Phillies bolster dugout IQ as analyst dons red pinstripes


CLEARWATER, Fla. — It’s spring training and first-year Phillies manager Gabe Kapler will do anything (see story).

He will shift outfielders from left field to right field on the fly.

He will bat his best power hitter leadoff.

He will ask an analyst from the team’s research and development department to put on a uniform, hang out with Charlie Manuel during batting practice, take in a few innings from the dugout and a few more from the bullpen.

That’s what happened on Tuesday. Alex Nakahara, a senior quantitative analyst from the team’s R & D department, took the field in uniform as batting practice was about to begin and did not leave until the bullpen emptied after the last out in an 11-6 loss to the Tigers (more on the game here).

What in the name of Dr. Sheldon Cooper is this all about?

“First and foremost, it's being inclusive,” Kapler said. “It's something we've talked about a lot — bringing the front office and the field staff together. Bringing our R & D department, our analytics department, together so that they can experience what we're going through. They can understand how we're making decisions, listen to conversations on the bench, maybe get more inspired by those conversations.”

Nakahara is a Penn grad who spent five years as a systems engineer with Northrup Grumman before joining the Phillies' rapidly expanding analytics department.

“Alex just blends in anywhere,” Kapler said. “He represented himself really well. I think he learned a lot from listening to [the coaches] talk about the game situations. Understanding what goes into our decision-making process, what factors we layer on top of the analytics to make good decisions is really important, right? It’s very similar to how cool it would be if we went up to their [analytics] office and listened to them talk through how they come up with information.”

Kapler hoped having Nakahara in the dugout sent a message to the players.

“Alex is our teammate,” he said. “Our R & D department are our teammates. Every person in the organization is a shareholder in our organization. We want to treat them like they’re part of our group, not they’re up there and we’re down here, which historically has been sort of the divide in baseball.”

Kapler was impressed with how Nakahara looked in a uniform.

“There are a lot of people in this building who are huge fans of Alex," he said. "He may not be the only person that comes in the dugout during this time period. This is an inclusive environment. We want people to be familiar with one another. We want departments to be familiar with one another.”

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