Coaches, scouts, GMs and fantasy baseball players are quickly changing their strategies to incorporate more player and team stats. Everyone is talking about it, everyone is embracing it, and everyone has seen the movie, Moneyball. It is the mathematical and statistical analysis of baseball records, more academically known as sabermetrics. It is a proven strategy that places hard numbers and logic against whimsical gut feelings and bias human opinions.
The strategy, as any new strategy, is wildly debated from all sides of the spectrum. The 'hopeless-romantics' argue it takes away from the poetic narrative of the game (I'm paraphrasing; I'm not sure many hardend ball fans would call themselves hopeless-romantics or admit -- out loud -- to being concerned about the 'poetic narrative'). But in any business (let's not forget that major league sports are first, and foremost, a business) it just doesn't make good sense to base decisions on emotions and gut feelings.
Here are three examples from the MLB Draft where the wrong decisions were made based on human skepticism.
1. Albert Pujols
There is no argument that Albert Pujols is a top performer in the MLB. Since 2001 he has averaged a .320 BA, won two World Series Championships, is a nine-time All-Star, has six Silver Sluggers and two Golden Gloves, is a three-time MVP and three-time MLB Players Choice NL outstanding player and is a two-time Hank Aaron Award recipient. All of this began with his 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.
So why was Pujols drafted 402nd over all? Every team in the Major League Baseball passed on drafting him at least 10 times before the Cardinals finally picked him up, in the 13th round.
Pujols was victim to spiraling rumors and conspiracies before his Major League career even began. Even though he was pumping out a .324 BA with 84 RBIs and voted MVP of the league, coaches, GMs and scouts alike were concerned about his 'apparent' age, and his size for a then short stop -- hence the 13th round pick.
2. Ryan Howard
Howard has been a pillar in the Phillies organization since his NL Rookie of the Year award in 2005. He also holds claim to a NL MVP award, is a five-time NL All-Star, a Silver Slugger and a Hank Aaron award. He is also a World Series Champion with an NL Championship Series MVP Award. Howard also holds the record of the fastest player to reach 100 and 200 HRs in MLB history.
Yet, Howard wasn't drafted until the 5th round in 2001 MLB Draft. In his amateur career Howard was no stranger to success -- his college baseball team, the Missouri State Bears, have even retired his number due to his immense success.
3. Russell Martin
Martin was drafted latest out of the three examples here. He wasn't drafted until the 17th round in 2002. LA picked up the Toronto-born ball player 511th overall. Martin has been a force offensively and defensively and is still very much considered to be in his 'prime.'
Martin is a three-time All-Star, Silver Slugger and Gold Glove recipient who very handedly filled the void of Jorge Posada for the Yankees in 2011. But because Martin played much of his amateur ball in Canada he was often over looked by scouts who didn't have much insight into the Canadian leagues.
These are just three examples of what could be a much longer list (Kevin Youkilis, Ian Kinsler, Jason Bay, Jose Bautista, the list goes on). And yes, sabermetrics can be wrong, and things like injuries and performance enhancing drug suspensions can't be predicted -- it's not a perfect system, but the important take away here is that it is a system, and it's a much more effective and efficient system than the more antiquated MLB has historically used.