As the Orioles embrace analytics, their fans don’t have to

As the calendar turns to 2019 today, this will be the year the Orioles embrace analytics. They had better, because that is the background of their new executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias. His first hire was Sig Mejdal, named the club’s assistant general manager, analytics. New manager Brandon Hyde is very much on board with his front office.

No longer should we see a player like Zach Britton traded to another team - in Britton’s case the New York Yankees - and say this: “There’s a gigantic difference in how we use analytics here compared to Baltimore. I’d never been exposed to that amount of information.”

Wow, that was surely not good for the Orioles. That needed to be fixed and it has been. It may take the Orioles a while to build up a formidable analytics department, but the process of getting it right has begun.

Click here for a so-called beginner’s guide to analytics. You can find a large volume of material online to learn much more. And it’s not just that Elias and Mejdal use the analytics terms more than most of us. It’s that major league teams have so much more data not available to the public. It’s how they use it, interpret it, analyze it and pass it on to their players that can make a difference. It’s how they use the mountain of data to evaluate players, including amateur players, that can make the difference. It did for the Houston Astros.

So the organization, including players at the major league and minor league levels, will need to get on board with this. But the Orioles’ fans don’t have to, do they?

Camden Yards daytime.jpgNo, they don’t. Fans will not have to pass a test before they enter Camden Yards or pass a quiz before they turn in their check for season tickets. Fans are invited to follow the team, and their level of knowledge of the game is completely up to them. Learn a lot about what’s coming or learn nothing about it. It’s all good.

So do fans really not have to get up to speed on spin rates, batting average of balls in play, fielding independent pitching, ultimate zone rating, launch angles, tunneling, park factors, pitch framing, weighted runs created plus and defensive runs saved?

Do fans have to start watching Brian Kenny on MLB Network, and should they buy his book? Or Keith Law’s book? Or any book on this topic? Do they have to start reading FanGraphs every day?

Do fans have to know all about Statcast?

Nope.

Each fan should enjoy the game however he or she chooses. Reading as much or as little as he or she would like. Watching every pitch or every other series. The internet provides a massive amount of reading material to bring us up to speed on many of these stats and concepts. But no one has to read any of it.

It’s still your choice how you enjoy the game. Some fans are of a mind that all the stats and data actually take away from their enjoyment. The game is too robotic and scripted now, some fans feel. Pitchers can’t face a lineup the third time through the order. Players play where they do in the field according to printouts, not scouts.

Has that taken some of the fun out of game?

For me, the game is still great. The Orioles, for whatever reason, didn’t allow the analytics to get to their clubhouse in the past. This was to their detriment. There are many reasons that the club bottomed out with 115 losses in 2018, and this was one of them.

A lot has changed with the Orioles since that disastrous season ended. They will do things very differently moving forward. It should certainly be for the better.

But while the organization has made some dramatic changes, their fans don’t have to change a thing.

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