The New York Yankees are as number-driven as any organization in Major League Baseball, but make no mistake about who will call the shots on the field.
Analytics were a focal point of Aaron Boone’s introductory press conference on Monday at Yankee Stadium. The novice manager is well-versed in baseball data, but it was made clear that the human element will be a part of his modus operandi. When asked about decisions made prior to and during games, Yankee general manager Brian Cashman was clear.
“He sets the lineup,” the executive said of Boone. “He makes the in-game decisions and strategies.”
Surely that’s music to Boone’s ears, since not every managerial job allows for such freedom these days. As front offices across the game continue to incorporate more and more analytics, some skippers have had fewer and fewer decisions to make. At the very least, they have removed the eyeball test from procedure, even if the choice is still technically theirs.
Ask Dave Roberts and the Dodgers about that.
Of course, numbers will continue to play an instrumental role in New York’s methodology. That doesn’t bother Boone, though. Instead, it excites him.
“I’ve been a guy that’s really tended to buy into the analytics,” Boone said. “This is an organization that leans on and relies on analytics. I, frankly, can’t wait to dive in and ingest all the information that we have.”
Ingesting, however, is different than being held prisoner. Boone and Cashman said numbers will play a heavy role in preparation and decision making — as they did under Joe Girardi — but no chart or stat line will have the final say.
Boone will have his own binders and sheets of loose-leaf guiding him like his predecessor. Once he’s in the dugout, though, he will make the final call.
“He proved in the interview process to have an extreme open mind and progressiveness and appreciation – not just an appreciation for analytics – but an already base knowledge of analytics,” Cashman said, indicating he trusts Boone to use data accordingly. “[But] we’re not like the NFL. We’re not connected to that dugout during the games.”
Cashman was not the only one who felt that way. Hal Steinbrenner, who kept his involvement in the managerial search to a minimum, was impressed by Boone’s modernized approach.
“He’s got a good analytical mind,” the Yankees’ principal owner said. “It’s not just the communication skills, it’s not just the general knowledge of the game. He really excelled at the analytical part of the interview.”
Now Boone wants to find out which of his players are open to advanced metrics. If guys in his clubhouse want pages of numbers, he plans to get them some reading material. If they’re not interested, that’s perfectly fine, too.
“Where the balance [with human element] comes in is being able to tap into each individual in that room,” Boone said. “Who can we overwhelm with information? Who wants a ton of information? Who do we need to leave alone? That’s the art form in that room in trying to get the most out of our players.”
The Yankees’ brass seems confident Boone will figure it all out — not just the data, but the in-game decisions, player relationships, handling the media, all of it. There are going to be some hiccups along the way, but that’s what happens when doing something for the first time.
Luckily for Boone, he’s taking over a roster poised for a long string of success. He doesn’t need numbers to tell him that.
“This is a team with loads of talent,” he said. “This is a team that in many ways came of age this year and arrived. I’m really comfortable and believe me and my staff will be part of helping them take the next step.”