3B because everything generally happens so quickly there, but he gets to an unusual number of balls.

Paul DePodesta said...

padman42,

Another fair question here. The answer has two parts.

1) Your basketball analogy works better than you might think, because our offensive philosophy is a team-oriented approach to baseball. Though each individual has to do his own thing at the plate, the idea of teamwork is essential to the success of the philosophy. The offense works as a unit, and if one guy decides he's in it for himself the effectiveness of the system deteriorates. Imagine an incredibly talented wide receiver who simply decided to run his own pass patterns on every player. That wouldn't work so well. Which brings me to...

2) Regardless of the hitter, this system should make them better and more dangerous. That doesn't mean that each player will be able to have the same success in the program - not everyone will have a .400 obp and a .600 slg. To go back to our basketball analogy, our system is designed to create layups as opposed to 17' jump shots. Everybody is better at layups.

So, to oversimplify, let's say you have two choices - 17' jumper which you make 20% of the time or a layup which you make 90% of the time and you get to take 20 shots. Our system should create more layups, so let's say you normally would get 4 layups and 16 jumpers, our system might get you to 7 layups. If you normally get 7 layups, our system might get you 11. Either way, you'll be scoring more than you otherwise would have.

Ok, now that our season is nearing the end, we're all ready for basketball. :)

Alex said...

On Kouz,

I guess the biggest concerns most people have involve his extremely bad K/BB rate. As horrible as it is, it's not a completely damning issue at this stage in his career, as players like Xavier Nady have overcome some horrible K/BB ratios as hitters to become hitters.

Plus, Kouzmanoff is a productive hitter at this stage, the issue is really whether his lack of discipline will affect him in the future as pitchers learn to view him as a "hacker".

I still think there is a lot to like about Kouz personally, but with Headley is probably the better player in my view, so if the right trade came along with Kouzmanoff (say for a Wladmir Balentien or somethig) it might be tempting

Padman42 said...

Mr Depodesta,
In response to your analogy though, I agree that if everyone is brought up on the same page, then the offense can run as a cohesive unit. But in watching the Padres at the plate, its anything but cohesive. This isnt just a this year thing, but countless times (including tonight), we have seen the supreme in ability of the Padres to get runners over and in. A young team like the Padres, built under this "flex" model, is also the type of team that needs to play smart/small ball and be able to get runners over. If not we will just see L's across the board no matter the OBP.
But its hard to compare baseball (at the plate) to either football or basketball, because unlike the other 2, 1 players actions doesnt ruin the play (ie a missed block) In baseball I see it more like the Ryder Cup. You are a team (USA) and what you do helps determine/put pressure on, the next guy. (you win, not as much pressure on the next guy). Its the hitter vs the pitcher, if the hitter takes a different approach then the "flex" but proves that his method is still effective, then why should the organization still try to shove the flex on him? (Im thinking the left side of the infield). Young hitters that can be molded, then fine, its a good system. But for the older/nonorganizational players who succeed under a different system, I dont see why they should be penalized for not being able to handle this one? (Or the coach for helping them with their old system)

Thanks again Mr Depodesta, for even writing something on the matter, let alone fielding our questions on it.

hector said...

I like the idea of the flex without ignoring signing an impact free agent. If you build using the farm system you have enough payroll flexibility to sign an impact player every now an then.

Danny said...

Paul,

I'm wondering..what HS did you attend in Northern VA? Did you grow up there??

mweldon said...

Fortunately it is not an either-or situation with Kouz and Headley. We can keep them both for the near future. People sometimes overlook that fact.

It's a baseball team, not a stock brokerage. You don't always have to sell high, unless you want to be in a continual state of rebuilding like the Pirates.

padresrevolution.com said...

David: I heard the interview and I didn't think Alderson said Kouz has more potential than Headley. He was disagreeing with the radio host who said that Kouz was having a good year. Alderson mentioned that Headley had a higher OPS and then started talking about how much potential Kouz had offensively and how much he had improved defensively. He seemed pretty frustrated by the fact that, if Kouz could just lay off of certain pitches, he'd be a great hitter.

Anyways, that's what I got out of the interview.

If he is that frustrated with Kouz, I wonder what he thinks about the year Khalil was having. I'm guessing not much.

Nathan said...

how can the Padres at the major league level get more of their players to practice the philosophy set forth by the front office? Is it simply a matter of just hiring a hitting coach with a better understanding of the philosophy and him teaching it to the players, or does it mean getting rid of players who can't seem to adjust to the philosophy? Or is it both? What impact can the manager have on this? At what point does the front office decide that a player just isn't going to work out in their philosophy?

