Padres GM Search: Michael Girsch

Michael Heiman

A brief look at the Cardinals Assistant GM who is now a candidate for the Padres' open General Manager position.

Michael Girsch is currently the Assistant General Manager (not the Assistant to the General Manager) for the St. Louis Cardinals. With winning comes poaching and the Cardinals have won a lot and so people want to poach. After the Astros poached his predecessor as AGM Jeff Luhnow in 2011, the Cardinals continued to win and so more poaching seems necessary. Especially since the Cardinals farm system has been producing loads of talented major leaguers that Girsch oversaw. Recently, the good guys over at Baseball Prospectus wrote about all the top GM candidates and here is what they said about Girsch:

Skill set: Girsch will get looks because of the Cardinals’ run of success, but the 37-year-old AGM with an MBA has the goods to back it up. He's run the Cardinals Baseball Development division, which oversees the team's impressive data management and analytics efforts. For as much coverage as "The Cardinal Way" got as a magic book of sorcerer's spells, the reality is that it's a boring technical manual on player development, but one that starts with the question "What do we know about what actually works?" In the front office, where understanding the process is key, Girsch's background fits beautifully with what's expected of the new breed of GM.

Like the candidate I looked at yesterday, Jason McLeod, Girsch has a similar player development background and the advantages of that background are the same for both candidates. Girsch does not have familiarity with the Padres that McLeod has, but he does bring other skills to the table. To help understand those it may be useful to check out this Q&A done with him at Fangraphs last year. Here is one interesting bit (among many):

On biomechanical assessments: "We call the guys doing this for us ‘mechanics analysts.’ We put together mechanics reports. We’re not dressing guys in little black suits and putting dots in their bodies, but we’re watching them as they pitch in games, from the video we have. We’re making assessments from that, so it’s up to your interpretation what you’d call it. So yes, we do biomechanics, but it sort of depends on how you use the term.

"We code video and analyze the mechanics of our pitchers, but we don’t do it in a start-to-start, or week-to-week, fashion. It’s not, ‘Hey, so-and-so dropped his arm angle by X degrees in his last start.’ We do it on more of a once-or-twice-a-year basis, in terms of his mechanics. That data is part of how we think about players, and what we feel they need to work on, or maybe change.

"There is always give and take with anything you do with pitching mechanics. What sometimes may seem high-risk may also be what makes a pitcher deceptive, or gives him the movement he relies on. Our pitching coaches need to assess that. They’re the experts. They know what you can tweak to improve health, or improve performance, and not make either one worse."

For a team like the Padres that need help on the injury front, this sort of experience could bring huge dividends. Girsch is not an injury prevention expert, but he does come off as a guy that knows how to put processes in place that can address issues in a cutting edge way. There are other examples in that article and I suggest you take a look. When it comes to the possible next generation of baseball General Managers, Girsch may be a dream candidate. Some might say he is also a pipe dream.

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