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March 27, 1998

Interview with Ed Wade

BP interviews the Philadelphia Phillies general manager

by Keith Law

Recently, newly appointed Phillies General Manager Ed Wade was kind enough to speak to our own Keith Law to discuss issues around player evaluation, player development, and poor Calvin Maduro.

BP: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. One issue of interest to us and our readers is how you evaluate players. How much do scouting reports, statistical analysis, and your own instincts and impressions come into play?

EW: The primary focus has to be on the reports your scouts provide or on first-hand knowledge of the player. You've got to have great reliance on your professional scouting staff, or, in the case of an amateur player, on your amateur staff, to provide you with the freshest most detailed info possible to try and make an intelligent decision.

Our process or our procedure here, for a professional player, is to look at reports and contact the scout to get a firsthand update. We'll look at his statistics and, if it's a major-league player, his service time and the amount of maneuverability we have. Arbitration eligibility and free agent eligibility come into play, too.

Ultimately, talent rules the day, and I think it's most important to know that your scouts and personnel have a good handle on the player.

BP: What statistics get your attention? Do any raise a red flag or say positive things about a player?

EW: Well, that depends on the particular type of player you're talking about. With a power guy, there are different stats that tell the story than with a guy you're looking at to get on base and score runs and make things happen. You can make statistics as complicated as you want them to be.

What I like to see is is there a trendline being established by a player? Case in point: Glanville. He has gotten better every season and has made progress in every area of his game. We take a lot of criticism for having him as a leadoff hitter - people say, "Yes, he hit .300, but his OBA wasn't that good" - and though his OBA is low, we have seen progress there and see the type of player who understands his role and is intelligent and skilled enough to make the adjustments necessary to improve.

In our situation, trying to build with young players, the statistical track record may not tell you a whole lot about the player because he may not have a long enough track record. So we try to rely on scouting reports more than on hard statistical data. Statistics may tell you something about a player, but the scout will tell you about those specific games that maybe a groundball got through, or a seeing-eye ball knocked in a run. You need to lean on your personnel.

BP: Given your philosophy of building through young players, some of the moves you've made this offseason haven't really fit, like with Dave Doster or Billy McMillon...

EW: Let's take those guys one at a time. With Mark Lewis, we had made the commitment that it was the time for Desi Relaford to get his opportunity. With that said, and the Glanville for Morandini deal going, I would not have made that deal without being able to sign Mark Lewis. We would have been uncomfortable with youngsters on either side of the bag. We think Doster's a solid player, but felt we wouldn't be giving Desi the best shot at succeeding if we had novice guys on both sides of the bag, and thought it was important to bring Desi along.

With McMillon, I'll tell you exactly what we told him. We said, "There's no question you could sit on our bench and fill a role as an extra player. The reality is that in April you might get 2 big hits to win us ballgames, but we'd be better served getting you 50 at bats rather than you coming off the bench 4 or 5 times cold in a month." We didn't want to stunt his development; we think he has a high ceiling, and would be better served getting everyday experience.

In terms of people saying that we've brought a lot of veterans in, let's look at what we've done since '97 season ended:

  • We traded Stocker, a veteran player, created an opportunity for Relaford and acquired a 23-year-old outfielder. We traded our Rule V pick for a minor-league reliever, Mike Welch.

  • We traded a veteran second baseman for a relatively young everyday centerfielder.

  • We signed a veteran guy to move into 2b situation in order to continue the development of the Dosters and Marlon Andersons and not force feed them.

  • We signed a couple of six-year minor-league free agents to fill some holes on the pitching staff. And there's the deal we made yesterday to pick up Matt Whiteside. An established arm - I mean, he's not Nolan Ryan, I don't want to oversell him, but he is an established arm - puts us in the situation of not rushing one or two guys and putting them in a situation where they might struggle.

    We're not going out and signing a bunch of veteran guys. The reality is when you're in our situation, we're not just mortgaging the present for the future. We plan to be competitive in 1998, and I think we can be with this ballclub. But the design is making this good not just for the short term, but giving us an opportunity to succeed in the long term.Sometimes that means signing a veteran player so you don't have to rush the young guys.

