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The Orioles spent a year building their analytics department. Now they’re putting those tools to use.

Shortly after the Orioles hired Mike Elias as executive vice president/general manager last fall, his first move was to add Sig Mejdal as assistant general manager for analytics. There was plenty of work to do for both.

With only a developer on staff remaining from what was already an understaffed and underutilized analytics department, Mejdal had to hire a staff and begin the arduous task of building an infrastructure.

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Much of that was focused on the June draft, though, and simply establishing a baseline of systems and databases that Elias called the “analytics blocking and tackling basics.” With all that built, both Mejdal and Elias hope the second year on the analytics front can start to deliver some benefit to both the major league and minor league field levels and bring tangible results.

“This first year undoubtedly has gone much better than I had anticipated,” Mejdal said. “The skills that we’ve brought in with the new hires have been amazing, along with the single developer that remained.

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“We have a really skilled group, a group that I have never seen the likes of in baseball. While much of our time was spent re-creating the processes that led to the decision tools that we created in Houston, I’m looking forward in year two with this group to take us to a place that we haven’t experienced before, take us to a place analytically that we haven’t experienced before.”

That staff had to be hired with both the past and future in mind. The staff includes holdover developer Di Zou as the new manager of baseball systems and 2019 hires Peter Ash and James Daniels as full-stack developers, as well as James Martin III, Michael Weis and Ryan Hardin as analysts.

While there was a lot of work to be done re-creating the tools Elias said the new front office “had been very accustomed to in our daily lives in not only Houston, but dating back to St. Louis,” there was also a need for innovation.

Mejdal said the staff was assembled to be able to join the proverbial arms race with the 29 other clubs. Part of being caught up this year will mean more utility for the vast amounts of information available to those outside the front office.

Manager Brandon Hyde, who came from the Chicago Cubs as a bench coach for an organization that was steeped in analytics, said it was a “big difference” coming to the Orioles and knowing that much of the information and research and development capabilities were still being built in 2019.

“We knew last year that our analytics infrastructure and the stuff that Sig and the department he was going to build were going to be building over the course of the season, and you knew that all the information that we were going to get wasn’t going to get to us yet because he was going to be in the process of building the department,” Hyde said. “Now, he’s got a full year of hiring analysts, getting those things in place.

"I met with our analysts [earlier this month], and they showed me things that they’re working on and showed me information they’re going to give to the coaches and me. We’re starting to catch up in that way, for sure.”

Last year, Mejdal said, “we just didn’t have the infrastructure, we didn’t have the dashboards, the tools to share with coaches or players when we first arrived.

“The developers have been working hard in creating these tools and it will be a different experience for our coaches and our players in 2020,” Mejdal said.

What progress there was in 2019 came on the pitching side in the minor leagues, where technologies such as Rapsodo and high-speed cameras led to improvements for many of the club’s prospect arms. It’s also evident that the model that Mejdal and his team built for the draft worked well on the pitching side. The Orioles’ 2019 pitching draftees dominated in short-season ball, and the team used those same projections to target pitchers in their trades earlier this month.

“My goal for year two is now that these guys are doing so much great work with TrackMan data and Statcast data and statistical analysis, I want to make sure that the end users in the front office and in the field are incorporating those into their decision-making and my decision-making in our daily lives,” Elias said. “I think that’s a good part of [director of baseball development] Eve Rosenbaum’s role, helping to craft and design those tools in such a way that the scouts, coaches and front office people and analysts will digest them and use them easily and readily.

“The last thing we want to do is have all this great work done by the analytics department and then nobody uses it.”

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