Dodgers add analytical Tamin to front office
Attorney brings history of success in arbitration to new post
LOS ANGELES -- Brad Pitt is not lined up to play him in the next baseball blockbuster, but the hiring of Alex Tamin as director of contracts, research and operations should move the Dodgers forcefully into the Moneyball/SABR/Bill James world of statistical analysis.
Surprisingly to some, this shift in approach is not over the objections of general manager Ned Colletti, but at his insistence.
"People view me as old-school, focused on scouting," said Colletti. "But I've always used statistical analysis; we'll use more of it now. That doesn't mean every decision we make will now be based on statistical analysis. You're still at the mercy of the market. So this doesn't mean everybody we bring in will have a .400 on-base percentage or an .800 [on-base plus slugging percentage]. Sometimes, it's just about who's out there."
One guy out there was Tamin. The attorney spent 14 years at the law firm Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro, where he assisted on baseball arbitration cases with Mark Rosenthal, the primary hired gun for several Major League teams until his death from cancer in 2010.
Tamin, meanwhile, had been on his own for two years when Colletti called shortly after the departure of vice president and assistant GM Kim Ng, who had managed the Dodgers' arbitration process for a decade before leaving in April for the Commissioner's Office. Colletti said Tamin hit his radar during the Joe Beimel arbitration case, which the Dodgers won in 2007.
"Alex was always the quiet second guy with Mark Rosenthal in the hearing. Then he gave a rebuttal and I thought, 'Who is this guy?'" said Colletti. "It was so powerful and thorough. When Kim left, it was even more important to make sure we kept Alex on. He was thinking about working for a club. As the year went on we stayed in touch, and near the end of the season we struck a deal."
Tamin could be under the arbitration gun this offseason, as the Dodgers have potential megabucks cases with Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and Andre Ethier, as well as eligibles James Loney, Hong-Chih Kuo, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Dana Eveland. Before that, the analysis centers on free agents.
"It gives me great comfort knowing we have somebody as talented as Alex with an analytical approach," said Colletti. "We have a staff of young, talented [baseball operations] guys, but we haven't nurtured them as much as we need to. I'm not saying we never used statistical analysis before, but we have a new approach to it, a scrutiny that makes it meaningful. We've got great scouts that bring tremendous value. The statistical analysis will allow us to look deeper in the past performances, to determine when a player succeeds and when he struggles."
Tamin grew up in Hershey, Pa., and did undergraduate pre-med studies at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. Deciding he was "ill-equipped to be a doctor," Tamin went to UCLA Law School and joined Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro after passing the bar in 1995.
"I don't belong to SABR -- I'm not a statistician," Tamin said of the Society for American Baseball Research. "I've read Bill James and I come at it with a larger perspective. As a kid, I tried to play as far as my talent allowed. I was a devotee of the Strat-O-Matic game, an early follower of STATS Inc. The Baseball-Reference.com website was like finding the Holy Grail, and I watched it blossom. It's pretty phenomenal."
So is Tamin's record in arbitration cases. Working for a handful of teams, he delivered 11 rebuttals and the teams won nine of those cases. He represented the Angels when they beat Jered Weaver this year. In addition to the two local clubs, Tamin has worked for the Giants, Blue Jays and Braves.
"Going from being a hired gun to helping build a team in my adopted hometown, I jumped at it," said the father of three, who met his wife, Jennifer, also a lawyer, at UCLA.
Colletti said Tamin's arrival doesn't mean the Dodgers will de-emphasize scouting. He said advance scout Wade Taylor will continue filing reports on opponents, but Tamin and his crew will add their input before the reports are forwarded to manager Don Mattingly and his coaching staff.
"Hopefully, this will be one of the best marriages of both," Colletti said. "I don't believe there's only one way. We're not making a statement that it's got to be somebody with a great OBP or OPS or nothing else. There still are other aspects of the game. Scouting will always be important. But you can't be afraid to try something new, even while respecting the history and tradition of the game.
"You understand the history but find new ways of doing something, as long as you find the right mix. Nobody can be so heavy-handed that one side or the other doesn't have a voice. Combined, it can be something really powerful.
"You trust your baseball scouts to tell you what kind of player he is, what kind of person, what leadership qualities. You can't acquire somebody without knowing that. But you also need to know that he can't hit right-handed pitching or he really struggles with runners on base. It helps enhance the entire evaluation package. To take one side or the other is black and white. This is adding color to the picture."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.