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Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Baseball scouts are back at the ballpark after being sidelined for a year, but their ranks have thinned considerably since the last full season.

By the numbers: About 20% of scouts have been laid off since the start of the pandemic, per USA Today.

"It's been tough, very tough. There's not too many of us that know how to do anything else. This is our livelihood, and there's a fear there won't be many scouts out there anymore, so being back is very emotional."
Royals scout Jim Fregosi Jr.

The state of play: Old-school talent evaluators aren't obsolete just yet, but if rapid tech advancements are nudging them towards a cliff, the pandemic has been a strong gust of wind threatening to finish the job.

  • Scouts weren't the only casualties of MLB's pandemic-related budget cuts, but the rise of analytics made it easier for teams to move forward with fewer of them.

The backdrop: When Michael Lewis' book "Moneyball" was released in 2003, it kickstarted a data revolution across the big leagues. But scouts weren't pushed out overnight by these newfound "quant" departments.

  • On the contrary, teams hired even more of them in an effort to simply gather as much information as possible.
  • Scouting departments increased by an average of 10 scouts per team between 2009 and 2016 (from 41.5 to 51.3), and by another three from 2016 to 2019, per The Ringer's analysis of team media guides.

Yes, but: That growth has since halted, and the future of traditional scouts is becoming less certain every year.

  • It used to be that while numbers excelled at telling teams who a player is, scouts excelled at identifying what a player might become.
  • But over time, analytics' predictive capabilities have caught up. And newcomers to the field are now far more likely to open a spreadsheet than grab a pair of binoculars.

The bottom line: Getting these baseball lifers back in the ballpark where they belong is wonderful news after a brutal year. The end may be on the horizon, but it's not here yet.

Go deeper: How do scouts scout? (Forbes)

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

Satellite view of the bomb cyclone swirling off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and the atmospheric river affecting California on Oct. 24. Photo: CIRA/RAMMB

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest.

Why it matters: The atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, was causing Northern California to whiplash from drought to flood, as it slowly moved south overnight. It's triggered widespread power outages, flooding and mudslides.

In photos: Drought-ravaged California lashed by major storm

Workers try to divert water into drains as rain pours down on Oct. 24 in Marin City, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A major storm system was pummeling Northern California and parts of the Pacific Northwest with heavy rains overnight.

The big picture: "Atmospheric river" storms, associated with a record-strong "bomb cyclone" offshore from the Pacific Northwest, have brought flooding and mudslides to parts of California that were razed by recent wildfires and in severe drought. It's also caused widespread power outages in California and Washington state.

4 hours ago - World

Sudan's military places civilian prime minister under house arrest

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok during a 2020 news conference in Khartoum, Sudan. Photo: Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Sudan's civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was put under house arrest and several other ministers were also detained Monday in what appears to be a military coup in the country, per local reports.

Why it matters: The arrests of the civilian faction in the Sudanese government came a day after U.S. envoy Jeffrey Feltman met with the head of the military faction of the Sudanese government General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan and warned him against staging a coup.