In a surprising move by the San Diego Padres, Dave Cameron will reportedly not return with the organization (per Dennis Lin of The Athletic).
Cameron is a well-respected baseball statistics guru from FanGraphs that the franchise hired in January of 2018. The hiring signified a new era in Padres baseball as Cameron was awarded a position with the club entitled senior analyst in the organization’s research and development department. The Padres were late to embrace analytics, but Cameron’s huge name led most to believe that the Padres were serious.
The earliest remembrance of Dave Cameron was that he was adamant about not signing Eric Hosmer in the winter of 2018. While at FanGraphs, he publicly discussed the first baseman value before joining the Padres. A month after the team hired Cameron, the Padres signed Eric Hosmer to the richest (at the time) contract in the history of the franchise. The bizarre move was a direct contradiction to what their analyst suggested. We will never know the details on what led the Padres to open their pocketbooks to sign Hosmer. But it is safe to say it was a bad idea. Dave Cameron was right.
A.J. Preller did utilize the services of Cameron as the senior analyst was vital in the Padres trading for both Trent Grisham and Jake Cronenworth. The Padres are getting tremendous value from this duo, and Cameron was essential in recognizing their abilities. Losing him from the department is concerning. Not just for his eye for talent, but the fact he was a well-known name who brought clout to the Padres’ analytical department.
The future of Major League Baseball consists of analytics. It is part of the game and not going anywhere.
But why isn’t Cameron returning? What happened to lead to this moment?
The Padres have come under recent scrutiny for failing to implement the baseball data they collect into information that can easily be digested. Players have the information, and it can be overwhelming trying to make sense of it all. Having Rapsodo Machines and Edgetronic Cameras is great, but not if statisticians cannot explain the data correctly to the players. This is an area that needs to change for the Padres. Perhaps that bothered Cameron as he struggled in his role with the club.
Perhaps that is why he decided to leave the franchise?
Take a look at this tweet about former Padres pitcher Cal Quantrill.
Everything you need to know about Padres player development from Cal Q. talking about his plus change-up. “….But now I have all this technology to see how I can make it a good professional pitch again.” #Padres
— CanadianPadre (@CanadianPadre) September 24, 2021
In spring training of 2018 and 2019, I spoke to Quantrill about the new cameras (at the time) and information in camp. He admitted that he saw the data but really did not seem all that interested in the information. Obviously, the staff in Cleveland were able to reach Quantrill better, and that is part of the reason he had such an impressive year in 2021. Quantrill went 8-3 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.176 WHIP in 22 starts, and 149.2 innings pitched. He looks to be a viable major league pitcher.
This information from Quantrill is alarming as the Padres are not adding to their analytical staff. They are subtracting from it. Players cannot digest all this data and make sense of it daily. The Padres need individuals who create software and make the analytical data user-friendly. Cameron may have been overwhelmed as the Padres surely aren’t employing enough individuals to work with the players and staff.
The Padres are looking at a change in philosophy.
Mark Connor and Sam Geaney were two of the more recent moves made by the Padres as they continue their search for relevancy. The farm system is under new management, and it appears the baseball analytical department will also look to new leadership.
The baseball analytical department of the Padres will take a significant hit if Dave Cameron leaves. There is no doubt about that. They will survive, though. To make it through this transition period, A.J. Preller will need to surround himself with more baseball minds of this ilk. Expect the Padres to replace Cameron with an equally bright mind or two.
There will be a lot of stress for the Padres’ general manager in the next few months. Can A.J. Preller and his staff survive this current turmoil and prevail?
Only time will tell.