SABR Analytics Conference – More Highlights

Yesterday there was an interesting panel discussion on the Analytics of Hitting of Pitching — the panel members were Aaron Boone (AB), Dallas Braden (DB) and Enos Sarris (ES).  Here are some interesting remarks made — this is not a complete transcript — I did the best job of reconstructing what was said from my written notes.

Opening Comments

DB:  In pitching, it is important to get a feel for the game and analytics can be a helpful tool.

AB:  Analytics is useful for figuring out how to create maximum value in a 25-man roster.

ES:  I see analytics when I talk to players.  They are talking about how to max their career.  They are aware of career trajectories of players.

Was Analytics part of the game when you played?

AB:  There was little talk in the dugout beyond Moneyball.

DB:  Analytics was a great tool for management to look at the future, but it was not present in the clubhouse.

AB:  But analytics is leaking into the dugout.

ES:  SABR thinking can be useful as a coaching tool.

DB:  Numbers do give a pitcher a little more insight in what is going on in pitching.

Impact of StatCast?

ES:  Maybe it can be used to quantify command and deception?  I’d like to see more spin-rate data, information about the batted-ball angle.

AB:  When I played, there were a lot of cliches used like “stay on top of the ball”.  Golf uses biomechanics to try to improve performance — can we apply this methods to baseball?

ES:  It would be interesting to understand how a batter can match the plane and power of the pitcher.  Can the numbers tell you what you see in the batter-pitcher matchup?

Other Comments:

(There was an interesting about Josh Hamilton.  He tends to always swing at the first pitch and get himself in a 0-2 hole.  When should he make an adjustment?)

DB:  A pitcher has to make continual adjustments to what a batter is doing.  These types of adjustments are not contained in a scouting report.

AB:  We really need to pay attention to more information now (that is, as the game is progressing).  I would like to look at the extremes in particular numbers and understand why they are happening.  I’m especially interested now in better defensive metrics.

ES:  It is hard to know when to adjust.  For some statistics, you need large sample sizes to see patterns, but you can’t wait for large sample sizes for some types of information.  Numbers have to be thought of differently in different spots (contexts?).

What Do You Wish You Had When You Played?

DB:  The ability to harness the information you have so you can analyze your performance.

AB:  Better information about running (speed).  These new measures challenge the normal measures of speed.

ES:  Currently we don’t know how fielder’s start.  For example, catchers will make particular body motions that might be telling about the type of pitch.

AB:  Do fielders know what pitch is being thrown?  How does that aid fielding?  Also it is important to understand what is “average”, say range of a center fielder.

Potential change in the strike zone?

ES:  It is unclear how the strike zone change would affect baseball since it affects pitcher and the batter.  We don’t really understand the consequences of this change to the zone.

AB:  The strike zone change is the biggest reason for the decline in offense.

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