The LA Angels have been in the Dark Ages so to speak when it comes to the modern analytical age that baseball has become. The Angels have now joined the modern baseball generation.
The revolution is over. The last of the old guard has given in. Earlier this month, The Athletic reported that the LA Angels have hired Kevin Ferris to be the team’s new Director of Research and Development. The signing of Ferris, who was one of the Tampa Bay Rays’ research and development assistants, marks the end of an era for the Angels, who are famously one of the least sabermetrically inclined organizations in baseball.
Ferris cut his teeth in perhaps the most analytics-driven organization in the Major Leagues. A graduate of Montana State University-Bozeman, he majored in Mathematics and Statistics, and was big-brained enough to intern at NASA’s Jet Propulson Lab as an undergraduate. While working on his Master’s Degree in Statistics, Ferris interned with the Philadelphia Phillies. After graduating in 2015, he hooked up with the Tampa Bay organization, first as an assistant in R&D and eventually becoming the Rays’ predictive modeling analyst.
For those fans who don’t like advanced analytics, this is terrible news. For fans who like watching the Angels win, however, this is great news. Baseball’s intellectual arms race has been heating up well before “Moneyball” became a book and a misunderstood punchline.
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The big market muscle in New York, Boston, and the Dodgers all famously have nearly three dozen people in their analytics departments. The Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs built their World Series titles upon rosters built on a foundation of analytics. Smaller markets like Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh have managed to remain contenders in spite of being badly outspent by investing in and acting on stat-based scouting and development.
The Angels have, traditionally, not been one of those teams until now. While former manager Mike Scioscia wasn’t totally against the new stats — the Angels employed defensive shifts as aggressively as any team in baseball last season — new manager Brad Ausmus appears to be 100% on board with general manager Billy Eppler’s new direction.
Besides Ausmus and Ferris is new pitching coach Doug White, who was Houston’s bullpen coach last season, and served as the Astros Minor League pitching coordinator before that. White built his pitching philosophies on biomechanics and new Statcast and PitchFX data.
All of these hires reflect Eppler’s efforts to move the Angels front office into a more numbers-driven mindset. Hopefully, they’ll also result in the same successes other analytics-minded organizations have experienced.