Lately, stories have been leaking out about Brett Myers and some of the reasons why he chose to stay in Houston. Specifically, he said that new pitching coach Brad Arnsberg is a big reason why he signed his extension and that Arnie has helped him tremendously this season.
I'm going to do a more in-depth look at the pitchers on the team through Pitch F/X to see how Arnsberg might have helped each one, but I'll save that for after the season. Now, I just want to talk about him, 'the plan' and whether a team can be sabermetrically inclined without ever relying on sabermetric numbers.
Before Justice's piece hit the Chronicle, this one by Brian McTaggart caught my eye and made me want to write this story. Brad Arnsberg has a plan. His plan for each pitcher is meticulously researched and tailored specifically for that player against that team. All across the different articles, he's praised for his work ethic and preparation. So, what goes into these plans?
I'm sure it's stuff like "fastballs out of the zone work with this team" or "curves in the dirt to Ryan Howard will do the trick," but I wouldn't be surprised if they are more detailed than that. The Astros no doubt have access to a ton of information that Arnsberg could use to break down a lineup. He's probably got video scouting on player's at-bats. He's got advanced scouting reports on how they've been doing. He could even dive into some of the numbers on splits and first-pitch swings and the like.
But, more importantly, he's doing research outside of the traditional scouting reports and not just breaking down video of an individual guy's mechanics. It seemed like Dewey Robinson, the previous pitching coach, was more worried about how the Astros' starter was throwing and where he was at, rather than giving the guys something concrete they could take into each start. I could be entirely wrong. I just never read anything like what Arnsberg is doing with Robinson.
That's what made me want to expand on these plans. Basically, what saberists try to do is look at the game in non-traditional ways. When SABR and Bill James first started popularizing different evaluation methods for players, all people had were batting average, RBIs and home runs. Sure, some wise teams were using lefty/righty split numbers and even individual matchup numbers to determine who should go into games in different situations.
What Arnsberg is doing takes that a step further, it seems. He's using the information given to him to create unique plans for each pitcher. How is that different from using Pitch F/X to see how a guy is throwing? Basically, it seems like Arnsberg is using saber principles in his scouting reports for players heading into games without relying on just the numbers. He's being analytical about his game plan and not just relying on scouting jargon or non-measurables.
At least, that's what it seems like from the outside. The truth of these plans could be entirely different. It does make me pretty hopeful about the organization, though. We here at TCB have often questioned whether the Astros front office makes decisions based on advanced statistics or if they are still living in the old ways of scouting reports and nothing else. Certainly, Ed Wade's assertion that Pedro Feliz would hit 20 home runs at MMP seemed to echo the latter and not the former. But, if the coaching staff is using different ways to evaluate players and set game plans, is that enough? Sure, I'd rather they looked at more predictive measures before signing a free agent, but I couldn't be happier that one of the coaching staff is taking such a forward-thinking approach to the game.