Burke Badenhop on Joining D-backs as Baseball Ops Analyst

Burke Badenhop is on to phase two of his baseball career. Twelve years after being drafted out of Bowling Green State University, the 33-year-old right-hander has moved from the playing field to the front office. He was recently hired as a baseball operations analyst by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The move doesn’t come as a surprise. Badenhop has been featured here at FanGraphs multiple times, and he’s always supplied thoughtful, analytically savvy quotes. His contributions to MLB Trade Rumors have likewise been insightful. It is easy to see why the a forward-thinking organization would want to bring him on board.

It is also not surprising that it’s the Diamondbacks giving him this opportunity. Arizona’s new brain trust is anything but backward, and some of them, including GM Mike Hazen, had become acquainted with Badenhop when he pitched for the Red Sox in 2014. A few short years later, he’ll be using his brain, as opposed to his sinker, to help them win baseball games.

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Badenhop on getting his new job: “The guy whose eye I caught was Jared Porter, who is now an assistant GM with the Diamondbacks. Luckily, I was at the right place at the right time when he was the pro scouting director in Boston. He sat in on a few of our pitchers meetings and the fact that I looked at, and understood, the pitch data stuck in his brain a little bit.

“He moved on to the Cubs, under Theo, and about a month after I got released by the Rangers [in late April, 2016], he reached out to my agent. He asked if I was interested in moving forward in a non-playing role. I went up to Chicago, and we had some conversations, but they were busy being the best team in baseball, so hiring wasn’t at the forefront of their minds.

“I was six weeks out from playing, so where my head was… I was mostly just happy to be home with my wife and daughter. We were into that ‘What are we going to do next?’ thing. But to be honest, I was looking forward to enjoying the summer for the first time in forever. I was thankful to have played enough in the big leagues where I didn’t have to rush out and take a job right at the onset. That kind of built a little bit. As you get further out of the woods of playing… I guess I buckled down a little more and was able to make this happen.

“Mike Hazen was in Boston when I was there, too. Jared moved on to Arizona [in November] to work with him, and they decided to hire me for this role. It came together rather quickly, although at the same time it was a long, dragged out process, given that it started in May. Nothing really happened for awhile, but once the wheels got turning, it only took a few weeks.”

On defining his role: “The position was created for me. At the beginning, it’s kind of fluid — we’re going to see where it takes us — but as you might have heard, it involves data analysis and sports science. My actual title is as vague as it gets. I’m an analyst in baseball operations.

“Jared worked with Brian Bannister in Boston. I believe he’s on the field with the big-league guys now, but before that he did some scouting and worked with the minor-league guys. I don’t know for sure, but I think with me it was kind of, ‘Brian is good with this stuff, so let’s see where things can go with Burke — he’s a fairly knowledgeable guy, so let’s see which skill sets shine the most.’ Basically, they’re not boxing me in.

“What do I think I can bring? Until you’ve gone over to the other side, you don’t really know. There’s no reference point. But at the organizational meetings we had last week… there wasn’t really a guy who fit the boxes I checked. Having played as recently as I did, being as close to the game as I am, and knowing more of this stuff… maybe there’s some credence to that.

“Another thing that’s beneficial is having bounced around so much. I’ve played against, and with, a large majority of the guys in the league. I can provide a lot of information you maybe couldn’t otherwise get, such as makeup.”

On relating to players and coaches: “I won’t be on the field, at least not initially. I’ll be working a lot with our R&D people, including Mike Fitzgerald, who we hired from the Pirates. We’re really lucky to have him, because he really knows his stuff. As a former college athlete, he speaks the game really well. That’s one thing I took away from from meeting him last week.

“There’s often more of a willingness to take advice when it’s coming from a place of respect amongst players. Having played 12 years — eight in the big leagues — hopefully I’m someone guys would listen to. Especially because I never had overwhelming stuff. I was a toss-around middle reliever who had to maximize what I had to keep things going. So [working with pitchers] is one of the options we have. It’s not necessarily the end goal, but it’s something I could possibly end up doing.

“Do I have the experience of — Doug Drabek is our Double-A pitching coach. Do I know more about pitching than he does? There’s no chance. But do I know more about the analytics stuff than Doug? Maybe. And maybe we speak the same language to the point where I can convey something that could be a coaching point for him.”

On his Econ background and scouting reports: “I’ll be working on some projects they give me, and I’ve also brainstormed some things that hopefully I can delve into. I was an Econ major. I’m used to using numbers to paint a picture. A lot of guys only know the numbers side. There are a lot of quantitative guys, and there are a lot of qualitative guys. Being able to use both is basically what Econ is.

“There are maybe things that could help accentuate what are scouts are seeing. For instance, I’ve seen reports scouts had on me. A lot of them will be that I’m a 4-A guy whose stuff has played up a little. But if you look at the numbers, my sinker was 90th percentile in sink and run, and my slider was 95th percentile in horizontal movement. That’s not 4-A stuff. You might go out and watch Burke Badenhop and he’s pretty boring — he looks like an oaf-y, tall, lanky, right-handed guy who doesn’t throw really hard — but if you look deeper into the numbers, you’d think, ‘We might have something here.’

“It’s one of those things where you ask, ‘This guy doesn’t throw hard, so why is he good? Why does he gets swings and misses? Why can’t guys square up his fastball?’ The data helps answer some of those questions. Having an understanding of those numbers, and melding it with the experience I have on the field, I think I can add some value.”





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Will H.
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Will H.

A) this is very cool stuff
B) looking at his 2015 (plus his career), why didn’t someone sign him last year? I mean, look at the Red’s bullpen… they likely would have been better had they resigned him, no?

Votto is Elite
Member
Votto is Elite

Basically Badenhop had a dreadful April in 2015 and immediately soured himself to the fanbase even though folks like me were saying “Well, he’s actually pretty okay…” He pitched okay the rest of the way, but he had an option for a few million that didn’t seem worth picking up, and he looked shot in spring training.

I’m glad he’s got this job though, he’s always struck me as a smart, thoughtful guy.