Ben Cherington is Reportedly the New Pirates’ General Manager

Ben Cherington has accepted the Pirates’ General Manager job, according to Jason Mackey.

Rob Biertempfel confirmed the report and also added that Chertington’s title will be General Manager.

I’ll update this in a bit with some thoughts.

UPDATE: These reports are a bit of a mixed bag.

As I said this morning in First Pitch, I think Cherington is a good fit for the team. He’s obviously going to be operating a small market team different than how he operated in Boston. But a lot of his success in Boston was shown in drafting and development. We’ve seen all too well the importance of those areas.

Having someone with a good track record in those departments is essential for a small market team. My conclusion on Huntington was that he did well scouting and drafting talent, but had serious issues in the development and the overall organizational philosophy that drove some drafting and development decisions.

Cherington also seems to be a smart guy, and you can only hope that he’s fully bought in to the technological revolution going on in baseball right now. That was the biggest flaw from Huntington the past few years, and it provides the downside here. Because the Pirates fell so far behind on league trends under Huntington, they that much more ground to make up.

This is why I keep talking about how the most successful organizations are now implementing an entire management team with GM-types controlling each aspect of the traditional GM job. Think about how much more those teams have been able to accomplish with so many talented minds working as a collective system.

If you imagine the technological and analytical advancements like a race, those teams (Dodgers, Rays, etc) are way out in front, and they’re in full sprint mode. Meanwhile, the Pirates are way behind. They’ve been running at a light jog, and then they just stopped and took a break. And now we’re hoping that they’ll run faster, while seeing that they’re still not anywhere close to running as fast as the top teams.

The problem here is that this was a decision that started with two people — Bob Nutting and Travis Williams — who have no clue how to build a successful baseball organization. Nutting had success with Huntington because Huntington was doing what worked at the time. When the game shifted, Huntington didn’t shift.

They did outsource the search. But the search company, Korn Ferry, came up with top candidates who you could get for free by just reading most comment sections after Huntington was fired, and they did it for a hefty price. Nutting and Williams did a good job of outsourcing the search away from their zero baseball knowledge, but Nutting and Williams still need to direct that company on what they want, and I don’t think either has realized what is happening in the game right now.

We’re starting to see the game shift so rapidly now, and it will only get more intense. There’s technology that can track every type of movement and flow of energy through the human body. Teams are building science labs to develop pitching development strategies, and the Pirates are only starting to dabble in the technology that these teams were using a few years ago.

Think about the outdated process the Pirates and other teams cling to. Here’s an example: They have a guy watch a pitcher to see what he might be doing right and wrong. This is in real time, so the human eye can only catch so much. Fortunately, this guy is an expert. He’s seen so much pitching in his life, and probably was a pitcher himself, and that’s why he’s any pitching coach or coordinator on almost every team in baseball.

Pitching coaches are massively important for their expertise. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned about the game through conversations over the years with Jim Benedict, Ray Searage, Justin Meccage, Scott Mitchell, and others. That’s a position which shouldn’t go away.

It should just change.

Pitching coaches/coordinators have always been treated as the final word in development for a pitcher; they watch the player, then watch video to confirm or catch something else they might have missed. Then they work with the player on how to move his body to improve a pitch, control, or whatever aspect. The player works on it through repetition, with the pitching coach using video and his eyes to confirm the progress. While the player has access to some other tools and new technology, those are just optional. The coach is the most important person doing the evaluation.

I’m using pitching coaches in the above example, but this statement applies for every coach and coordinator: We need to stop thinking of these people as “coaches.” We need to start thinking of them as “analysts.”

The knowledge from guys like the ones I mentioned above is invaluable. It makes them an expert in their field. We can do so many things with technology to tell us unlimited information about what is going on with the human body, but we need another human body with expertise in the field to explain what the information means, and how to implement the correct path going forward. The old pitching coach needs to be the lead analyst of a development team made up of every resource available, all coming up with individualized plans for each player based on all available data from that player.

Some teams either have this, or are very close. The Pirates aren’t there. And this is only one small area of the game that is changing rapidly involving just one position throughout the system.

The Pirates have so much ground to make up. They can’t afford to be jogging any longer.