October 19, 2021

The White Sox hired an analytics coordinator. What does that mean?

Coming out of retirement to manage the White Sox, Tony La Russa asked Dave Duncan to do the same and resume his familiar role as pitching coach.

At the age of 75, Duncan told the 76-year-old La Russa: “I have no desire to do that.”

When La Russa does return to the dugout this season for the first time since 2011, the Hall of Fame manager will have a Duncan in his corner.

Shelley Duncan, Dave’s 41-year-old son, was hired by the Sox as analytics coordinator.

What the heck is that?

“I think the title to this position is kind of new all around baseball,” Shelley Duncan said on Wednesday.

While his main responsibility might be crunching numbers away from the dugout, Duncan said he’ll still be able to get down on the field before games.

“Most of the time you have guys that do this who are more front office people,” he said. “But to be able to be down there on the field and serve multiple purposes, hop in the 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 that you can have 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, terms of information.

“A lot of people, sometimes they want a lot. Sometimes they want a little. Sometimes it’s not being worded the right way. Sometimes it’s not simplified enough. 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.”

Being a former player should help Duncan get his analytical messages across.

Before working as the Blue Jays’ major-league field coordinator in 2019 and managing in the Diamondbacks’ minor-league system from 2015-18, Duncan played seven seasons with the Yankees, Indians and Rays.

“Everybody’s different,” he said. “And understanding that everybody’s different because I was a player will give me a better opportunity to listen and hopefully ask the right questions and hopefully to be able to help out and serve the best I possibly can. That’s what I hope I can do.”

Duncan has known La Russa since he was a youngster and is looking forward to helping him and the White Sox win games.

“The relationship with Tony goes back a long way,” Duncan said. “Almost that family feel. It will be fun to see what Tony does to take them to that next level. You know, Tony is intense. Tony has an unbelievable personality. He’s like a chameleon, he’ll fit into any environment.

“He has fun with guys, he listens extremely well, he empathizes, but when that game starts he’s about as dialed in as anybody and it’s pretty cool. That competitive spirit is something people in Chicago will see again.”