Paul DePodesta sat down and took some questions from Baseball Prospectus readers on Tuesday (free link). Though DePodesta showed some of the caginess typical of a front office member in a public chat, a few gems came to the fore. Those statements might have implications for the season.
A couple small snippets are more interesting as asides. DePodesta, when asked what sort of statistical analysis was in place when arrived, volunteered Ben Baumer's name. That might have been the first time Ben's been mentioned by someone in as high a position as DePodesta's. Looks like the new regime may actually listen to Ben, TJ Barra, Ian Levin, Adam Fisher, and Jon Miller, all of whom got shotouts from the new Vice President of Player Development & Amateur Scouting.
Another possible revelation for many appeared in this answer to a question about his thoughts on Wilmer Flores and his future:
Two days ago during a minor league game played on Field 7 (a field that is built precisely to the dimensions of CitiField - walls and all), Flores went oppo to deep right center field. Oppo. Right-center. In CitiField. He's 19. Like him! Seriously, he can really hit.
The revelation is not that Flores can hit - he's AmazinAvenue's number two Mets prospect - but that the team has built a field to fit the dimensions of Citi Field. If this was done under Omar Minaya's leadership, then kudos. It's a great idea to see how a player can play in the big league field. Even if that field won't have the same weather, and humidity matters, it's a smart move. Makes one wonder how many teams have done this - with some actual data in hand, we might even be able to isolate how much of a difference weather makes in park factors.
But there was a seemingly innocuous statement that might mean the most for the Mets this year.
A long-winded question from Daniel Williams in Orange County NY about organizational strategy included this as the most interesting and concrete example: "For example, let's just take the AA team in Binghamton: Is Wally Backman going to be told not to bunt the 2 hitter because you want said player to develop on-base skills and hitting to the opposite field?" DePodesta's answer might be an insight into the organizational strategy that Sandy Alderson will employ from the top of the front office.
Daniel, more than the specifics of game management, the best organizations are the ones that manage to create organizational consistency from top-to-bottom. Technically, I'm in charge of player development, amateur scouting, and international. However, my real job is make sure that these departments actually become one big department and connect seamlessly to the Major League team.
Perhaps this is merely DePodesta's feeling, but the sentiment jives with Alderson's military background. It sounds like Terry Collins will be encouraged to step in line with the front office and their sabremetric leanings. With respect to the second base battle, it's a little perplexing that the Luis Hernandez love from Collins made the front pages. That either means that Collins didn't read the 'second base is an offensive position' memo, or that the story blew a small comment out of proportion. But, judging from the comments about treating Francisco Rodriguez as a 'relief ace,' the bet is that we'll see more forward-thinking strategy from the on-field manager this year.
It also means that the organization will make the second base decision as a whole. And, as DePodesta said in this chat, that will be an ongoing discussion. We'll leave you with this quote about the second base battle, which jives perfectly with the quote above. Will this front office speak with one voice?
James, one of the things we have to keep reminding ourselves, and by "we" I mean all of us in the front office and our field staff, is that our Opening Day roster is just that - a roster for Opening Day only. We can change it the next day and the day after and the day after. Though there's a certain cache to the Opening Day roster, it's really just one day in a long season. All that means is that the 2B job will probably continue to be a competition until somebody makes it their own, and I suspect somebody will.