Ground Control to the Pentagon: Assessing the Names of MLB’s Proprietary Databases

Erin Bormett/Argus Leader via Imagn Content Services, LLC

A couple of weeks ago, Alex Coffey of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a profile of Ani Kilambi, the assistant GM who heads up the Phillies’ R&D department. Reading it, one detail immediately jumped out at me: Coffey published the name of Philadelphia’s proprietary database. It’s called Rocky. That’s a fun name, and it follows the league-wide trend of clubs giving their databases names that are both adorable and specific to either their team or city. It was the first time I’d come across the name, even though the article indicated that it had been around for years.

Like many people, I first learned about team databases when it was reported that Chris Correa, then the Cardinals’ scouting director, had illegally accessed Houston’s database in 2015; Correa later pled guilty to five criminal charges related to his unauthorized access. Even before that, though, teams were understandably secretive about the information they used. Milwaukee’s sports science wing is known as The Lab, and the Brewers have made it very clear that they don’t want anyone coming near it. The photos below are from an article about The Lab in 2020.

One picture of a long hallway with a sign that says "NO MEDIA BEYOND THIS POINT", and one picture of a door labelled "Integrative Sports Performance." It has a large NO ENTRY sign on it.

That secrecy often extends to the name of the database. I imagine the thinking is that it’s harder to break into something if you don’t know what it’s called. Still, there was an inconsistency that bothered me. The names of these databases are a closely held secret, yet I already knew a handful of them. I wondered why that was, so I set off on a research marathon to find as many of the names as I possibly could. It took many, many hours, and my list is still not complete.

What I found is every once in a while, the name of a database will end up in a newspaper article. More often than not, it’s a really big article that glorifies the front office of the team in question, or assures fans that the analytics department is doing good work. As if to highlight the power of the system, it’s almost always referred to as a “proprietary database.” Then the name largely disappears from use. It isn’t mentioned again and the team goes back to acting like it’s a mystery. The impression I got is that front offices are extremely secretive about the names of their databases, but only until they have something to gain by revealing them.

In this article, I list every publicly available name I could find. I want to be very clear that I’m not revealing any information that isn’t already out there. Every name that you read has already been reported, almost always in a major publication. I did ask around a bit and learned a couple more that haven’t been identified publicly, but I won’t be including those. Those teams have worked hard to maintain their secrecy, and I’m going to respect that.

I’ve broken down the name of each database below. I’ve also given it a score, using WAR as a convenient measuring stick. The names are supposed to be fun, so I’ve decided to treat them that way, awarding credit for cleverness, aptness and, most important of all, weirdness. Obviously, these scores are extremely subjective.

You’ll note that not every team is listed. It’s possible that I’m missing a name that has already been made public, but there were several that I couldn’t find. In 2016, Jeff Long wrote an article about the naming trend for Baseball Prospectus. He listed two rumored names that I couldn’t confirm: BASEtech for the Padres, and Stache for the Reds. (If I’d been able to confirm Stache, it would have racked up a whole lot of WAR.) Nowhere could I find anything about the databases of the Angels, Brewers, Dodgers, Giants, Rangers, Royals, or Twins. Congratulations to those teams for really knowing how to keep a secret.

One last note: A couple teams still have their sites indexed by search engines, which strikes me as a gargantuan oversight. I urge them to deindex their sites immediately. Any butthead could try to guess a password and log in. I won’t say which teams, and I want to take this opportunity to impel everyone reading this: Do not be a butthead. It would be both immoral and illegal. Besides, not being a butthead is its own reward. Now on to the names we do know!

A’s: The Tye Solution

Unfortunately, our first entry doesn’t really count. The Tye Solution wasn’t a comprehensive team database. It was a FileMaker database hand-compiled over several years by Tye Waller, who served as first base coach, outfield coach, and, for two years, bench coach. It included data about pitch selection and batted ball distribution, all to help Waller create a better defensive positioning plan. Waller coached with the A’s from 2007 to 2015. According to DRS, Oakland’s outfield was worth 56 runs over that period, eighth-best in baseball. Oddly, when the A’s let Waller go, they told him it was because they wanted to focus on newer ideas. “[Manager Bob Melvin] said they’re going ‘cutting edge,’ but I don’t know what that means,” Waller told reporters.

