Sunday, April 02, 2006

Ed Creech, and how we lost Chris Shelton

In Dejan Kovacevic's great Pirates preview today in the Post-Gazette, this quote from Pirates Scouting Director Ed Creech was as clear a statement of organizational philosophy as any I've seen:

"Obviously, the No. 1 thing is tools," Creech said. "You do look at numbers. If a guy performs, that's fine. You like that. But he has to have the ability to translate that to the major-league level, or it doesn't matter."

In one case at least--Chris Shelton--this emphasis on tools over performance was a big mistake, one that even Littlefield now acknowledges. Shelton, like Craig Wilson and now Jeff Keppinger, whom we gave away to the Mets and who is now fighting for recognition within a similarly tools-oriented organization, are guys who do nothing right other than to perform. Of course, there are obvious counter examples--Hermansen, Froebel, and arguably, J.J. Davis (although he never had a real chance with the Pirates), performance in the minors is usually a pretty reliable predictor of performance in the majors. And performance is what we care about, right? I wonder if we will one day also come to regret our failure to give at bats to Michael Restovich in 2005, another guy who seems to fall in the category of players who are underappreciated because they aren't "toolsy."

The fallacy in Creech's argument, I think, is that it is the presence or absence of tools that is the key predictor of success in the major leagues. It may be true that, given two players who perform comparably in the minors, the one with superior tools is more likely to succeed in the majors. But given two players, one with superior tools that make scouts salivate and the other with a superior performance record, I'd take the latter every time.


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