in the bigs) selected in the first round a college catcher named Jeremy Brown who was so fat and dumpy and horrible-looking that no one -- least of all the A's scouts -- expected him to go in the first 15 rounds. You see, even though Brown has a terrible body, he hit home runs and drew walks better than just about any other college player in the country. The scouts were horrified ... then Brown immediately started tearing up minor league pitching, vindicating Beane's violence.
MUDVILLE: If the Beane model is implemented, do you think we'll see the end of scouts as we know it?

LEWIS: I put it to the A's that here is the rational scouting department: Today you have these guys who go out and look at players. But my scouts don't just look at them, they talk to them. You have scouts who have good social skills and who understand what a young person is like. Because there is a psychological trauma in becoming a professional baseball player. You're away from home, it's grueling beyond belief, there's lots of failure. Some characters are just not suited to that.

MUDVILLE: Like Billy Beane.

LEWIS: Like Billy Beane. Some people are psychopaths! And you'd want to ferret out the guys who aren't mentally suited to the game. I think the scouts would also be collectors of raw data.

Here's an interesting little case that illustrates this: Jeremy Brown. They had his stats from Alabama, but what they didn't know, and I found out because I went down to talk to Jeremy, is that when Brown was a freshman he hit 19 home runs. That's a lot, a huge number for a freshman in college. And then they went down. He hit ten or twelve. He said that after his freshman year, no one pitched to him. The A's didn't know that. The reason was because the pitchers had already seen that this guy was someone you had to stay away from. The A's would have valued Jeremy even more if they'd known that. He was perfect. They don't pitch to him, he doesn't swing outside the strike zone, his walks go up. He responds just the way a big league hitter needs to respond to guys that won't pitch to him. And he has even more pop in his bat than we know. Things like that you could find with my scouts. It's almost journalists you want. I hate to put it that way, but you want people who will go into these kids' lives, get to know them, find out any kind of relevant information that isn't in the impression he makes on the baseball field.

Posted by at June 12, 2003 05:45 PM
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