CINCINNATI — A shift in role for the executive directly in charge of the Cardinals’ analytics department and a new partnership with a technology company has prompted the team to begin restructuring that area of baseball operations, a team official confirmed.
Dane Sorensen, who has been with the Cardinals the past eight season and spent the past three as their Director of Baseball Development, is returning to his native Minnesota as his wife pursues her career there. Sorensen will continue to work for the Cardinals as an analyst and in the analytics department, but he will no longer be a part of its day-to-day operation as a manager.
At the same time the Cardinals are partnering with World Wide Technology, the St. Louis-based company, to advance how they collect, filter, store, study, and access data.
“We’re excited to partner with (WWT) as we look to modernize our baseball operations,” said John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations. “What we want to do is use this opportunity to determine what’s best for our structure and the requirements of the future.”
Ultimately, the Cardinals plan to hire a manager for the baseball development division with responsibilities tailored for the reboot, and the role will not be the same one Sorensen held since his promotion.
Already this season, Mozeliak has taken a more active role in baseball development during the changes and throughout the organization. When he moved up from general manager to his current position, "POBO" for shorthand, he did so with the intent to find baseball's next cutting edge and try to get the Cardinals there first. He wanted to direct the team's infrastructure, from how players are developed in the minors to how they are kept healthy throughout their careers and also how they are evaluated and acquired in majors.
The Cardinals felt, as do many of their rivals in the division, that the edge the team once had during the game's analytics revolution has been caught, and in some cases surpassed. Their rivals still see the Cardinals near the forefront of pitching development.
One outgrowth of Mozeliak's work is the Department of Performance, which has seen a growth in manpower and influence over the training, rehab, and "pre-hab" work that the Cardinals have done, based out of their Jupiter, Fla., complex. The department was inspired by European soccer clubs and how it was imported to the NBA and other programs. (You can read more about the performance department here.)
Mozeliak's planned "pitching lab" has not come together as quickly as envisioned, but the Cardinals have invested in the technology then intend to use in the lab and are close to begin the development of the physical lab. The Cardinals have joined the Rapsodo users and have put other pitching tech in play, and several of the Cardinals' major-league pitchers use Rapsodo and other similar devices to monitor and improve pitches (or workshop new ones).
The Cubs opened what they called a Pitch Lab in spring 2018, and it has seen upgrades with the roll out in the past year of advanced technology for pitchers. Like the Cardinals' planned lab, the Cubs includes the current, hyper-data cameras that track pitchers and pitches to help in the art of pitch craft.
The new partnership with World Wide Technology involves, in part, moving the Cardinals’ data from outdated servers to the cloud — allowing for a greater “ingestion of data,” Mozeliak said, and at greater speeds with broader access.
An example would be how the Cardinals, their executives, and their scouts are able to access, share, and analyze video.
The team’s baseball development department is the outgrowth of the analytics department started about 15 years ago and now ubiquitous in baseball. Think of this as Analytics 10. The group crunches statistics, homogenizes and synthesizes scouting reports, designs models to predict player production, and supplies reports and data for all other areas in baseball ops, from Shildt’s office and coaching staff to general manager Michael Girsch’s decision group.
WALKING WITH WILLIE
The information provided by the “baseball dev” group was at work Thursday as coach Willie McGee and game-planning coach Joey Prebynski walked around the outfield at Great American Ball Park. The international series in Mexico against the Reds meant this four-game series is the Cardinals’ first in Cincinnati of the season. On the first day at a ballpark, Prebynski and McGee walk the outfield to discuss the orientation of the outfielders, how their positioning will work, and the shifts – all of which can then be translated to the laminated cards the outfielders carry to their positions (if they wish) and the signals McGee gives them from the dugout.