The Nationals have been regarded as a scouting-first operation since General Manager Mike Rizzo took in 2009, an old-fashioned baseball shop run by a 20-year scout. But they also rely on their analytics department, and they have worked to remain at the cutting edge of how to collect and process information.
The Nationals today announced a partnership with Bloomberg Sports to design and maintain a player evaluation system that melds statistics, scouting reports and video that can be accessed by Nationals scouts and officials on laptops and mobile devices. Rizzo described the system as a “microwaved” version of their current database – faster, bigger, better video capability and more all-inclusive.
Director of Baseball Operations Adam Cromie built the Nationals’ current database essentially from scratch. He said the new Bloomberg will enable the Nationals to create a better system than they otherwise could have.
“The Lerner family has made a significant investment in order to allow us to tap into Bloomberg’s programming and data expertise,” Cromie said in an e-mail. We have a lot of smart people in the organization, but we do not have a lot of capabilities on the software development end of the operation. We’ve found that building that type of core competency can take many years and a lot of failure to accomplish effectively. This is a way to allow our people to focus on what they do well while providing them with advanced technology resources.
“Ultimately, I think it is more about process than anything. We have a lot of really bright people out in the field reporting valuable information. We have a system here internally for capturing and analyzing information that, we feel, is an advantage for us. Working with Bloomberg Sports is going to help us leverage our people’s skills and Bloomberg’s technology resources to more efficiently display information and communicate more effectively.”
At least two others major league teams have officially partnered with Bloomberg. Last August, Bloomberg announced similar deal with the Los Angeles Anaheim. In January 2012, the company officially joined forces with the Chicago Cubs.
In order to implement the system, Rizzo said all of the Nationals scouts will be given iPads. As of now, Washington’s entire major league scouting staff have team-issued iPads, as well as amateur crosscheckers – the scouts who take a second look at players identify by amateur area scouts.
“Our scouts are going to be high-tech behind the plate,” Rizzo said. “Some of them, it takes longer than others to get comfortable with it. We got some veteran guys who were a little bit intimidated by it. But if I can figure it out, they can figure it out.”
One of those veteran guys includes Rizzo’s white-haired father, Phil, who has been scouting for some five decades. “He’s used a computer before, believe it or not,” Rizzo said.