Monday, September 10, 2007

Trembley Interview

Some interesting notes in a Baseball Prospectus interview with Dave Trembley (subscription required). A few revealing answers:

BP: Weaver’s reputation included playing for the three-run homer. Do you share a similar philosophy?

DT: I think you have to adapt, and adjust, your philosophy and approach to the personnel that you have. I’ve always been a believer in baseball fundamentals, and to me that’s a repetition of basic baseball skills. It’s pitching, defense and timely hitting. I think you win more games, or at least have the opportunity to win more games, if those things are in place. Obviously, the three-run home run makes it a lot easier, but if you don’t have pitching and defense, a three-run home run doesn’t mean a hill of beans.

Andy MacPhail was in the booth on Saturday and said that the game was "80% pitching". He might have been exaggerating for effect, but given what we've heard from he and Trembley it's clear that pitching and defense is going to be an organizational mantra. And that's fine to an extent.

But the problem seems to be that the men in charge haven't indicated that they appreciate the tradeoffs between offense and defense. The three run home run doesn't mean a lot without the pitching - see Tampa Bay. But there seems to be no recognition that the pitching and defense is no good if the lineup scrapes just to score four runs every night. In order to field a winning team there should be a mix of all three components rather than the thought that any offense generated is a nice bonus for the team.

It's fine to trade some hitting for good fielding up the middle (or anywhere that it adds value), but that doesn't make Luis Hernandez or Brandon Fahey viable options for an MLB roster. It doesn't mean that the team needs to move Miguel Tejada to a less valuable defensive position, and it doesn't mean that a "defensive" catcher like Paul Bako or Alberto Castillo should be on the roster getting at-bats over a JR House.

BP: What is your approach to the use of statistics and statistical analysis?

DT: Well, it’s gotten a lot more sophisticated since I first started. I like to look at match-ups, right/left, and situational things. I think it’s a tool, and I think that a lot of the services that provide this information have some good things, but it’s not a sole basis for making decisions. I think the game is still played between the white lines, and there are a lot of decisions that are made by your gut, not by what you see on paper.

I might be reading into this what I want to see, but this doesn't sound like a man who is going to look at the statistical analysis available to him? Obviously there are going to be situations that can't be neatly summed up by the statistics, but is going with your gut the better option? Is it too much to ask that a manager actually makes decisions by some analytical process rather than the tried and true "gut method"?

It's infuriating that not only will people not take to heart the knowledge gained through statistical analysis, but they'll also say things like "the game is played between the lines". Of course it is. And the statistical record analyzes the things that occur between those lines.

I actually like Trembley a lot so far, although I liked Perlozzo too at the beginning. I don't want to be too hard on him because of one interview, but I do hope he takes to heart the analytical side of baseball.

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