Matt Klentak, in his first winter at the head of a baseball operations department, wanted to learn how companies manage information. The 35-year-old Phillies general manager surveyed people in baseball, other sports, and some with zero connections to the game. How, he asked, do you implement analytics into decisions?
Those talks led him to Andy Galdi, a 30-year-old Google employee who was hired Thursday as the Phillies' first-ever director of baseball research and development.
"He's the perfect guy to help grow us forward in this area," Klentak said. "I'm excited about the fresh ideas that he's going to bring. Baseball is a very traditional industry. It is very much a copycat industry. I'm excited about what somebody coming in from a place like Google, what outside ideas he'll be able to provide and help us."
The Phillies said Galdi will "oversee all baseball analytics, including data visualization and reporting, statistical research, and data infrastructure." In other words, he'll help interpret the myriad data available.
It is just the latest sign of how the Phillies have fundamentally changed the way they do business. Four springs ago, former manager Charlie Manuel mentioned how former general manager and current assistant Ed Wade would Google certain statistics for him.
Now the Phillies have hired a Google employee.
Galdi, before joining Google, interned for the New York Mets and spent two years as an officiating analyst for the NBA. He then earned a Master's in statistics from Stanford University. At Google, the Phillies said in a news release, he was a "quantitative analyst for YouTube." Neither Google, which owns the video website, nor YouTube responded Thursday to requests for comment.
With the Phillies, Galdi inherits a department with substantial room for improvement and bountiful resources. Part-owner John Middleton last summer promised a dedication to analytics, and that influenced Klentak's hiring.
The Phillies have since added Ned Rice, who rose through Baltimore's analytics department, as assistant general manager. Rice, 33, will be Galdi's boss. Galdi will oversee Lewis Pollis, a 23-year-old intern who was promoted to a full-time analyst, and two or three other interns.
The team invested more than $1 million in its proprietary information system. Called PHIL, it went live Jan. 1. Scott Freedman, 32, who was promoted to director of baseball operations, guided that process. There have since been additional investments to purchase data, Klentak said.
"Andy is going to help us tap into certain data and certain information we might have not had access to before," he said. "That doesn't mean that's going to be the only thing we evaluate. Not at all. But it's going to fit into our overall decision-making process. We're going to be as thorough as we can."
Ben Baumer, an assistant professor of statistics and data sciences at Smith College, worked with Galdi in 2009 when the two were Mets employees. Baumer was the Mets' statistical analyst from 2004-12 and said Galdi was "probably the most quantitatively skilled intern" in his time there.
The two worked together on a project to assess the various defensive evaluation models available.
"From my point of view, it's obvious why he was an attractive candidate to hire," Baumer said. "How many people have significant experience in the industry like that? And he has a Master's degree in stats from Stanford, so he obviously has technical skills. And he has experience working at Google, the kind of company working with big data."
That is what drew Klentak to Galdi.
"A team can have all the information in the world," Klentak said. "But if it's powerless to implement or doesn't know how to implement it, it's not all that helpful."