Bradfo Sho, Ep. 79: The life and death of Carmine the Computer

WEEI Podcasts
Monday, April 23rd
The Red Sox much-discussed information system, "Carmine," is being retired after this season, being replaced by a new operating platform the team is calling "Beacon." The man who was the chief force behind the building of Carmine, former Red Sox senior analyst Tom Tippett, joins Rob Bradford to discuss the origins of the system and how the world of analytics took off in the baseball world. Tippett tells the story of how the Red Sox found him, his path toward helping build the team's analytics department, and how he views the evolution of information in Major League Baseball.
00:36:57

Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

Add road show. That's my open definitely probably would have brought that's my old. Query where you don't know what you're stupid. Brad broad show. That's delicious. I very very privileged to have wanna guy hit very trusting guy Tom Tippett. Who used to work for the Red Sox and was an integral part of actually what's going on right now with all the analytic. We've been most notably the thing that I think people most will all recognize is the inventor of Carmine T of that on the business card tar. I doubt I felt it was Theo Epstein who came up a name on my. Nose and a look what became known as I was. Bliss develops. My company before there were with the Red Sox and then we embellished it rather substantially once we got there are so. Mine is definitely not just mine by any stretch and Erisa team effort by everybody at the Red Sox building on some things that I had put together before I got there. Like you don't look for the for the sake of this podcast nervousness that you invented Nablus to. There's certainly invented more than the F deal might have invented the name. But the name was just part of it and I guess you have to put your name to it. Talk about it so tell me a little bit before we start just a little bit about you started the Red Sox about 2005. Wore her. Me and I expect the Red Sox were since September 2000 or Internet. Okay and and so you're just you word is for all enough for higher basis and when did you become full time for the road starts. I can't call time in November 2008. So the knee EU. They got they're always there eleven in the early to mid nineteen easily treated their computer baseball game call dynamite baseball. And I did a lot of research back. In the eighties. I'll enclave airplay data and using that data so you do my best to objectively ray players skill her base running and throwing again. All the runners and and all the other aspects boats. What makes a baseball game and I wanted to look good player ratings it being. Based on. My best effort to do objective. Research on their actual performance. And ripped rather than going off close. And a popular sentiment about who could do what particularly well. So that so I started working in the 1980 to compile a database of baseball information and until the law. Lot of tools around that there were also uttered on coming up with the objective ways to evaluate Claire Allen. That is mostly work. I think to the attention the Red Sox in 2003. Who wasn't was it Tom who was it who. You so you can have this sort of presence in and have that that background but how did you sit there and brought the attention the Red Sox who. Who was that this hey we gotta talk to this guy. It was still James actually there at the very first thing regardless with the Red Sox was. Because of Bill James it was the last week of the 2003 season. And the Red Sox. I if memory serves the Red Sox clinched the wild card on Tuesday night that week. Ending new. We're going to be playing Oakland in the first round and on Wednesday afternoon. CO causes guys together. And they had a meeting on how to prepare. For the RB upcoming series against Oakland. And somebody I'm not sure it'll. Us somebody there might be pretty cool as we did actually run a computer simulation and the series before it happens if we learn anything from that. And Bill James is in the media. And said hey I know a guy who's got a simulation and Lewis and miles from here so it's let's see if he can do this so. I got an email from bill at 4 o'clock on Wednesday afternoon asking it would be possible to put together simulation by Friday. And a who's who and naturally we say yeah opposite manner. So. There are two of those that Michael title at the time weren't welcome the project. I was. I was leading the effort and does a lot of work was done by sex god is out there at vice president research and development of the Red Sox sure. So Zach and I work very higher Wednesday night into Thursday in the end all the law. Don't there's tonight finally out on over to settle layups or class on Friday afternoon and spent several hours Louis guys they are now playing out. He the first game of the Oakland series and seen. It provided any insights since they do you know who might be the last the best players to choose for the last. Roster slaughter to trivia on 25 man roster move worries. Wolf first logging must've been blown away that. This year you obviously showed you're your New York grew up a Red Sox fan are you from around here. Toronto but I did grow up there outside Stanton. As you may recall. All the blue jays didn't kind of there existence until 1977. And I became a big time baseball fan in 1967. And was that guy are Red Sox fan. From that year forward and then now of course when trying to. A team like oh my loyalties were divided at that point but it's. I always always the Red Sox fans first when I was here. So we're so what does the Red Sox figured this