Two things that Braves manager Brian Snitker never would’ve anticipated: That he would have the second-most major league managerial experience among National League East skippers entering the 2018 season; and, at age 62, suddenly he would be immersed in cutting-edge analytics after the arrival of a general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, who’s fully engaged with baseball’s information age.
That’s where Snitker finds himself two months before the beginning of his second spring training as Braves manager. His 286 games as a major league manager are 286 more than three of the five NL East managers -- the Mets (Mickey Callaway), Nationals (Dave Martinez) and Phillies (Gabe Kapler) all will enter 2018 with rookie managers.
“I know, how about that?” Snitker said, laughing during an interview Wednesday at baseball’s annual Winter Meetings. “And you still see those guys (former NL East managers). I enjoy, like, talking to (former Mets manager) Terry Collins and have been knowing all them guys for a long time. But I'm looking forward to meeting the new guys, too.”
Among division opponents, only Marlins manager Don Mattingly, back for his third season in Miami after five with the Dodgers, has more managerial experience than Snitker, who spent five months as interim manager in 2016, was retained as full-time manager in for 2017, then survived some anxious moments last fall before the Braves decided to pick up the 2018 option on his contract following a 72-90 season.
Snitker spent part of the first two days of the Winter Meetings in Anthopoulos’ suite along with new Braves bench coach Walt Weiss and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, going over the various data and analytical statistics that the new GM and his assistants will provide for Snitker, his staff and players throughout the season. It’s stuff that the Dodgers used on their way to the National League pennant in 2017, and Anthopoulos is a full believer in the power and potential of information after spending two seasons as part of the Dodgers’ sabermetric-intensive front office.
He also used plenty of it during his six seasons as GM of the Blue Jays, when Toronto was at the forefront for the arrival and growing presence of analytics in baseball.
“It's been real interesting to me because I told Anthopoulos, ‘Hey, I'm 62 years old, and I spent my entire career relying on my gut and my eyes and getting to know the people,’” Snitker said. “What Alex has brought in, it's been enlightening to me because this is kind of where we're at and where we're going in the game, and I've spent the last couple days up in the suite talking to those guys, and they're showing us the information, and there's a lot to it. It's very interesting for somebody like me that's -- I don't have that background.
“It's going to be real beneficial, and the thing they preface everything by is, ‘We're not going to push this on you. We're going to give you information.’ And now I kind of get what I've been reading about, what I've been hearing about with the analytics side of the game. I'm already understanding what that's all about and now as these guys say, ‘We're going to get the information and get it in the players' hands,’ it's kind of like you see what they're talking about.
“It's going to be good. They have already shown me information I think that the players are really going to latch on to, and it's going to be good for them -- their careers (and) day-in, day-out workings of us playing the game. It's going to be very useful, and it's going to help a lot.”
Anthopoulos stressed to reporters that information gleaned and developed by him and his assistants, including two new front-office hires with extensive backgrounds in analytics, won’t be forced upon Snitker and his staff or players. Anthopoulos and his assistants won’t work directly with players, but rather will provide information for Snitker and coaches, who’ll decide what to use, how to apply it in game situations and how to get information to players.
“Nothing but positive is going to come out of the whole thing,” Snitker said. “They made it very clear they're not going to ram things down your throat, but there's information there. I understand now they talk about the manager getting it in the hands of the players, what to give them. I think that you talk to them as they learn it, they understand it, they're going to know and probably want more in some situations, too, but it is very interesting stuff.
“It's part of the game. It's here and it's been here, it's been really eye-opening and interesting for me the last couple days to talk to the guys that Alex has brought in. It's interesting. Very interesting. ... It's legit stuff. It's really going to be up to the players, how they break things down. It's not going to be negative stuff to these guys either. It's going to be things that can help them to get better, and it will be up to them, what they want to grab hold of and use, but I think there's going to be a lot of guys that I think that some of the information that they're going to give them is going to be good to them. It's going to give them another avenue to try and to improve their game.”