Mike Groopman, the Kansas City Royals director of baseball analytics who has been with the organization since 2008, visited Werner Park during the last homestand. He was a guest on the Storm Chasers pre-game show with play-by-play radio announcer Mark Nasser, talking about how data analysis is used in the Royals organization.
Groopman, who works with John Williams - the assistant director, says they added an analyst with a computer science background and a PhD from Vanderbilt a couple of seasons ago, as well as a data architect. They also have two interns with mathematics and economics backgrounds.
They provide data to each big league coach before every series in addition to doing larger research and development projects for the draft, player development and prospective acquisitions. Interestingly enough, Groopman says they don't work independently from scouts and coaches. Instead, they use an integrative process that includes scouting reports, performance data from PITCHf/x technology, medical reports and more. Groopman says they have developed some unique models that are proprietary.
"Some of the best ideas we've had [for data gathering and analysis], have come out of conversations with our scouts who have been doing this for 50 years and will probably forget more things about baseball than I'll ever know, or with our coaching staff - talking through situations, saying, ‘Hey, this is what we're seeing as we're doing this kind of modeling on the data, does this make sense to you? Does this look right? What are we not thinking about?' and that's really where a lot of our great ideas come from - in the interplay between the things the coaches know that we don't, and the types of things we can do from our backgrounds that can help them process the data better," Groopman told Nasser.
He says he talks to Gene Watson, the Royals director of professional scouting, three to four times a day throughout the season, in addition to speaking with Lonnie Goldberg, director of scouting, heading into the draft.
"One thing that we say to ourselves as our department is, ‘Nothing should be a black box, right?'" Groopman continued. "It shouldn't be, ‘Hey, we have this information and then we put it through this machine that you should know nothing about, and then out pops the answer.' That's not the way it works. We should be able to explain every step of the way, ‘This is what we're doing. This is the kind of information we're using. And here, logically, in just regular baseball terms, is why we think this makes sense.'
"At the end of the day, the onus is on us to try to explain to anybody that we're presenting to, in regular baseball terms, what we're doing and why we think it's added value and that's our aim. It's a fun process."