email on a Wednesday afternoon. From from the Red Sox were about to go in the playoffs. Saying hey can you help us win a World Series speed government's been bizarre. This really unexpected. I want to cause all of us who spoke of the process it's also a lot so I have to ask you know so you go through you given the the projections simulation. And if you listen not everything's gonna hit by what do something that you guys were able to simulate or projected actually like yet we nailed I want. You know it is. We only had a few hours so it was difficult to get too deep into the scenario I think we know weeks in advance. Now we're going to be asked to do this and that and then as we know weeks in advance which opponent or opponents we needed to. Slow what do I didn't something. It was really scientific. As a wise and I think it was a it was a very interesting experience I don't know that it had a big impact. On the I'm on the preparation for it. That's why you don't have to think about it though Tom now where things are right now but this is this is only youth the last fifteen years ago. And C and and yet every single day is a simulation I mean this is. I guess through good for the upper try to think outside the box but to think about how. Archaic isn't the right word but you know how far they've come mid must've made it must've made you. Yeah you know I think deeply underlying theme here is really just come trying to be more objective and to use whatever. The thought processes are available to do to this compares across the chance and the time that particular project we we did computer simulations but there's lots of other types of analytical work you can do. They all kind of come back to the same attitude. Trying to ask interesting questions and and accumulate enough data and tools to try to answer those questions as objectively as possible. So now we this Arabic I wanna get into your take on sort of how things have evolved in a little bit but. You Hewitt talked about how Carmine in in for just so I don't butcher this. Era in a nutshell the two disc they give you an explanation of what car minus in case people don't know. Carmine is an information system and that's all it is com. You know it every business in the world. I need to organize the data it has on its on its customers its products or processes. Or go to the senior decision makers and this was a baseball version of that so what I. I have built some technology at my own company back in the nineties and an early 2000. A lot of me to compile look pretty substantial database of baseball information. And as sizable set of tools or adding value to that information. Basically what carbine. This was an effort to to bring that approach lately organizational. And to me that any one of the best ways to cut it notre as a listening to this talk about how. Com I got started I told you that we did that first simulation project in September 03. And then in this. Spring summer of 2004. The idea for a line was it was. Axed at the Red Sox. I told you that sex god help me with that simulation project. And oak tree on what was going at all or. An internship with the Red Sox. Two weeks Luke fourteen hour days going online and cutting and pasting statistic from various web sites. Putting them into spreadsheets so they could be printed out and delivered to people sort of prepare for the amateur after bag here and then. After the draft is over they asked him to start doing some projects. On the other. Major League players. And pointed out that if he is still working. My company EPO that just happened to my database and things it would take him days to do it by hand. The way he was doing things that the Red Sox he could have done maybe an afternoon using the tools we have got so basically. What are my wives who is simply it database. Where we store policy. Statistical information we had on both Major League and minor league players. And then start. Adding to that other things like information about player on. Scouting reports. Notes that we might have that might be relevant cellular. As a player and and so on and so forth so there. And their senior leadership or the Red Sox who you know to understand the prospects in the. It's organization or. Some players who came up and trade conversation. Or anything else that might be undermined they would have a single place to go and enacted yet. Everything that we. Clerics in one place. Presented on one page order. A series of pages but it easily reached through a couple of miles clicks. So edit edit score it was just putting all the information that we can. In one place and they're asking people to go to five or six different places trying to put the whole puzzle together. And that. The value of the system is similar. The people that are using it now there are a lot of other stuff similar to where we are doing projections of future performance we were doing. Acting actual performance against the projections. And and doing a few other things to try it. To generate. Some ideas that we can talk about no one thing Carlisle was not. Below is an expert system that would make decisions on its well no I think I. There are a few times during the I'd say 2005 to 2012. Period when there are no I'm let it come up in some discussion on. Sports Radio quoted in the media or something and then. And through the Roma. There was the robot that this that was that was the White House classified to a new places that you talked about. Well you know I don't know. So why it to the classic Vick case. You know gay people some impressions about. They're good aren't I would be chuckling to myself sometimes article in the listening