A club evaluator, preparing for the trade deadline that is 17 days away, mentioned some of the possible targets his team might consider, and as he spoke, he touched on a renewed challenge that baseball executives and scouts face this summer.
"You're not even sure of what you're seeing with some [players] right now," he said. "You don't know what to make of it."
The fundamental nature of the game has shifted dramatically -- and quickly. Hitters who weren't necessarily thought of as consistent home run sources are slugging with big power. Pitchers who have a history of keeping the ball in the park are surrendering more homers than ever -- such as the outspoken Justin Verlander, who has never allowed more than 30 homers in any season before this year and already has been touched up for a league-high 26.
Major League Baseball will obliterate its record for home runs this season, perhaps by as much as 10%. The eruption of home runs is muddying player evaluations this summer; and it seems destined to affect the way players are compensated -- which could be bad for some of the guys who hit the ball out of the park and good for the pitchers who manage to be effective even in the face of the barrage.
For years, teams have struggled to properly evaluate Colorado Rockies players and determine how much of the production is the result of the unique playing conditions in Denver, a mile above sea level, and how players' talents might translate elsewhere. With the leaguewide tsunami of home runs this year, it's as if a similar puzzle now applies to all 30 teams, some evaluators believe.
The spawn of Moneyball ignores old-school statistics, but some evaluators acknowledge they will be even more reliant on underlying data -- like the rates of hard and soft contact, swing-and-miss percentages and ballpark factors.
"What we're seeing with the ball makes it more imperative to dig into that stuff," one executive said. "I'd like to think we're doing it, anyway, but yeah, you have more questions."