Phillies Pitching Coach Bob McClure Isn’t A Huge Fan of Stats

The Phillies appeared to be jumping into the 21st century when they promoted Scott Freedman from analytics extern to a full-time employee. At long last, we thought, the Phillies would join the other 29 Major League Baseball teams and embrace the utility of analytics.

That still may be true, but new pitching coach Bob McClure — Rich Dubee’s replacement — isn’t a big fan of using numbers. Via Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly:

McClure’s keep-it-simple style won’t include bombarding his pitchers with analytical data. He believes too much of that can get in the way of executing the pitch.

“So many organizations are getting into the computer and data and number crunching,” he said. “There’s a lot of good old-school baseball people here and that intrigued me.

“I use it. I think there’s a place for old school with the new stuff and a place for new stuff with the old school. I think a mixture is good. But for me, I think it can be overdone.”

To McClure’s credit, he isn’t outright dismissive of numbers the way GM Ruben Amaro has been in the past. But his “I use it” reeks of the same tone of voice I use when I say “I eat vegetables” as I dip a double-battered french fry into a pile of ketchup.

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17 comments

  1. JM

    February 14, 2014 08:49 PM

    He doesn’t invade the pitchers minds…maybe he plants it all in the catcher…in that sense, I would agree with the approach…

  2. Larrylafite

    February 14, 2014 10:25 PM

    Oh god help us… Please make this stop

  3. Larrylafite

    February 14, 2014 10:28 PM

    Does anyone get the irony here…eagles…chip Kelly – he’s not outside of the box…he made a whole new container. Hinkie and brown…the kings of analytics…and the Reuben…hey gotta trust our scouts…just shoot me

  4. Bob

    February 14, 2014 11:47 PM

    Why don’t they play the percentages?

  5. sweatingisnormal

    February 15, 2014 12:25 AM

    Think you may be slating your narrative a bit. I went back and read everything I could find on McClure – he’s hardly backwards; he’s more coaching as zen, then anything else. He talks about mechanics and such traditional pitching coaching methods as he does analytics….all part of the mix. This write up smacks of main stream media writer tactics – it’s quite unfair. Shame on you.

    • Bob

      February 15, 2014 02:26 AM

      DL: In a more general sense, what is your opinion of using data when working with pitchers?

      BM: It depends on what kind of data. I think that makeup… where is the data on makeup? Where is the data on a guy being able to throw the ball real slow in a situation where there are 40,000 fans yelling at you, with the bases loaded on a 3-2 count? That takes feel, conviction, and an understanding of how to pitch.

  6. Rob

    February 15, 2014 10:41 AM

    Your headline isn’t supported by what’s in that article at all.

    Also, that fangraphs interview seems to reveal a thoughtful and knowledgable baseball mind. If you’re upset that he says a pitcher needs to have feel, conviction and understanding of how to pitch, you might have too much of a one track mind.

  7. dave

    February 15, 2014 11:34 AM

    Im not totally worried about McClure. I think he has a point with some of the younger pitchers, where u dont want to have them floating up to their eyeballs in data when they are struggling to throw strikes. I think using stats and getting deeper into the strategy is useful for the more veteren pitchers who are already comfortable on the mound, but keeping it simple is a great tactic for the young guys especially in the pen.

  8. JB Allen

    February 15, 2014 02:27 PM

    Is it possible that Salisbury asked a leading question? Do MLB pitching coaches really use statistics in their interactions with pitchers? I would understand if coaches use data to frame how they coach players, but do they actually unload that data directly onto their players?

    I think there are dangerous mindsets out there other than “stats are bad.” For example, maybe the have Phillies sucked at developing players because they aren’t comfortable with just letting them play (see Brown, Domonic).

  9. Corn

    February 15, 2014 02:36 PM

    Dear god I haven’t been here in a while, what happened to the site layout?!?!

  10. Ryan

    February 15, 2014 03:45 PM

    McClure will be just fine (and he actually appears to embrace analytics a good bit as well). He’s absolutely right that you don’t want these guys–particularly the young pitchers–thinking TOO MUCH when they’re out there. Analytics is far more important for the coach/catchers to utilize as they guide the players. Cliff Lee, one of the most analytically sound pitchers for his k/bb ratio, but embraces the axiom of just going out and throwing to the mitt, not over thinking. Over thinking can screw up a pitchers’ mechanics immensely.

  11. pedro3131

    February 15, 2014 04:49 PM

    In terms of a pitching coach interacting with a pitcher why would they bother bringing analytics into the conversation? Say what you need to say to get your guy to execute, and leave the statistics to pitch selection and substitutions

  12. Robby Bonfire

    February 16, 2014 04:14 PM

    I don’t think a P.C. needs to be statistics-oriented. I do think a G.M. needs to know ~everything~ as regards percentages and statistics, especially par production numbers for each position. This club had a manager, who of course is now back on the “fatted calf” payroll, who didn’t know that a lead-off hitter is supposed to, well, get on base with some frequency above 30 per cent. Got to say RAJ + The Human Mule = a new low for a sports management sinkhole.

  13. SJHaack

    February 16, 2014 11:41 PM

    Bill this is your mother.

    I put green beans in your freezer the last time I visited, and I know they’re still there. Billy, eat the green beans. They taste good and they’re good for you.

