A scout’s blog: baseball’s hidden world

Author’s Note: The following profile is about a new site The Sixth Tool. I have no idea if the site, supposedly written by a scout who has changed all of the information to protect numerous identities, is legit. Some of it seems real; some does not. I gave the author, Maxwell “Cutter” Jones, the benefit of the doubt.

My life is a freaking disaster. I wake up not knowing what city I’m in. The hotel rooms all look alike. One fast food joint after another. Crumpled up drive-thru bags litter the floor of my car. The same car that’s been without a/c since the beginning of time. My wife left me years ago. My kids won’t speak to me. And I have no relatives worth mentioning.

I get endless letters, calls, faxes and emails from parents, grandparents, wives, girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, coaches, agents, advisors, friends, acquaintances, twice removed cousins, and sometimes even the players themselves. Not to mention enough videotapes and DVDs to keep both FedEx and UPS in business for yet another year. I’ve even had to hire a recycling company to pick up the reams and reams of paper from alleged scouting agencies who’ve basically ripped off thousands of parents by promising that their special report will get little Johnny to the top of my prospect list.

Thus begins one of the more interesting and original baseball Web sites I’ve found in a very long time.

I came across the site, The Sixth Tool, nearly by accident. It showed up yesterday morning in my referrals, and the URL with its “baseball scout confessions” certainly piqued my curiosity. So I went for a look.

The site, active since the middle of October, is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a scout going by the pen name Cutter. For obvious reasons, Cutter has changed any piece of information a baseball fan could use to identify him, his team, or the players he scouts. He says he’s a 31-year veteran who knows the southeast region of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina inside and out. His General Manager, named for the blog Logan Cooper, is of the new breed of young GMs looking to overhaul his team’s scouting department. He wants to fire many of the old scouts while incorporating statistical analysis into the team’s scouting approach.

Cutter, on the surface, isn’t too keen on this idea, and the blog, suggested ostensibly by Cutter’s team’s sports psychologist, is to serve as an emotional outlet for a frustrated and jaded professional. While Cutter is at first skeptical, he seems to have gotten into the swing of blogging. His writing is fluid, vivid and engaging. His topics and posts applea to fans and Internet baseball writers of all stripes as they provide a glimpse into the life of a baseball scout living on the road.

Baseball scouts do not live glorious lives, and Cutter’s writing lays this bare. He eats Thanksgiving at Boston Market and finds Cracker Barrel restaurants at every exit on Interstate 75. (Anyone who’s driven through the area can attest to that fact. Cracker Barrel, Waffle House, and Wal-Mart Superstores are as ubiquitous along I-75 as tobacco fields are along the side of I-95 in North Carolina.)

Cutter drives around the South, covering hundreds miles each week, to catch a fleeting glimpse of high school or college players who may or may not have the make up Cutter expects to see in a potential prospect. He’s in Georgia one week for a college exhibition and then in Florida the next for the World Wood Bat Association tournament and then back to Georgia, South Carolina, Florida.

At first, Cutter’s story focused around his efforts to sign Russell Reed, a psuedonymed early-round draft pick. When those negoations wrapped up two weeks ago, the focus shifted to Cutter’s relationship with Seth Goldbaum of Performance Scouting, Inc. It is here that the dramatic differences between statistical-based analysis and the so-called traditional scouting techniques are laid bare.

Cutter, in early November wrote:

The fundamental difference between me and “the stat boy” is what I can see this kid becoming. I could care less that the kid went 0 for 4. It’s how he went 0 for 4 that concerns me the most. Compare these two extremes. On one hand, let’s say he grounded out on the first pitch thrown to him on each of his at bats. On the other, let’s say he caused the pitchers to deliver over 35 pitches in his five plate appearances. Which 0 for 4 performance would you take?

As a scout, it’s actually valuable for me to see a talented kid go 0 for 4. How well does he handle the disappointment of going 0 for 4? He better handle it well because when he gets to the minors, I can guarantee he will have dry spells. Most kids coming out of high school aren’t used to dry spells. They are used to dominating. But if he throws his helmet, utters a buffet of four-letter words, fails to re-focus himself, and drags his teammates down with him, I’m looking elsewhere…A player’s ability to put things behind him and move on is an extremely important skill in baseball and cannot be overstated.

