The Blue Jays made a bit of an unorthodox hire on Friday, announcing they have brought in analytics expert Carson Cistulli to join the front office.
As the way that professional baseball is coached and played continues to evolve, MLB teams have done their best to gain a competitive advantage, or at the very least simply keep up with their competitors.
The Blue Jays made a significant step in that direction on Friday when they announced that they had hired Carson Cistulli to join their front office. Some of you will be very familiar with his work with Fangraphs, as well as his extensive work as a podcaster and writer. However, I’m sure there are many Blue Jays fans saying asking, “Who is this guy?”
The 38 year old is not a former big league player, nor does he have any professional coaching or scouting experience. However, he is widely viewed as a leading thinker in the analytics community of baseball, and is even credited with creating a few new stats including GBz%, NERD, and SCOUT. (to read more, check out Cistulli’s Wikipedia page, as I’m still trying to wrap my head around some of this stuff myself). He’s also a published poet, essayist, and Wikipedia editor, so he’s definitely an accomplished, educated young man.
Cistulli himself wrote a bit of a farewell message to his readers and colleagues at Fangraphs a few days ago, and in it he even mentioned that, “As for the particulars of the position, I don’t know that I’m at liberty to reveal everything about it”. He does go on to mention that he’ll be utilizing many of the same skills that he has over the past few years in his analytical writing, and that, “It’s probably not a secret that organizations are constantly searching for ways to improve their evaluations of players”.
For us old school types (and I’ll admit that I’m a bit of one myself), the analytical data in baseball is a change that we’re going to have to get used to whether we like it or not. However, I’d venture to guess that the Blue Jays and their fans would be more than fine with any analytical approach as long as it resulted in winning. For that reason, I give Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro full kudos for the creativity of their thinking here.
“It’s probably not a secret that organizations are constantly searching for ways to improve their evaluations of players”. – Carson Cistulli
Cistulli has earned the respect of many admired baseball minds around the game with his work. According to Rob Neyer, one of the more respected voices in Analytics in baseball, the new Blue Jays hire is a special thinker, and “there’s value in just about everything that Cistulli does. He’s got an original mind and we’ll ignore him at our peril.”
What does this mean for the Blue Jays? It’s hard to say at this point, but baseball is becoming about slim competitive advantages, and it’s entirely possible the Cistulli’s work could give them just that. Fancy numbers and pie charts won’t replace talent and player development, but again, the smallest of gaps between one team and another can make a massive difference.
Until we know for sure just what his role is going to be, it’s hard to make any judgements calls on the effect this move will have. That said, with someone like Cistulli it might be tough to understand until we see the results of his work, assuming that eventually happens. For now, I’d say it’s an experiment worth exploring, and I’m pleased to see the front office continuing to think outside of the box.
It might be a little unconventional, but it never hurts to have another bright baseball mind around.