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  1. Over the past decade, pitch framing has become a hot topic, not only in how we've begun to identify its value, but also in finding methods to quantify it, and coming to grips with its influence on the game. However, I contend that our focus has been far too narrow, and we must look beyond the catcher- in fact, past the backstop, into the stands, up to the media boxes, and directly at the role of play-by-play broadcaster. How the game's on-camera talent describe the action shapes our measurement of every pitch, even when most telecasts have live strike zone graphics present. In this post, we'll be looking at the tendencies of long time Twins play-by-play broadcaster Dick Bremer, who has a very specific methodology: Since it sounds more impressive when a pitcher hits the corner of the strike zone, any and all parts of the strike zone and its immediate surroundings qualify as "The Corner", and will be described as such when the opportunity arises. Our analysis will include video breakdowns of the 11 instances of the word 'corner' being used by Bremer during the Twins' April 17th game versus the Toronto Blue Jays. To quantify each pitch, we will use an Actual Corner Value (how close a pitch actually comes to a corner of the strike zone) as well as a Broadcaster Corner Value (how close the pitch comes to the corner, as perceived and presented by Dick Bremer). Pitch #1: Bottom 2nd, 2 outs, 1-2 https://twitter.com/GoTwinkiesGo/status/1118572113256833025 Pitcher: Aaron Sanchez Throw: 96 mph fastball Result: Strike 3 Dick's call: "On the outside corner, didn't waste it at all. Buried it on the outside corner." Analysis: On a 1-2 pitch, Toronto pitcher Aaron Sanchez throws a 96 mph fastball at the outside edge of the plate, though it lands in the center third of the height of the zone with room to spare. Already, at this first sighting, we understand the challenge presented to Dick due to working on a television broadcast rather than radio, where pitch framing is sometimes less of an art and more the act of a used car salesman, free to invent whatever fiction will sell their desired narrative. Here, on TV, viewers can plainly see that this pitch is not on a corner. Dick, however, is unfazed, and reaches into his bag of tricks, declaring it on the corner not once, but TWICE - and not only stating its location, but insisting that it was BURIED there. This is the act of a seasoned professional, understanding that repetition and commitment are key to manipulating our perception, if not our very understanding of reality. Actual Corner Value (ACV): 4/10 Broadcaster Corner Value (BCV): 10/10 Adjusted score: +6 Pitch #2: Bottom 3rd, 2 outs, 0-0 https://twitter.com/GoTwinkiesGo/status/1118754724696641536 Pitcher: Aaron Sanchez Throw: 96 mph fastball Result: Strike 1 Dick's Call: "Strike on the outside corner." Analysis: Someday, electronic strike zones will lord over our game as unfeeling adjudicators, but until that day, they serve merely as proxy armchair quarterbacks - a tool we rely on as viewers to feel validated in our desire to maim and/or injure the home plate umpire for their imperfections. On this pitch, Fox Trax smugly refuses to fill in the outline of the ball's arrival point, declaring that this pitch was a ball and all those who disagree are filthy heretics. How comforting it is, then, for Dick to step in and remind all of us that in the end, the strike zone is defined solely by what the umpire says it is, no matter how many cameras and scanners say otherwise. This pitch is not outside. It is on the corner. The umpire's corner. ACV: 7/10 BCV: 8/10 Adjusted score: +1 Pitch #3: Top 4th, 1 out, 1-0 https://twitter.com/GoTwinkiesGo/status/1118755023842729984 Pitcher: Kyle Gibson Throw: 94 mph fastball Result: Strike 1 Dick's Call: "And now an outside corner fastball to even the count." Analysis: Kyle Gibson started the 2017 season as someone fans understood to be roster filler, but ended it on an underappreciated upward trend. In 2018, he broke out with his best season to date and cemented his position at the front of the Twins rotation. Now, in 2019, he has started off somewhat shaky, with a suspect ERA and the need to make it deeper into ball games. On this pitch, Dick has his pitcher's back, finding the corner where one does not exist. Catcher Mitch Garver positioned his glove exactly on the corner, and while Kyle missed his target high, he still found the edge and a called strike. For Dick, this is enough. He has earned approbation in the eyes of the telecast. ACV: 5/10 BCV: 8/10 Adjusted score: +3 Pitch #4: Top 6th, 0 outs, 0-1 https://twitter.com/GoTwinkiesGo/status/1118755338788851712 Pitcher: Kyle Gibson Throw: 93 mph fastball Result: Strike 2 Dick's Call: "On the outside corner