WAR: 3.0
The Tye Solution may not have been an official name, but really does seem to have been apt, as it was a one-man show.

Astros: Ground Control

Is this the base that launched a thousand quips? Before it became famous for being hacked, the Astros weren’t hesitant to crow about their state-of-the-art database. Its prominence is one of the reasons that clever names became de rigueur. The name even has a fun origin story. Before he became Baltimore’s general manager, Mike Elias was an up-and-coming executive in Houston. In 2014, Evan Drellich related the story of Houston’s database, “The Astros, of course, needed a name for theirs. When an email went out for suggestions, Elias happened to be sitting next to his wife, Alexandra, a marketing specialist. She tied the themes together immediately: the Astros, the space program, a mainframe for employees working all throughout the country and even the world.”

Oddly, Mission Control might have been a more appropriate name. Minute Maid Park is just 25 miles from the Johnson Space Center, and when you hear the name Ground Control you likely picture a big room full of people at computers checking in. That’s the Mission Control Center. One of those people at the computer represents the ground control team, but it’s not the name of the whole operation. Ground Control feels so right because David Bowie’s “Space Odyssey” brought the term into the public vernacular.

WAR: 7.0
Not only is Ground Control clever, but it’s right on target for a team named the Astros, in Space City, with a mascot named Orbit. Commencing countdown, engines on.

Blue Jays: The BEEST

First of all, this system has almost certainly been either supplanted or renamed. The name is a reference to former team president Paul Beeston, who left in 2015. I’m sure it’s not, but it could also be a reference to Beast of the X-Men, who, like the Jays, is a lovely shade of royal blue. What better way to get your players to buy into analytics than by giving your database a nickname that they’d want for themselves?

WAR: 6.5
It loses a win or two for being named in part for the purpose of ingratiating someone to their boss, but still, it’s called the BEEST.

Braves: Tomahawk

I found this name in a Baseball America article from 2016, so it’s possible that Atlanta changed it at some point in the past seven years. I hope they have. Hammer would have the same feel, with the added benefits of honoring the franchise’s greatest player and not being offensive.

I award you no points.

Cardinals: Red Bird Dog

By some accounts, this database was called Redbird rather than Red Bird Dog, but either way, the name was changed after the unwelcome publicity of the Astros hack. Redbird is slightly boring, whereas Red Bird Dog has some cleverness, combining the Redbirds with bird dog scouts.

WAR: 3.4
Neither option is particularly exciting, but that actually makes them both solid fits for the stolid Cardinal Way.

Cubs: Ivy

There’s something comforting about someone perfectly meeting your expectations. Of all the names that have been made public, none feels like it suits the team better than this one. Few teams have as rich a history as the Cubs, and even fewer love to celebrate their history as much as the Cubs do. I’m sure the team kicked around options like Day Games, or Let’s Play Two, or Harry Caray’s Glasses, but in the end, Ivy just feels like the classiest option.

WAR: 3.5
While it’s not flashy, it definitely meets the brief as a cute reference to a beloved part of team lore.

Diamondbacks: Cobra

A diamondback is a rattlesnake found in Arizona. Cobra is the common name of several varieties of venomous snakes. A diamondback is not one of those varieties. Still, while it doesn’t match up perfectly, it works well enough. I guess they could have named the database Rattler or something, but really I just want to be done with this one. I had to see a bunch of pictures of snakes while conducting my research, and now I’m afraid that I’ll never sleep again.

WAR: 2.5
It’s perfectly fine, except for the part where I had to look at snakes.

Guardians: DiamondView

So far as I can tell, the Guardians were one of the very first teams to put their database together. Alex Kaufman wrote about DiamondView in 2014, and noted that the team had been using it as far back as 2003. It’s possible that the team has a new database created closer to this decade and that this name is out of date.

WAR: 3.2
The Guards get a pass here, simply because they created their database in a world where most people hadn’t yet realized that databases are supposed to have adorable names.

