Week One

Posted by Steve

Welp, my first week on the job is almost in the books.  I was going to wait until tomorrow to make this post, but to be honest, the brutal Marquette loss has dissuaded me from wanting to watch more college basketball right away.

I have officially been taught everything I’m going to need to know for the job.  The rest of the time before the season starts will just be practicing on game DVDs from last season.

Charting Games

When charting a game, I will be responsible for recording pitch type, pitch location, pitch velocity, hit type and hit location.  Whether this task will be easy or difficult largely depends on each game’s starting pitchers.  They have a database with a scouting report on every single MLB pitcher, including their pitch repertoire.

There are  definitely “easy” and “hard” pitchers to chart.  Guys who have only two or three pitches or guys who throw very hard are easy, while guys who throw several different pitches or throw unusually soft can be difficult.

One of the easiest is former 😦 Brewer Ben Sheets, who mainly just throws a hard low-to-mid 90s fastball with a distinct power curveball (also mixes in an occasional changeup that is faster than the curve).  It actually says in Sheets’ scouting report, “Easy to chart.”  Guys like A.J. Burnett and Brad Penny are also like this.  Most power relievers are easy to chart as well, as they generally throw only a fastball and a breaking pitch.

Examples of difficult pitchers to chart: Dice-K, John Smoltz, or for a Brewers example, Dave Bush.  I charted a Dave Bush game yesterday and that was pretty tough.  Bush throws a fastball, cutter, slider, curveball and changeup.

Other guys are difficult because they throw soft.  When it’s difficult to differentiate a fastball from a changeup, you don’t even have one obvious pitch that is different from all others.  Examples: Jamie Moyer, Josh Fogg, Woody Williams and Tom Glavine.

Scoring Games

When scoring a game, I will be responsible for recording hit type, hit location, baserunner activity, defensive misplays and good fielding plays.

Here’s how hit type works.  Did you know there are 12 different types of fly balls?  Yep!  Four categories of fly balls: line drive, fly, fliner line drive, fliner fly.  Within each category, a hit is either soft, medium or hard.  This is where a lot of personal opinion comes in, because many types look very similar.  A soft fliner line drive, for example, looks a lot like a soft liner.  The difference is the amount of air underneath the ball.  A soft fly (which is a pop-up) that doesn’t stay in the air quite so long could actually be a medium fliner fly.  I think you probably get the idea.  Anyway, we watched several examples of each type of line drive, yet it’s still easy to see how two people can see two different hit types on the same play. We also do this for ground balls and choppers, but categorizing them as either soft, medium or hard isn’t too difficult.

In a vacuum, scoring games is probably easier than charting.  There is one not-so-tiny catch, however.  For the first time ever, BIS will be scoring live games.  So when a crazy play or a play with several errors or misplays occurs, we have to score it very quickly so as to not fall behind in the game.  This is the one aspect of the job that has me a bit nervous, because this has been pretty challenging so far.

Here’s an example which occured during a game I scored earlier in the week.  I invite you to follow the link below, click the tab for “wrap” and then click the video that says, “Hart hammers a two-run double in the fourth” at the bottom of the page.

Hart double

Now that may not seem like a ton going on error-wise, but there certainly is plenty going on defensive misplay-wise.  Let’s sort through the carnage.

  • First, I set the hit type and location.  The ball had quite a bit of air under it, so I’d classify it as a deep fly.  I set the location to the right-center fence, and because the ball hit the wall I must also label it a “wall ball.”
  • Right away we have a defensive misplay on Nyjer Morgan.  If Morgan had cut off his route short of the warning track and played the ball off the wall, Prince Fielder would have had to stop at third base and Hart would have stopped at second..  That means I label it DM #38: Failing to anticipate the wall, and the consequence is the loss of a base.
  • Jason Michaels immediately follows up Morgan’s DM with one of his own by bobbling the ball when trying to pick it up.  This is DM #33: Mishandling ball after safe hit.  The consequence is the same as Morgan’s: it allows Hart to try for third and Fielder to try to score.
  • Freddy Sanchez then makes this a Full-blown DM Trifecta Disaster (unofficial term) by airmailing the throw home.  If you look closely, a good, accurate throw may have nailed Fielder at home.  That means it’s a DM #41, Bad throw to plate.  Consequence: the loss of an opportunity to make an out.

Maybe now you better understand what I’m talking about.  Keep in mind, I don’t yet have most of the DM numbers memorized, so I have to flip through the packet to find the best fit for each misplay, then I need to enter it into the computer.  And I have to do this without falling too far behind in the live game.

I don’t mean to complain; I was just trying to illustrate what I expect to be the most challenging part of the job.  Overall, I am pleased with where I am after four days.  I have been taught everything I’ll need to know, yet I don’t feel as if I’m in over my head.

Changing gears a bit, it’s also pretty awesome to be around other baseball nuts all day.  I casually mentioned someone’s PECOTA projection today, which led to a fairly heated discussion on the effectiveness of Baseball Prospectus’ projection system.  One guy was claiming PECOTA is generally too timid with their projections, and cited the example of Evan Longoria last year (they short-changed Longoria by about 70 SLG points).  Another guy whipped his manual out of his backpack (do you think he just carries it with him wherever he goes?) and starts listing off accurate projections from last year.  The critic didn’t back down, so guy number two says, with a raised voice, “I’d love for you to show me a better projection system!  I’d love it!”

I vividly remember thinking, ‘OMG there’s going to be a full-blown argument at work about PECOTA.  I love life!’ but unfortunately that’s as far as it went.  Too bad.  Maybe I’ll try to bait those two with another PECOTA comment next week.  Check back for updates.

Finally, I’ve already become known as the “Wisconsin Guy,” which is just fine by me.  I’ve worn a Brewers hat and a Marquette shirt so far this week, so I  haven’t really hidden it.  Plus today I was asked about “wholesome Wisconsin girls,” which led to an entertaining conversation.

If this VVP shot had a title, it would be Stoicism.

If this VVP shot had a title, it would be "Stoicism."

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