Embracing analytics fueled WVU alumnus Pete Putila’s rise in MLB

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In just 12 years, Pete Putila rose from the role of student manager on the West Virginia University baseball team to one of the top posts in professional baseball. Two weeks ago, Putila was named the new General Manager of the San Francisco Giants.

The Carmichaels, Pa. native graduated from WVU in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. Putila built his resume and reputation by spending 12 years in the Houston Astros organization.

Like many young professionals starting on their career tracks, Putila wasn’t initially able to break into the business. Once he did, however, Putila advanced through the baseball operations system to become the Astros’ Assistant General Manager in 2019.

“I was part of the sports management club at West Virginia and we had different speakers and guests come in,” Putila said. “We had some folks from the Astros come by.

“I actually applied for an interview for an internship and didn’t get it the first time around. The next year, I reached out again and applied. I got the baseball operations internship. My duties varied by the baseball calendar. If we were in spring training, I would be in Florida helping out with any administrative work. I transferred into the draft and then the trade deadline then into the offseason with free agency.”

Like many Western Pennsylvania natives, Putila grew up as a fan of his hometown baseball team.

“I grew up a Pirates fan. My mom and dad and my family took me to a lot of different games,” he said. “Early on, I was trying to be open but to not only be able to get in with an organization but into a baseball operations group where you get to work a lot more around the game itself, it was definitely a dream.”

After three years with the franchise, Putila became a fixture on the road with the team in day-to-day operations.

“In 2014 and 2015, I travelled with the Major League team on all trips, home and away,” Putila said. “I did advanced scouting and video replay. So it was a good opportunity to get to know the coaches and players and the information they like to use.”

In recent years, MLB teams have embraced advances analytics in evaluating their own players, potential draft and trade prospects and in forming game strategy. Putila says Astros’ players embraced the new tools that volumes of data could provide.

“The advent of a lot of new information into the game and being able to work between players, coaches and front office, to try to figure out how to make use of that, that was something that opened a lot of doors for me,” Putila said. “It has changed a lot from just surface-level statistics which are good for player acquisition, it wasn’t really good for player development. You could tell someone they were not striking enough hitters out, but you couldn’t really tell them how to improve that. Now, the data has become a lot more granular and more related to performance.

“What I had been told up to that point was that players weren’t going to want to use it, they weren’t going to be able to understand it. They were just not going to want anything to do with it. Lo and behold, in conversations usually around the food room sitting at a table eating dinner before the games with players, showing different things and asking questions, I started to realize that wasn’t the case.”

While his former team remains in the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, Putila’s new team is coming off an 81-81 season in San Francisco.

“We’re trying to find a balance between Major League roster management, which includes free agency and trades, and also internal processes. That’s how we scout and develop.”

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