to us on the radio and people were talking desserts. We were in a room and there was a special scene set aside and come alive and I would be saying I. This player and treated this player he's it and there was nothing like that it was just. Yeah doing well this. This too which is only all the relevant information together and presenting its decision makers them and very natural way so that they took him there just more efficient. Where there was there anything that other any other team have this or was this. Keep your knowledge pretty pretty new to me delegates. Won't. I know Cleveland. They're already started building a system before the Red Sox started so Red Sox might have been second or maybe. Maybe either one or two others out there that nobody I doubt that we did note well so we were down only early adopters. Hub but we weren't the first. What it would you remember you said Theo rename their what do you remember about his. Yeah his not willingness is obviously that you're gonna take any information you can. But his embracing of of that. Hold our whole system. Well it was certainly an average user of the system like the others in the office or edit it within eight. I don't know within a year or two. Every major meeting that we had in the office well there was preparation for the amateur draft. Preparation for the trade deadline he agency young and October November. Barry meaning. Your new life into the conference room and there are these fourteen great and people sitting around the table and everyone a look at their laptop open and sort of looking at Carlyle during that. You're tired you're gonna need it. Sarah was it was a core resource that everybody used rubio all the way down one. Why didn't quite get it man I mean obviously says CEO named it but. Could just say we we really need a name. This. I you know I don't know the early what was it appears editor so you need. Holy water something other than any. Of employing acronym sniff the amount it. So we kind of challenge does that gobbled. Nobody the about what Carmine and it stuck stores. He had the votes than anybody so access to. So so how they don't fall for me and it was that obviously you start with something. Then and now we're sitting here and this is in the Red Sox are gonna have a new system this is we're gonna give the carbine it. That's victory lap here the yes victory lap. But to this point in Boston must evolve quite a bit right. I don't know if it hasn't I think when it comes to baseball analytics over the last I don't know thirty years and eight year. Innovations have been driven by the availability of new data. So back when I was still in the tools and it became version one of Carmine. We have. Told us the result of every play and their. Does that timely result of and every pitch. So we knew that it had. Which resulted in in a ball for a called strike earth followed a ball in play so are we knew we knew the results we didn't. Know whether it was a fastball or slider we didn't know a lot. Miller escalate. But we didn't know there is also the meaning of the results of every class. So and again starting in the early ninety's we had information unaware roughly speaking on the he'll always get too. So we knew. In the course of the season there might meet might have been a 181 also or line drives get shallow left center fields and we knew how many. Times that left fielder made a playoff that all of the times the senate still remain the clay and how many times that also went for a hit and how many of those were singles and doubles. So we have. Kind of results based information. Going back to the late eighties and an especially into the ninety's. And we are able. Can tell facts came along. And it gave us information a much more detailed information on the they could type of fiscal velocity you kind of similar cross on clay. Actually a large part of the trajectory of a pitch. On the pitcher's hands or the clay. And and that opened the door to all kinds of new analysis that we can now do on on pitching and hitting and there. The next wave came along when we started getting. Out. What they called hit FX data from where those same cameras that were trapped in the pitcher's contract go to that and always that was the baton. They're getting the launch angles a lot of your people are talking about these days. And then finally you. In 2015. Major League Baseball introduced the expect SSR. Which. Attracts the location and movement of the players as well as the baseball. So. Theoretically when stacked cast. Is fully functional and its tracking everything as accurately is too. That. These are unaware of players are at all times and how quickly they're moving and we're removing. Would do well in essence allow us. The baseball research community and everybody who does this kind of work for baseball team. To allow us to redo all the work that I did back in the eighties and ninety. Using much better information. And much more complete information. But still trying to answer mostly the same questions. Now how much. That's an outfielder base are actually saying out out. And and how much value to go to Annapolis the other aspects of that interview is being. You know skating ability is bunting ability is based learning ability and all that. So cool it's it's all really. It's really not collecting as much information you can and then try to add as much value as answer that data. To get better and better evaluating. Players' performance to. And project future performance for the color assume. The good news system I think they're they're planning on or the building out its called the Q and when you heard the bad days Carmine was gonna