GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It used to be that pitching coaches learned their new pitchers by watching them throw.
That’s still a big part of it, but not all of it anymore.
Reds pitching coach Mack Jenkins is using statistical analysis and data from spring training to learn his pitchers.
“I’m just trying to get a base line on where guys are,” Jenkins said. “We have 36 healthy pitchers here. Twenty-one weren’t here last year. We’re actually getting what they did in 2016 as far as their extension. We get so many data points from the analysts: not just what pitches they threw, how hard, what kind of movement, what were the angles.
“As we get into these games, we’ll see where they should be compared to last year’s successes. If they didn’t have successes in the minor leagues, they wouldn’t be here.”
Mack melds the old data with what the Reds are measuring in spring training.
“We actually have the TrackMan system set up on Field 1 where we took live (batting practice),” Mack said. “I just want to take advantage of it.”
TrackMan measures extension, spin rate and velocity.
Mack has been with the Reds 30 years. He is the longest-tenured uniformed employee. But he’s an old-school guy who’s embraced new-school technology.
“It’s a good tool,” Jenkins said. “We’re really moving forward with all the guys we’ve hired. I enjoy it. I enjoy metering out the information. It doesn’t affect the player. There’s a lot information. You have to have someone filter what is applicable. What helps them pitch better? That’s what I do.
“Sometimes we won’t mention I get this from so-and-so. We’ll get say ‘hey, I noticed this.’ Then they think I’m really smart.”
The game results will separate the new pitchers, but it’s nice to have a base.
“They’re very inexperienced,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “The games will tell us a lot. Statistics tell us some of the story, but in the big picture it’s what we see in their eyes. The other part is evaluating pitching in Arizona can be very challenging. It’s a more offensive spring training league than the Grapefruit League. I think it also turns the heat up on guys and you get a chance to see how they perform under those pressures and challenges. I look forward to it.”
Price won’t play his Opening Day lineup together much — if at all — early.
“Probably more on an every-other-day basis as we begin,” Price said. “We still have to have a representative team. We don’t have a lot of representative representatives, if you know what I mean, that people recognize. We can’t have Joey (Votto) and Billy (Hamilton) out there every day, so I’ll divide it up with three or four of them in there each day.”
Price would like shortstop Zack Cozart to get as much time as possible with with second baseman Jose Peraza.
“I’d like to,” he said. “(But) we’re going to start Zack, probably his first game will be Monday or Tuesday. He’s fine. He could play tomorrow. They want to do some base running stuff with him make sure his legs are conditioned coming off the DL at the end of the year. There’s no reason he couldn’t play. But why rush it with the length of spring training?”
Price wouldn’t say when catcher Devin Mesoraco will play in games.
“I have a sense, but it’s probably not worth talking about because it sets a timeline,” he said. “I’d rather not do that. We’re probably several days from talking about it.”