The team that we have assembled as of now is much different than the team we had at the beginning of the year. The team now seems much more philosophically in sync than the team did to start the year. Obviously corrections have been made, but why weren't we philosophically in sync as a team at the start of the year? If we'd been in sync, perhaps we might not be 21 games back with 2 games to play trying to win 1 more so we don't lose 100 games.

Alex said...

To go back to what I was saying about home field advantage, I found the following data using PA's per Run versus both home and road to measure which parks or teams have the greatest "home field advantage" in the National league. Here's what I found.

The average home field advantage for the NL between 2004-2008 (since PETCO's existence) is 1.04, which means that home teams have a net gain of 1.04 PA's per run versus on the road.

Over the past 5 years, here are the top 5 and bottom 5 in the NL in terms of homefield advantage (excluding Nationals since they just changed stadiums):

1. Brewers 1.98
2. Rockies 1.94
3. Dodgers 1.79
4. Astros 1.51
5. STL 1.48 (I only used their new park for data, 2006-08)

11. Marlins .59
12. Mets .58
13. Phillies .50
14. Giants .35
15. Padres .25

So maybe you know me! had a decent point if these numbers mean anything. Adjusted to the NL average, the Padres might very well have had the worst homefield advantage of all NL teams since PETCO opened.

HOWEVER, in the past two years the Padres have actually been quite good with home field advantage, averaging a 1.32 score vs the 07-08 NL average of 1.14

That could be completely arbitrary, or that could mean that maybe the Padres front office has found a more efficient way to take advantage of PETCO and are going after players that do so. After all, they did hire a certain person in 2006 that might have been able to help them figure out how to pay PETCO efficiently.

The problem with these numbers, just like park factors to a degree, is that there are numerous factors that affect the Park Data. If Chris Young happens to get 5 more starts at home than he gets on the road in a given year, the splits are obviously not equal. There are plenty of other variables, so take everything with a grain of salt.

I myself am not sure if these have any meaning at all, but if they do, the Padres have at least demonstrated in the past two seasons that PETCO can play as an advantage. Either it really is completely arbitrary OR the front office have learned within the last 3 years how to play more efficiently at PETCO

Wes said...

Hey, Paul:

I'm not very clear on what "plate discipline" means, in terms of the team consistency you refer to. From Wally's comments when he left, it seems to me the team's philosophy is never to swing until forced to. That's consistent with the sabermetric/sabernomics idea that the best strategy to the game is to avoid making outs (as opposed to 'manufacturing runs'), but I guess I question whether or not the stat analysis (regressive or otherwise) accounts for enough variables to be an accurate predictor of success.

A lot of gobbeldegook, I guess, but what I'm getting at is that is your definition of "plate discipline" that a hitter should sit on a juicy first strike in an effort to "avoid making an out," or is it okay to swing at a pitch he's reasonably sure he can do something with?

I was taught plate discipline when I played, but it didn't mean not swinging... it meant waiting for the right pitch -- a pitch that you tend to hit well, and in your zone. This definition of "plate discipline" doesn't precisely fit the "avoid making an out" philosophy.

Does the Pads' FO adhere 100% to the saber-model for plate discipline, or is there room for a different kind of "flex"? My impression from Wally's departure is that there's no room for flexibility, and from what you've written, it sounds like that's true.

I guess I'd like to hear clearly from you what the philosophy is. (I'm not hostile, by the way -- I love your blog and buy somewhat into the FO's approach... but this approach is harder for me to swallow).

Alex said...

Wes,

I'm certainly not qualified to answer your question on what the Padres FO stance is, but I don't think anyone, sabermetrician or not, would recommend taking a "perfect pitch" in order to not make an out.

I think the widely accepted view on plate discipline is not to have a team of statues. Even the most patient hitters are going to have their outcomes decided by swings over 80% of the time. The key is being selective at what pitches they swing at. Essentially, don't swing at balls out of the strike zone, the fundamental rule of baseball.

Patient hitters do swing at the first pitch, just less often because they are the most selective with that first pitch. They look for one type of pitch in one exact location, and it is not there, they don't swing. However, because they are so selective with their pitches they tend to hit well on the first pitch in their careers:

Youkilis - .387 BA/.679 SLG
B Giles - .342/.636
Abreu - .397/.627
C Pena - .401/.815
Dunn - .387/.835

Ok, those last two might not be the perfect definition of selective hitters, but they are known for walking a ton, so I included them.

