SEATTLE - Tony Blengino wants to make one thing clear about his efforts to modernize the Mariners: Ichiro Suzuki will not necessarily be tracking statistical charts from a laptop at his clubhouse locker.
"That's totally up to him," said Blengino, Seattle's new special assistant to general manager Jack Zduriencik.
The CPA and former financial executive was chuckling over the thought of the Mariners' Zen-like franchise cornerstone and All-Star outfielder becoming the next baseball stats seamhead.
Yet Ichiro will be in the right place to become one.
Blengino wrote an acclaimed book on statistical analysis in baseball a decade ago, "Future Stars," while he was still a financial executive. That got him a job with the Milwaukee Brewers, where Zduriencik was a scout and eventually a special assistant to GM Doug Melvin until Seattle hired him a month ago.
Now Blengino's running the Mariners' newest creation, a department of statistical research.
Zduriencik, a first-time GM, is remaking the scouting staff, the front office, essentially the franchise after Seattle lost 101 games last season and hasn't been to the playoffs since 2001. Last week he hired a first-time manager, Don Wakamatsu.
Blengino's arrival signals Seattle's transition out of relatively Flintsones-era thinking and into 21st Century SABR rattling.
The 45-year-old former chief financial officer for the National Kidney Foundation of the Delaware Valley, outside Philadelphia, is a member of the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR). He's part of the statistics-led movement -- dubbed "sabermetrics" -- that made Billy Beane a whiz GM in Oakland and Theo Epstein a boy wonder and World Series winner leading Boston.
Epstein's Red Sox have Bill James, known as the founding guru of sabermetrics, on their front-office staff in Boston.
These newer-age baseball minds trust on-base-plus-slugging percentages more than a scout's own eyes.
"I would say that yeah, more will be done in the statistical arena than before," Blengino said, careful not to discredit what had been done from 2003 until June under now-fired GM Bill Bavasi. "There's edges to be gained, if you can find them."
The Mariners have long tried to find those edges primarily through the instincts of cigar-chomping, radar-gun-toting scouts fanned out across the country and world. Scouting director Bob Fontaine -- who will be known for passing on the chance to draft some little local kid named Tim Lincecum, who just became the NL CY Young winner with the San Francisco Giants -- was aligned more with that school of thinking. Zduriencik fired him in one of his first moves with the Mariners.
Seattle will still have scouts, of course. It's just now they will be looking at spreadsheets of statistics as much as a player's fastball speeds and body types.
"It will be just a supplement," Blengino said. "At the end of the day, you still need to see players. ... I would say all 30 teams use statistical analysis in some form as a method of analysis for their players and prospects."
Yet Seattle is relatively late to join the trend in earnest. For the last few years they have been contracting a stats man, Mat Olkin. He wasn't even their own guy -- the Kansas City Royals also had him as a consultant. Olkin worked out of his house in Connecticut.
Blengino is already rooted in his office inside Seattle's Safeco Field. And Zduriencik is making it clear Blengino and his new research department is a primary piece of the Mariners' changing organization.
The GM made a point of introducing Blengino and his new responsibilities, along with those of his new directors of amateur and pro scouting, Tom McNamara and Carmen Fusco, at last week's news conference to announce Wakamatsu as the Mariners' new manager.