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Red Sox have strong showing at sabermetrics seminar

BOSTON -- If Tom Tippett had it his way, he'd spend considerable time researching every player move he's asked about.

That's not how the game works for the Red Sox's director of baseball information services. Here's nine minutes: go.

Tippett couldn't say whether the deal actually went through or whom it involved, but just a day before the Trade Deadline, he ran some numbers that altered his thinking about how the club viewed a player. A day later, he had a gut (or brain) check with an offer on the table.

"Last Monday, the day before the Trade Deadline, I did some analysis that kind of changed how we thought about one of our players, somebody that other teams have been asking about and I presented that information and we were considering it," Tippett said Saturday in front of a crowd of about 200 at Boston University. "And the next day, the day of the Trade Deadline, I got called into [general manager] Ben Cherington's office and I was asked how convicted I felt about that research I did the day before. And he told me I had nine minutes to give him an answer. Because there was a trade offer on the table that we had to say yes or no to.

"And I got to tell you, that's not the most comfortable feeling in the world for someone who's methodical and research oriented like I am."

Tippett doesn't act alone in his function as an analyst for the Red Sox. Red Sox senior advisor Bill James, who was in the crowd for the second annual Sabermetrics, Scouting and the Science of Baseball seminar, checked out what Tippett had discovered and gave his backing.

James, who did not present, but turned some heads, and Tippett weren't the only Red Sox representatives who turned out to support the Jimmy Fund. Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine talked for an hour, and bench coach Tim Bogar was a co-presenter of a new statistic he hopes better measures an offense's ability to advance itself: OVP (offensive value percentage).

Major League coaches, typically, aren't interested in attempting to come up with their own stats -- a feather in the cap for Bogar, who could be a manager someday.

Valentine, long a progressive thinker, delivered a crowd-stealing story about his former manager Tommy Lasorda, who commanded Valentine's teammates in the Minors to line up and get the young shortstop's autograph. Valentine was struggling mightily in the field and the rest of the team was at the point of rebelling.

As for the numbers, Valentine said there has been no moment in his Red Sox tenure where he's been issued a sabermetric-based directive.

"I haven't been given one suggestion based on sabermetrics since I've been in Boston," Valentine said. "Maybe Tom will say he gave me one. I don't see that. I don't know how it wouldn't be on a similar level. Sabermetrics and numbers can't tell a different story, I don't think. Unless you're just reading a different book. And the book of winning is what everyone's trying to deal with. If someone, if I get information, and it's good information, I try to use it."

Valentine and Tippett had particularly good conversations in Spring Training, when time better allowed for it. Tippett's job isn't only data analysis, it's the creation of the baseball information system.

The next time the Trade Deadline rolls around, Tippett expects whatever was overlooked this time won't be in the future.

"Part of the challenge on the baseball information system side is to make sure things like this don't happen again," Tippett said.

Tippett and James disagreed on whether the club should sign Carl Crawford. The former said his defensive ability would not be reduced because of the short left field at Fenway Park, the latter said it would. So far, Tippett said, James has appeared to have read things better -- but added it's too early to judge.

What Tippett stressed, though, is how often the front office disagrees: always.

"I always find it interesting that the public debate is always a lot more simplistic than the private debate," Tippett said. "The public debate was, 'Did it work or didn't it?', and if it didn't, 'Who should we fire?'

"It's not unusual," Tippett continued, "for 8 or 10 people to be weighing in, all with very well thought out, legitimate points of view. And so I don't have lot of patience for the second-guessing that goes on after these transactions."

Another Red Sox front office member, director of professional scouting Jared Porter, is set to talk Sunday on the second and final day of the sold-out seminar.

The weekend will raise about $20,000 for the Jimmy Fund, nearly double the haul from last year.

Other presentations on Saturday included a statistical look at umpiring from Dan Brooks, who runs Brooks Baseball's comprehensive site for pitch data, and a demonstration of the Trackman system, a proprietary pitch-tracking technology the Red Sox have signed up some of their Minor League teams for.

"I think it's been fantastic," Brooks said. "I think a lot of people came out, learned a lot about baseball, had a lot of fun and got to listen to great stories from Bobby Valentine."

Boston Red Sox