Arizona Diamondbacks’ CBO Tony La Russa clarifies his stance on Sabermetrics

May 19, 2014, 11:12 PM | Updated: 11:12 pm
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LISTEN: Tony La Russa, D-backs' chief baseball officer

When it comes to the use of baseball analytics, the Arizona Diamondbacks can’t seem to find a happy medium.

Josh Byrnes, who served as the team’s general manager from 2005 to 2010, was a strict believer in Sabermetrics, which helped shaped an NL West division championship team in 2008.

Kevin Towers, Arizona’s current GM, is more of an old school scouting and feel type, but his style has also contributed to a division crown in 2011.

Over the weekend, the D-backs hired legendary manager Tony La Russa to take over as chief baseball officer and now there is some doubt about what the team’s reliance on advanced statistics will be moving forward.

In the past, managing general partner Ken Kendrick has stated that he’d like more of a balance between the two schools of thought.

La Russa, himself, has been critical of Sabermetrics in the past, but acknowledges their place in today’s game.

“My opinion is that it’s a valuable tool, but mostly a tool to help you identify talent and then prepare the talent,” La Russa told Burns and Gambo Monday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “I think the biggest problem I see is there are teams that have gone way overboard and they are really interfering with the way the managers and coaches conduct strategy during the game by running the analytics and forcing them into it.

“I would definitely say I think that’s a bad idea, so I think my attitude, and I’ve talked to Derrick (Hall) and Ken (Kendrick) about it, is there’s an important place for it, but if you don’t stop and recognize the tradition and history of how you play and how you get coached and managed, and the contributions you can make, a computer analysis is never going to be able to replace that.”

La Russa went on to recall George Kissell, who spent nearly 70 years in the Cardinals organization as a player, manager, coach, instructor and scout.

“If we allow the metrics to do the exaggerated claims that they want to do, guys like Kissell are a relic and irrelevant and that’s a mistake,” he said. “What you do is you take that basic premise about the way human beings compete and how they need to be coached and managed, especially during a game as conditions change, and you don’t mess with it.

“You help prepare using the analytics, but you don’t let them exaggerate. In fact, the teams that do are making a big mistake.”

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