When Brian Cashman spoke for over an hour at the GM meetings on Nov. 7, he spent a great deal of time defending the Yankees’ analytics department. In doing so, he made a claim that grabbed attention.
“People talk about we’re analytically driven,” Cashman said. “Do you know we have the smallest analytics department in the American League East? Is that a shocker to you guys? We have the largest pro scouting department in all of baseball. Is that a shocker to everybody? Shouldn’t be, but no one’s doing their deep dives. They’re just throwing ammunition and bulls–t and accusing us of being run analytically.”
Shortly after Cashman said the Yankees have the smallest analytics department in their division, Four Rings Sports Solutions, a data-driven company that helps “pro sports teams improve player acquisition and player optimization to efficiently build a sustainable winner,” shared a chart that disputed the general manager’s claim. The chart showed that, as of Aug. 27, 2023, the Yankees had the second-largest research and development staffing in baseball. Four Rings’ chart accounted for 43 full-time analysts and engineers, while the Rays had 44 such employees.
While the company’s chart didn’t match Cashman’s claim, a difference in accounting methods likely factored into the discrepancy.
— Four Rings Sports Solutions (@FourRingsSports) November 7, 2023
About a week after his initial comments — and after the Four Rings chart circulated on social media — Cashman was asked how he counts the number of staffers in the Yankees’ analytics department.
“I count them from my analytics department,” Cashman said on Nov. 16 while speaking at Covenant House’s annual Sleep Out event. “The director tells me that. So I don’t know what outside firm and how they slice it, so I can’t speak to it because I didn’t see it. So it’s hard for me to talk to. I can just tell you that, in terms of analysts, the answer stands. I trust my guy more than any outside source because it’s our people.”
David Grabiner is the Yankees’ director of quantitative analysis.
Following Cashman’s most recent comment, the Daily News reached out to Four Rings Sports to see how it crunched its numbers. The company’s founder and CEO — and former Mets acting general manager — Zack Scott replied via email with the names of the 43 Yankees employees who were counted in the chart as of Aug. 27.
Scott said that he compiled the names through his own research, which primarily comes from perusing media guides, front office directories, team websites and LinkedIn. He could not say for sure if all of the listed employees still worked for the Yankees, “but I’d be surprised if more than a couple were no longer there.” Scott added that he typically reviews his headcounts annually but also tracks changes when he sees or hears about them.
He was not aware of any other people or companies keeping track of such data.
In addition to listing specific job titles, Scott’s list broke the 43 employees up into three broader roles: “leader,” “systems” and “analyst.” The list included 19 people with a “systems” role, which mostly included people who had the word “engineer” in their title. There were also 23 people who fell under “analyst.” Not all of them had the words “analyst” or “analysis” in their job titles.
Only Michael Fishman, a team vice president and assistant general manager, fell under the “leader” role. Fishman has an analytical background and previously served as the club’s director of quantitative analysis.
Scott said that Cashman’s claim about having the smallest analytics department in the AL East may not have been counting the “systems” people. Even then, Scott said that only counting the “analysts” and Fishman would give the Yankees 24 analytics people, which would still rank second overall behind Tampa (26).
“I’m guessing [Cashman’s] not counting the systems people,” Scott wrote. “Within the analyst group, he may only be counting quantitative analysis people and not advance scouting or other areas that also use analytical people. I think there are different ways to account for people. I tend to cast a wider net because employees with analytical backgrounds are now integrated throughout baseball operations.”
Scott made similar remarks during a recent appearance on the Baseball Isn’t Boring podcast.
There, he said that “I may define things a little differently” when compiling his headcounts and that he tries to count everyone with an analytical background, even if they don’t work in a team’s analytics department.
“You may have people that have come from that background in player development, embedded in scouting, whatever it may be,” Scott explained. “I’m trying to capture all the people that you have that that’s kind of their skill set and their background. And so there’s probably people that they do not [count].”
On the podcast, Scott added that the Yankees are somewhat unique in that they have a significant number of employees in New York and at their complex in Tampa. He speculated that Cashman’s claim may have only been based on employees in New York.
Scott also told the podcast that 24 people would give the Yankees the second-largest number of staffers with analytical backgrounds, but he went on to make the same point that Cashman did about the team knowing its department better than any outsider would.
“He probably has a lower number than I do,” Scott said. “If you only looked at people with the title of ‘quantitative analyst,’ do they have the second smallest team in the AL East? I didn’t look at that. I did look at if they are analysts and not software engineers, not biomechanical engineers. They still were second-highest in all of baseball with about 24 people, I think. So I don’t know where he was coming from with those numbers.
“It’s his operation. He knows way more about it than I do. This is how I account for it.”
Regardless of headcounts and rankings, the Yankees are perceived to be a team that relies heavily on analytics. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, as plenty of successful teams do.
However, the Yankees have not had the success that their fans expect, especially in 2023, as the team missed the playoffs. Some critics have set their sights on the analytics department, and even star players Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole have commented on how the Yankees use and understand the abundance of data available to them.
The Yankees have tried to combat related narratives this offseason, with owner Hal Steinbrenner dismissing the idea that the team’s analytics department dictates what Aaron Boone does in the dugout.
“I can assure you we don’t have an analyst standing behind Boone in the dugout telling him you need to pinch-hit here, you need to get this pitcher out of here, you need to steal a base,” Steinbrenner insisted, though an analyst, Zac Fieroh, is listed on the Yankees’ major league coaching staff. “I know at least one other team that does have an analyst/coach in the dugout and I’m sure that manager is hearing about numbers the whole game, but it’s not the case here.”
Steinbrenner’s comment came hours before Cashman tried to make similar points about the Yankees’ analytics department at the GM meetings.
“Analytics is an important spoke in our wheel, but it should be in everybody’s wheel, and it really is,” Cashman said. “It’s an important spoke in every operation that’s having success. There’s not one team that’s not using it. We’re no different. But to say we are guided by analytics as a driver, it’s a lie. But that’s what people want to say. I know I can’t change that narrative. All I can continue to do is say, ‘bullshit, not true.’”