Baseball has evolved into a numbers game. Over the years, players and coaches have kept tabs on personal statistics — or even data analysis in sabermetrics — to adapt their approaches on the baseball field.
But the methods aren't adopted by everyone.
Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure is one guy who has never bought into the number-crunching philosophy.
When McClure was the Royals' pitching coach, he watched pitcher Brian Bannister monitor his statistics to the T.
"Brian Bannister was huge on that. He used to talk to me about it all the time — trying to be a ground ball pitcher instead of a fly ball pitcher," McClure said.
To McClure, forcing ground balls isn't a numbers question — it's just "common sense." Fly balls are more likely to go for extra-base hits than ground balls.
"Do you need sabermetrics to figure that out?" McClure asked. "If I can get the ball on the ground, my chance of having less pitches and having less damage done is [good], you know."
McClure is a former pitcher, so he holds some clout. Through 19 seasons in Major League Baseball, he went 68-57 with a 3.81 ERA.
And relying on personal statistics ultimately didn't help Bannister too much. After a promising start to his career in 2007, the pitcher couldn't maintain that pace, making his last major league appearance in 2010.
Kevin Youkilis is among players aware of their numbers, especially on the heels of his rocky start. But as a veteran who's been in this position before, he doesn't place too much stock on statistics in April, considering the marathon of the season.
"I was in this spot last year," Youkilis said. "Through eight games, I was hitting .125. I found a way to have not the best season in my career, but bounced back."
The idea of studying statistics is popular in the front office, but in the clubhouse, it's still all about taking one pitch and one at-bat at a time.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) is offering 100 healthy tips to celebrate Fenway Park’s centennial. Visit 100pitches.org to learn more.
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