“Moneyball,” one of the most acclaimed movies of 2011 was released on video last month. The Billy Beane biopic and adaptation of Michael Lewis’ best-selling novel was nominated for six Academy awards including best picture, best actor (Brad Pitt) and Jonah Hill (best supporting actor). Because of it’s popularity, more baseball fans are wondering how SABR-friendly their favorite MLB team is.
The Chicago White Sox don’t have a reputation as being the most sabermetric-focused of teams, and the front office is fine with having that rep, according to the member of the Sox front office that we spoke with. Dan Fabian, White Sox Director of Baseball Operations joined us Sox bloggers on conference call, and what he had to say may surprise you.
Thanks to South Side Sox for the transcript, here’s the Q&A
Paul Banks: Looking at different players, how much do you weigh with the eye test and how much do you weigh with statistical analysis?
DF: It’s obviously both and my background is in both areas. Back in the 90′s, I spent a lot of time as the Assistant Scouting and Farm Director. When Kenny came up, I worked the statistical research I’d done on the farm side on the major league side as well. I’m an old lion stathead going back to the Bill James Abstracts in the 80′s and ELIAS and all that, so I’ve been doing a lot of the years on both sides. The scouting reports are going to be first, but the statistical analysis is another piece to try and determine which players are the best fits. Every one of our summaries has both those things on the page. It has the most recent scouting reports along with the statistical analysis with the basic numbers and some of the higher sabermetric numbers as well.
PB:Did you see Moneyball and how true to life did you think the movie was?
DF: I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve read the book. I just haven’t quite gotten to it yet. I thought the book, at the time, there were some pieces that were true and that the book over exaggerated how much only they (the Oakland Athletics and Billy Beane) were doing it at the time. There were some pieces that some others of us were also doing, but they made it seem a bit like they were the only club doing any of that stuff, which is always a bit of a stretch of the truth.
MP: So with the popular narrative that the White Sox are one of the least sabermetrically friendly organizations, you would say that’s generally untrue?
DF: We’re glad that people think that. But we use all kinds of different pieces. Kenny’s very straightforward that he’s going to look at the scouting report first, but at the same time I know that he’ll also look at the statistical information. We have discussions about various profiles we like to see, things that have evolved over the years. There are always two sides to the coin and I think we’ve always been more in the middle and there seems to have been more of a correction in the industry towards the middle at this point. It got very stat heavy for a while there and I think everybody’s realized you need both pieces there.
You recall that scene in the movie where the scouts are apprehensive about taking a guy with an “ugly girlfriend,” the player being discussed has a female who is “a 6 at best.” And it’s considered a red flag, because it implies that the potential prospect doesn’t have a lot of confidence. That’s just Hollywood right? Real scouts don’t look at such things?
“No they’re all those things, you want to see how a player carries himself on and off the field. And all are amateur and pro scouts do a good job of handling that,” Fabian said.
“I think with the amateur you get a better opportunities to know the kids because you get home interviews and get to know the families, versus when they’re signed with another ballclub, it’s more through the ballpark. There’s so much failure in this game that we definitely pride ourselves in getting to know these kids the best we can, and in providing as much information as we can as well.”
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.