The Larry Dierker Chapter held its most recent meeting on August 11, 2018, at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Adam Brodie, an analyst on the Houston Astros research and development team, was on hand to speak in lieu of GM Jeff Luhnow.
Adam said he was a philosophy major who intended to get his doctorate in that field at Carnegie Mellon University before switching to sports analytics.
When asked how long it takes to evaluate new players like Kyle Tucker, Adam said it is hard to say. He used Tony Kemp and Tyler White as examples. They have been up and down between Triple-A and the majors many times and they are finally looking like they belong, he said. He went on to explain that you can’t project a player’s success in the majors based on Triple-A performance. “It is just so different in the majors where you are competing with the very best pitchers and hitters in the game,” he said.
Another SABR member asked what the team’s scouts and Luhnow say regarding Charlie Morton’s success. Adam responded that when healthy, Morton has a plus fastball with incredible movement and an elite curveball. With a little nurturing from pitching coach Brent Strom, he has been very successful here.
Adam went on to address the surge in strikeouts in baseball. He said pitching is, across the league, the best it has ever been, so strikeouts are up everywhere.
A member asked about pitch framing, and if the umpire is watching the ball cross the plate, how is pitch framing a factor? Adam explained that you have to have a batter’s eye to be an umpire. That ball comes over the plate really fast, so where the catcher frames the ball is helpful, he said. He also encouraged members to read Mike Fast’s articles on pitch framing at Baseball Prospectus: https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/15093/spinning-yarn-removing-the-mask-encore-presentation. (Fast now works for the Astros front office.)
Adam was then asked how do players know when to shift, and he responded that they have notes to carry on the field if they want them. Players also get direction from the dugout and from coach Gary Pettis.
Our next speaker was Brian Rodgers, a player acquisition assistant in the Astros front office. He talked about how they use a lot of the data on amateur players compiled by their colleges and universities. They also use the data from the Cape Cod summer league. Scouts in the field also watch a lot of batting practice, he said.
Brian was asked about the usefulness of year-round play. He said sometimes it benefits players like Alex Bregman, “who eats, drinks, and sleeps baseball.” But it can backfire on pitchers, as “there are only a finite number of pitches in those arms.”
Brian was asked about scouting players from Cuba and Venezuela. He responded that “we can’t go in Cuba so we have to see players when they travel to the Dominican or elsewhere. In Venezuela, we have scouts inside the country but we don’t travel there ourselves.”
After the meeting ended, everyone headed to their seats to watch the Astros take on the Seattle Mariners.
— Karen Walker