Not unlike a GM, Coghlan uses stats to thrive

Not unlike a GM, Coghlan uses stats to thrive

MESA, Ariz. -- Chris Coghlan played for Theo Epstein's Chicago Cubs last year. Now he's on Billy Beane's Oakland A's.

Coghlan knows what this means. Two of the more sabermetrically inclined front-office bosses in the game have sought out his services on the free-agent market, and for good reason.

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"These guys are very strategic about how they do moves," Coghlan said on Friday morning at the A's Spring Training complex at Hohokam Stadium before Oakland defeated the Reds, 9-4. "It's not a coincidence or a fluke that I ended up over here. I think that they value what I can bring to the table and how I can help the team win daily in a lot of different roles and a lot of different ways. I embrace that, and I'm grateful for that."

Coghlan ended up being a big part of the Cubs' push to the National League Championship Series last year. He hit .250/.341/.443 with a career-high 16 home runs, stole a career-high 11 bases and played five positions: right field, left field, first base, second base and third base.

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"He's versatile, which obviously we value here," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He can play the outfield and the infield. You're always trying to better your team, and when you can pick up a guy like that, you're better for it. So it's pretty simple."

It wasn't always that simple for Coghlan.

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After winning National League Rookie of the Year honors in 2009 with the Marlins, Coghlan saw his career stall. Miami non-tendered him in 2013.

"I was at a crossroads," Coghlan said. "And it was a tough spot for me, which ended up being great. I was like, 'Man, I did not envision my career going like this. What's going on?' Especially starting out so well so young.

"So I just studied. I studied myself, I studied the game, I studied hitters, made mechanical adjustments to my swing. I care about my craft and I'm judged on it, just like anyone in business. Whoever you hire, if you want them to perform a certain way, you'd probably want them to figure out a way to try to perform that way.

"So I just studied the game and realized over time that [advanced statistics] was how people were evaluating the game. I figured that if I'm going to play as long as I want to play, I'd better change my values to match those of the people offering jobs."

Now, Coghlan pays attention to exit velocity, fly ball-to-ground ball ratio and batting average on balls in play.

"I know that I was 50 points below my career average last year," Coghlan said, "even though I had harder contact than I ever had in my career."

Coghlan said he doesn't necessarily "cling" to any stats, but he pays more attention to some than others.

"The one stat I maybe cling to is on-base plus slugging [OPS]," Coghlan said. "Weighted runs created-plus is another big one, because you can't compare Oakland to guys who play in Coors Field. I think all of it is really good information. It's just about how you process it."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.