Player Development and First Returns (Redux)
Human bias and quick processing


Also reprinted from May 24th.


As human beings, it is part of our nature to overreact to early returns.

This is part of what allows us to function in a complex world, without going into computer-crash mode.  A man in an expensive suit steps up to a revolving door at the same time we do, and we show him deference; a man looking like a transient does the same thing, and we step in front.  It's not scientific, but it's human, and there are benefits to this type of processing.

What player-development types need to do is to (1) grok the below light bulb, (2) avoid using it as an ABSOLUTE, and (3) keep an alert awareness of it during decision processes.

Sometimes you'll see a college undergrad overreact to this realization.  He'll conclude that the guy on the right, above, is probably the rich guy.  Or he'll conclude that the guy on the right is no more likely than the guy on the left to be the rich guy.  

In this specific case he'd have been wrong in that conclusion.  One of the guys in the photo was just released from prison.  The container for his belongings is, in fact, a bit of data that the human mind processes subconsciously.  There is a lot of information residing in the box carried, its size, its condition, in the clothes both men are wearing, and the subconscious mind processes things like the collar and style of the older man's shirt.

Which isn't to say that our subconscious reaction gives us complete capture of the real situation.  It does "arm" us to respond to emerging situations quickly.

We are all biased.  The person who is self-aware of (some of) his baises has a somewhat better chance of avoiding the problems that are associated with them.


Ask Bill, Dept.


Re: your 10-group pitcher study ... I remember you once writing (kind of offhandedly) that *most* pitchers, if they were given enough time, would figure out some way to get batters out. That the question is more whether they'll avoid injury, and the loss of the jobs, long enough to get to that point. ... if that summarizes your general conclusion about the 10-pitcher study you just did ... the practical question is, how many starts are you ready to invest in a Blake Beavan, hoping for returns? ... your study did imply that after 20-40 starts, pitchers "smooth out" from there. Or perhaps you just need to individualize it, say, "Well, if THAT kid learns a splitfinger, he'll be okay." You going to keep chasing Luke Hochevar's upside? :- )
Asked by: jemanji
Answered: 5/11/2013
I'd have given up on Hochevar, but as to the general point. . . .In 2000-2001 the Royals had a starting pitcher named Blake Stein.   Acquired in mid-season, 2000, he made 17 starts for them and was 8-5, 4.68 ERA.    They were generally pleased with that.   In 2001 he made 15 starts, 21 relief appearances, with a 4.74 ERA, which actually was a better-than-league ERA in 2001.   In his 15 starts he was 6-6, 5.08 ERA.   In 2002 he was in their bullpen, and, admittedly, he was terrible in 2002.
But let's go back to 2001.   Who did they have, who was better than Blake Stein, to take his place?   Who was it that they wanted to get into the rotation, who was BETTER than a 4.70 ERA?
And if you don't have somebody BETTER, what's the point of trying somebody ELSE?   
Same era, 2000, they had a pitcher named Mac Suzuki.   In 2000 he was 8-10, 4.34 ERA.   In 2001 he made 9 starts for them.   Well, OK. . .who you got that's better than that?
There are two ways to look at it:
a)  We gave him a chance, he wasn't that good; let's give somebody else a chance, or
b)  We tried him, he wasn't that bad, let's see if we can build on it.
Maybe it's just a philosophy thing, but I say, let's build on it.     After Stein they tried Jeff Austin, and then Chris George, and then Darrell May, and then Kyle Snyder, and then Mike Wood, and then Jimmy Gobble.   Through 2012 they were still in that phase, just trying this guy and that guy.    As long as a pitcher doesn't get hurt, he's got a chance to get better.  


How this applies to Blake Beavan's first 43 starts, and Brandon Maurer's first 9 starts, and to hitters generally, is another question.  One thing is for sure.  Fans overreact to first returns; GM's do a somewhat better job of avoiding that.

The lesson learned is NOT, "it doesn't matter what a young player does."  The lesson learned is, "a young player's (pitcher's?!) results should weigh in at a much lower point on the priorities list than they usually do."


There are many other fascinating implications, also, from the fact that a 3.50 ERA rookie and a 4.50 ERA rookie may have the same forward projection.


Dr D



If the same can be said if relievers, if Aaron Heilman or Charlie Furbush can gain enough experience getting hitters out in bullpen roles that later in their carers they would be better qualified to start.

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