New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi is one of the most well-equipped people in baseball for his job, due to both his 15 years of playing experience and his unique education.
Yet if Girardi were to lose his position of nine years tomorrow, he doesn’t sound like someone who would fret life after baseball. In fact, his life may not be all that different.
When asked what he would be doing for a career if he were not in baseball, Girardi told Business Insider, “Well, I have an industrial engineering degree from Northwestern, so I’m quite sure that I’d be doing something in that field.”
He continued, “It’s a lot of problem-solving and figuring out how systems can run better. I figure I do a lot of that every day at home and every day at the ballpark, but a different type of engineering.”
Girardi has a professed love for numbers, stats, and analytics. While speaking to BI to promote his collaboration with Delta’s “Go Fridays” program, Girardi explained how his degree comes in handy for his current profession.
“I love maths. Maths was my favourite subject. So, as a player I always used it. I used in scouting reports, trying to figure out how to get hitters out, which pitchers to use, when you can do certain things, different matchups for our hitters against pitchers, so it’s really helped me in that sense.”
The analytics movement has factored in baseball more prominently than other sports, and the Yankees, like Girardi have embraced it. In 2015, ESPN ranked the Yankees as one of nine “all-in” MLB teams when it came to the use and development of their analytics departments.
Girardi is intrigued by the advancement of stats in the majors and believes the development of analytics is the biggest change in the game since his playing days.
“How much [analytics are] used in today’s game in evaluating players, acquiring players,” Girardi said. “Sometimes players you haven’t seen a whole lot are acquired through analytics, and that part of the game has changed a lot.
“The strategy of the game has changed. When you look at the shifts and the importance of not just giving up outs. There used to be a lot more bunting in the game; well, they figured out that you score more runs on average when you don’t bunt, when you don’t give outs away. Those sort of things. So, that, to me, how the numbers have changed the game, the analytics has changed the game. They use it in basketball now, they’re trying to incorporate it in football and a lot of different areas.”
The Yankees, then, may find themselves in good hands, even as they approach something of a crossroads. At 44-44 coming out of the All-Star break, the team currently boasts an awkward roster construction of ageing, highly paid veterans with young, up-and-coming prospects. With the trade deadline approaching, the Yankees are rumoured to be involved in making a move that could shape their future direction. Having a forward-thinking manager and front office that can accept and embrace change and new ways of thinking can help make a rebuilding or re-tooling process a little less painful.
If nothing else, Girardi understands that baseball has entered a phase when it’s important to consider what numbers mean and what they tell about the game. As a self-described problem-solver, that could be critical for a team’s future.
“Obviously [analytics don’t] always tell the whole story because there’s a human element,” Griardi said. “And you gotta use your gut, too. But just being able to understand numbers and what they mean and how they actually tell a story I think is really important.”
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