2013 isn't that long ago.
Computers have been around for over half a century. Moneyball was published in 2003. The movie version came out in 2011.
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And yet, the Philadelphia Phillies organization didn't have a single person working on analytics as recently as 2013.
We learned this today from Jim Salisbury's fantastic sitdown interview with Phillies owner John Middleton who is stepping out of the shadows a bit to be the new face of the organization's ownership group.
Here's the part about the team literally spending no money on analytics as recent as 2013:
Q: One area of change is the organization’s use of analytics. That seemed to be a mandate from you. In your mind, how far behind were the Phillies in this area?
A: "In 2013, our analytics department was zero. Zero people, zero budget. In 2014, we had one full time person, and one intern, and the budget from my memory was $100,000. Next year, we're going to have a minimum of six full-time people, a number of interns, and a budget measured in the millions. Our competitors may add people, as well, and add to their budgets, but right now we're projecting that we're going to have one of the top analytics departments in baseball. We have come light-years in the last 12 months."
Q: What do you say to fans who say, ‘They're building a great analytics department, but I want to see some victories on the field. I want to have another parade’?
A: "I think the two are inextricably intertwined. You have to do things off the field — scouting and player development — to have the players up here in Citizens Bank Park that are going to win. You might get lucky and catch lightning in a bottle some year, but if you want to win consistently, you have to do all these other things. We have to invest time, effort and money into making our scouting and analytics departments the best they can possibly be. From nutrition to sleep studies, we have to be ready to do whatever we can behind the scenes to help us perform better on the field. We have to build up our capacity and our expertise, and we're getting there quickly."
Part 2 of the sitdown interview will run tomorrow and you'll be able to catch highlights on television at some point.
The common belief is that the franchise was too set in its ways, that it was too loyal in some respects to change the structure and focus of baseball operations. Middleton comments on the idea of loyalty but points out being loyal shouldn't prevent excellence and adaptation.
Be sure to check out the whole conversation with Middleton.