    BP: Speaking of rushing guys brings Calvin Maduro to mind.

    EW: That's exactly who I was thinking of. A year ago we had to bring him back and put him in a situation where it was difficult to succeed. Two years ago it was Rich Hunter. Wendell Magee a year ago - we anointed him as the starting centerfielder, and he wasn't prepared for it. In the cases of Maduro and Magee, we still feel they're 2 solid young prospects; it's up to us now to figure out the appropriate way to develop them. We just don't think it's possible to have them earn their spurs at the big-league level.

    BP: Seems like a new approach compared to your predecessor [Lee Thomas].

    EW: Lee started this path. Last winter, we had to fill with some veteran pitching and the Hudler move. A year ago we didn't have the depth that we hope we have right now from the standpoint of pitching or have a guy ready like we think Kevin Sefcik is now. Before that the organization was committed to trying to build around the core nucleus of the 1993 club, but the reality is that there were a lot of injuries since then and a lot of career years in 1993. We think this is the best way to move forward incrementally for the future.

    BP: The Phillies have had a terrible problem with pitchers getting hurt. Have you come to any conclusions on some of the causes?

    EW: My own conclusion is that to some degree it's bad luck, but the other reality is that when you're building pitching staffs from pitchers from outside your own organization it's tough to know what you're buying into. We've also had some amateur free agents who've had injury histories.

    If you can draft and sign pitchers yourself and treat them properly, you can get a better handle on what their overall health is. You have a better idea how they've been treated in the past - hopefully not mistreated. A lot of our breakdowns have been guys from other organizations, and we were the victim of circumstances and they broke down with us.

    People talk about how Leo Mazzone has a system and how no Atlanta pitcher has missed a start in 23 years. I don't think Leo Mazzone's system is that much different than Galen Cisco's or anybody else's system, but their pitchers have been homegrown except Maddux and, more recently, Neagle. It's nice when you can sign a guy like Maddux who won't break down in anyone's system. Up until Smoltz's recent problem, they've been fortunate. They moved Avery, and, lo and behold, a year later, he has problems. They were fortunate that didn't occur on their watch. People like to anoint certain guys as hitting gurus or pitching gurus, but I guess I look at the game more simplistically: it's proper care and maintenance. If you're acquiring and signing healthy arms, chances are you can maintain them a lot longer.

    BP: I'm sure you're expecting this, but I have to ask about JD Drew. How do you see the importance of signing him in your overall development? Do you have some kind of contingency plan?

    EW: There's no question he'd make us appreciably better and advance our building with young players appreciably. That said, we have to try to make intelligent decisions. We obviously think the world of this kid and there's not a question in our minds that he's got the ability to be a solid everyday player and will be a solid everyday player.

    It's frustrating that it's taken this long to sign him. I'm not sure that you have can have a contingency plan if you don't sign him. I think we'll get better whether we sign him or not. People have begun to take sides on the issue and they're doing it without knowing very much about the kid. I know him, and he's a quality kid and hopefully at some point we'll be able to get into a uniform. Issues get blurred when there's a contract involved, and hopefully people will get to make judgments on him when they see him play.

    BP: Coming back to the original subject, how do you include the ability to get on base when evaluating players?

    EW: I belonged to SABR at one point, but I'm not what you'd call a sabermetrician. Personally, I feel that OBA tells us more about a player than batting average, and that the combo of OBA and SLG tells you a whole lot about a player. On the '93 club Dykstra, Hollins, and Daulton all walked 100 times or close to 100 times.

    When you do that early, by the time the other pitcher gets into the middle of the order, he's working from the stretch more often than not. If you can do things early in the ballgame, you can be competitive. In our case, we hope to get more power through natural development from Lieberthal and Rolen being a year more advanced and Rico Brogna being healthy, but the reality is that we're going to have to do some things on the bases to manufacture runs, and try to create an environment where we can have things happen on the bases. Three-run homers are nice, (but) you're better able to manufacture runs than sit back and wait for a three-run homer, especially in our situation.

    BP: Thanks again for your time. This has been extremely interesting and informative.

    EW: Thank you.

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