What Would I Ask a GM?

The schedule noted a day off for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The team desperately needs this day to help them to regroup and in many cases heal from the nagging injuries that occur over the course of 147 games. The team starts an important three game series with the surging Los Angeles Dodgers tomorrow which is all the more reason for them to kick back and relax for a day before getting back into the grind. It is a little bit different for a fan. With the exception of a few paper cuts from turning pages in the scorebook and trying to heal from when I got a piece of peanut shell in my eye I don’t have a lot of injuries to show for this season. Oh sure there is the usual writer’s cramp that occurs when there is an extended home stand with extra inning games but that is why we have Spring Training so we can get into shape for the long regular season. Since I don’t have any injuries that would require me to rest I am left trying to find something to do with myself on a day where there is no Diamondbacks baseball. I briefly thought about watching the Dodgers and Padres game but I am not sure who I would root for and I have enough stress in my life without adding any more to my blood pressure.

I decided instead to quietly contemplate the state of baseball and assess my knowledge of the game. A lot of people seem to think that just because I attend 81 home games per season and a handful of away games that I know a lot about baseball. Granted I have accumulated a bit of knowledge about the game since I have either been playing or watching baseball for over 40 years. The one thing I can say with confidence is that the more I think I know about baseball the less I really do. It is not just the game that sometimes perplexes me but also the people and their roles. Today for example I began thinking about the office of General Manager. I think at some point in time we have all wondered what it would be like to be the General Manager of a Major League Baseball team. But what qualifications does it take to be General Manager and how exactly does the job work? This was something I had never really given much thought to. I’ve played organized baseball so I am very familiar with some aspects of the General Manager’s job (such as breaking the news to a player that they are not likely to become a Major League baseball player). But I don’t really know the nuances of the job or how they evaluate talent. Being a fairly curious person I began to wonder, if I had an opportunity to ask the Arizona Diamondbacks General Manager Josh Byrnes ten questions, what would I ask?

That’s an interesting proposition. On the surface it would be easy to ask him about short-term roster and player movement transactions. I’m sure everyone wonders what exactly he was thinking when he claimed Byung-Hyun Kim off waivers or why Carlos Quentin is in the dog house and has only had 3 at-bats since being recalled from the disabled list. But those types of questions won’t necessarily give me an insight into the philosophy of being a General Manager. No I needed more probing questions if I had any hopes of understanding the workings of the GM office. After a little careful thinking I came up with the following:

1. During your time in Boston working with Theo Epstein the Red Sox brought in a consultant named Vöros McCracken who had developed a defense neutral statistic for evaluating pitchers. Did you buy into his theory and do the Diamondbacks utilize a derivative of that calculation to determine pitching efficiency?

2. How do you balance the traditional “tool” scouting versus analytics and statistical analysis when evaluating players?

3. During player evaluation how much weight do you place on fielding and defense versus offensive categories?

4. On Base Percentage and On-Base plus Slugging percentage are often touted by the statistical proponents as the best indicator of a player’s run production. Do you agree with this assessment or do you feel there are other statistical indicators that are better predictors of the future success of a player?

5. Over the past several years the Diamondbacks have gravitated towards drafting college aged players in the early rounds of the amateur draft (this year being an exception of course). Are college players statistically weighted higher or are high school players “penalized” during pre-draft ranking due to their lack of experience?

6. From an outsider’s perspective the Diamondbacks appear to be built based upon pitching and run efficiency (which I happen to agree with). Was this a conscientious strategy of drafting and developing players in the minor leagues or is it a result of market and payroll constraints?

7. Deception and adaptability would appear to be valuable attributes when constructing a bullpen staff; what statistics and criteria do you employ to evaluate the psychological make-up for relief pitchers? (I’m presuming that a psychology and statistics student such as Peter Woodfork has somehow been able to quantify traits such as these).

8. How much time and effort is expended evaluating players within the Diamondbacks organization (major league and minor league) versus how much time is spent evaluating players outside of the organization (for possible trade or free agent scenarios)?

9. Do you use different statistical measurements for evaluating a player’s post-season potential versus regular-season?

I reserved the right to hold one question back in the off chance that something enlightening comes from the first nine I would have an opportunity to ask a follow-up question. Questions such as these would hopefully offer me an insight into the Diamondbacks player development brain trust and help me to better understand why some of the decisions are made. If I can better understand how these guys are thinking I won’t be taken off-guard when transactions such as Byung-Hyun Kim or Joe Kennedy occur. But then again maybe it is as simple as having a “hunch” or flipping a coin.

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