Saturday, March 30, 2013

Seven Years Ago Today

The news out of Philadelphia today was that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. noted he'd used seven year old scouting reports from former Rays staffers working for him before he made the decision to sign Delmon Young. (That, and Young's deceptively mediocre RBI total, which was largely a product of batting with more ducks on the pond than Daffy's porn collection)

The reaction from the usual corners was predictable. Stat-friendly fans decried this as a ridiculous approach to personnel, as seven years is a lot of milkshakes under the bridge for Delmon. Old school fans shoved the stat-friendly fans into virtual lockers in comments sections and mentioned the RBIs a lot. And RAJ basically dared anyone to challenge his methodology. (This depresses me for reasons having nothing to do with sports: the radio station RAJ dropped this bombshell on was 97.5, which in my youth was a rock station out of Trenton that was very into breaking local Jersey and Philly bands. To go from being the first radio station to give heavy rotation to The Cucumbers to airing this sort of nonsense is a sad bit of degeneration indeed.)
Now, count me among the many who don't think you should use seven year old scouting reports for anything - and by anything, I mean "restaurant reviews", let alone "guy you're going to run out there every day and pay a lot of money to". Seven years ago, Young was a top prospect whose star was dimmed only slightly by some, shall we say, anger issues. His potential seemed unlimited.
Now, we know his limits. Seven years, two trade, one release, and a lot of at bats later, we have a very good idea what Delmon Young is between the white lines, and it isn't that much. To rely on those ancient, hoary recommendations is to willfully ignore, not stat-based analysis, but seven years of evidence. Seven years of film. Seven years of things that actually happened - or didn't happen, which sums up Young's career pretty nicely - that are being ignored in favor of some dusty memories and a mediocre RBI total.
At first, it seems like madness. But closer examination suggests RAJ might be onto something. Seven years ago, Ryan Howard was about to launch 58 homers. Seven years ago, Chase Utley had both knees functioning. Eight years ago, Jimmy Rollins was...Jimmy Rollins.  So really, you can't blame RAJ for wanting to go there. You can just blame him for not realizing you can't.

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