It's game day and you're excited to see your favorite team play. You get to the ballpark two hours early and hang around the stadium, wandering from one section to another, watching batting practice, sipping a beer. About thirty minutes before the game starts, you notice the night's starting pitcher walk out to the bullpen with his pitching coach. After some stretches and a few sips of Gatorade, the pitcher gets on the mound and starts throwing the ball to the bullpen catcher. Off to the side, the pitching coach (or someone else you can't recognize because he's wearing one of those damned hoodies) is writing something on a clipboard after each pitch. You know he's keeping a chart of some kind, but what exactly is he marking down?
Thanks to intrepid ballhawk Zack Hample, who is as serious about documenting the nooks and crannies of a ballgame as he is about collecting baseballs, we have this great picture of the Tampa Bay Rays pre-game pitching chart.
Photo credit: Zack Hample. Click for larger view.
Some thoughts on the chart:
- "Starter: Hernandez." How great would that have been if it said "Starter:
- There are times for "Toss", "On-mound", "Catcher down", and "Finish". Assuming that "Toss" means "warm-up tosses," it makes sense to separate those from the on-the-mound pitches. What's the point in having separate entries for "On-mound" and "Catcher down," though? What do the Rays expect their pitchers to do before the catcher gets down? Grill a steak? Patch up a tweed coat?
- Start and stop times for the national anthem are also included. This is clearly for the team's in-house prop bets. I hear Evan Longoria is really great at predicting the anthem length.
- The bulk of the chart is for actual pitch tracking. Each pitch is given it's own box, with the strike zone clearly marked. The numbers seem to tell us what pitch was thrown, with their location in the strike zone signifying where the catcher placed the target. The circles mark where the ball was pitched.
- Of the 26 warm-up pitches charted, Hernandez hit his mark nine times. Only one of those pitches were with his fastball.
- There are two other marks on the chart. Before pitch number one, there's a small "W" with a circle around it. Further down the second row, between pitches 17 and 18, there's another mark with a circle around it. Possibly an "S". Could these be marks for who was tracking the pitches at the time? Or perhaps the Rays were having a debate over who was the more "commanding" partner, Wonder Woman or Superman?
- Nice manicure, anonymous Rays coach.
- "Look at my face!"
- Shady Brady.
It's always great to get a peek into the real, actual, in-game tools and reports that Major League clubs use. It's so easy to speculate about how clubs operate and what they care about that it's refreshing to get taste of the truth.
That said, the only thing I really find myself caring about is what other comments are written on that clipboard. Come on, Shady Brady! Give us a glimpse!