Diamondbacks’ Tony La Russa: Analytics ‘an important preparation tool’

Feb 12, 2015, 5:34 PM | Updated: 5:35 pm
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LISTEN: Tony La Russa, D-backs Chief Baseball Officer

Plenty has been written and said about the Arizona Diamondbacks and their use — or non-use — of analytics.

Right or wrong, there seems to be a belief that they are averse to using analytics to help build their team, instead choosing to go with more of an “old school” approach.

A lot of that belief stems from things D-backs coaches and executives have said, but according to Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa, the team does not completely ignore the tool.

In fact, he knows it must be incorporated to keep players on top of their game.

“I think it’s probably if there is the first plateau, it’s getting their attention,” he told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday as part of Newsmakers Week. “The second one is for an organization to decide the proper balance between preparing using the analytics and all your other sources of preparation like scouting reports and your own observations. Using that preparation.

“But once the analytics intrude into the competition — by that I mean if your manager or your head coach somehow has his hands tied because the organization believes that strikeouts don’t matter, the manufacturing game, hit-and-run, sacrifice, you don’t want to lose outs — those thoughts, you want to handle the bullpen according to some organized printout, then you actually — I wish all teams were like that, they’d be easier to beat.”

La Russa said game flow necessitates a manager being able to adjust based on what is happening in that given game and not have their decisions dictated by anything other than what they think is best at the time.

“What’s happening now is that the analytics, it’s really getting a lot of attention and I never begrudge the analytical guys because they love the game and they want to be a part of it,” La Russa said. “So they’re trying to elbow, ‘I want more, more more.’

“But it’s really an important preparation tool. If you let it interfere with the decisionmaking of your manager and coaches, you’re going to be easier to beat.”

The Diamondbacks, who won a MLB-worst 64 games last season, are going to do everything they can to improve going forward. But while analytics will play a role, they will not be what guides the team.

“There’s a lot of wasted talent because they spin their wheels and they talk about analytics,” he said. “I really think analytics is really, really critical, but if somebody tells you, for example, that a strikeout is not an important statistic, that if you hit 30 home runs and hit .220 you are really productive; 30 home runs when you go to bat 600 times, that’s 570 other times where those 200 some strikeouts, in a game you had to start a rally, advance a runner or bring in a runner and put the ball in play.”

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