Mariners: Trident

Find someone who loves you as much as the Mariners love tridents. The trident has been a part of the team’s brand identity since the beginning, appearing inverted to create an M on hats and jerseys. It returned to prominence last year, both because of the team’s City Connect uniforms and because the players used one in their home run celebrations. “That right there is definitely going to motivate you to hit more homers,” Julio Rodríguez told reporters.

WAR: 4.6
So much of life is just figuring out who you are and learning to embrace it. The Mariners are all in on tridents, and they don’t care who knows it.

Marlins: The Fish Bag

Part of me thinks that this is an elaborate joke. Fish bags are a real thing. They’re insulated bags that allow fisherman keep the fish they’ve caught fresh. But would The Fish really name their database after the thing you use after you kill a bunch of fish? Is the Royals’ database called the Guillotine? Still, it’s right there in black and white in a 2017 article by Tim Healey of Fort Lauderdale’s Sun Sentinel: “Among the team’s assets is The Fish Bag, an internal home base of sorts for all of the Marlins’ analytical work, including an increasing amount of data visualization tools — charts and graphs and whatnot to help the less analytically inclined digest all the numbers.”

WAR: 8.4
Either somebody in the Marlins front office pranked Tim Healey, or somebody in the Marlins front office just picked the most absurd name they could think of. Either way, it’s an MVP-caliber move.

Mets: The Matrix

I am certain that this database has been replaced. The Matrix was profiled in the New York Post in 2015. That was 16 years after the film of the same name was released, but it was the same year that the Mets went to the World Series.

WAR: 2.8
What this name has to do with the Mets (aside from alliteration) is beyond me, but there’s nothing particularly disagreeable about it.

Nationals: The Pentagon

The Nationals get credit for being the first team on our list to go for a reference that’s more about the region than the actual team. In fact, the Pentagon is right across the river from Nationals Park, so close that naming the database after it might occasionally be confusing. Obviously, failing to name the database the Library of Congress was a missed opportunity, but the Nats also get a bonus for the sheer intimidation factor.

WAR: 4.9
I can’t think of a better endorsement for this name than the fact that someone might feasibly say, “I need to find out whether this guy has the capability to launch bombs; someone get me the Pentagon.”

Orioles: Omar (Orioles Management and Research)

Finally, a team whose proprietary database has some street cred. Maybe I should be embarrassed by this, but the only episode of The Wire I’ve ever seen is the pilot. Omar wasn’t in the pilot, but as I understand it, he was a lovable scamp with penchant for armed robbery. I’d say the O’s can match the Nationals in the intimidation department.

WAR: 7.9
It’s not completely clear to me what this has to do with baseball, but as far as honoring violent, fictional hometown heroes goes, this one’s an MVP candidate.

Phillies: Rocky

Speaking of violent hometown heroes of the fictional variety, Rocky is a vast improvement over Philadelphia’s previous database. That one was called the Phillies Holistic Information Location, or PHIL, which is honestly the worst thing I’ve heard in my life. Information locations are very much not a thing, and I have no idea what could or would make their information holistic. Why bother to create a backronym for Phil when the first word is Phillies? As for Rocky, all I really want is a sneak peek just to see how good a fielder it thinks Nick Castellanos really is.

WAR: 7.4
You could argue that Rocky should rank slightly ahead of Omar, but I had to knock off win or two off for the PHIL thing.

Pirates: MITT (Managing, Information, Tools, and Talent)

What is going on in Pennsylvania? First PHIL and now MITT? While the acronym isn’t as tortured Philadelphia’s, it’s still quite insipid. On the other hand, there was once a time when Pittsburgh’s analytics department was considered cutting edge, and MITT might have had a hand in that.

WAR: 0.9
The Pirates have so much fun history to play with, but apparently it pales in comparison with the chance to spell out the word “mitt.” You know, like a baseball mitt.

Rays: Uncle Charlie

This name is likely out of date, as Marc Topkin wrote it up all the way back in 2013. Uncle Charlie is a nickname for a curveball. Interestingly, since 2013, 10.2% of the Rays’ pitches have been curveballs, exactly in the middle of all major league teams and exactly at the big league average. In that sense, no team’s Uncle Charlie has been less remarkable.

