Phillies and Amaro Could Learn from Amaro’s Career Stats
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro suggested, to writer Bob Brookover, that scouts shouldn’t rely too much on statistics when scouting the minors:
Amaro said statistical analysis should not be a big part of minor-league scouting.
“It’s just too difficult to really project what the numbers will say,” Amaro said. “I lived it myself. I was a great minor-league player but a terrible major-league player. If you looked at my OPS and my on-base percentage, it was ridiculous. But I wasn’t a good major-league player because I couldn’t hit a breaking ball. That’s something that the scout will find out and see and then you can exploit that area on a guy.”
Admittedly I don’t know to what degree Amaro or his minor league scouts do or don’t rely on statistics. And while I would never advocate an organization rely on statistics alone to evaluate minor league players, if we look at the right statistics and interpret them correctly, we can learn a great deal.
Since I was barely a teenager when Amaro started his professional baseball career, I don’t remember seeing him play. I don’t have a literal image in my mind of Ruben Amaro. My picture of Amaro as a baseball player is his statistics.
So let’s scout Amaro, in hindsight, using statistics, without regard to what our eyes told us about Amaro.
When we look at Amaro’s minor league stats, we see a player who could walk but not do much else.
In 1988 he drew 109 walks but hit .257 and slugged .328. He was 23 and spent most of that season in A-ball. So he was not exactly all that young for the level.
Sure a weak hitter can lay off pitches in the low minors but higher-level pitchers are going to just throw him strikes and let him make weak contact.
The next season, 1989, he again played in A-ball and Double-A. That season he hit .368 with a .523 slugging percentage but hit only 6 homers in 88 games at age 24. His walks also dropped to 52, still solid but nothing special.
He had similar seasons to his 1989 season in both 1990 and 1991. His statistics on the surface looked impressive but he combined for only 10 homers in 260 games in 1990 and 1991, his age 25 and age 26 seasons in Double-A and Triple-A. He drew a respectable number of walks (132) in those 260 games, but nothing outstanding.
In 1992 he finally played 126 games in the big leagues. In his 427 major league plate appearances that season he did what we might have expected. He wasn’t awful in terms of drawing walks (54). But he didn’t draw enough walks to make up for his lack of ability to hit the ball with authority in order to put up a respectable on-base percentage. It seems major league pitchers were able to exploit his inability to hit for any power and those pitchers had the command and control to prevent him from drawing enough walks to post the high on-base percentage he put up in the minors.
For the next four seasons Amaro bounced around between the majors and minors, and was a league average hitter in the majors over that stretch.
In 1997 he got into 117 major league games but again major league pitchers seemed to exploit his lack of power. He drew 21 walks, not awful, and he struck out only 24 times but he just didn’t hit for any power (.314 SLG).
After a horrible season in 1998, Amaro retired from playing.
He had a rather impressive minor league career, on the surface: .304/.399/.433 in 3,683 plate appearances and 831 games. However he hit only 44 homeruns.
Perhaps Amaro and the Phillies’ scouts should use statistics to help evaluate minor leaguers. They just need to be sure to look at the right statistics and utilize them correctly. And they need look no further than Amaro’s career as an example.