They are the new breed of front-office executives: fresh, Ivy League-educated faces of Generation Google, men who often have less impressive baseball credentials than Garth Brooks. For a stat-head to break into the big leagues was, not long ago, almost unheard of. Now believers of the importance of statistical evaluation are infiltrating management and infusing teams with a Wall Street-style sensibility for beating the market.
In Boston 30-year-old general manager and Yale grad Theo Epstein has a cadre of young, statistically savvy assistants. So, too, do G.M.'s Billy Beane of the Athletics, J.P. Ricciardi of the Blue Jays and Mark Shapiro of the Indians, who all place great value on exhaustive quantitative analysis. Other front offices that are less statcentric are catching the wave. In January the Mets hired Ben Baumer, 25, who has a master's degree in applied mathematics, as a full-time statistical analyst.
The work of the resident stat gurus is about more than number crunching and playing with arcane statistics such as isolated power or secondary average. "It's about running a team by an efficient business model and looking at things closer," says Indians assistant G.M. Chris Antonetti, 29, who has a business degree from Georgetown. "We don't just say, 'That guy can hit' or 'That guy can pitch.' We analyze. We go a step further."
Antonetti helped develop a computer application, Diamond-View, that every morning at 6:45 uploads the stats from the previous day's games and updated transaction information for more than 6,000 major and minor league players, information that can be broken down into any number of statistical studies. Indians manager Eric Wedge's laptop is linked to DiamondView.
"It used to be that 80 percent of what we did was collecting data, and 20 percent was analyzing it," says Antonetti. "Now five percent is collecting it and 95 percent is reading into it."
In addition to Antonetti, these stat gurus are making a name for themselves in major league front offices.
33, assistant G.M., RED SOX
Four years Haverford College
B.A. in English. Has worked in major league front offices for 10 years; at 27, with the Indians, was one of the youngest scouting directors in baseball history. With Boston since December 2002, his main responsibility is to oversee pro and college scouting.
27, assistant G.M., ATHLETICS