SABRanalytics: Player Panel with Oakland’s Brandon McCarthy

Here are some highlights from the SABR Analytics Conference Player Panel featuring Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy, with moderator Rob Neyer of Baseball Nation, on Thursday, March 15:

On making the jump from Triple-A and having success in the majors

  • “I was not as physically good (in the majors) as I thought I was in the minor leagues. The things I was able to do in the minor leagues, I was not able to do in the major leagues. … It was the first time I had failed. … And it was a long cycle mentally to get out of that.
  • “Confidence is really at the heart of it. If I wasn’t mentally strong, I couldn’t even accidentally throw quality strikes.” 

On moving to the bullpen in 2006

  • “I didn’t adjust to that well. I’m extremely routine-oriented … and I lost that in the bullpen. There’s too much chaos for me to deal with. I can’t sit there all day, eat candy and goof off and try to burn things in a burner for three innings, then try to get Torii Hunter out with the bases loaded.”

On the baseball humor website

  • “I first really read it in 2008 … in spring training, rehabbing in Arizona. I’m addicted to information, have to constantly be reading on the Internet about anything and everything. It was the funniest thing I’d ever read. That was kind of the beginning, I was able to research what they were talking about, and see why the things they were talking about (in regards to sabermetrics) made sense.”

On what he has found useful about analytics

  • “When I first got into it, it had nothing to do with me — I just liked to argue about baseball, it was purely for argumentative purposes. It wasn’t until a few years later that I began to apply it to myself. But at first, I just wanted to yell at people on the Internet.”
  • “(Pitch f/x) is probably the thing I use the most, outside of video. I can see just how much my sinker is moving, how my cutter is doing … and make game-to-game adjustments off of that. … Sometimes video can lie to you; (Pitch f/x) tells you exactly what you’re doing. It’s a cool tool to use.”

On giving up home runs

  • “I’ve known for years that I gave up too many home runs. I also knew I never got ground balls; it was constantly fly balls for me. It was getting harder for me, I was working much too hard even to have an OK game. … And Roy Halladay is a great (example) of that, you just watch him and he makes it look easy. I got hooked on that. The more I learned about it, the more I realized that ground balls are good, not walking people is good, and then hopefully along with that is keeping my home runs down, too.”
  • “It’s a mental thing — I know (through sabermetrics) that as a pitcher, you can’t control home runs. With a normal starter workload, they’re going to happen. You’re always going to give up 10 (or more) home runs a year. So it’s a constant level of focus … trying to minimize that. … You can throw a pitch and know it’s going to happen before it even happens. As soon as you doubt yourself, and doubt your pitch selection … you can feel exactly when a home run is about to come. It’s awful. Time slows down (after you throw the pitch); you know you’re going to get punished.”

For more coverage of the SABR Analytics Conference, visit Follow along live on Twitter by searching for the hashtag #SABRanalytics or reading live tweets from our account (@SABR) and from other conference attendees.

Originally published: March 16, 2012. Last Updated: March 16, 2012.