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How the Red Sox Rebuilt Their Pitching Infrastructure

Discussion in 'Red Sox Forum' started by The Gray Eagle, Jan 4, 2019.

  1. The Gray Eagle

    The Gray Eagle Member SoSH Member

    Really interesting article by Speier on how the Red Sox have built and improved their pitching staff in the past couple of seasons.

    “We feel like we’re in a good place. I feel like we’ve come a long way in the last couple years,” said assistant GM Brian O’Halloran. “It’s systemic.
    “Pitching is a constant adjustment. I think our guys, our coaches, are positioned well. They have the expertise to figure out how to get the most out of guys.”

    Seems before the Red Sox acquire a pitcher, the organization meets, including Brian Bannister and Dana LeVangie, who try to figure out what that pitcher might become if he joins the team, rather than what he currently is.

    Brian Bannister says:
    “Before we make any transaction, everybody collaborates on creating more upside for this player,” said Bannister. “You get it from the analysts upstairs, I’ll make my list of potential tweaks, Dana and [bullpen coach] Craig Bjornson will put out what they would do, and that is all out there and everybody is aware of it before we even make a transaction.

    “And then even when you get the player, you start rearranging the pieces a little bit and trying to fulfill some of those player development goals, but you’ve also got to figure out what the player is capable of, what’s comfortable for him, what ultimately works and what doesn’t.

    “But we rarely make a transaction where we’re just hoping to get the player as is and just let him do his thing. There’s always a player development layer on top of it with everybody involved.”

    "Pitchers represent still-moldable balls of clay rather than fully formed objects. When it became clear that Jacob deGrom wasn’t on the table as an option, LeVangie and other members of the organization identified Eovaldi as a prime target, not just for what he’d been doing in his return from Tommy John but also for what they believed he might be able to do with some small tweaks to his delivery and plan of attack.

    “Nate fit the profile for how we could maximize our season and give us a chance to win a World Series,” said LeVangie. “He was a guy I felt like there was more in the tank for what he’d been leading up to that.

    “When Nate came to us, Nate’s fastball was probably not a good swing-and-miss option. It wasn’t his best pitch. We tried to put all that information together. What does that mean? Does it mean Nathan can’t throw a fastball?”

    Of course not. Eovaldi could easily summon 98-100 mile-per-hour velocity and throw it consistently for strikes. But even with elite velocity, a number of the righthander’s pitches ended up in the middle of the strike zone, where they were vulnerable to homers.

    After a bit more than a month with the Sox, Eovaldi — long praised for his coachability — was eager to listen to the suggestions of the coaching staff. LeVangie suggested moving from the middle of the rubber to the first-base side, where his cutter more easily swept to the edge of the plate and off of it as opposed to staying over the middle.

    Bannister suggested incorporating a bit more rock-and-fire, back-to-front movement in his delivery to become less rotational and to improve his extension on pitches, which permitted him to elevate his fastball. The Sox encouraged Eovaldi to make greater use of his curveball, dropping it at the bottom of the strike zone and below it to create vertical separation in his pitches.

    After a poor start against the White Sox on Aug. 31, Nathan Eovaldi implemented a number of changes, including a move from the middle of the rubber to the first-base side (with a corresponding change in his release point of roughly 5-6 inches), while also pitching to different locations. All of his pitches became significantly more effective — and significantly less vulnerable to homers — after the change."

    Eovaldi develops 100 MPH paint:


    The Pitching Evaluation Development Research Organization system:
    "...with (David) Bush and Bannister able to answer player questions in seconds rather than minutes or hours, the team (led by analyst Spencer Bingol) developed the Pitching Evaluation Development Research Optimization (PEDRO) system — yes, it’s an homage to Pedro Martinez — to make its pitching database available via mobile phone. That database, in turn, allows casual, steady conversations about pitcher mechanics, location, sequencing, and plans of attack that are informed by numbers and easily visualized data."

    Can PEDRO find us a bullpen on the cheap? Maybe.
    "It is a significant part of the team’s planning for next year. At a time when the bullpen is still being formed, part of the Red Sox’ comfort in waiting for the right market conditions on relievers comes from the success they’ve had working with numerous pitchers in recent years.

