B101 Case Study: San Diego Padres

The following is an excerpt from an online education course that helps business owners develop viable organizations called Business Prep 101. Regardless of the other insight in the course, this section is critically important to all people (business owners or not). If you’re interested in better performances, this is for you. 

Each section in the course has a case study to reinforce the concepts found in the weekly lecture, reading material, and interactive assignment. The case study below pulls strategies of process orientation out of the San Diego Padres baseball club. Check it out:

In my time with the San Diego Padres system, it was refreshing to see process oriented academic principles playing out in a major American sport franchise. In order for these concepts to hold any water, they’d need to be adopted at the tip of the spear of performance where the consequences are greatest and they do. We like to say if you want to understand the importance of process look at how a base jumper packs his/her bag. That’s a checklist that doesn’t get skipped.

When it comes to baseball, there’s a great deal of paradox (just like base jumping). After all, in base jumping you can eat your Wheaties, train effectively in the gym, visualize your run perfectly, pick the perfect jump on a day with perfect weather, and pack a perfect bag, only to have an unforeseen gust of wind introduce catastrophic failure into your effort. While the consequences in baseball aren’t as steep, the mechanics of the performance are the same. You can make every mistake in the book in the batter’s box and float a loopy pop fly on a broken bat base hit for a “success” and you can do everything right and hit a ball hard, right on-the-money right at a defender for a “failure”.

This paradox introduces a high performance tendency that the best individuals and teams in the world subscribe to, which is a commitment to the process. In fact, the San Diego Padres were so committed to this process orientation that they wanted to build a culture around it.

This took a system wide effort to recalibrate the statistics that would be of value to the team. If, say, batting average is a statistic that doesn’t effectively reward process, especially in the short term, then the organization decided it would create their own framework. The idea was that a more process oriented evaluation would change the culture from the language we used between players and coaches, to the emotions surrounding performances, and even what was and wasn’t celebrated in our locker rooms.

One specific example of how this was manifested was the creation of a new concept and subsequently a new statistic. This stat wouldn’t be used by ESPN or in the papers, but to us professional athletes we would live and die by it. And, so would our paychecks.

The ‘Quality at Bat’ concept rewarded process where the simple batting average didn’t. You see your batting average is comprised of how many hits you get divided by the number of total at bats. Now, some instances like walks, hit-by-pitches, and sacrifice bunts and sacrifice flies are a wash and not counted against you, but this average is controlled by hits, nonetheless. Whether you get a hit or not isn’t really in your control. In the conventional use of the batting average, it’s possible to go 2 for 4 with a batting average of .500 and do virtually nothing well at the plate and it’s possible to go 0 for 4 with a batting average of .000 and do everything well. Here in lies the problem.

For the San Diego Padres, the ‘Quality at Bat’ included hits, any at bat in which you saw five or more pitches, any situational execution (whether you got a hit or not), any hard hit ball, etc. In this context, you could strike out and have a quality at bat if you worked hard to see seven pitches. You could hit behind the runner to move him into scoring position, get out, and still be rewarded with a quality at bat. That hard hit ball right at the defender that we talked about earlier that is so unjustly punished by the batting average is now rewarded in this system.

It’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t the perfect system, but it’s an intentional cultural shift towards process. It’s not a coincidence that my NCAA team had a similar statistic. Even though the criteria was different in nuanced ways, the principles are the same. At DEUCE Gym, we don’t have full control over how many members join the gym, but we do have control over our processes, so we have internal statistics that we pride ourselves on well before we hang our hat on a stat like total members.

So, what does this little story mean for you? The umbrella concept here is that while we all want results, evaluating our progress based on results alone likely isn’t the best way to get those results. Can you find ways to evaluate your efforts in ways that more closely focus on controllable elements of your performances so you can improve faster? 


Logan Gelbrich  


PS – A beautiful bonus of process orientation is that it frees us from the prison of riding the tide of results (that our outside of our control). It allows us to celebrate great efforts that result in losses and be critical of poor efforts that yield positive outcomes.

11/12/19 WOD


Deadlift from 4″ Blocks



Complete 5 rounds for time of:

11 One-Arm Dumbbell Power Snatches (50/35)

12 One-Arm Dumbbell Thrusters (50/35)

11 Weighted Pull-Ups (50/35)