These are a couple of the Q&A I found interesting. More at link.
On the young talent like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber currently on the roster that enables the Cubs to have a contending team, how did we get here where young players are so valued throughout baseball and relied upon perhaps more so than any time in recent history of the game?
“I think it’s a combination of factors. I think you have to recognize that the testing that we have now. The Commissioner’s office and Union present attempts to clean up the game have contributed. I don’t think it’s impacted young players that much, but maybe players in their 30’s aren’t able to prolong, some players, I’m not speaking in generality. Some players in their 30’s are able to prolong their window of physical tools and performance at a high level as long as they were 15 years ago if they made certain choices. It’s really shifted the balance back to players in their 20’s. Throughout baseball history players’ peak age has really been 27. That shifted a little bit during the steroid era. I think we’re totally clear back to that now. The other thing is the game is played at such a high level now it requires full commitment, physical ability and strong knowledge of the game, a strong mental game. One way to view a player’s evolution, all players’ evolutions, when they are in their early 20’s and they’re breaking in they are at the peak physically. They are never going to be fresher. They are never going to be faster. Once you get to your mid 20s you’re probably never going to be stronger, but as inexperienced as you’ll ever be and maybe haven’t fine-tuned the knowledge of the game, instincts, the mental game. That’s a process that improves with time. So the irony of baseball development is usually right around the time you’re figuring out the game in full and you become a very knowledgeable, heady and mentally strong player that’s when your physical skills start to erode and you see that nexus. The great players will also be able to figure out the game more quickly from a mental standpoint while really strong physically or prolong their physical peak as they become experienced, heady players. I think what you’re see now is that the game is played at such a high level that’s it is just about impossible to keep up unless you have those physical tools too. It’s just harder and harder with the velocity like you see in the game now and how hard it is to hit, how hard it is to get the hitters out on the other side of things. Once your physical tools really start to go, you don’t see too many guys hanging around on craftiness and knowledge of the game and know how quite as much as I think you used to. The game is just being pushed … the caliber of players has been pushed higher and higher and higher and it gets harder for older players to hang on once their physical tools start to go.”
On the greater appreciation and valuing of defensive skills, spending a lot of money on a player considered to be one of the best defenders in the game in Jason Heyward, and since Moneyball began almost 15 years ago where it’s been all about trying to find undervalued variables, it used to be on-base percentage, certainly defense is now highly valued. What’s behind an appreciation and valuation of defense in baseball?
“I think it is human nature when it’s time to make important decisions I think human beings tend to rely a little bit more on things that are measurable, that are proven or quantitative, quantifiable in some way I should say then things that are a little bit more ambiguous and a little bit more difficult to define. Not that you don’t factor, when it comes right down to it you want to be able to, in your own mind, demonstrate some inferences. It’s the reason why certain things have been overvalued in the game too. And you can argue that we’re at a point that all the sudden now that defense is a little bit more quantifiable it’s being overemphasized. There’s certainly an argument to be made in that regard. It’s something that we are aware of. We try not to … just because we can measure something now we try not to overvalue it. I think it’s ironic that sort of the arc of the game. If you go back to this quote unquote old-time baseball, say like pre-Moneyball or pre-information age, defense was extremely valued. If you talk to any old-time baseball guys, huge part of the game … talk defense and run prevention first before you talk about offense. You couldn’t really get on the field, especially before the DH, you couldn’t get on the field unless you could really play defense. And as offense became very quantifiable and all these metrics evolved offensively with emphasis on on-base percentage the industry trended … started to follow a trend of maybe deemphasizing defense just because there wasn’t … it was more ambiguous while offense was very precise. The evaluation of offense was really precise. And the industry, and I’m right there with it in some of the decisions that we made along the way, went too far underemphasizing defense and overvaluing offense just because it could be measured. Now that defense is catching up you see it swing back the other direction. I just think it’s important to be aware of your own sort of vulnerabilities to numbers. Most importantly make sure you see the big picture in that if you are going to rely on numbers, to manage your scouting reports and inform your decisions to make sure they are very accurate. Because a lot of the new generation of comprehensive stats are proven to be really unreliable, so put in a little work to find ones that can help predict performance and go from there.”