While I don't know what Mr. Joyner's exact quote was, I'm pretty sure the Padres philosophy was to avoid swinging at good pitches to try and draw walks, like I said, even the players that walk at the highest rates still have their at-bats determined by swings by over 80% of the time. The key is to lay off of bad pitches. The reality of major league baseball is that the pitchers are so good at this level that they are not going to give hitters many good pitches to hit. They are going to try and get hitters to swing at breaking balls out of the strike zone because on pitches like that, hitters (outside of Vladamir Guerrero) don't tend to hit those pitches well if at all.

If you lay off of them, you are going to get into favorable hitting counts and likely get fatter pitches to hit. If you don't get those fat pitches, you'll take your walks. Plate discipline to me is all about hitting good pitches. The problem is, those good pitches don't come around often, if they did, we'd see much higher batting averages and home runs. Since they don't, it is favorable to take walks, because a walk has a lot of value and is certainly better than trying your luck on hitting a slider outside of the strike zone.

You Know Me! said...

Paul,

can you give us a list of all the players playing winter ball. so far ive only noticed carillo, blanks, ekstrom, and decker to the dominican complex

David Cameron said...

We started running the flex in 6th grade as well. Maybe my coach and your coach were friends?

We found that the easiest way to teach the flex was to let people be part of the low block double screen - always fun to put your shoulder into a 100 pound 12 year old and drop them like they stole something.

Lonnie Brownell said...

You know who had the fourth best OBP on the Padres this year, of position players with some reasonable number of PAs? McAnulty (only 135 PAs, but more than Venable, who was fifth). Better than Headly, who was sixth. Way better than Kouz, who was about 10th. But he was sent packing pretty early on.

I'd have to call this management plan "Wishful Thinking", as it's based on the stats you want, hoping that the players you like will some day get there--but not hanging on to the players who seem to epitomize what you want, but are problematic because they don't do well in the more glamorous stats (his average was down around 12th, again depending on who you count as having enough PAs).

One of the tennets that was expressed in "Moneyball" was to pick players that already have the qualities you want, because you can count on NOT being able to turn a free swinger into a disciplined count-worker (for example). That part seems to have been lost here.

Wes said...

Alex:

Thanks for the great response. You did a much better job of describing plate discipline than I did. I was precisely the kind of hitter you describe, and was largely undervalued because of it. My BA was fair, my OBP was through the ceiling, but I didn't hit for power... so I was never on anybody's superhero list. But what I was taught, and what I practiced was what you describe, with one addition: when I had 2 strikes on and I still wasn't seeing the pitch I wanted, I fouled them off until the pitcher made a mistake and gave me what I wanted or walked me. Since I only went as high as high school ball, pitcher's mistakes were the usual outcome, and I walked a lot. Geez - I rarely hit for extra bases anyway, so a walk really was as good as a hit for me, except when there was a guy on base ahead of me with less than 2 outs, in which case I tried to put the ball in play.

Anyway, you've also captured my impression of the Pads' philosophy, which is to have guys sit on even good pitches in the effort to "avoid making an out." I'm hoping Mr. DePodesta will respond and correct me on that, but alack! I fear the worst.

Another point made by Lonnie Brownell (above) is a good one -- that trying to convert hitters into guys who will sit on even good pitches probably won't work very well. These guys are competitors, and most have gotten where they are by being at least somewhat aggressive. To get to the MLB level and be told to stand in statue form is asking a lot. And, like Lonnie, I question whether it's the best practice anyway.

One more point that I raised earlier is that there are variables that stats don't capture. I know Paul has developed more effective data-gathering tools (such as a grid of the field to better track where hitters hit the ball in different situations), but the Catch-22 is that once you develop a data-gathering model that is intricately detailed, the sample sizes become too small for valid analysis -- too small to predict future outcomes. You might now have data on how many times Giles hit into sector 112, but who was pitching? What pitch did Giles hit? What was the weather impact on the ball's flight (such as humidity and wind)? So, one of my main "gripes" with the saber-models is that they cannot take into account variables that will produce more reliable data.

I do believe in the saber-models, and have read a lot more books on it than I care to admit, but it has limitations. What I'd like to know about the Pads' philosophy is what extent they buy into saber-models, and how much they allow for judgment calls on the field.