Looking at gaining edge, some players utilize video
DETROIT - Major leaguers have access to an array of video to scout opponents and themselves, analyzing mechanics on the mound and swings at the plate thanks to cutting-edge editing equipment.
Giants All-Star closer Brian Wilson could push a couple buttons on a computer and see within seconds how other righthanders with similar stuff struck out Tigers All-Star Miguel Cabrera on fastballs the previous two weeks.
Wilson, though, shuns the activity.
“I don’t watch video,’’ he said. “I’m sure at some point later in my career, I’ll want to utilize video. But right now, I pitch to my strengths. I don’t care who’s hitting.’’
Jim Leyland likes how Wilson thinks.
The Tigers manager said there’s a place for video in baseball, but believes it can also become a crutch.
“One of my pet peeves is everybody thinks video is the cure-all,’’ Leyland said recently. “Every time they don’t have a good at-bat, they want to look at video. Every time they give up a hit, they want to look at video . . . stare at yourself, striking out and giving up runs.
“I can take 1,000 pictures of myself. I’m not very good looking. It’s not going to change.’’
Count St. Louis superstar Albert Pujols among the many players who take full advantage of the video made available by their teams.
“If Albert makes the first out in the inning, he’ll be in here to watch the at-bat before he goes out to play defense,’’ Cardinals video director Chad Blair said. “And the rest of our guys are pretty much the same way.’’
The Cardinals, who have three camera angles at home and one on the road, have the same computer program used by most of the teams in major league baseball.
“We’re putting the game in pitch by pitch as it happens,’’ said Blair, who has four full-time assistants. “As the at-bat ends, a guy’s name pops up. Click your name and there’s your at-bats and all the different angles we have.’’
It works the same way to scout opponents.
Tigers All-Star catcher Alex Avila hit the road this past week with his iPad packed and uploaded with edited video of the Angels and Royals hitters, helping him and the pitching staff get ready to face each team.
“We use it every day when myself and the pitchers go over the game plan,’’ Avila said. “We’ll go over video of their hitters against guys similar in style and stuff and see how they got guys out.
“You have to use it now because everybody is using it.’’
Offensively, though, Avila acknowledges there’s a fine line between doing your homework on opposing pitchers or analyzing yourself at the plate and clouding your mind with too much information for what ultimately becomes a game of reflexes and split-second decisions.
“A lot of guys will tell you when they’re doing well, they don’t look at video,’’ Avila said. “When you’re doing bad, you look at video.
“It can be good if you’re missing something, say a pitcher is getting you out a certain way and you can’t figure it out. You can look at video and try to make a correction. But it can be bad because it can play with your psyche if you’re constantly looking at bad at-bats when you’re failing, it puts a little bit of doubt in the back of your mind and you can’t have that.’’
When doubt creeps into a young player’s head, Padres manager Bud Black believes video can be a great tool.
“Some guys who come into the minors or even majors have difficulty understanding when somebody tells them they’re doing something wrong,’’ Black said.
“They were the greatest Little League player, high school player and in many cases college player on their team. So it’s tough for them to understand it.
“Sometimes video can be the easiest way to show them what they need to correct.’’