Cutter values what he sees with his own eyes. He’s looking for guys with the Sixth Tool, this ability to rise above the competition and rise above adversity and realize that if you go 0-for-4 one day, you may come up in the 10th inning and erase the frustration with the game-winning hit.

At first brush, then, Cutter’s site seems like another anti-stats, anti-Baseball Prospectus, anti-Billy Beane/Theo Epstein/Paul DePodesta diatribe that keeps popping up as the methods these General Managers put forward have seemingly failed in the eyes of a good number of writers and analysts.

But deeper down, Cutter seems to show a willingness to hear out the kid, Goldbaum, and something of an open mind when it comes to the statistical analysis. He can’t quite get himself to ignore the voluminous reports, and he can’t quite get something to turn a blind eye to the guys Goldbaum writers up even if he journeys to see them just to prove “the stat boy” wrong.

Cutter routinely turns, albeit obtusely, to this idea that maybe you can combine scouting and statistics in a useful way. This idea, obvious as it may sound, is often overlooked in the Internet world of baseball where performance analysts often think they can judge a player by his numbers alone. Successful player evaluation, no matter how much people on either side want to support their cause, depends upon the successful combination of statistical analysis and scout’s observation. At certain levels, scouting is more important than statistics. At other levels, statistics can open up other doors about lineup construction that scouts can’t. But scouts have their places. There’s no doubt about that.

In his most recent post, a cliffhanger of sorts to be continued late tonight, Cutter and Goldbaum are sitting down to meet and discuss the future of each other in the world of this unknown baseball team. Cutter says, “Anybody can look up someone’s stats and basically evaluate a player’s past performance. The real key to scouting is how well you can evaluate a player’s tools, his ability to improve on those tools, and whether he has that something extra special which I call the Sixth Tool.”

While Goldbaum bemoans having to convince Cutter of the utility of stats, the truth is that both men need to convince each other of their rightful places in the game. Stat boy and scout should not be fighting for the same role. Rather, they should be complementing each other.

I can’t recommend this blog highly enough. I don’t know if Cutter will ever reveal his name, his team, the players he mention, the true identity of Performance Scouting, Inc., or drop clues that would allow us to figure him out. But it’s a great read. And it’s an important piece to the puzzle of what goes on behind the scenes of baseball when the glamour of the game fades into the harsh reality of the business.

Advertisements

5 Responses to “A scout’s blog: baseball’s hidden world”


  1. 1 hank nelson September 1, 2007 at 10:48 pm

    saw a kid from new jersey,,,somebody should look at this kid,,last name is rosario,,,from toms river nj,,lot of power
    great fielder,,trows real hard///saw him a few times and every time i see this kid he is hitting the shit out of the ball///i asked around about him and all the teams and coaches in jersey no him//says he’s a sleeper came from a small school,,thats all i no

  2. 2 Chelsie May 28, 2008 at 12:00 am

    I know this guy that I think has a ton of potential and the tools necessary to make it to the next level. He is currently playing college ball, and just ended the season with:
    .354 – Avg.
    5 – 3B
    3 – HR
    10 – 2B
    29 – RBI
    15 – SB
    I searched him on YouTube and found a video. You should definitely take a look- I think this guy is a very valuable player with a great attitude.
    Here is the link to the video:

  3. 3 Bob August 14, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    There is a young player, Will Calhoun, 3 time all American, just out of college, playing with the Ft Worth Cats Minor League club in the American Association. I was surpirsed to see him show up there. Phenomenal 3d baseman, makes better plays than most major league infielders. He out sprints everyone else on the club and has range that’s unbelievable. He also pitches. This guy can hit off major league pitching I’m certain. He rarely strkes out, hits the ball hard everytime he’s up. He’s only been playing for Ft Worth a few weeks. Just one of those super players that dropped between the floor boards I guess. I’m told he worked out for the Rangers and Braves and both teams liked him really well?????????


  1. 1 A Scout’s Blog at Three True Outcomes Trackback on December 13, 2005 at 1:28 pm
  2. 2 CardNilly » Blog Archive » Miscellany Trackback on December 14, 2005 at 12:19 am
Comments are currently closed.