    The Red Sox believe they have some flexibility to consider looking beyond pedigree in order to find late-innings impact from pitchers who may not have the track record of Kimbrel or David Robertson but who, with a few subtle tweaks, may be able to help offset the loss of Kimbrel and Kelly."
  2. InstaFace

    InstaFace MDLzera

    I love everything about that article, but especially that their pitching-analytics machine was quite intentionally acronymed PEDRO.

    I do wonder what Pedro (the man himself) thinks of all this, since the Sox have been known to rely on his intuition and occasionally on his intervention in helping various pitchers on the staff.
  3. BaseballJones

    BaseballJones goalpost mover SoSH Member

    Talking to a buddy of mine last year (he's an Astros fan) and he pointed out that at every level of baseball, their organization's teams led their respective leagues in strikeouts (pitching). I asked why that was and he simply said, "They've figured something out." Not positive what it was that they figured out - scouting, approach, metrics, analytics, mechanics, whatever. But it sounds like the Red Sox are on to something as well.
  4. Minneapolis Millers

    Minneapolis Millers Member SoSH Member

    This is exactly the stuff we want to read in January, when we're all agitating over the holes in our bullpen. Gives hope that we'll get and might already have diamonds in the rough that are soon to be polished up!
  5. Pitt the Elder

    Pitt the Elder Member SoSH Member

    That graphic is a beautiful thing
  6. DeadlySplitter

    DeadlySplitter Member SoSH Member

    Cynical here but Sale being better than his White Sox version is a credit to us? Is it really?
  7. themactavish

    themactavish lurker

    Not long after Eovaldi came to the Sox, I remember seeing footage of Pedro working with him. The Sox announcers mentioned on air that Pedro had seen something and volunteered his services. I believe it was after Eovaldi's third start, the bad one against Baltimore. They didn't discuss what Pedro had to tell him, but you could see that it had to do with Eovaldi's landing. From the looks of it Pedro was commenting on Eovaldi's flat-footed landing. Eovaldi looked very engaged, eager to listen and learn. What a great resource the Sox have in Martinez.
  8. SydneySox

    SydneySox A dash of cool to add the heat SoSH Member

    I wonder if this is the reason - the system and suggestions - Carson Smith was so upset with the organisation.
  9. Average Reds

    Average Reds Dope Staff Member Dope V&N Mod SoSH Member

    Anything is possible, but it's hard to square Smith being dissatisfied with the organizational philosophy with the fact that he just signed a minor league deal.

    I tend to think it's more about Smith being an (emotional and immature) pro athlete frustrated by injury.
  10. Scott Cooper's Grand Slam

    Scott Cooper's Grand Slam Member SoSH Member

    Not necessarily. According to the article, the Sox targeted Eovaldi when they realized that they could not acquire DeGrom. PEDRO might improve Sale and it might improve DeGrom, but it’s also possible that the Sale acquisition was essentially “see stud, get stud.”
  11. Rasputin

    Rasputin Will outlive SeanBerry Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    Be one of the best in the game. Go to a place where you can be a key piece in doing the one thing everyone in the game wants to do. Get hurt. Work your way back. Get hurt again.

    You're gonna be frustrated.

    It's the second most beautiful thing in there.
    Oh dear God, yes.
  12. Dick Pole Upside

    Dick Pole Upside Member SoSH Member

    I really enjoyed the article as well. The ultimate rebuke to Cafardo’s bleating...

    Speier is consistently thoughtful and provocative.

    As for the Sox, there’s an admission that talent still matters; while PEDRO optimizes, DD still needs to get some better arms into the system.
  13. DeadlySplitter

    DeadlySplitter Member SoSH Member

    Brian Bannister was a great hire, I forget if that was DD or Cherington. Keeping Levangie was also good by Cora.
  14. Reverend

    Reverend for king and country Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    I love the fact that Bannister explicitly has two titles to make clear that he's not just an analytics guy: He's also a coach.

    Like, one might not think you'd have to slap the second hat on him to get players to listen to the VP of player development, but understanding the players is a thing too. So he's assistant pitching coach Bannister. I love it.
  15. Timduhda

    Timduhda lurker

    I believe he was hired the year before DD came to the Sox, im not sure though.

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