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Quatraro to bring collaborative, data-driven approach to Royals

The new skipper will collaborate and listen.

Kansas City Royals Introduce Matt Quatraro as Manager Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The Royals have been a dictatorship for years. After being a complete laughingstock of an organization, they needed a strong executive to right the ship, and they found Dayton Moore in 2006 and vested him the power he needed to clean up this organization. His work culminated in two pennants and a title, and he was a benevolent king, doing right by people, showing loyalty, and enriching the community.

The major weakness with dictatorships is once the dictator is not making good decisions, the whole thing goes to pot. Dayton Moore was unwilling on unable to adapt to modern baseball. We saw owner John Sherman chip away at his power by elevating J.J. Picollo to general manager last year, but it wasn’t enough. The king had to be overthrown.

Picollo has made his first major move since taking over, and it is clear his vision is a more democratic one. After a managerial hiring process that included seven candidates, he has chosen Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro, and in introducing him as skipper, the word that seemed to come up the most was “collaboration.” Quatraro, who has also worked with Cleveland as a hitting coach, discussed what he had learned along the way to become a manager.

“Just collaborate. If anyone one person sits there and tells you they have the answer, that’s not the way. There’s a collective group of minds here. We all have to rely on each other.”

The Royals will have others to add to their brain trust - Quatraro will work with Picollo on hiring a pitching coach, and the Royals seem likely to add others to their pitching development infrastructure - but it is clear that this will be a group project, from J.J. to “Q” (as he is affectionately known to Rays fans) to Daniel Mack, the head of analytics, to Paul Gibson who oversees minor league pitching development, to Alec Zumwalt, who overseeing hitting development.

Just working well with others isn’t enough, however. Quatraro stressed that he thought the Royals were a good fit for the processes they have in place, and the forward-thinking vision that Picollo put before him.

I asked the question of them, “What does progress or success (look like). Is it a set number of wins? Is it just progress?”

What came back was trusting the processes we have in place. Are we actually walking the walk of what we’re talking about right now? Are we all collaborating? Is that back and forth there where the analysts can bring us stuff, but we can also say to them, ‘No, that’s wacky. Let’s rework this.’”

Picollo has stressed he wants a manager who was receptive to data analysis and able to translate that into on-field results. Using data in his job has been part of Quatraro’s approach for years with the Rays. He calls the data “guardrails” that can be left to some interpretation, adding “data doesn’t make the decisions. It informs the decisions.”

As far as his approach as a manager, Quatraro insists he is flexible and will adapt his style to the talents of the team. He believes in “depth, playing the whole roster, utilizing everyone” which seems like a must when dealing with smaller-market clubs. Quatraro also emphasized pitching as a key component for success.

“You put good pitching on the field, you’ve got a really good chance of winning.”

He dismissed the small-market disadvantage, saying the Royals needed to win “decisions on the margins.” He added there is a “tremendous amount of talent on the pitching staff right now. and likes the young team the Royals have, which reminds him of some of the clubs they have had with the Rays. Quatraro insisted that development does not stop at the big league level, and that they’ll have individualized development plans for each player with a “growth process” to follow.

J.J. Picollo has a vision many Royals fans around here have been wanting for years - a data-driven approach. He has said all the right things, and in his first major hire, done the right things as well. But it is easy to win a press conference - Mike Matheny said the right things when he was introduced as manager. The process has to translate into results, something Quatraro understands.

“You can say all you want about processes, but at the end of the day the big leagues is about winning baseball games. So hopefully we’re going to win more games and fight our way to the top of the division.”