FanPost

Quantifying Player Development

Kyle Lohse is a type-A free agent. While he has yet to sign, odds are he's going to get a pretty reasonably high pay day for a 34-year-old pitcher with a career ERA of 4.45.

Throughout the off-season, I have often wondered to myself how the hell Kyle Lohse is a type-A free agent. Lohse was consistently a mediocre pitcher in his professional career, from his first pitch in the minors with the Cubs, all throughout his career with the Twins, Reds and Phillies. He always had an around league-average fastball, (in terms of velocity. It was way below average, if you go by pitch value) and a standard four-pitch mix that was about as exciting as watching paint dry. And then, something magical happened to Kyle Lohse.

He joined the Cardinals.

Joining the Cardinals seems to be some kind of magical antidote to the disease of mediocrity. St. Louis is a place where the Kyle Lohses and the Jake Westbrooks and the Joel Pineiros of the world go to put up numbers like frontline starters, and then, when they hit free agency, get their pay day.

Of course, the magic of the St. Louis Cardinals is not just limited to mediocre right handers. This is the organization that brought us Albert Pujols. This is the organization that pumps out useful players like Allen Craig and spots guys like David Freese that often go overlooked. In many respects, the Cardinals are an archetype of how a baseball team should be run. They are consistently contenders and often boast a large number of home-grown players, and never seem to have a bloated payroll. They turn average into good, and good into great. They have one of the best player development systems in the game.

This is the conventional wisdom, and it's probably correct, but it's largely based on anecdotal evidence. Are the Cardinals really better at developing pitchers than, say, the White Sox? How about the Giants? Player development is one of the most important aspects of the game, and yet the efficacy of teams' player development systems seems to often go unevaluated numerically, at least in fan circles.

Much in the vain of Pinstriped Bible, with their analysis of the Yankees' ability to develop pitchers, I am embarking on a research project with my partner, Casey Gowrie, to quantify player development. Can we rank the organizations? Can we rate executives? Which teams are best at developing what tools and skills? And, most importantly, how do they do it?

The purpose of this post is to enlist the community of Beyond the Box Score to help me as I start my first project of this scale. To make an accurate assessment, I am going to need pre- and post-draft scouting reports of players, preferably with 20-80 rankings of their tools and skills. What executives/coaches were working for which organizations during which seasons, Pitch F/X release point and movement data, pitcher and batter heat maps, GM Trade/signing histories, previous studies of a similar nature, and all kinds of other information, as well as ideas on how to approach this massive undertaking would all also be greatly appreciated.

I hope you are all as intrigued and excited about this as I am. Anyone interested please comment below, or email me at matthew.yaspan@tufts.edu

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