have at the end of its run was there. It was is that their little bit of a soft spot your hearts where. No hit K we just keeping going can we just created here or there being this is the that this is you talk about a good run I mean this is your your talk of a vote. Over a decade of some thing that the average baseball fan the average Boston baseball fan if you said this. They have a big at least a vague idea what you're talking about that and it is part of the fabric of what how we thought the Red Sox did business. You know there's a couple things about that one is. I certainly. I certainly had a great time during my whatever was. Thirteen years with the Red Sox are as a consultant there. Don't play. It was a great product there was a tremendous learning experience I had a great deal of fun and it was very exciting being there prayer at a time when the team was doing so well. I'm as further out I felt when I found out there Carmine was going to be replaced. Yeah. Access. It was a nonissue having I was the one starting at about 2000 and sexualized. Telling Leo when you add that at some point in the not too distant future we have to think seriously about building a second generation of this or because that's. It was already five or six year old technology. And I knew that at some point we'd want to replace it with something that was a little more moderate and truth is altering what it is. There's always something going on there's always new problems assault every day. It's really hard to get people to slowdown and think about replacing something. That's doing a good job and so it. It ended up the first generation of Carmine ended up lasting several years longer I would recommend it and they say with the mom. There was always something new to work done. It was hard to justify. Not doing those who sings in going back and rebuilding something that was so we're pretty well. So it hasn't turned out. I don't think they kicked off the projects. To actually build that second generation tool and stolen. Spring early summer of 2016. But it was something that I was there will incur the better part of ten years so you know it's not like. You know somebody came along and said hey thanks Carmine by not doing it anymore you know I was probably a leading advocate for building a secondary list also. There's no real sadness in seeing at X time come to an end it was always gonna happen at some point and navy. Maybe it could've been done sooner or. We know it's an instance what else well. So we're talking about you I sat down in Zacks guide spring training is really trusting him talking about obviously they've they've added some more people and and they've also feel like they had been this year with armed with more information in this bit every year it seems that beating case. Code of all of all this information that we were talking about and you cited that that defensive metrics as probably taking the biggest sleep. What is that thing that fascinates you the most in in terms of how things are going or how things are evolving from the analytic swirled. Look I. The biggest thing is something Eric talked about it city it's an ominous. Being able to redo all of this work calm in a better way. Using data from stack asked. And that it will only happen at all only come. To fruition goalie who wins that asks is. Accurately track. Acting every pitch every thrown ball every out of all the way to the end of the clay and doing it accurately enough to support research caliber. We know there's a level data. Accuracy and completeness that's good enough horror entertainment purposes you know good enough to cherry pick and politically astute to talk about it and illustrate. Eight on a game broadcast yup and then there's the level to tell it accuracy that you need you're going to do really comprehensive analytical work. Think right now stacked justice somewhere between. Those two. You know I don't think. They're I admire my hands on experience is that asked us out of date by Hillary Luntz and Ella the club that. I'd talk to people from time to time about how it's evolving and licenses. There is some. There's still haven't quite. Gotten to the point where there. Everything all the way to the end of play but there's a lot of information and errant and with that. We. We know enough no longer need to shoot it asks. I'm well aware shortstop was standing when the plate to end an album. Much ground you actually had to cover in order to make a play that just makes it a little bit easier to do accurate he's got a great. And then what unit in a time when. Always hit to a certain spot and no appeal to labor clay but didn't know where the fielder was starting problems. And so all of our defense of the valuations up until. Almost today. We're based on systems where. We knew a lot of the. Have always knew the result of the play but we didn't know where the older yes. And when you when that's the case. You can bet you can joke stealer a score for how many plays they make relative to their ears. But you can't know how much of best play making ability was his athleticism and his his mental game. Nurses. Out he was positioned by its coaching staff. And we call that sort of thing apart now and say are. This is a portion of the result there is attributable to how it was positions. And this is the course and it's a result of their results on his own reactions to the clay. And pipes being split those two things that allows us to do a much better job. Oh. Opponents into that position placed on the one hand and also. Hiring the skills or the player every other. And a and it just insert. You see your score. Up this executives to make good decisions about how. How to win the most is possible with their current roster and then also had to think about changing that roster going over to chronicle reporters love as well. Well at all might talk the you know another part of this is that they've of this couple weeks ago I talked to some players and talk to the coaches. And I've talked to Zach about this is that another challenge. Is to get that the players to buy and I've significant hosted by and obviously get the managed to Dubai and and because you're sitting there are you saying we have Wallace information. Listen we just have to use it the right way and I certainly with this regime. But he ended there is there it is at least. And they and acceptance. Maybe that there wasn't before birth to a level what either one before. Alms and I'm not even talking about the players they think the players have a long way to go to remove key Betts said. Set to meet that sometimes it doesn't feel like baseball and when that's in your head I mean you're you're gonna be reluctant a little bit. The over you're tired and it was that was there's some question Paul wasn't like good the bad thing but was this imports imports think we have this information we just have to. Get the information into the head of the right people. An answer that question in two ways one. The front office. I was very fortunate to work with. Tons and tons of people who were very open minded and curious and eager to learn. And I felt like I got along great with the scouts the player development people everybody. Look worse. And they were all very open to this there was there was no push. Spectrum within the front office or within the scouting ranks are within the underdog Drexler that I ever else. As far as. It was my job interact directly with the players. It was my job to provide. It to develop tools so systems provide information. So that people who Dan. Relayed that information that the coaching staff who in turn relate better and makes the players. I've always felt like it was. It was not necessary. You could be closer to the players and act. One thing. The players and the coach is completely different language than those of us who are more technical people. It's really important I think for the people abdicated their relationship players in the coaches than there roving instructors and other people like pat. You don't want us to process the information and then presented to the player in the way that they know the player invests now receive that information. In a lot of cases we might discover something through data analysis of some sort of let it which it presented. Sooner or coaches or to the players in the form. A video clips because you know might my observation over the years is. I'm looking at video this is a way that. Players and coaches are. Appoint somebody else or or understand. Your and it may. End and so. You know what I don't think it would have been productive for us to be quite walking out of the clubhouse including sheets of numbers and our players saying. You know if you change from this semester. Elegantly beautiful it's like June hill and money balmy victories in agony that I. There are a lot of things are reliable movie that we're very realistic and and I really enjoy the movie but the idea of a lot of us washing down to the club I was sitting out by the sheriff's work out equipment and talking about the the dynamics of the ball straight count. And that struck me is does not being very realistic now let me. It happened in Oakland and it just wasn't part of our culture and bus Stewart. I'll lose it lists so it was like shiatsu. You know. Actor but its players and I was personally find that I think I had a lot. Out of respect for the coaches and I'd like to think that I had a feel for their prayers the challenges they face in the end. Dealing with C. You know the relentless pace of the season and emotions of the season and look at single accounts all air travel and. This kind of finding the right time to the right way to. And it changed enough information to the clearest. To try to get them to perform at their best without. Without burying them in information that was only gonna make the source. That bit at some last question and thanks so much particular time and in. You use your Red Sox fan you watched the Red Sox we've been writing and writing stories now. Since Cora took over about probably you've probably read more analytical stories then. Then we have in years and bit watching watching the games from where you're from your vantage point. Can you tell a difference in what they're doing or easy is it just is that knowledge of the it people are shifting him. Can you tell the difference in what this this current group both coaches. Manager. The front office do you tell a difference this year compared to other years. I really can't. And it's not I'm not saying. I've watched every inning of their games this year and last year and their code in position to hit two really good comparison the two. You know hey I haven't watched every game. By any stretch and be. It's we're only what nineteen tournaments this season. I think it's too soon to tell all. And you know girls. Being the weather conditions in the early part of the season have been so extreme that I'm not sure how accurate or regret getting anything at this stage so I. And we need to give it a little more time men and and seriously any patterns emerged that that tell us something fundamentally different is going on and you know I'm I. And I still talk to my friends separates us from time to time but I'm not ordered any of their conversations oaks by I know. Clue what it is they might be doing differently. Than a couple of years ago I mean there. Live pigs and their hats they're looking ahead we know that seemed like it yeah I didn't hit it here. He's that's the way of communication and acting out. How they get information about people's position players on the books all you don't sound like a very good idea and I wish we thought of that couple years ago. Early in the you know Alex Cora was on doing his weekly radio hit on WBI. And he mentioned we are talking about infield defense. And he mentions like well you know I think that that Zacks guide and in the analysts department are putting these guys and right spot so. They just have to make the plays in that struck me of the hopes and think wow you know. This these guys don't have the wolf it in and I'm sure there's big element of that but for the manager to come out and say you know. That these dead this they're putting them in the right spot so yeah we may have some problems of Eduardo Nunez is range. But it's okay that's okay because he does have to make the playwright in front of him. I think I think this illustrates one other real challenges in bringing this kind of thinking of the game that we. To think about a lot over the last 1520 years home. Let's just talk about defense of positioning for the moment. It's been true for many many years. Ago and abolish it and he'll play and does not go to the park for a home run. No data the batting average on those all the players about tonight. Which means the fielders are making a play. Seventy. Out of a hundred times seven attempts to. Bill let's say that through superior. Defensive positioning you can raise that percentage. Down said let me tell you let's say 72 I don't even know if that's possible let's say 72. And so here out of every hundred butterball some sort of feelings seventy of them your feelings already too. Yeah I know it's not a big difference. But something that. You're not going to be able to proceed even if you sit there and watch every inning of every game it just it's such a smaller insists it's not going to be that noticeable. And and yet over the course of the season that can add up to a very big they're in my notes are all when's your team understand. Let's say. You come and and you never done this sort of data analysis before and your bring this to the coaching staff for their ring it's the players and then we're saying hey we're gonna position ourselves very differently than anything you've ever experienced before in your baseball career. Well first of all people are going to be skeptical. Because people are always skeptical when you try to do something radically differently and has been done before. And let's say for the you know. Vacations I doubt it they'll 72 times so I'm we will make the clay and twenty a lot better first time somebody gets the ball. That you would feel that the all the way. I you didn't get to this time. Somebody's gotta say well what the hell are we doing no button it up if you had left me alone and let me do this the last always thought I would think that lacked. You know it's not like anybody's doing anything wrong the players are buying into the client the coaches are buying into the client the analytics are sound and yet. You know the probability of the game are such an end to big gains that you can make sure this kind of work are small enough. That is very. Possible that the first of the first you know attend better balls that are put him play well you're using this is just so bad somehow it's just they're. You know the luck of the draw. Your results are a little worse than they would have been before. You know and then your Bible and the players and the coaches and suddenly it risks so it's it's assassinate. Now saying and think about. Introduced changed the game and away that. You know is going to be successful in the long run but also gets. Gets us. It got a ways of the people are willing to give it time and I'm willing to get that shot. There and willing to buy into it instead of second guessing your gifts. You know the first couple of times he tried and it doesn't after the war continued doing what we are always worried about but what does it. That goes wrong the first couple times and and people we lose our credibility. Yeah it's it's a great point because. He did their best into what you're talking about that they're bested munition in this case that the seventeen into starting years seventeen and yes so right and he tells. It's. That's it expects huge event here early success that can make all the difference in the world. And and it's a complex set up game and that if you don't have success it's very easy to blame the news thing even if that might not having your. Wheel well. Thought I really appreciate it you know I was remembering assays from Toronto. Back hit back in the day in and when these I I did go to Troy exhibition at exhibition stadium. I did see the Red Sox play there remember Rick Miller was playing center field. We hope we thought we had very good seats leave it right in the in the bleachers yet you realize if you have first couple roads you can see over the fence so. Still it's death so what well what a terrible terrible terrible car. But so I thanks so much sizzle lot of fun for me and in I really appreciated enough. And congratulations on everything that you done because that is a big part of what has happened in. And and I think people should understand that. I Jerod will certainly a lot of fun shirt in my years there and I never expected to have that opportunity and I'm really glad I didn't. All right Tom wildcard inclusion and it.
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