Optimism at FanFest

It didn’t quite match the attendance from last year’s FanFest event, but there was a lot of buzz surrounding the main stage this year. Maybe it’s the introduction of a new analytics department that’s been non-existent within the organization. Maybe it was Orioles legends Jim Palmer, Boog Powell, Eddie Murray and Brooks Robinson sharing a stage together.

Perhaps it was Richard Bleier and Mychal Givens giving their best effort in a game of Password versus Paul Fry and Jimmy Yacabonis.

In reality, the atmosphere around the main stage was electric because the fans know the guard has changed. This isn’t going to be the same team that lived and died by the home run ball.

There’s now a major focus on the way talent is developed and how talent is coached. I think I heard the word, “analytics,” more today than I have in the past ten years of Orioles baseball.

The fans today at FanFest couldn’t stop mentioning the word. The younger generation, seem to be more familiar with how to define the term. But there’s an older generation of Orioles fans that are unsure of what to expect. When new management starts throwing around a term that’s been unfamiliar in Baltimore, they show concern.

Manager Brandon Hyde was asked by an older fan, what does he means by the term analytics? His response was perfect. “It’s a real broad term. It’s a tool to help and a teaching moment. How you defend, how you pitch, what your deficiencies are offensively or defensively. It’s an extra tool of help. It’s just information that you’re receiving to help the best teams, or the teams that coaches have the best relationship with the players and they can give them the right information.”

Mike Elias comically shared how he learned about analytics. He said, simply, “we googled it.”

Walk with Elias

If you weren’t walking with Mike Elias before FanFest, he gave reason to sprint towards him during the event. Of course the event is geared towards the fans and Elias appreciates the support he and his decisions have been given so far.

“I’m from the area, kind of; from Northern Virginia and I came here a lot in the 90’s and so I have a full appreciation of what this fanbase is like.” He continued, “so I knew that going in, but even without that, before taking this job, I was talking to managers that I know from around the league – and AJ Hinch in Houston – everybody just said, ‘man that is such a cool place.'”

Yesterday morning, Elias got to see first-hand, just how energetic fans are when it comes to their beloved Baltimore Orioles. Regardless of the chilly temperatures, fans started lining up about an hour before the Convention Center doors opened.

“To come to FanFest today and to walk across the street this morning and see the line going around, literally wrapping around of this huge convention center, especially coming off the rough year that we had last year is just unbelievable and it means so much to me,” Elias said. “Your guys’ support is going to be a big factor in the success we’re going to have going forward.”

Elias is aware of how passionate the fanbase is. He wants to make sure the right players are within the organization to prevent the rebuild from dragging on longer than it should. One fan asked the question, “How does this rebuild compare to Houston’s rebuild?”

“We’ll see. We’re going to do everything we can to avoid that happening. The most important thing for me – and for Brandon – is we need to concentrate on raising the level of talent in this organization any way we can.”

Thoughts from the new coaches

The theme of each Q&A session yesterday seemed to be analytics. Each time a fan asked a question, it was usually about the how analytics will help improve a certain aspect of the team.

New first base coach Arnie Beyeler was asked how the analytics would help him with the baserunners when they get to first base. “It’s really developed the percentages and they can get down to talk about secondary leads and primary leads and really put lines on these guys from that standpoint to help out.”

Hitting coach Don Long was asked if information about pitch tendencies would be a type of thing relayed to his hitters. “I think in part, but I think a lot of the hitting side is we’re at a little bit of a disadvantage when we don’t have the ball,” Long said. He continued talking about how he wants his hitters to, “stick to what they’re good at,” and, “show them where they’re challenged and they’re having some trouble.”

Long finished his statement by saying what the entire fanbase should believe about how analytics work and how they could improve this team.

“If they’re open-minded and curious about it and they’re willing to be open to it, I think they’re going to find out what’s possible.”

Brian Pinter

Brian Pinter is the Director of Coverage on the Baltimore Orioles for Maryland Sports Blog. His views and opinions are that of his own and he welcomes any and all discussions. Follow along with Brian Pinter this season on Twitter, @b_pinter23.

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