From the sun-sentinel...
Scouting can be daunting for players
By Juan C. Rodriguez
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted July 25 2006
"The book" on an opposing starter in the minor leagues, if one is even available, is easy reading. Best pitches. Out pitches. Maybe some velocities. It's the equivalent of short sentences with not too many multisyllabic words.
When players reach the majors, they get Faulkner.
Long phrases. Intricate ideas. Exhaustive detail.
The Marlins have used 20 rookies so far. To some degree, each has faced the challenge of sifting through what seems like volumes of advance scouting. Before they step in a batters' box or on a mound, a player can prepare with various fountains of information, many of which either flow at a trickle or not at all in the minors.
What rookies have to learn is how best to employ these vast resources without letting the material cloud their minds come game time.
"You're not used to having that kind of information," outfielder Joe Borchard said. "Anything in the minor leagues that you know about a guy is from facing him before. The most important thing is finding the system that works for you. You have to figure out the best way for you to use that information. It certainly takes an adjustment period."
Added hitting coach Jim Presley: "There is so much information out there, sometimes especially with hitters, you can overload guys. You get them thinking too much, and that's not good."
Because information is available doesn't mean it's useful to everyone. In addition to employing a full-time advance scout in Joe Moeller, the Marlins, as do many teams, subscribe to Inside Edge scouting service.
The detail of Inside Edge's accounts are staggering. On their Web site they have an old Josh Beckett sample report. Not only does it describe Beckett's fastball, curve and changeup, it reveals how often he throws each pitch in different counts.
The report also lists where they landed in and around a nine-quadrant hitting zone and how often they were strikes.
"You can take all that information and be like, `OK, if it said he throws this pitch on this count 85 percent of the time and you're sitting on that pitch, I've got him now,'" second baseman Dan Uggla said. "One-two [count], you think he's going to throw a backdoor slider and all of a sudden he paints you in. You can't take it to that extreme. You still have to be ready.
"For me, I see what he's trying to do to me my first at-bat and then use that information about what he likes to throw in certain counts."
It's no different for pitchers. Inside Edge reports break it down to what percentage of the time hitters take certain pitches for strikes and in what situations. How often is a guy getting hits on sliders early in the count, late in the count, with runners in scoring position? It's all chronicled.
"[In the minors] it's more of, `This guy is hitting .330, he's got a lot of RBIs, don't let him beat you,'" pitcher Scott Olsen said. "Up here, you've got hot zones and cold zones. ... You have an enormous amount of information, but it doesn't do any good if you can't locate.
"I've taken a couple of things we go over out on the field, but the scouting report is a guideline. Just because somebody is a good offspeed hitter, if my slider that day is my out pitch, I'm going to throw it. ... It doesn't matter if he can hit it a long way. He might not hit my slider."
Everyone on the team makes use of the video room to some extent. Video coordinator Cullen McCrae does everything from preparing material on upcoming opponents to downloading a player's at-bats or outings on his iPod.
McCrae gives every new arrival a video room tutorial.
"Some guys might be skeptical at first if they haven't spent a lot of time using video," McCrae said. "Seeing the different things I can provide for them, more guys have been quick to embrace it. Spring training, a lot of guys didn't know I videotaped every at-bat or every pitch thrown."
Video can be especially helpful when facing a pitcher for the first time. That night's opposing starter's last outing is running on one of the clubhouse televisions before the game. That gives hitters a sense of not only what a guy throws and when, but how his pitches break.
Pitchers use video to see how hitters react to certain pitches in certain counts. What are their swing paths? Are they bailing on sliders?
"I don't think there's ever too much information, but it can get to be too much if you're constantly thinking about it," Olsen said. "I don't think about it too much when I'm out there. I go with my strength that day, and if my strength happens to be his strength, we'll see who wins."
Added third-base coach Bobby Meacham: "Too much information, I don't think it's possible. What somebody may call too much information, just don't use it. Use what you can use and now it's really not too much information."
Juan C. Rodriguez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.