RSS River Ave. Blues

  • The case for trading Brett Gardner to make room for Darvish January 22, 2018
    The other day, Steven wrote about the rationale of trading David Robertson to clear some salary room to fit Yu Darvish’s hypothetical contract under the $197 million luxury tax threshold. Today, I’m here to make a case for trading away another established veteran player with a +$10M salary: Brett Gardner. We’ve talked about the Yankees’ […] The post The case […]
    Sung-Min Kim
  • Sorting out the Yankees’ potential non-roster Spring Training invitees for 2018 January 22, 2018
    Pitchers and catchers report to Tampa three weeks from tomorrow, and at some point soon, likely within the next two weeks, the Yankees will announce their 2018 Spring Training invitees. These are non-40-man roster players who get a chance to come to big league camp to strut their stuff. Some non-roster invitees are top prospects, […] The post Sorting out the […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Fan Confidence Poll: January 22nd, 2018 January 22, 2018
    2017 Regular Season Record: 91-71 (858 RS, 660 RA, 100-62 pythag. record), second in ALE 2017 Postseason Record: 7-6 (51 RS, 42 RA), won AL WC Game, won ALDS, lost ALCS Top stories from last week: There continue to be rumors connecting the Yankees to Yu Darvish. Unless he signs dirt cheap, there’s no way […] The post Fan Confidence Poll: January 22nd, 2018 a […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Weekend Open Thread January 21, 2018
    ?I finally had a chance to read Kiley McDaniel’s piece on the stats vs. scouts debate, which really isn’t a debate anymore. Every team uses both. There are a few clubs that lean analytical — from what I understand, the Rays use algorithms for basically everything, including the draft — but the very best organizations […] The post Weekend Open Thread appeared […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Sunday Thoughts: Infield, Sonny Gray, Pitch Clock, Luxury Tax January 21, 2018
    In waiting for baseball to begin again, I find myself asking “When will then be now?” Regardless of the actual time between the end of one season and the beginning of a new one, it seems to feel longer each year. Perhaps that’s especially true this year as my non-baseball diversions–college basketball and the New York Giants–have […] The post Sunday Thoughts […]
    Matt Imbrogno
  • Saturday Links: Pitch Clock, Martinez, Betances, Sanchez January 20, 2018
    Only four more Saturdays without baseball. Pretty cool. The Grapefruit League is about a month away. Anyway, here’s some news and notes on this baseball-less Saturday. MLBPA paving the way for pitch clock According to Ken Rosenthal, the MLBPA has formally rejected commissioner Rob Manfred’s latest pace-of-play proposal. That paves the way for MLB to […] The […]
    Mike Axisa
  • River Avenue Blues Podcast, Episode 19 January 19, 2018
    As promised, we’re answering your questions this week. Keep them coming, both to the voicemail and the email. The usual notes: You can subscribe basically anywhere at this point, so hooray for that. Some links of note: Apple Podcasts/iTunes Android Overcast Stitcher You can call our voicemail at 716-393-5330 to leave us questions for future […] The post Rive […]
    Joe Pawlikowski
  • RAB Live Chat January 19, 2018
    The post RAB Live Chat appeared first on River Avenue Blues.
    Mike Axisa
  • Prospect Profile: Freicer Perez January 19, 2018
    Freicer Perez | RHP Background Freicer Perez was signed by the Yankees for the bargain basement price of $10,000 back in 2014. A native of Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, the second-largest city in the country, Perez was a relative unknown in that year’s international free agent class, and was little more than a […] The post Prospect Profile: […]
    Domenic Lanza
  • Mailbag: Shaw, Hicks, Judge, Torres, Lynn, Coaching Staff January 19, 2018
    Ten questions in this week’s mailbag. The first Grapefruit League game is four weeks from today, you know. Baseball is getting closer. Anyway, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the email address. Many asked: What about Travis Shaw? A few days ago Jim Bowden reported the Brewers may sign Mike Moustakas and trade Shaw, and […] The post Mailbag: Shaw, Hicks, J […]
    Mike Axisa

Blog Stats

  • 62,642 hits

%d bloggers like this: