“Mike is very open-minded and has gone to great lengths to embrace the statistical side of it,” Cromie said. “It lends us a lot of credibility within the organization and lets us be part of conversations that I’m not sure a lot of other people who have our perspective are allowed to be a part of. While the scouts are always going to drive the decisions, it allows us to play a role where we can help to make sure other perspectives are heard.”
When Rizzo holds a meeting, he compares his scout’s evaluations with the predictive stats Cromie and Mondry-Cohen provide. He also listens when they come to him with a suggestion.
“It comes down to, who are you comfortable with more?” Rizzo said. “If I’ve seen a guy for years and years and years, currently and recently, and I have an impression of him negatively or positively, if I have a strong feeling on a guy, the sabermetric report isn’t going to really sway my decision making.”
Still, Rizzo said, he takes great pride in the Nationals’ advances in statistical capability. They use their own formula to evaluate defense — one of the most difficult skills to measure — and their own version of wins above replacement, the catch-all metric used to match a numerical value to a player’s total contribution. Their formulas, which they will not share, take into account the effect of the Nationals’ league, division, ballpark and even climate.
“It’s not old school or new school,” Rizzo said. “It doesn’t slight the grinder, old scout in the field. But it’s a tool. It would be like scouting without a radar gun. Why would you do it when a radar gun is available?”
The Nationals’ analytics department sees its mission as gathering as much information as possible and organizing it in a way decision makers can easily digest, and stats are only part of the package. Mondry-Cohen and Cromie sift through scouting notes, video, public research and media reports.
“A lot of our job is sort of wading through the numbers, the noise, and bringing to the forefront the couple numbers or analytics they should be looking at,” Mondry-Cohen said.