WAR: 3.3
In the sense that the team more or less picked a generic baseball term, it’s not that different from calling your database MITT. Still, it’s fairly odd as baseball terms go, so the Rays get some credit.

Red Sox: Beacon

The Red Sox have more database names in the public record than any other team. There was Carmine, which Tom Verducci once described as “the virtual brains of the Boston operation.” The name is a reference to the shade of red, and the team was occasionally referred to as the Carmines, most prominently by White Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson. In an article about the 2018 transition from Carmine to Beacon, Rob Bradford wrote that Carmine had been around since 2000.

In their 2019 book The MVP Machine, Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchick reported on a pitching-specific application called PEDRO, short for pitching, evaluation, development, research, and optimization. Naming it after a Red Sox legend was a great move, and ‘optimization’ is the only word that is obviously there just to make the spelling work.

WAR: 3.5
Fenway Park is right off Beacon Street, which leads to the nearby Beacon Hill neighborhood, site of the Massachusetts State House. It’s a nice local touch, but it’s not particularly interesting.

Tigers: Caesar

The Tigers didn’t finish building their first database until 2017, when Carmine was old enough to drive. They named it Caesar, a nod to the Ilitch family, which made its fortune selling the cheapest pizza the human mind is capable of comprehending. At the time, Caesar was really on the brain over at Ilitch Holdings. Right when the Tigers were rolling the database out, Little Caesars was giving a makeover to the toga-clad, laurel-laden mascot in their logo. The most notable change? Removing his chest hair.

If I were in charge, I might switch the name of the database to honor a former Tiger with an incredible name: Suds Sutherland. That way, someone could conceivably say, “Seiya Suzuki swings at sinkers. See? Suds Sutherland says so.”

WAR: 2.7
Caesar is a solid starter. It wins points for playfulness, but it gives them right back by playing on the outside interests of ownership rather than on something that has to do with the team or the city.

White Sox: Scouting Portal

The Scouting Portal is another system that has to have been superseded by something else. In a 2012 interview, Dan Fabian, then the director of baseball operations, said that it was “a site where you can go to see any of our scouting reports or statistical information online.” He also said that it had been around since roughly 2002.

WAR: 2.0
This is a replacement level name, in the sense that it’s barely a name at all. It was just people calling the thing what it was. There was no more reason to give it a fancy name than there is to give a name to the chair you sit in at work. (If you do have a fun name for the chair you sit in at work, please tell me about it in the comments.)

Yankees: B.A.S.E. (Baseball Analysis and Statistics Engine)

This one works on multiple levels, all of them unfathomably basic. It’s a database called B.A.S.E. in a sport called baseball. It’s a baseball analysis and statistics engine called Baseball Analysis and Statistics Engine. I suspect the Yankees were going for something like HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but they missed the mark. Instead, it’s like the guy from your hometown who got a sandwich named after him in the cool lunch spot because he’s famous now, except the guy’s name is Turkey Sandwich.

There never has been and never will be a team more enamored with its own mythology than the New York Yankees. You mean to tell me no one thought to call this thing Pinstripes, or Bomber, or the Cathedral, or Twenty-Seven? Or how about Babe, or Lou, or Joe, or Yogi, or Mick?

WAR: -2.3
The single worst season that a qualified Yankee has ever put up was Bernie Williams‘ -2.3 WAR campaign in 2005. B.A.S.E. is the equivalent of that season.

Davy Andrews is a Brooklyn-based musician and a contributing writer for FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @davyandrewsdavy.

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2 months ago

My guess would be that The White Sox “Scouting Portal” is a file full of word documents and, based on how they run that team, is still in use in the same form it was in 2002. Including the fact that they host it on a machine running off Windows Me.

2 months ago
Reply to  MikeS

Yeah, “Scouting Portal” is a funny way to say “a poorly organized network drive with multiple folders named New Folder”, which is what I would suspect it is.

Oh, Beepy.
2 months ago

I’m picturing something linked together by Microsoft OneDrive. Most of the files on players are .doc files containing copy/pasted data from that players baseball reference page.