Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Welcome to the Blue, Farhan Zaidi!

The wait is now apparently over, and by all accounts Andrew Friedman got his man.  Based on numerous reports all over the web, the Dodgers will hire A's Assistant General Manager Farhan Zaidi.  An official announcement should be forthcoming.

Zaidi is 37-year old MIT economics graduate with a PhD from Berkeley in a focused field of study on behavioral economics.  In between, he worked as a consultant for Boston Consulting Group and the Sporting News.

Clearly, the Dodgers are doing their best to capture the best minds Baseball has to offer.  Zaidi is considered smart, personable and not entirely transfixed by sabermetrics.  He appears to understand its limitations while knowing that you must be able to evaluate a player by accepting the views of several schools of thought.  However, he does comes to us with a pedigree in statistical analysis, so he knows its value.  What I especially appreciate about Zaidi is that he recognizes that these players are more than just numbers - that skill is not always easily discernible in statistics. 

Overall, I can't say I hate this, but I also can't say I love it either.  Although he has had plenty of learned folks sing his praises, it remains to be seen if an all-star cast of ivy-league trained brains can really work together to shift the franchise in the right direction without butting heads.  Nevertheless, I am happy to go along for the ride and look forward to experiencing the results.  Hopefully, this foray into the 'Moneyball' world is more fruitful than the last time we attempted it with Paul DePodesta.

So far, Kasten and the Guggenheim ownership have been true to their word.  They've said that this new phase of the Dodger kingdom would focus on the farm system and bringing along the prospects to the big club, and these recent new hires is proof that they meant it.  We are entering a brave new world.

Here are a list of stories related to his eventual hiring:
If one is a Dodger fan, what Stan Kasten and Dodger ownership is allowing Friedman to build for a long-term organizational infrastructure is advanced 21st Century Branch Rickeyism, especially if you know how well Friedman treats those with whom he works, and how brilliant a core executive he happens to be. This is not about making the Dodgers a baseball Rodeo Drive and buying up the glitziest free agents their television audience can watch, this is about sustained creative and hardcore baseball excellence.
Although he came through the Oakland "Moneyball" system, Zaidi has a reputation for blending old-school scouting methods with advanced analytics to distill the best of both worlds.

His primary responsibilities with the A's included providing statistical analysis for evaluating and targeting players in the amateur Draft, free-agent and trade markets. He also assisted on arbitration cases and Minor League contracts and worked closely with the coaching staff during the season in analyzing data from advance scouting reports.
"He's engaging, he's able to look at baseball from every angle, consider every element, and he has great leadership skills," A's director of player personnel Billy Owens told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle in August. "He should be an emerging GM candidate for sure."
The Dodgers just hired a Canadian Muslim Berkeley Ph.D. who grew up in the Philippines, went to MIT, and strongly advocated that the A’s sign Cuban Yoenis Cespedes. What a world. I am giddy. BRING ME ALL OF THE GENIUSES. (I sure hope Bill Plaschke hates this.)
Zaidi comes from an analytical background — he became interested in the A's, literally, by reading "Moneyball" while in college — but also has been described as a big believer in scouting. He doesn't just crunch numbers, but also people. It's not necessary for players and the front-office to get along like players and coaches must, but Zaidi's people skills have to be considered an asset and bonus.
According to a profile in the San Francisco Chronicle, Zaidi grew up in the Phillipines, attended MIT as an undergraduate and, after getting his doctorate at UC Berkeley, decided to try to break into baseball after reading the Michael Lewis bestseller, "Moneyball."

He eventually landed with the A's under GM Billy Beane -- the protagonist of that book as well as the movie based on it -- and worked his way up to become the team's assistant general manager for baseball operations.
  • And here is a video from the SSAC13 conference where Farhan is a part of a panel discussing Baseball analytics.  This is a must watch.  He speaks a bit about roster construction, understanding the underlying skills that lead to positive outcomes and how BritPop got him the A's job.  (Hat Tip: Eric Stephen at True Blue LA).

Video Link:

In celebration of Zaidi's arrival to the Dodgers I made the above fantasy card for him.  I used a photograph grabbed from a photo tweeted by @120Sports ( I've tracked the photo down to an SF Gate article from Feb 2014 - taken by Susana Bates, Special To The Chronicle) and the 1959 Topps Baseball card design.

* Please follow on twitter @ernestreyes *
* Dodgers Blue Heaven home page *

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