Thoughts about the baseball world.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Firing of Paul DePodesta, and the Future of Sabermetrical General Managing

Paul DePodesta, second-year GM for the Los Angeles Dodgers, reknowned for his devotion to the sabermetrical, stats-analysis philosophy, gets fired.

All I can say is.... finally.

The guy was sabermetrics to the extreme. More than a true baseball GM, I think he was just some fantasy baseball guy who hedged his bets on the stats he wanted to see. OOoo, look at J.D. Drew's averages over all these years. Nevermind he couldn't scrap together two full seasons for those to translate to consistent totals. And oh oh, that one season from Derek Lowe from three years ago! The past two are probably a fluke or something. And no mind, defense, or speed, or breaking up that middle infield duo; Kent's just such a better hitter than Cora, even if it'll cost a $3 million premium just because he plays 2B.

He's also the guy who lost Adrian Beltre. Yeah, he didn't pan out in Seattle, but who knows what he would have done if he had stayed in Dodger Stadium? The main points are these: Although he was pretty average for several seasons, his breakout 2004 year, the year he left, came when he was 25, an age when most other players have just become rookies. You can't dock his performance for those past years because the Dodgers never gave him the chance to develop in the minors. And in any case, DePodesta completely misses the financial side of things. Even if it does cost say, $3 million more than a player is actually worth, the cost from lost fans disinterested by the loss of a teams's one superstar, or fan favorite, far outweighs that. The same happened with last year's abysmal Paul Lo Duca trade. LoDuca, Encarnacion, Mota - three regulars, especially where the team was lacking this year: hitting, especially in the outfield, catcher, and bullpen relief. All for Hee Seop Choi, a completely unknown (to fans) first baseman, who still hasn't established himself as anything, and Brad Penny, who's nowhere near as great as he was in Florida. The most important aspect, of that, however, is the loss of Paul LoDuca, which was a major blow to both clubhouse leadership, and the loss of the undoubted fan favorite. One of the only moves that made me gain respect for the San Francisco Giants was the resigning of J.T. Snow, even when they really didn't need to. It's about recognizing who the fans want to see out there (and it isn't always based on hitting ability), and making the effort to ensure that he's with the team.

As glad as I am to see DePodesta finally out, his performance in the GM role, the first real showcase of pure, from the start sabermetric GMing, has been a failure, and is going to be a scar against the advent of sabermetric baseball management for years to come. Guys like Billy Beane and Theo Epstein, and to a lesser extent, J.P. Ricciardi, are going to get written off as hacks who read too much into stats and don't look at any of the other aspects of players or the business, when in fact they do. Then again, with all the other GM's essentially ignoring the statistical side of things, it looks like the Athletics, Red Sox, and Blue Jays should be able to develop well in the next few years, until someone else is trusting enough to give a chance to the next enterprising GM.