From what I’ve heard, there are already a few teams doing this, and probably will be more as teams cut costs during the recession. I’m sure there will be some people that get pissed, and will throw it back in the Rays’ faces if they a) don’t win 97 games again, or b) reemploy an advance scout at some point in the future. But that’s really missing the point, which is that the Rays are simply looking for a more efficient way to spend their capital.
Joe Maddon seems to be on board. He actually summed it up better than Friedman did:
“When an advance scout goes in there, he’s seeing it for three, four days,” he said. “The data we’re going to accumulate goes over a longer period of time, which would indicate it’s more correct and not as much one man’s subjective opinion. We feel as though this may be the next level of advance scouting.”
Exactly. You can have the best advance scout in the world; he’s still only going to get 3-4 days worth of information, and one man’s eyes are never going to be able to match the reams of data that come out of objective statistical programs anyway.
Also note that the Rays aren’t firing their advance scout; they’re just using him in a more localized way. That cuts out all the travel costs, and gets a lot more bang for the buck. As Friedman said, in a perfect world they would do it both ways, but we’re obviously not in a perfect world right now.
So as much as people flipped when Oakland and Toronto cut their amateur scouting staffs way back when, this is a much more logical move. There’s so much information on Major League teams and players, and video is so accessible, it probably isn’t worth the trouble to fly somebody around the country anymore (especially not when the economy is this bad). A few years back, the Cardinals used to have Jim Leyland scout the National League exclusively from PNC Park; that seems like a pretty reasonable setup, even if it’s not a traditional advance scout
Amateur scouting is still a very different game; there is no pitch f/x system in Georgia high schools, and the amount of usable objective information on amateurs is still very limited. Could teams cut back some? Probably, but there’s enough value there to not be a slam dunk obvious move. Advance scouting, though, is rightfully on the chopping block, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of these stories in the next few months.
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