At the Letters: Blue Jays’ Joe Sheehan talks stats, draft, prospects

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Toronto Blue Jays Vladimir Guerrero Jr., left, and Bo Bichette, right, celebrate after Bichette's two-run home run. (Jason Behnken/AP)

Hosted by Ben Nicholson-Smith and Arden Zwelling, At the Letters connects Toronto Blue Jays fans with the stories, numbers and characters surrounding the team. Expect new episodes every Wednesday.

MLB front offices have grown substantially since Joe Sheehan got his start in baseball operations in 2006, and much of that expansion has occurred in research, development and analytics–areas of expertise for the Blue Jays’ assistant GM. Still, when Sheehan looks ahead five or 10 years, he expects MLB front offices to be even bigger.

“I think it’s an arms race at this point,” Sheehan said on the At the Letters podcast Friday. “The quantity of data now, we’re tracking guys’ careers down to 1/30th of a second now. That’s insane. For somebody that debuted in 2015, you’re going to be able to say ‘this is where he was May 20th at 8:15 during the fifth inning.’ … I think that the size of these departments is just getting bigger to help with that.”

Analytical advances have impacted decision making at the MLB level for years. As teams look for new competitive advantages, they’re now looking beyond the 25-man roster and collecting and applying data in scouting and player development.

“Whether it’s putting TrackMan (ball tracking) in the Dominican (or) putting bat sensors on bats,” Sheehan said, “The places that teams are looking for competitive advantages and then analyzing that data to hopefully get something, it’s more people, it’s more time spent on that area of the game, and I think that’s how you’re seeing these departments continuing to grow.”

In other words, these big front offices will likely expand even more.

“I don’t think you’re putting the toothpaste back in the tube on this one,” Sheehan said. “I don’t think it’s getting smaller.”

Listen to the full episode, to hear about Sheehan’s beginnings in baseball analysis, the difference between public and proprietary stats and the ways that the Blue Jays communicate their findings to the field …

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

Here’s how the conversation unfolds:

• Ben and Arden begin by asking Joe about his early experiences in MLB front offices and how much baseball analytics have changed in a relatively short period of time (6:10).

• The discussion then turns to the difference between publicly available stats and the numbers the Blue Jays use internally. The gap, Sheehan says, is shrinking thanks to sites like Baseball Savant. (14:35).

• ATL then looks ahead at the next steps MLB front offices can take as they look for competitive advantages (30:50).

• Finally, a discussion about the impact data can have on Blue Jays prospects as they move through the minor-league system after being drafted (39:05).

At The Letters
May 18: Blue Jays' Assistant GM Joe Sheehan
May 18 2018

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