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Do WBC teams have analytics? How they’re navigating the tournament with data, instinct and ‘scouting from 3 days ago’

Do WBC teams have analytics? How they're navigating the tournament with data, instinct and 'scouting from 3 days ago'

PHOENIX — Jeff McNeil considered the last time he had faced a pitcher without having consulted a scouting report ahead of time.

“Double-A or High-A,” he said before quickly amending it. “Even then we had a little bit.”

In some ways, that makes the World Baseball Classic an anomaly. As Team USA faced off against Great Britain, Mexico, Canada and (on Wednesday night) Colombia this week in Phoenix, big-league batters found themselves standing in against pitchers without a single pro inning under their belts.

In this era of baseball, that can make a player feel, as members of Team Mexico put it, “naked.”

Which is why the national teams assembled makeshift “front office” staffs to give their players some comfort and cover and perhaps even a competitive advantage. For an assortment of reasons, it’s not the same as it would be for a 162-game MLB season, but the teams in this WBC do have analytics.

‘Nobody’s overthinking this more than Team Israel’

Simon Rosenbaum has been involved with Team Israel longer than he has been involved with the Tampa Bay Rays, the only major-league organization he has ever worked for.

“That is true,” he said when this was pointed out to him. “I’d never looked at it like that.”

He first interned with the Rays in 2017, blending his degree in economics and mathematics from Pomona College with his experience playing baseball. As those skills proliferated in front offices around baseball, he worked his way up to assistant director of minor-league operations and baseball development. Meanwhile, he played for Team Israel, where his father was born, starting in 2014. As you can imagine, there wasn’t much in the way of analytical information.

“It was just players and coaches, and sometimes those two are the same thing,” Rosenbaum said. “It was kind of a throwback to Little League or travel ball.”

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Nearly a decade later, as Israel finds itself competing in its second ever World Baseball Classic, things are, well, different.

“Nobody’s overthinking this more than Team Israel. That’s for sure,” Rosenbaum said.

Then he rattled off a list of passionate baseball analysts who contributed to the team’s preparation, including scouts and front office personnel from the Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. They’ve been working since last season ended to put together scouting reports on the rest of Pool D, which…

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