  14. brent

    February 17, 2014 06:25 PM

    How would the Phils respond to this then?

    ScienceDaily: Your source for the latest research news
    Featured Research
    from universities, journals, and other organizations
    Better batters from brain-training research: Baseball player study significantly improves vision, reduces strikeouts
    Date:
    February 17, 2014
    Source:
    University of California, Riverside
    Summary:
    UC Riverside baseball players who participated in novel brain-training research saw significant improvement in vision, resulting in fewer strikeouts and more hits. The experiment demonstrated that improvements from a multiple perceptual-learning approach transfer to real-world tasks.
    Share This
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    More options
    Four words no baseball player wants to hear: Strike three. You’re out.

    The University of California, Riverside’s baseball team heard those words less frequently in the 2013 season after participating in novel brain-training research that significantly improved the vision of individual players and may have added up to four or five games to the win column.
    The results of that study appear in a paper, “Improved vision and on-field performance in baseball through perceptual learning,” published in the Feb. 17 issue of the peer-reviewed Current Biology.
    Most studies of visual abilities focus on mechanisms that might be used to improve sight, such as exercising the ocular muscles. Improvements in vision resulting from those experiments typically do not transfer to real-world tasks, however.
    A team of UCR psychologists — professors Aaron Seitz and Daniel Ozer and recent Ph.D. graduate Jenni Deveau — combined multiple perceptual-learning approaches to determine if improvements gained from an integrated, perceptual learning-based training program would transfer to real-world tasks.
    They did.
    Before the start of the 2013 NCAA Division 1 baseball season the UCR researchers assigned 19 baseball players to complete 30 25-minute sessions of a vision-training video game Seitz developed. Another 18 team members received no training. Players who participated in the training saw a 31 percent improvement in visual acuity — some gaining as much as two lines on the Snellen eye chart — and greater sensitivity to contrasts in light.
    “The vision tests demonstrate that training-based benefits transfer outside the context of the computerized training program to standard eye charts,” Seitz said. “Players reported seeing the ball better, greater peripheral vision and an ability to distinguish lower-contrast objects.”
    The researchers found that the trained players had 4.4 percent fewer strikeouts — a decrease not experienced in the rest of the Big West Conference. The UCR team also scored 41 more runs than projected after controlling for skills improvements players would be expected to gain over the course of a season. Ozer arrived at this number by using the runs-created formula developed by baseball historian and statistician Bill James.
    The longtime baseball fan then used the Pythagorean Winning Percentage formula, a statistical tool used by sabermetricians to compute a team’s wins and losses based upon their runs scored and runs allowed, to estimate that the training resulted in as many as four or five more wins.
    (The team had a season record of 22-32, but later was forced to vacate eight wins due to an ineligible player.)
    UCR’s year-over-year improvements were at least three times greater than the rest of the league in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, walks and strikeouts, the researchers determined.
    “Elite baseball batters use various kinds of sensory information to be successful batters, but most weight is given to visual feedback,” Seitz said. “This has motivated other vision-training approaches to focus on exercising the ocular muscles, producing mixed results. Our integrated training program is unique in that we focus on training the brain to better respond to the input it receives from the eyes and in that we examined both standard measures of vision as well as real-world performance in elite players. The improvements are substantial and significantly greater than that experienced by players in the rest of the league in the same year.”
    Baseball is a very visual game, and the ability of batters to tell the difference between pitches and ball speeds is critical, longtime UCR Head Baseball Coach Doug Smith said in explaining why he allowed his players to participate in the research. “I thought if this would help our players see more clearly we would have a chance to make a big breakthrough,” he said.
    Baseball players typically have excellent vision, so the extent of improvement surprised the researchers. After completing the vision-training program, some players’ vision improved to 20/7.5. This means that what the average person can read at 7.5 feet away these players can read at a distance of 20 feet. Normal vision using the Snellen eye chart is 20/20. The UCR researchers said it’s too early to know if changes in vision were solely responsible for the improved play or if brain-training combined with unmeasured factors bettered batting performance.
    Smith was surprised, too.
    “I didn’t think we would see as much of an improvement as we did,” he said. “Our guys stopped swinging at some pitches and started hitting at others. Their average strikeout total went down and batting went up. There is such a high percentage of failure in our game. Even the best players fail (to hit) 70 percent of the time. Everyone is looking for an edge to be that little bit better. Our guys are more confident now when they come to the plate.”
    The research results strongly suggest that an integrated approach to perceptual learning-based training has great potential to help not only athletes looking to optimize their visual skills but also individuals with low vision engaged in everyday tasks, the psychologists concluded.
    “We use vision for many daily tasks, including driving, watching TV, or reading,” Deveau said. “This type of vision training can help improve not only sports performance, but many of these activities in non-athletes as well.”
    Seitz, Deveau and Ozer are beginning a second year of study with the UCR baseball team and will add the UCR women’s softball team to the research project this season.
    Story Source:
    The above story is based on materials provided by University of California, Riverside. The original article was written by Bettye Miller. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
    Journal Reference:
    Jenni Deveau, Daniel J. Ozer, Aaron R. Seitz. Improved vision and on-field performance in baseball through perceptual learning. Current Biology, 2014; 24 (4): R146 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.01.004
    Cite This Page:

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