In his own words: Theo's Philosophy on Baseball

In his own words: Theo's Philosophy on Baseball

I thought you all might find this interesting. Contributor "Moonlight" sent a copy from an old 2003 chat Theo Epstein had on the great Sons of Sam Horn blog and it's remarkable how so much of it still holds true today.  Unfortunately I don't have the exact link for the chat, so if anybody has it, please send it and I will gladly post it.  For now, click here for the link to their main site.   The following information is from their blog.  The credit should all go to SOSH and I'm just  re-organizing and relaying their information -- with a huge assist from "Moonlight", of course.  Here are the key points...

On Player Development...

Our goal for player development and scouting is to develop a constant flow of impact talent through our farm system. Reaching this goal would have tremendous benefits:

1) We would have access to impact young talent for our major league club. Talented young players are more likely to stay healthy and are more likely to improve than older players, both good things.

2) We would have access to inexpensive young talent for our major league club, allowing us more resources with which to address our other needs.

3) We would have the solid organizational depth needed to address injuries and poor performance at the big league level.

4) We would have a surplus of prospects, allowing us more flexibility to address holes on the big league club through trades.

5) We would all have added pride in the Red Sox uniform, having developed our own major league talent from the bottom up.

One of the keys to unlocking a player's potential is helping him to control the strike zone. We will work long and hard to get the best out our minor league players and turn out as many prospects as possible. We will be not be afraid to try new methods, nor will we abandon proven methods. If there's someone out there who will help us develop a player, we will hire him. If there's something out there that will help us develop a player, we will buy it. Period. It's that important.

On the Draft

We make no secret about our belief that college players represent lower risks than high school players while offering comparable rewards. That said, we will not shy away from taking the right high school players, especially position players, in the appropriate round. In general, we want college players with tools, but we also want to find the college players who have good make-ups and those who have track records of consistent quality performance.

In an ideal world, we would love middle-of-the-diamond athletes who have plate discipline and power as well as power pitchers with pitchability, command and clean arm action.

On International Free Agency

With our emphasis on college players in the draft, we will rely on our international program to supply the best 17-year-old talent available... and lots of it. There is so much talent concentrated in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela that it is possible to get both quantity and quality at a reasonable price. (Scouting 17-year-olds is fairly imprecise, so volume is important). If you sign enough promising players, you'll find a Hanley Ramirez for $22,000...

When we talk about risk-aversion and prudent spending and $22,000 investments instead of $2,200,000 investments, the point isn't to be cheap or pocket the money. The point is to produce players and get value for our dollars where we can, so that when it's time to let it fly for the big investment at the top of the draft or the high-profile international stud, we have the money available.

On Stats and Scouting

For players in the rookie leagues and the lower levels, we focus more on traditional scoutings and tools. As the player rises through the minors, we shift our emphasis towards performance and statistical evaluation. When a player reaches AA, we balance these two schools of evaluation 50-50... and it more or less remains that way.

On Tools

I can cop out and say the most important tool for a hitter is plate discipline. If you insist on one of the traditional five tools, my answer would be hitting and hitting for power.

For a pitcher, as far as tools go, we focus on command and arm strength. The real essence of a pitcher's ability cannot be expressed using just tools.


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  • What will his philosophy be on when,and for who, to trade his
    veteran players before Aug. 1. I know he wants alot for Garza,
    but wll he gamble that he can sign him at the end of the
    season. More and more teams are going to have pitchers
    on the trade market.

  • With Demp for sure being traded, this team will really lack a True #1. And right now, (not including the recent draft picks) the pitching looks like a bunch of mid/back of the order pitchers to bullpen types. Nothing wrong with that, but they need a solid core in the rotation. So I really hope they acquire at least two solid, proven even, 1-2 starters.

  • Wonder what Hendry's philosophy was.

  • In reply to Brian Davies:

    Hendry: Stockpile slap-hitting second basemen. You can never have enough of those guys. They are vital to any lineup.

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    In reply to Ratmoss:

    And "scrappy". Don't forget "scrappy".

  • In reply to Bobby Douglas:

    Being Neifi-like is a big plus.
    Gets you lots of AB's.

  • In reply to Brian Davies:

    Hendry's philosophy was to acquire players to make up for the previous season's excuses. The line-up's too right-handed, the weather's too cold early in the season, too many injuries, etc. Another part of his philosophy was to max out the player payroll budget by acquiring players whether he needed them or not. No sense having payroll room left if you could acquire talent at the trade deadlines.

  • I"d say this is pretty accurate. Too many band-aids and quick fixes.

  • It's important to remember that this article is from 2003 and some philosophies in sports are fluid and not static due to the evolution of the game. That said, I think the article is still a reliable statement on where he is right now.
    In the Player Development segment, Theo states, "If there's someone out there who will help us develop a player, we will hire him. If there's something out there that will help us develop a player, we will buy it." We have our important dates throughout the season: amateur draft, international draft, non-waiver trade deadline, ML free agents signings, Rule 5 draft, Playoff Rosters (in a couple of years). But, let's not forget the expiration of the 1 year moratorium on hiring Bosox FO personnel that expires (I'm not sure.) either a year from Theo's hiring or a year from somewhere around Theo's compensation resolution.

