The battle between analysts and traditionalists rages on

ATLANTA – Not long after the cameras caught AJ Minter hot in the Atlanta bullpen on Friday night in Game 3 of the World Series – with Ian Anderson concluding with his fifth inning with no-hit ball – the respective “sides” predictably withdrew to their corners.

With Atlanta manager Brian Snitker’s decision clearly already made, Anderson, a 23-year-old rookie, would not get a chance to throw the only World Series no-hitter since Don Larsen’s perfect play in Game 5 of the 1956 series, an argument , which has raged in and out of the sport for most of the last 20 years was fully reunited.

The let-him-pitch crowd enveloped themselves in the heat of yesteryear, as starting pitchers in their eyes never came out early, throwing 175 lanes for a match.

The wiser-than-dinosaurs-who-do-not-appreciate-our-ingenious audience, meanwhile, saw themselves in the glory of Atlanta’s strategy working for a T. Bullpen failed to end the no-hitter, but ended that match , A 2-0 win that gave Atlanta a two-game-to-one league lead.

It was flushing, repetition of arguments that have long since become exhausting, but which nevertheless continue to seep out and will continue to do so undiminished as an imaginary battle for the game’s “soul” flows forth.

“The old me, probably a few years ago, would be [saying], “How the hell am I doing this,” honestly, “said Snitker, 66, a lifer of the Atlanta organization, about pulling his starter after 76 pitches and not having to face a dangerous Astros lineup a third time .

Snitker, like virtually all managers in the big leagues, has necessarily made himself fluent – or at least familiar with – the measurements that influence the decisions each organization makes, both in the game and up to matches.

They have come to stay, and honestly they should be. Any big-league team that does not take advantage of gathering as much information as possible is simply committing organizational misconduct.

But the real struggle is to find a balance between what some would call new-age thinking – which is not a very adequate description – and old-school thinking, which is just as inadequate.

Billy Eppler, a former assistant general manager for the Yankees who served as the Angels’ GM from 2015-20, covered it perfectly in March 2016 at an SABR analysis conference in Phoenix.

“That with analytics versus scouting, it’s so tired,” Eppler told the Los Angeles Times at the time. “Uncle. Uncle, do you know what I mean? It’s almost like you’re supposed to be a Republican or a Democrat. Are you on the East Coast or the West Coast? Are you into statistics or are you into Scouting? I do not know. Can I really be in between “Because I am. It’s just black and white. Nobody wants gray, but gray is the best. That’s what makes this game great. There is no absolute.”

When it comes to the organizations that are currently considered to be the best run, there is no absolute. It is they who have decided that there can be – although it is not always a happy marriage between the numbers and for example traditional scout – at least a meaningful and productive relationship.

There is an understanding that while most of the game can be quantified, 100% of it may not be. Inability to quantify something is not proof of its non-existence.

It should come as no surprise that among the teams most mentioned by scouts, coaches and leaders – from both sides of the aisle, it should be pointed out – as they have found the balance best are the Dodgers, Red Sox, Astros, Rays and Atlanta (four of these clubs reached, not coincidentally, MLB’s last four).

Then there are clubs like the Yankees, who have gone all-in on everything in terms of analytics and sports science in recent years, and have gradually rejected those in the organization who dare to push that approach back into the background, with third base coach Phil Nevin as the latest example.

An “us vs. them” dynamic, as an organizational insider put it in July for Newsday, which has been many years in the making between many in the analytics department and those in professional scouting, bubbled a lot to the surface behind the scenes – and downward Yankees season that ended with a wild-card loss to Boston.

As an NL director coming from the analytics side of things, it put it:

“Welcome to the battle between scouts versus analysts that has happened since Moneyball. Scouts were often able to see their flaws and grow, while analysts hid behind computers and made fun while leaving no trace of paper so they could always distract the blame. ”

And it goes on.


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