xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Baseball science: Prep coaches embrace statistics, technology

Manchester Valley sophomore Matt Nathan uses an iPad during the Mavericks' game against North Carroll May 10 in Manchester. MV coach Shawn Hampt is one of several Carroll coaches who use advanced statistics and technology to evaluate players and set lineups.
Manchester Valley sophomore Matt Nathan uses an iPad during the Mavericks' game against North Carroll May 10 in Manchester. MV coach Shawn Hampt is one of several Carroll coaches who use advanced statistics and technology to evaluate players and set lineups. (DAVE MUNCH/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

Back in the late-1970s when baseball writer and statistician Bill James began compiling baseball statistics of every nature, it's unlikely many thought it would reach the level it's at today.

Baseball has always been a game of numbers and technology has made them easier to compile and analyze. From James came the "science" of sabermetrics. Major league teams were slow to catch on, but by the time Brad Pitt was playing Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane in "Moneyball," every organization was sold on the belief that careful analysis of statistics could help them win.

Now, it's all trickling down to the high school level.

Several Carroll coaches, many armed with computers in the dugout, are taking the same approach as Beane and his brethren when it comes to evaluating their rosters and putting players in the best spots for them to succeed.

Manchester Valley's Shawn Hampt is one of them.

Using all kinds of percentages and probabilities, Hampt is able to get his point across to his players in a way they can understand. Although he doesn't share all his stats with players, he lets them know reasons for why certain outcomes are happening based on the numbers.

"I teach science, so I am all about the numbers. You need something in our day and age of having reasons for things to back you up," Hampt said. "It makes your arguments and explanations to kids that much more profound.

"If a player has a horrible on-base percentage, I can look and maybe it's that he is swinging at the first pitch too much or something else that shows in the numbers."

Having played at Liberty and Towson University in the last decade before becoming Liberty's coach this year, Jim Miller has also embraced the modern-era statistics.

From how a player hits in a certain count to how often they make good contact, Miller said the advanced metrics play a big role in how he teaches his players.

But being a former player himself, it can sometimes to be hard for Miller's eyes to believe what the numbers say.

"Our lead-off hitter Justin Keller had been batting ninth since the beginning of the season and I didn't see him as the lead-off type," Miller said. "But the numbers kept saying he was a lead-off hitter, so I made the switch and it's really worked out."

Since coaching in the early 1990s at North Carroll, current Francis Scott Key coach Craig Walker has witnessed the transformation in how baseball people evaluate players.

While no Bill James, Walker has his own method of evaluating hitters that is a little less complicated. Rating every swing on a 0-6 scale, Walker comes up with an average that tells him how successful a player is hitting.

Walker only made his return to the dugout because the Eagles were unable to secure a coach in time for the season. Because of the special circumstances and given that his tenure is scheduled to last only this season, Walker decided not to delve into the sea of numbers but he doesn't dismiss the merit.

"I'm kind of overwhelmed by all the the stats and the computerization of it," Walker. "But I can see where the younger to medium-age coaches would really get into it and just take off with it."

Like Walker, first-year North Carroll coach Jason Cashen uses what he calls a hitting matrix that he got from his uncle. Cashen also mixes in the newer stats as well, but when it comes to making a tough call, he goes the old-fashioned way.

"It's hard to argue with numbers," Cashen said. "But I do think people can rely too much on stats to make the final call. The final call, I feel, has to be a gut feeling. Sometimes you can just see when a kid is due."

And this time of year, with the prep playoffs in full swing, one seemingly small or obscure statistic could mean the difference between prolonging a season or elimination.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement