Analytics guru Galdi joins 'great situation' with Phils

Analytics guru Galdi joins 'great situation' with Phils

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- It seems too perfect that one of the newest Phillies employees referenced a line from the tech-centric comedy "Office Space" as he described his freshly created role in the analytics department.

What would you say you do here, Andy Galdi?

The Phillies hired Galdi, 30, in January to be their director of baseball research and development. He spent the past three years at Google in Mountain View, Calif., where he served as a quantitative analyst for YouTube. The Phillies convinced him to leave lucrative Silicon Valley to run their analytics department, which includes data visualization and reporting, statistical research and data infrastructure.

"I would say I'm there to help organize their data, the data that they have there and the data that's provided by MLB and [MLB Advanced Media]," Galdi said in a telephone interview. "And then I see how we can extract any kind of insight about anything regarding players or strategy or whatever."

There is no question Galdi has the smarts for the job. He graduated from North Carolina in 2008, majoring in business administration and mathematics. He earned his Master's degree in statistics from Stanford in 2013. He worked as a baseball operations intern with the Mets in '09 and spent the following two years working in the NBA Commissioner's Office as a statistical analyst before he joined Google.

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He worked as a quantitative analyst with YouTube, where his team worked to make product enhancements.

Now let's pretend most people don't know what a QA does.

"There are certain metrics that YouTube cares about or any company cares about," Galdi said. "Let's say it's how much time users are spending on the website. That's a made-up example, but let's say it's something like that. We'll say, OK, this button works this way or we can have it work a different way. Or we can have this layout one way or another way. We'll kind of experiment."

QAs design the experiment, which could be one portion of the YouTube audience seeing a button work one way, while another sees it work a different way. QAs work with engineers to run the experiment, deciding how long it needs to run, what's the proper sample size, etc., before analyzing the results.

Galdi said he loved his time at Google, but the Phillies lured him back into sports.

"I said I'd only come back to baseball if it's a good situation, and I think the Phillies are a great situation," he said.

Of course, the outside perception of the Phillies and analytics has not been a good one. Phillies general partner John Middleton knew that and publicly placed a huge emphasis on analytics last year as Philadelphia hired president Andy MacPhail and general manager Matt Klentak.

"Like, are there even computers around?" Galdi said. "That's really not the case at all. They had already built PHIL [the organization's computer system]. They had already done a lot of this work toward making the situation there more technologically advanced, which is where I wanted to go anyway. It's not like I'm starting at zero. What I want to do is push it even further.

"To be honest, I'm still learning a lot about what's already been done there and it's quite a bit."

But besides organizing and extracting insight from data, Galdi and the Phillies' analytics department will try to come up with their own ways to measure information.

"Most teams have access to a lot of the information," Klentak said. "The real advantage to be gained is how we manage it, what we do with that information and the process that we implement to make decisions based off that information."

Say the Phillies are interested in an infielder and his defensive metrics the past three seasons are not particularly good, but their scouts think he is better defensively than those numbers indicate. Galdi and his team hope to have a handle on the uncertainties of their data to help make a more informed decision.

"I'd like to say, 'Well, this is within the error bound of him being an average defender,'" Galdi said. "I wouldn't say it's defense, offense, pitching or one specific area that we could work on as an analytics community as a whole. I think it's measuring uncertainty."

Galdi mentions the marriage between analytics and scouting. MacPhail, Klentak and Galdi have made it very clear the Phillies will not be one-trick analytical ponies moving forward.

"I'm not going to revolutionize everything," Galdi said. "I'm not going to tell people how to start doing their jobs, like telling scouts to get the hell out of here. That's not what I'm about. I'm about coming in with some different ideas from a different industry, seeing what works and what doesn't. It's being a good teammate. So if there's a new technological thing I want to introduce or a new statistical study I want to talk about, I want to work with other people. I want to talk to everybody, work with everybody. That's what I really enjoy, trying to help people understand, trying to teach them. And then in turn, which I think is even more important, learn from them. How can their knowledge improve my analysis?

"We have some really great scouts. The guys that I've met in the first two weeks are super impressive, great guys to talk to. Whenever you're doing any kind of analysis, you need as much background information as I can to make sure I'm not missing some big assumption or whatever."

Said Klentak: "What Andy is going to be doing is a piece of the information puzzle. We're going to gather information in a variety of ways, most notably from our scouts, understanding the makeup of players, medical information as well as statistical and analytical information. Our job is take all of that information and incorporate it into a process to make the best decision."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.