What’s Coralytics? When manager combines what’s best for player with synergy of analytics
LOS ANGELES — Agent Scott Boras has known Alex Cora for more than 30 years, dating to the Red Sox manager’s childhood in Puerto Rico. The agent understands the baseball roots that took shape in his former client from both his father, Jose Manuel, and his brother Joey.
Given that history, Boras isn’t terribly surprised to see that Cora has emerged as the steward of a Red Sox team competing in the World Series, one year after Cora was the bench coach of an Astros club that won the World Series.
Yet to Boras, Cora is not merely a good manager. In his eyes, Cora has created an entirely new discipline that should serve as the operating model for the modern major league manager. The phenomenon comes with a name: Coralytics.
What’s that? Permit Boras to explain.
“Coralytics understands that you have to have the synergy of analytics plus the psychology of a player,” Boras said at Dodger Stadium prior to Game 3 of the World Series. “[It is] the idea of the filter of analytics to communication to the player in the correct way, the adaptation of understanding that, ‘I will take the character and psychology of the moment, and apply that more so than the analytic definition.’ Knowing that, when to use one and then the other, is Coralytics.”
Boras praised Cora for his ability to synthesize all kinds of information coming from the team’s scouts and analysts, and then to selectively — but not slavishly — apply the information based on what he was seeing in a game and what he knew of his players.
While numbers can offer context for a decision, in the estimation of Boras, they need to be part of the decision-making process rather than the entirety of it. To Boras, Cora’s gift is a feel for when he’s well-served to apply or resist the general conclusions of big data when employing his roster.
“There is a lot of judgment, a lot of player understanding — sticking with Jackie Bradley Jr. as he’s going through some swing definition in the big leagues: [That is] Coralytics,” said Boras, referencing how Cora stuck with another of the agent’s clients through poor offensive numbers in the first half of the season. “He knows enough about the player, he knows enough about the value, he knows enough about the team to make sure that that would be optimized, and he’s going to get an .800 OPS in the last half of the season and a great defensive center fielder.”
Boras has been told by clients such as Bradley and Xander Bogaerts that Cora has demonstrated an “extraordinary” ability to communicate that has made a difference in the club. Boras himself had first-hand experience of Cora’s steady communication based on the interaction that the two had after Red Sox officials met with Boras and J.D. Martinez at the winter meetings in December.
“Cora texted me every day until J.D. was signed,” Boras said with a chuckle. “This guy is so myopic about what he does. He knew that J.D. was right for the team, he knew what to go on, I passed that on to J.D. about how much he was wanted and what he did.”
Boras said that Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski deserves credit for hiring Cora and for giving him the autonomy to manage the club as he saw fit.
“I think the GM’s have to be, ‘We’re going to prepare our manager and create your soup, that’s what you’re going to serve in the locker room.’ If players know that, that the manager has that control, that he is a guy who is certainly given information but not dictated as to what the role the players should be, then the players have a different thought process. Because that’s exactly what they’re familiar with in the minor leagues,” Boras said. “He is your manager. He is that autonomous person that directs you. When a player has that familiarity he was raised with, when it’s familiar to him in the big leagues, there’s a comfort there. When there’s a disruption of that, if he’s playing for the Oz and all he sees is the curtain, then the manager has a completely different feel. That’s the best way to describe it.
“There is no Oz in Coralytics. And I think the manager is also accountable. The players know he is accountable.”
But what is the value in that? Boras, who spends much of his time contemplating the value of players on the open market, paused for a moment before offering his conclusion.
“Coralytics is worth something far more than analytics, let’s put it that way,” said Boras. “We know where analytics come from. The thing is, someone can bring you all the ingredients for the cake. But if you don’t know how to bake it, you may get a brownie, but you’re not going to get a seven-layer cake.”