SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The best bet you could make for Friday night’s historic showdown between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers is that during the four-hour broadcast, the word ‘analytics’ will be uttered several times.
Baseball has always been a game of numbers, but in the wake of Oakland A’s VP Billy Beane’s famed ‘Moneyball’, data analytics leaped into the 21st century world of algorithms. Computer programs spit out the best lineup cards, trades often teeter on a players data points and computer tablets are as common in dugouts as batting helmets.READ MORE: Sacramento Sets Storm Record With Its Highest All-Time Rainfall Total Since 1880
Early in Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi’s career, he was a vital member of Beane’s staff. He started as a baseball operations analyst for the A’s in 2005. So he’s well aware of the analytics.
As a former player, Manager Gabe Kapler understands the human touch. The two have joined together to fashion a regular season juggernaut that featured plenty of data but also employed one of the largest coaching staffs in the league.
Veteran third baseman Evan Longoria has flourished thanks to this unique blend.
“We don’t really, at least as a group or from the outside, talk about analytics all that much,” Longoria said. “I mean obviously there’s an understanding that a lot of the way that the lineups and the way that we kind of go about the game, a lot of it is analytically-based.
“But I think that’s been part of the reason why there’s a lot of buy-in is because it’s not like the kind of this like cookie cutter approach,” he said. “There’s like a more human aspect to it that has been easier for the group to buy into.”READ MORE: 'Never Been So Excited': Nonprofit Gets Unexpected Help As Storm Threatens Shelter
Part of the Giants human touch is having three hitting coaches. The Giants won a team record 107 games and along the way the team finished with 241 home runs, the second most in the Major Leagues.
Longoria said the team’s approach has made all the difference.
“I think we set a record for home runs, pinch hit home runs this year,” Longoria said. “Our average off the bench, the guys that came in, was through the roof, just like preparedness from top to bottom all contributed to the winning and to the, kind of just the culture of the club.”
Kapler also made sure that his core of veteran players got regular breaks during the season to make sure they are now fresh for the playoffs. It’s a strategy that has become common in the NBA.
Giants star and NL MVP candidate Brandon Crawford has credited Kapler’s managerial style and its human touch with helping him put together such a solid season.
“I don’t know that it’s the best I’ve felt but I’m fresh enough to be able to go out there and keep playing every day here down the stretch,” Crawford said before the final regular-season series with San Diego. “Between the training staff and some work that I put in this past offseason kind of prepared me for this along with Kap doing a really good job of trying to keep us fresh throughout the year.”MORE NEWS: UPDATE: Atmospheric River: I-880 Shutdown, Flooded Roadways, Damaged Homes, Massive Rockslides In Storm's Wake
“There have been years in the past where I feel fine and then I end up playing 25 games in a row or something and then I kind of start breaking down.”