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Friday, November 15, 2013

Managerial material: Jeter, Hurdle, Watson?

Three stories this week converge.  They involve Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, Pirate manager Clint Hurdle and IBM supercomputer Watson.

Jeter Prepares to Turn a Page and Publish Many Others
Published: November 14, 2013  The New York Times

Derek Jeter ... wants to be a book publisher ...

... start a publishing imprint, Jeter Publishing, a partnership with Simon & Schuster...

... a way to explore a project that combines his interests in business and in books, film and TV ...

One of the first books planned ... is a “Derek Jeter guide to baseball” for young readers. The plan includes updating the book each year...

Jeter said he intended to be deeply involved in the details of every book.

Woah!  What the heck?  So, I guess my idea about the Yankees hiding their ineffectiveness by making Jeter the team manager is completely off, especially since incumbent Joe Girardi has signed a new four year contract.  Part of my thinking was that since field managers don't make much difference, nothing like head coaches in football and basketball, making Jeter player-manager wouldn't be much of a problem.

Which brings me to the second story, that of Clint Hurdle being named National Conference manager of the year by the baseball writers.  Cleveland manager Terry Francona won in the American Conference.  Girardi wasn't even one of the three finalists that MLB Network has hanging around to be interviewed just before and immediately after the live announcement.  How does that work?  A lucky guess?

Francona had to beat several 2013 AC managers who had already won the award: Girardi 2006 Florida, Bob Melvin 2007 Arizona and 2012 Oakland, Joe Maddon 2008 & 2011 Tampa, Ron Gardenhire 2010 Minnesota, Mike Scioscia 2002 & 2009 Angels, Jim Leyland 1992 Pittsburgh and 2006 Detroit, Buck Showalter 1994 Yankees and 2004 Texas, Eric Wedge 2007 Cleveland.  Wow.

Hurdle only had to beat these former winners: Davey Johnson 2012 Washington, Dusty Baker (fired by Cincinnati) 1993 & 2000 San Fransisco, Bruce Bochy 1996 San Diego (but not 2010 or 2012 when his Giants won the tournament), Buddy Black 2010 San Diego.

Yeah, that's some award, that manager of the year.  Reminds me of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for the Hall of Fame that the writers give to each other every year.  I mean EVERY year, including this year when they did not vote in any recent players because of the writers being seized with indecision over their trumped up issue of performance enhancing drugs (PED), including steroids.  OK, end of digression.

The MLB Network guest experts supported Hurdle's selection in part because Pittsburgh had been really good at using data to position its fielders where hitters tend to hit the ball.  They actually said that.  They credited Hurdle with embracing the data after resisting it for a couple of years.  Hurdle was not very reassuring in his interview that he knew what the heck he was doing.  To me this was another reason why field managers should no longer be former players who still don't understand even the most obvious advantages of all the data that is now available.  The front office revolution needs to be pushed down into the dugout.

IBM to Announce More Powerful Watson via the Internet
Published: November 13, 2013  The New York Times

Watson, the computing system that beat all the humans on “Jeopardy!” two years ago, will be available in a form more than twice as powerful via the Internet.

Companies, academics and individual software developers will be able to use it at a small fraction of the previous cost, drawing on IBM’s specialists in fields like computational linguistics to build machines that can interpret complex data and better interact with humans.

But is Watson powerful enough to replace Clint Hurdle?

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