Batter Up

If you’re lucky enough to be in the stands today for Opening Day of baseball season, ponder for a moment how the teams got assembled.

Did the owners and managers rely on sabermetrics, plugging in some performance statistics and acting upon formulas to build up their teams? Or did they rely more on gut instinct? The Phillies, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, take the more old-fashioned approach of relying heavily on scouting and intuition.

Scott Proefrock, an assistant general manager of the Phillies, explains that physical performance is only part of the equation. “Baseball makeup,” he says, is the other part. “There is no formula that tells you whether the guy has good baseball makeup,” Proefrock tells the newspaper. “If you can find a way to quantify it, who knows? That’s why the human intelligence aspect of this game is truly the most important part. It’s one that is not paid enough attention to, in my opinion.”

Peter Drucker was a huge fan of the national pastime (as we’ve noted), and he certainly appreciated that the measurability of job performance was one of the great benefits to any organization adopting a baseball-team-style structure. “Each member can be evaluated separately, can have clear and specific goals, can be held accountable, can be measured—as witness the statistics a true aficionado reels off about every major-leaguer in baseball history,” Drucker pointed out in Managing in a Time of Great Change. “Each member can be trained and developed to the fullest extent of the individual’s strengths.”

1934 detail of a Boston Red Sox player. Image source: Boston Public Library
1934 detail of a Boston Red Sox player. Image source: Boston Public Library

But Drucker was also dismissive of those who sought out magic formulas for decision-making. “The attempt to replace judgment by formula is always irrational,” he warned in The Practice of Management.  “All that can be done is to make judgment possible by narrowing its range and the possible alternatives, giving it a clear focus, a sound foundation in facts and validity of actions and decisions.”

That includes judgment on staffing. “For the enterprise is a community of human beings,” Drucker declared. “Its performance is the performance of human beings.”

Do you think baseball-style sabermetrics and similar performance-measuring tools are overused in the workplace today?