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Monday, December 03, 2007

Pirates GM Interview

Baseball Prospectus has an interview today with the new Pirates' GM, Neal Huntington. He sounds like a really interesting guy, and his willingness to actually answer questions in a thoughtful manner made for a great interview (and a refreshing alternative to another NL Central GM...).

The whole thing is a great read, and I had a hard time deciding what to excerpt. But this first question tells you a lot about this guy's approach.
David Laurila: Since you came on board, there has been a lot of talk of your bringing “the Indians model” with you to Pittsburgh. How do you view it?

Neal Huntington: I don’t think that we’re trying to recreate the Indians model, per se. The people I worked with in Cleveland certainly played a prominent role in my professional development, but our leadership team--our major league scouting and player development staffs here in Pittsburgh--have a variety of experiences, abilities and philosophies. It is our intent to draw on the best of our collective thoughts and build a system that is best applied in Pittsburgh. One thing about the Indians, A’s, Red Sox, and others is that they are innovative in their use of objective measurement as an evaluative and developmental tool, and that’s something of which we recognize the value. We’ll be similar in that we’ll incorporate it into what we do, but we’re not here to try to recreate the Indians.
Huntington seems like yet another example of the "new breed" of general managers--someone who is able to incorporate and integrate both subjective and objective analysis of player performance and projections in sophisticated and innovative ways. Innovation is the key here, and it's unfortunately not something that I see the Reds doing a lot of. That's not to say that you can't be successful by being really good at using more traditional approaches. But I tend to think that the innovative clubs are going to outdistance the more traditional clubs in the long run, even if they occasionally make big mistakes in the short run as they try out new ideas.

Proof will be in the pudding, of course. But if I were a Pirates fan, I'd be pretty optimistic about what we've been hearing from Huntington over the past few weeks (and they are, apparently). And as a Reds fan, the fact that someone like Huntington is being employed by a division rival makes me nervous.


  1. Dave for LouisvilleTuesday, December 04, 2007

    Grabbing Phillips, Burton, and Hamilton is pretty freaking innovative!!!!!!! Where were Beane and Epstein on those moves??????

    Krivsky is doing a good job.

  2. There is nothing innovative about finding upgrades via the waiver wire and rule five draft. When you're that low, it's hard to miss.

  3. Dave, I've certainly pointed out those successes several times around here, and, in fact, have been pretty darn positive about Krivsky on this blog over the years. I even had a short evaluation-type analysis in which I tried to quantify how valuable guys like Hamilton, Phillips, Hatteberg, etc, have been, even in the face of major losses (Kearns, Harris, etc)...I got attacked pretty hard over that post too. :) You can find it via a search if you're interested.

    But the kinds of things that Krivsky does are not the things that I (or Huntington) mean when we talk about innovation.

    Krivsky actually had some interesting things to say in an interview with XM Radio today about the Phillips deal. That acquisition was almost purely based on scouting--apparently the guy they had following Phillips, who was already high on him, saw Brandon turn on a 95 mph Roy Oswalt fastball in spring training. That was one of the big moments, apparently, in the decision to take him.

    Wayne would probably admit that he's gotten a bit lucky with Phillips, but he still deserves credit for going after him despite the apparent logjam at second base that the Reds had at the time. His strategy of seeking out talented players who hadn't panned out in their previous organization has had great success, even if it's somewhat lucky success, and I hope he continues to take chances on players like Phillips or Hamilton.

    As I said, there's nothing that says you can't be successful by being really good at using more traditional approaches--i.e. mostly scouting, with some basic stats sprinkled here and there. But I tend to be most intrigued by organizations that are genuinely innovative with respect to how they go about gathering, synthesizing, and interpreting information from a variety of sources. Epstein's group is very good at that, as is Shapiro's...