Kasper: What distinguishes Chicago Cubs from others?
We are now in the fifth season of the Theo Epstein regime in Chicago, and I've been thinking lately about what distinguishes this baseball department from others I've been around in my career.
The first point to be made is the most obvious one, that the system in place was largely brought over from the Boston Red Sox, where Epstein presided over two World Series championship teams.
The player-development model worked there and is working here (an aside: note all the guys drafted during Theo's time there who are now contributing to the Red Sox's success this year).
It would be presumptuous to say the Cubs' overall philosophy and approach are better than anyone else's. There are lot of smart people with the 29 other clubs all aiming to gain their own advantage wherever they can find it.
Having said that, every organization looks at things through a unique lens based on their own research and backgrounds.
For example, on a micro level, the Cubs are playing their outfielders a little deeper this season due to their defensive studies while the Pittsburgh Pirates, another analytically driven organization, went in the opposite direction.
On a macro level, the Cubs cannot be encompassed by a simple "new school" or "numbers over scouting" description. Scouting and the human element matter a lot. Epstein himself is a scout at heart, and whenever he speaks about players, he describes their skills in scouting parlance.
Character matters a lot as well. The one common thread of pretty much all the kids they've drafted, traded for and signed is that they are mature beyond their years and are coachable. Yes, they're oozing with physical talent, but their mental makeup is scouted heavily as well.
I remember a conversation I had with Epstein a few years ago about analytics, and he said much of the quantitative studies done over the years actually prove many long-held notions about how the game should be played. In other words, for the most part, there aren't as many secrets as we think.
Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer and manager Joe Maddon all understand how much randomness occurs on a daily basis and that they don't have every answer. But like good blackjack players, they believe in the process, which, if executed correctly, gives them the best chance to succeed in the long run.
That is why the Cubs' advance scouting and strategy departments are as beefy as any in pro sports. No stone is left unturned in trying to figure out how to attack an opponent in every area.
Maddon's matrix-of-outcomes card is computed for him every day and handed to him in his office hours before the game.
Mike Borzello and Chris Bosio lead the pitchers in dissecting the other team's hitters, while John Mallee scours over video on opponent pitchers looking for tendencies and patterns.
Cubs players enjoy the most thorough and easy-to-understand tutelage they could ever want, which makes them a very well-prepared team.
Understand that the baseball industry is more advanced in its information-gathering than ever before, making marketplace exploitation incredibly difficult.
And this gets back to my original question about what makes this organization special. Honestly, there is no big reveal at the end of the story. It's just a bunch of really bright, thorough, creative and proactive people from top to bottom working their tails off to best the competition.
The results have been promising the last couple of years. And now the hope is that by continuing to work hard for every tiny advantage every single day it ultimately pays off with a fun trophy presentation at the end of October.
• Len Kasper is in his 12th season as the television play-by-play voice for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter@LenKasper.