Shelley Duncan, in his role as the White Sox’ first analytics coordinator, is ready to dive into his new job.
“Because this group is awesome,” Duncan said Wednesday on a conference call. “This group is talented, and they’re hungry.’’
Duncan had an inside track to the job on new manager Tony La Russa’s coaching staff. His father, Dave, was La Russa’s longtime pitching coach who recently served the Sox in an advisory capacity. Duncan also brings a résumé that includes player, minor-league manager in the Diamondbacks’ farm system, major-league field coordinator with the Blue Jays and assistant in the Jays’ front office with involvement in their analytics department.
This gig will have Duncan processing data and, as a staffer in uniform, helping players find a way to apply it to improve performance.
“The title to this position is kind of new all around baseball,” Duncan, 41, said. “Most of the time, you have guys that do this who are more front-office people, but [I’ll] be down there on the field and serve multiple purposes. [I can] hop in the [batting] cage while guys are working, talking with them, meetings in the clubhouse, have the uniform on during the day, getting a bunch of things done. It’s extremely valuable having somebody who can listen to these guys and talk to them and hear the feedback from them on where they are in terms of preparation and information.”
Duncan will work in concert with Dan Fabian, Matt Koenig and Daniel Zien in a baseball operations department that has beefed up its analytics, technology and video initiatives in recent years.
Some players want little of the information; others want a lot.
“What this position does is give the opportunity to work with guys and listen to guys and really dial down what they need to be the best,” Duncan said.
La Russa, who hasn’t managed since 2011, always has used more than his instincts to gain an edge, and Duncan said he will use the new information now.
“Tony is much more knowledgeable on all this stuff than I think even he gives himself credit for,” Duncan said. “He’s really smart, and he picks up on stuff really easy. Even in Tony’s managing days at the earliest level, he was using every ounce of information possible for an advantage. I have a great feeling he’s going to do the same thing here.”
Duncan said the Sox have been one of his favorite teams to watch, and he credited former manager Rick Renteria for “doing a wonderful job building these guys up in the past and developing who they are today.”
“What they can do physically on the baseball field and the energy that they play with [is impressive],” he said.
“I really can’t wait until spring training starts [Feb. 17] and to get these things going. I can get out there and just see these guys firsthand and get to work. It’s a very special group.”