  • In reply to Moonlight:

    Exactly. It's almost 10 years later and this stuff is still pretty much the same. He's been consistent and successful.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Anyone else see the 30 for 30 show "4 Days In October" about the 2004 ALCS comeback? Theo doesn't look much different.

    I wached it Sunday and wondered if that could someday be us...

  • In reply to eaton53:

    Man, I hope so!

  • I waited a long time for this team to blow things up and rebuild from the ground up with an emphasis on player development, so I couldn't have been happier when Theo was hired, and I'm as excited as I've ever been about the future of this team. Hopefully by the end of the month we'll have a few more quality pitching prospects to go with our top position player prospects.

  • In reply to Ricardo:

    Pitching has always been tougher -- including for this group of guys. I'm sort of hoping they get more MLB ready guys because of their greater chance to make it.

  • Very interesting, thanks the hook up

    As said, his philosophy seems to be pretty much unchanged because it has worked and that is certainly a good thing, although i am sure there have been adjustments made due to experience and what not.

    The part about controlling the strike zone was music to my ears and 9 years later the RS are always at the top in pitches per plate apperamce, always grinding it out, lets hope that happens here.

  • In reply to Andrew13:

    I think it will happen but it will take time. The Cubs will have to keep bringing in their kinds of players. While Castro is an all-star SS, aggressive hitters like him will be the exception to the rule, though I still have hopes his discipline will get better.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Over at BN, Brett posted that Castro's OPS for the 1st half was .736.

    Travis Wood's was .722.


  • In reply to Bobby Douglas:

    Sample size. Wood's an athletic, good hitting pitcher, but he wouldn't sustain that playing everyday.

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    That breath of fresh air feels more like a strong wind than a mild breeze...

    I'm *still* trying to get used to using "Chicago Cubs" and "intelligent and competent front office" in the same sentence.

  • In reply to Bobby Douglas:

    Me too. This is the stuff we've always wanted for the Cubs and it's finally happening.

  • Great quotes that show he is consistant in his approach. I did a little research on the Boston Red Sox. Epstein took over in November of 2002. He's a great interview for sure. I wanted to check out how much success his words carried. Here is what I found out.

    2003 - The Red Sox had Andy Abad, Casey Fossum, Nomar Garciapara, Shea Hillebrand, Lou Merloni, Trot Nixon, Freddie Sanchez and Jeff Supan - All of these players were home grown. Obviously Epstein had little to do with this but it bears mentioning as his goal was to bring up impact talent and there is none on this list outside of Nomar and Sanchez.

    2004 - Trot Nixon, Kevin Youkilis, Nomar Garciapara, Ellis Burks (drafted originally, but left for a while so doesn't really count), Abe Alvarez, Anastacio Martinez. Still too early for Epstein to get credit, which Youkilis is the only additional candidate of relevance.

    2007 - Kevin Youkilis, *Dustin Pedroia, *Jacoby Ellsbury, *Jonathan Papelbon, *Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, *David Murphy, Manny Del Carmen, Kason Gabbard. The five with asterisks are home grown players drafted under Epstein. Impact, talented players.

    The other big thing he preaches is development. We've seen a culture change in the minors. Vitters has a career high in walks. Sczur has made great strides as well. He took over in 2002. By 2007, he had five home grown, impact talents. Almora fits the bill,and maybe Underwood. Certainly Soler projects that way. Our system has already had a shot in the arm. It's a hopeful time, that's for sure.

  • Let's not forget that next year might offer another Yoo Darvish type pitcher that we can acquire.

    I really like this stated philosophy. I really like the stated direction of this club and despite this year's win loss record, I am proud to be a Cub fan because of this front office.

  • John,

    I know the Cubs aren't "suppose" to be competitive for another 2-3 years, but do you think Theo & Hoyer might go after some of the big, young free agent pitchers this off-season?

    Maybe I'm just ignorant, but it seems that given the team's lack of minor league impact pitching prospects, that it could be a good idea. Even if the Cubs won't be competitive during the first couple years, good pitching is hard to find, and any pitcher signed could always eventually be flipped for impact pitching prospects at the trade deadline.

    Given the new CBA limitations on the draft and international signings, this (signing /July trading) could be the easiest way to re-tool the minor league/major league pitching staff.

    Maybe I'm way off here. Just a thought....

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    I don't think so Cubbie Steve. They're going to wait until they get closer to building that foundation they want. It wouldn't surprise me to see them pick up a pitcher or two, but it'll be closer to Paul Maholm or Travis Wood than Cole Hamels.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, under the same vein, they'd still likely go after any good young players, correct? I'm thinking anyone under, say, 26 would be fair game, regardless of how good the Cubs are anytime soon.

  • In reply to mosconml:

    Yes, but guys that young aren't often available on FA market.

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