SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Brian Cashman is probably right that analytics aren’t the Yankees’ problem. The real issue seems to be organizational buy-in. And what’s unclear is whether Cashman has considered the bigger question about the culture he’s fostered: Are the Yankees doing enough in communications and education to create believers in their approach?
Speaking to reporters for more than an hour at the general managers meeting on Tuesday, the Yankees echoed the narrative reported by Newsday and others.
“That’s a lie,” Cashman said. But that’s what people want to say. I know I can’t change that narrative. All I could do was say, ‘Bull—- that’s not true.’
In the year In 2023, the problem may not really be a brilliant use of mathematics itself. Good teams use analytics and use it well across their organization. That fight is over.
Mike Elias, whose Orioles won the American League East, has been at the forefront of better analytics for two decades. Before Baltimore, Elias was with the Cardinals, working under Jeff Luhnow, who hired Elias as director of scouting in Houston. The Astros were as progressive as they come.
“I’ve been in three organizations that have found paths to success where it’s a big part of the narrative now, and the behind-the-scenes sausage work is a big part of it,” Elias said. “So that was my experience. I’m probably biased for that. And I think there are many ways to skin a cat.
Cashman had a few reasons to feel confident that the soundbite should be banished from the record, “whether it’s a bitter boy or a bitter person or whoever.” One is that the Yankees investigated the complaints and the team found that at least most, if not all, of them were to no avail.
He also believes it’s inevitable that a team like the 2023 Yankees will complain when they fare poorly, because people are always looking for something to blame.
“You have an off-the-record quote from within the organization accusing us of losing because of analytics,” Cashman said. “So you’ve gone through all that to unpack: Where is the[probability]in the game?
Yankees GM Brian Cashman criticized critics of the team’s analysis
“First of all, is this true? Or is it someone who has reached a bad time, a weak time, a phone call? … I know how this thing works. Because I was part of the situation – before we started flying up – where everyone started seeing each other and eating like (themselves).
“That’s what creates losing situations. And that’s what we’re dealing with — it’s worse in a big market. When it happens, it’s going to be ugly. So we’re tightening the crew around us, making sure we’re rededicating to the real thing.”
The third point was specific to players: that they don’t always like the current reality analysis. Cashman points to the popular advice that starting pitchers shouldn’t go third in the order, because performance obviously drops.
“The opposing player will be like, ‘This is bull—-,'” Cashman continued. That is an example of the conflict between numbers and competition.
Cashman is right about a few things. Cashman mentioned that some pitchers like Gerrit Cole may never believe they were taken in the fifth inning to never face the top of the lineup again.
It is also right that players and staff who lose the season are subject to complaints. It was a hair away from the old cliché, winning fixes everything.
The problem is, however, that an environment ripe for grievance does not mean that literally all grievances are unfounded—or ultimately intractable.
At the end of the season, Aaron Judge will get a lot of Yankees players, but I think we may be looking at the wrong ones and maybe we should value other people that some people see as worthless.
Cashman said he spoke with a judge on Tuesday.
“I asked him about that. And he talked about RBIs and batting average,” Cashman said. “They’re important, I understand. Again, I think it comes down to everybody being happy when they hit 99 two years ago.
That a judge, such an astrologer, is said to be concerned with those particular statistics is at least a little interesting.
Averages and RBIs have fallen in popularity because they are not particularly useful for predicting the future. They’re simple and timeless, but not the most accurate measures of performance.
“We try to teach, but we want our players to be competitive and aggressive and believe they can run up against a wall and accomplish anything and everything,” Cashman said.
However, it’s not just the players who have to come along. The workers must be pulled by the same rope.
If he doesn’t, Cashman must review questions beyond whether the complaints are true or reasonable. Why is it that people in the Yankees organization still do bogeymen these days? That could indicate a fundamental misunderstanding for players or staff about what the team is doing and trying to do, and why? What does it say about communication and leadership?
“We’ve been accused of not taking the infield in the minor leagues. It’s not true, we do,” Cashman said. “” We only destroy live machines. We don’t practice batting on the field.’ It’s not true! But things are being written about this matter, they accuse us of such things. That’s weird. Disappointing things.
“It has now become a runaway train. It’s like, Whac-A-Mole, Whac-A-Mole, Whac-A-Mole: You can’t destroy every one. And I think part of it (with loss) is when people sometimes start flirting with saying things that they think are true, and we focus on those. But in other cases it is not true.
During Elias’ time in Houston, the Astros struggled in some major ways creating acquisitions. The Orioles don’t seem to have had the same struggles then as the Astros have with the Yankees now (though oh, not under the same magnifying glass as the latter).
Faith does not come out of thin air. Communication, education, and sometimes, if genuine efforts on both fronts fail, personnel changes.
Elias, who was named executive of the year by his peers, said the new Red Sox head of baseball operations, Craig Breslow, explained the acquisition well.
“I saw a Brelow quote from the press release that caught my eye about how the important thing is — no matter what your mission statement is — to be aligned with it,” Elias said. “It’s probably more powerful than any philosophy you choose. And I can’t confirm that, but I buy it.
At that press conference last week, Breslow was asked by the Athletic’s Jane McCaffrey how he helped the Cubs fix the ball.
“The most important form of transportation that I’ve found—and I think it’s true of pitching, I think it’s true of any education—is that, given the size of offices today, with information everywhere, it’s much easier to get hold of. The newest, the brightest, the most current.” Trying to get information,” Breslow said. “When it turns out that it’s more powerful to get an organization behind something in a direction.”
When asked directly if the issues he described were buyable, Cashman didn’t buy it….
“I think it’s convenient,” he said. “Two years ago there were buyouts in 99 wins. And now there are 82 wins, less buyouts. That’s my point.”
He may have missed the most important thing.
What Yankees GM Brian Cashman says is ‘BS’ and not about a terrible season.
(Top photo by Brian Cashman: Mike Stobe / Getty Images)