Friday, September 5, 2008

Point - Counter Point

Welcome all to a brand new feature to the blog. We'll be bringing it to you in weekly installments. What we seek to do is bring issues, ideas and theories to the forefront. It's my hope that you'll find this informative on both sides of the fence.

The very first topic we will cover is the controversial subject of scouting.

Let us first address scouting in the real MLB.
In true pro scouting you have a "Director of scouting" normally part of your front office staff. Generally with some sort of VP title and climbing the ladder toward becoming a general manager in the future.
They would usually assemble a team of 2-3 scouts that they trust to scour their region or area. They follow certain prospects and keep notes on them as well as projecting their tools on a 20-80 scale. A score of 50 is judged to be Major league average or borderline for ML potential. It used judge as a present and future grade of the prospect's "tools" or abilities. This gap is normal closed as the player gets older and closer to reaching the graded potential. Universally accepted as the tools for position players are hitting, hitting for power, speed, defense, and throwing arm, classically known as the 5 tools.
For a pitcher the tools most observed and critiqued are command, movement and speed of each of their pitches. Other potential tools considered are makeup(mental approach, poise, character, maturity and etc), fielding, ability to maintain health and signability.

There is a dramatic drop off in major leagues for each tool. the scale can be look at as such.
45 equates to below average, 50 above average, 60 as "plus", 70 as "plus plus" and finally 80 as simply a 80. Due to it's rarity the grade of 80 has no scale nickname as very few players in the world possess this ability. The 2 most seen 80 scale grades are that of a pitcher's fastball and of a hitter's speed. Still rare as a graded tool but no completely uncommon.

Many players tools fall close to the average grade that some scouts use the terms "fringe-average" and "solid-average" to describe the minus and plus side of players just below consideration of a certain grade.

They also look at what's deemed as a position profile for the player. This includes current build, future frame potential, defensive skillset(range, glove, accuracy and arm strength). If i player fits in between a certain position, he is usually deemed as a tweener. Meaning he is not great enough at the position to play one set position, but is a quality enough fielder to play multiple ones.

After breaking down and critiquing each tool using the set scale, the scout must then determine future potential grades. Once taken into account and averaged the scout comes up with what's called a preliminary OFP(or more commonly unadjusted Overall Future Potential). Once this is done the scout uses the number as a guide, they then adjust the number taking their judgement and other factors into account. The finished product gives the higher ups a full scouting of the players tools, their makeup, scouts full opinion of their potential value to the club, all into just one number. The most important number in scouting. The final OFP(known as adjusted Overll Future Potential).

A scout can start tracking a player as early as their freshman year in high school or even sometimes as early as little league. Some build relationships with the player, his family or his advisor/future agent. Their job is to keep track of the player's overall development and invest the time into securing the trust of the player should the club deem him a worthy pick in the future. This at times can lead to either being able to sign a "signability" player who is seen to be leaning towards going to college. Used to convince a high ceiling collegiate player to sign for less than their true "scouted"(or future) worth. This can also sometimes lead to finding a player that other teams overlook or simply don't know about due to lack of them scouting said player. At times this can lead to a "gem" being found and signed for alot less while truly address a talent need.

A scouts job is never done. They are on the go and mostly the road 365 days a year. Constantly scouting, grading and in effect recruiting for their clubs just for the chance to allow their organization to draft the next superstar.

In contrast to the MLB approach to scouting in hardball dynasty you normally have a team of 3 scouts, who depending on how much you have placed in their scouting budget can find many quality players. They can also miss quite a few. Whereas in the MLB every team has scouted all the known top prospects for several years and know their likely potential in and out.
In HBD you are faced with the challenge of budgeting a certain amount of you 185 million dollar cap to cover the amount of scouting. In essence the game forces you to do in simulated months what it takes most MLB scouts years to find out.
Your payroll for these areas will determine not only how many the report will actually let you see. But also which area the majority of your talent will come from.

To put it in a simpler form...The game forces you to spend a good amount on scouting to give the advantage to the teams who will pour money into their scouting budgets. If Team A spends 40 million in total draft scouting and is allowed to see all but 5 of the high end players in the draft pool, but Team B spends only 6 million and sees the same then it take out the element of strategy from the game.
Putting more into scouting is much the same of a owner pouring money into his MLB ballclub to improve it every season by getting the best talent in all areas. Maybe even like taking the time to use resources to improve your own HBD club. Some spend hours pouring over every facet of the game to improve. Others will use sabermetrics, some spreadsheets and still even more just by gut feeling.

There is no right or wrong way to scout players. You will never see everyone no matter how much you poor into the budget. This is done to script the hidden gem element of the real MLB draft. It is not meant to discourage or torment owners, it is meant to invoke more realism.
Much the same if you surround your pitching staff with all 100 rated fielding shortstops.
Short stop is a error inherent position and as such the degree of difficulty in not making a error is such that even a great fielder will make a couple every now and then.

So think of the draft as a error in fielding your team of the future. You don't always make routine the play.

I have been informed of a theory by several owners that it is at times better to gear the budget more towards a heavy dose of high school scouting. Taking into account prior league drafts over a period of 5 or more seasons in certain worlds, the talent pool for the high school players was wider in high ceiling players than that of the college players. While at times the lower scouting college scouting forced them to miss out on more polished and major leauge ready guys. The superstar/franchise types were a majority of the time in the high school arena. This method forced them to miss out on between 15-100 draftable college players. With 6-10 being solid to superstar first round talents(depending upon the range of scouting from 0-10).
While using the same technique for high school it was shown that the gap was much wider in that they missed out on between 45-200 draftable players and 25-40 high end talents.
I've never tested the theory myself but based upon the results it'll be something to keep in mind in the future.

This is the mange, signing off

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