Conor Glassey of Baseball America did a very interesting Q&A session with Mets Scouting Director Tommy Tanous. Tanous had some cool insights into the world of scouting, touching on how technology, statistics, amateur showcases, and more have changed the world of scouting. Here is just a little bit of what he said:
Scouting is based on opinions, and it’s always said that you can’t properly evaluate the success of a draft until about five years down the road. So, how do you go about evaluating yourself as a scout, and evaluating the job that your staff is doing?
Nobody knows who has the best draft, until these players actually start playing and start getting deeper into their career. I judge our draft, and our staff, and my own performance by, did we follow our process? There are a lot of different ways of skinning a cat. There are some teams that are stuff-oriented with a pitcher, they want guys with great stuff. There are others who obviously want great stuff, but they’re more concerned about arm action. They’re both right in a way, but what is your process, what is your philosophy, and did you, as a staff, stick to it? I think that’s how you judge yourself as a staff. Because, if your process is solid, and your philosophy is solid—and there can be many different philosophies—but if you stick to them, I think you have the best chance of having success. I think you can get in trouble if you have one philosophy one year, a totally different philosophy another year, and you’re constantly changing. If you have a philosophy you believe in, certainly you’re going to make some small adjustments as the year goes by, but if you have your beliefs and you stick to them, and your staff believes in them, I think that’s the way you have your best drafts.
Scouting is obviously a subjective business. But it’s important to remain objective, too. I did a feature a couple years ago called “Scouts On Scouting,” where I interviewed scouts about their jobs, and one thing a guy told me that really stuck out to me, that I really thought was neat, is a thing he does when he does pro coverage. The first day he gets there for BP, he takes all his notes without getting a roster, so that he’s not influenced by the names or the statistics. Are there any tricks like that, that you use yourself, or little things you try to teach new scouts?
Well, they call that scouting with your eyes. It’s nice when you do that, and then at the end of your series, or in the middle of your series, you pick up the stats and the guys you circled, that you feel are prospects, are all having good years. Then it makes you feel better as an evaluator. The main thing I’ll try and stress upon all our scouts—our crosscheckers and our area supervisors—is this: You evaluate with a checklist, whatever that checklist may be. Whatever you feel is important—and obviously I’m not going to go into the New York Mets’ checklist—but we have certain things we like in a pitcher, and certain things we like in a hitter. When you evaluate a player in February, you go down that checklist. He does this, this, this, this, this that we like; he doesn’t do this so well. Well, February turns into April, and we want that same checklist. We want that player being graded on the same criteria he was graded two months earlier on. Otherwise, I’ve seen too many scouts, they’ll go in in February, and they’ll have a certain criteria of what they like. By May, that criteria has changed, and really it’s like having two different scouts at the game. You’re not being consistent, and you’re not being true to the list, or to the player. That’s probably the best advice I can give a young scout. Keep changing, keep getting better—look, my criteria for what I look for now, in 2013, is much different than it was in 1996, because I’ve matured and have more experience, and now I’ve seen certain things that make me feel more comfortable with a hitter. But, I try and have the same process when I go to the game everyday. Therefore, I’m giving it more of a consistent opinion.
I think it will be interesting to see how the scouting world adjusts to advanced technology, which has been taking over the game over the last decade. Pitch f/x and other tools now make every pitch’s release point, movement, location, and velocity are available to the public. Here’s what Tanous had to say about it:
I know some teams are using those, and you see them certainly at the Area Codes and the other events, too. Seeing how hard the ball comes off the bat, velocity, spin rates, I think it’s just starting now with these companies, and I think it’s going to take a few years—like anything new—I think it’ll take a few years before teams have total confidence in it. Just like the video camera took a few years, but I think it’ll eventually get there, and there’ll be a system that’s probably used more than others, and a system that teams probably feel more comfortable with.
Tanous has been with the organization since June 2011 and in his current role since November 2011. He was previously the Director of International Scouting for the Diamondbacks in 2009 and 2010. Before that, he worked in the Rangers, Angels, and Brewers organizations as a scout.
Read the rest of the interview here.