Stats are easy to get caught up in and whether you use them or not, I want to show you how being more specific in your stats will help improve your team.
If you want your players to improve then you’ve got to teach them AND measure them. Discover which stats can help make the measuring easier.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I’m NOT what you’d call a “math person”! In fact numbers kind of make my head go crazy – and yet, I LOVE looking at stats. Weird, I know, but let me tell you why.
I know that really, statistics are nothing but math, and yet I love them for the following reasons:
- They’re unemotional – and since I tend to be the opposite, stats help me see what my emotion can often miss, or overlook.
- They’re measuring sticks – stats tell you a story and are simply ways of measuring performances. You can use them to measure anything from improvement, to dominance to efficiency to command. Anything you might stress in practice can be measured using stats.
- They’re specific –as coaches, we often stress things to our players and feel we’re being specific, and yet we probably aren’t. Stats are a great way for us to get more specific to our players and help them see the parts of their performances that were solid, and those parts where they could use some improvement.
To illustrate this, I love looking at the stats from Max Scherzer’s first career no-hitter on June 20, 2015, when he was with the Washington Nationals and no-hit the Pittsburgh Pirates. Scherzer threw all 9 innings, with 109 pitches and 17 strikeouts. While we don’t really need stats to tell us this was a tremendous outing, a look at some of his specific stat categories will help us help our own players.
Let’s take the concept of your pitchers “getting ahead in the count”. It’s no doubt something you’ve preached a million times to your pitchers and your measuring stick has probably been – either they did, or they didn’t…not too specific. In the case of Scherzer’s stats, his category looks like this:
|Working Ahead in Count Grade: A-||grade|
|1st pitch strike %||68%||A+|
|1 of first 2 pitches for strike %||86%||B-|
|2 of first 3 pitches for strikes %||68%||A-|
|% of 0-1 counts that became 0-2 counts||79%||A+|
|% of 1-1 counts that became 1-2 counts||57%||B|
Instead of something as vague as “getting ahead in the count” these more specific stat categories now have 5 measurables from which your pitchers can earn individual grades (based on their % during the game – which needs to be skill level specific), and a cumulative grade for the entire category of “working ahead in the count”. Max can see that even though he threw a no-hitter, and got an A- for this category, he could still work on converting 1-1 counts to 1-2 counts.
Another difficult concept for coaches to teach and measure is the concept of “fight”, as in “come on Cindy, you’ve got to keep fighting”. So let’s look at how something as vague as “fight” can be specifically measured and graded in stats. In stat language it’s called Battle Tendency – which I think is a terrific term. Here’s what Max Scherzer’s looked like for his no-hitter:
|Battle Tendency: A+||grade|
|% of runners who scored||0%||A+|
|% of 2-0, 2-1, & 3 ball counts that ended up in outs||100%||A+|
Both of these measurable are far more specific than simply “did she fight?” or “did she try and come back in the count?”. Measuring the percentage of runners who ended up scoring tells the pitcher that “it’s ok to get baserunners, just fight to make sure they don’t score. This keeps it from being a blame game between the pitcher and the fielders and gets the pitcher to focus in more on making sure once runners get into scoring position, she makes quality pitches. And I LOVE the last measurable that basically tells the pitcher how well she did once she fell behind in the count. Telling players to do something is one thing, but being able to measure that thing during a game helps the player see those things she does well, as well as the things she could definitely work on to improve.
For more help with STATS that Matter, check out the following: