Brian Bannister was hired by the Red Sox in January as a pro scout and analyst. The move was not strange by any means, as teams often employ former players as scouts -- that's where Jerry Dipoto, currently serving as an advisor to the Red Sox, got his start. What the Sox have now done with Bannister is far more intriguing, though, as it's breaking some new ground: Bannister was promoted to a newly created position as the team's Director of Pitching Analysis and Development.
Bannister was known in his time as an MLB pitcher for his love of advanced metrics. The son of former major-league pitcher Floyd Bannister, Brian looked to sabermetrics to try to figure out an edge that would help him survive and maybe even thrive in the bigs. The focus was often on figuring out ways to lower his batting average on balls in play by studying PITCHf/x, and while Bannister might have lacked the ability to put all of his learning to good use, he can still find sustained success with it as a teacher.
As a former pitcher with a knowledge of analytics, Bannister's role is, in a way, a data-driven coach, but not just for players -- Bannister is unlikely to direct the pitchers in the way that pitching coach Carl Willis does, but like anyone else in the front office, his job will be to provide the team with the best information he can, whether he gets it from scouting or PITCHf/x, and then distribute it to other key figures in the organization. Teams blend all of that information together the best they can in order to put a superior product on the field, and creating this new position helps show how much the Red Sox want to do what they can to improve their pro scouting.
Gordon Edes at ESPN has an informative quote from Dave Dombrowski on the new gig for Bannister that should give you an idea of what this is all about:
"We sat down and he explained to me what he was all about,'' Dombrowski said Tuesday. "We've created, I think, a unique position. It's a position that's going to talk about developing players through an analytic approach -- and also a pitching philosophy. He'll work very closely with [farm director] Ben Crockett. He'll work closely as we approach guys in the draft. He's already talking to [pitching coach] Carl Willis. We're going to try to see if we can be a little bit better. He'll give us an edge'"
This should also help put to bed the idea that new President of Baseball Operations Dombrowski is anti-analytics. One of the first things he's done while in charge of the Red Sox is to create a brand new, analytically minded position for an analytically minded employee who also has a year of scouting behind him as well as a professional career as a player. Dombrowski is going to blend analytics and scouting just like the Red Sox have always done: he's just going to try to do it better.
Whether he will succeed in that or not is to be seen, but making a new position and putting Bannister in it is at least a sign that they're willing to experiment to make it happen. Who knows? Maybe like with Red Sox hiring Dombrowski to follow the new front office trend, Bannister will succeed in his new position enough to convince other teams to copy Boston.