Part 1 of the Interview with Jin Wong
How many employees are devoted to the Royals statistical department?
I have 2 guys I manage, Mike Groopman and John Williams. Both very, very bright guys; very, very good guys in terms of baseball statistical analysis. They would be our stat think tank. We three have basically brainstormed many days and many nights about statistics and our own proprietary things and have come up with some metrics that we believe give a lot of insight into players.
What are the main stats the Royals use for evaluating pitching?
I think you need to look at everything. For me, FIPS is pretty good. I like strike rates, walk rates, strikeout to walk ratio. Home run rates. I like WHIP a lot as a quick and dirty. I understand that it is defensive dependent, but that along with what we have internally .... sort of meld those to get a complete picture of what a pitcher is.
We have a internal system, similar to the pitching system, that we rely heavily on, probably more so than the one for pitchers. I used to be, and still am, a big OPS guy. Isolated on base. Isolated slug. Run created, even though that is an older metric. It is a quick and dirty [metric] for me. If the strikeout rates are way high, it is an indicator of potential issues.
Has this changed since you first started working for the Royals?
Yes, I would definitely say so. I look at more statistics now than I ever did. We constantly talk about the value of certain statistics and whether or not we need to place more weight on this or that certain statistic. I think right now I am very happy with the blend of whats available to everybody and whats available internally and how we combine them into an analysis.
What possible changes with the new collective bargaining agreement do you see having the largest effect on the Royals?
It is hard to tell. A lot of rumors, innuendos out there about what is going to be in the CBA. There is certainly some draft reform that will be interesting to see. There is the possibility of us losing a pick this year for a Bruce Chen's type-B free agency. That would affect us most in the short term; if we were to offer Bruce arbitration. We have to wait and see what comes out of the wash here. Everyone is hopeful that it will happen pretty soon.
I think there is a question about type A compensation. It certainly cuts both ways. If type A compensation goes away, we would be in better position to sign those players. Quite frankly, we don't want to give up a pick to sign a player because we need to draft smartly and develop our own players internally. But it cuts the other way. If you have a lot of type A guys, you don't get those picks. It's a give and take.
Why are mutual options given to players?
I am not sure why guys are fixated on it. Mutual options are certainly a way to give the player a little more control over his situation. For example, say you are a player we are trying to sign. You only want to sign for one year. We want an option. To meet in the middle, we say, "Why don't we make it a mutual option". You control a little bit of your own destiny as you have the escape hatch for a subsequent year. We also have control over it as well.
Let's say we exercise your option. That shows we have interest in retaining you. If you declined that side of the option, it is an easier dialog to keep going, to get something done. Additionally, there may be some money to throw in the buyout to make the guarantee total higher. That is the reasoning behind a mutual option. It is to give you more control over your own destiny and give the club some control.
What is the real story behind the Ramon Ramirez trade to Colorado for Jorge de la Rosa or Valerio de los Santos?
If I remember correctly, since it was quite a while ago, it was 2 separate trades, but it was cash considerations that completed the Ramon Ramirez trade.
The Royals had a Pitch FX system installed in the AA affiliate in NW Arkansas. What type of information has the Royals got from that data?
We are still in the early stages of analyzing the data. We have only had it for a year. It is only available when the team is at home, so it is not a whole season of data for all the players. The good thing is that we get data for the opposing team coming in. It is a very limited amount of data. Maybe one or two starts for a guy coming in from another organization. We do share with all the other organizations that have minor league Pitch FX systems. Pitch FX is basically the back bone of our proprietary pitching analysis system we have created.
Is there any plans to expand the Pitch FX systems to other minor league affiliates?
We are talking about it. We budgeted for it this year. We have to sit down and see if the benefits out weigh the costs. I would to put one in AAA or even at high A.
What is the one piece of useless information do you know about Dayton Moore that the public does not?
I don't know if there is any useless information. Dayton is a great guy to work for. He is a very warm individual. He has a great sense of humor. And he loves his sweater vest.
What do you enjoy doing that is non-baseball related?
I have a six-week old boy that I love spending time with. My wife, my boy and I live in the suburbs here of Kansas City. Our lives revolve around baseball. It is a lifestyle we have chosen. There is a lot of benefits to it. Also, it keeps us away from our families for a long time. It is certainly part of the deal. We like to hang out at home and spend time with the kid. We are home bodies. We don't do anything crazy.
One a lighter side, when, not if, Hollywood makes a movie on the Royals, who will play you?
Let's cross that bridge when we get there.
I would like to thank Jin for his time and hopefully we will have more interviews with the Royals staff in the future.