with a fastball." Analysis: Freddy Galvis must be listening to Dick through AirPods under that helmet, because his face says what we all know in our hearts: That was a meatball of a pitch, and Dick Bremer is a hero for carrying on the cause, however lost it may be. ACV: 2/10 BCV: 7/10 Adjusted score: +5 Pitch #5: Top 6th, 2 outs, 0-0 https://twitter.com/GoTwinkiesGo/status/1118755513288626176 Pitcher: Ryne Harper Throw: 74 mph breaking ball Result: Strike 1 Dick's Call: "Breaking ball on the outside corner, strike one." Analysis: Is this pitch actually in the corner of the strike zone? Yes! The arc of the baseball tucks itself into the furthest nook available to it. In times like these, where no deception is necessary, you might expect that Dick Bremer would bluster and harangue us with unfettered righteousness, knowing that there can be no doubt as to where the ball landed. However, Dick finds a gentle touch in his commentary, content to let the pitch speak for itself, a simple declaration of its corner-ness being satisfactory. It needs no help, and will be allowed to lift its own weight. ACV: 9/10 BCV: 9/10 Adjusted score: 0 Pitch #6: Bottom 6th, 0 outs, 0-0 https://twitter.com/GoTwinkiesGo/status/1118755746894639104 Pitcher: Aaron Sanchez Throw: 94 mph fastball Result: Strike 1 Dick's Call: "Strike on the outside corner." Analysis: A location extremely similar to pitch #2, though now delivered with an additional hint of defeat, as it arrives against the hot bat of Jorge Polanco. Immediately after listing his current bona fides, Polanco falls victim to the quantum state of the umpire's zone. While he was fooled, Dick was not, and he wearily sheds the burden he has carried throughout this pitch, allowing us all to taste from the tree of knowledge. ACV: 9/10 BCV: 9/10 Adjusted score: 0 Pitch #7: Bottom 7th, 2 outs, 0-0 https://twitter.com/GoTwinkiesGo/status/1118756058548170752 Pitcher: Thomas Pannone Throw: 74 mph breaking ball Result: Strike 1 Dick's Call: "Breaking ball over the inside corner." Analysis: The work of a true master is present here, and we must parse the commentary carefully. The Twins are behind, but the tying run is at the plate. Now is the time for hope, and Kepler has watched a first pitch strike sail past him. Does the pitch find the corner? By exact definition, no. However, it is an excellent pitch - if one ignores that catcher Danny Jansen is set up on the exact opposite spot of the strike zone. Dick refuses to give Pannone the total satisfaction of finding the corner - stating that it is simply OVER the corner - while still testifying that it is a fine pitch. By Dick's standards, this is a backhanded compliment. ACV: 8/10 BCV: 9/10 Adjusted score: +1 Pitch #8: Top 8th, 0 outs, 2-2 https://twitter.com/GoTwinkiesGo/status/1118756254917120000 Pitcher: Tyler Duffey Throw: 95 mph fastball Result: Strike 3 Dick's Call: "On the outside corner. 95 on the outside edge or thereabouts, one away." Analysis: NO! This is Duffey's first game back in the majors this season, and wanting to bolster his confidence, our protagonist has overextended himself, daring to go where others fear to tread, well outside the zone and at the exact vertical center. Corners have not existed in these parts since the days of Marty Foster's gift-wrapped delivery of Joe Nathan's 300th save. And yet, with zero hesitation, Dick plants his flag - immediately realizing that he has made a grave error. It will not be enough to double down on his argument, as was the case on Pitch #1. He knows when he has been beaten, and he retreats at the first opportunity. It must also be noted that at the end of the clip, one can hear a chuckle from today's analyst, Jack "Back in My Day" Morris. This will be one of the few times during today's broadcast that I agree with him. ACV: 1/10 BCV: 0/10 Adjusted score: -1 Pitch #9: Bottom 8th, 0 outs, 3-0 https://twitter.com/GoTwinkiesGo/status/1119309223332986880 Pitcher: Joe Biagini Throw: 94 mph fastball Result: Strike 1 Dick's Call: "On the outside corner." Analysis: Matter of fact. All business. The pitch arrived enough within the margin of error that Bremer presents his truth with the cadence of a trusted newsman. ACV: 7/10 BCV: 8/10 Adjusted Score: +1 Pitch #10: Bottom 9th, 0 outs, 0-0 https://twitter.com/GoTwinkiesGo/status/1119309442338541568 Pitcher: Ken Giles Throw: 87 mph "fastball" Result: Strike 1 Dick's Call: "On the outside corner, strike 1." Analysis: The drama is beginning to rise, as the Twins are down to their final 3 outs, behind by a single run, and sending Nelson Cruz to the plate as a pinch hitter. Once again, the ball is only in the corner's general aura, but Dick knows we are too excited to notice, and continues past it without pause. ACV: 6/10 BCV: 8/10 Adjusted score: +2 Pitch 11: Bot 9th, 1 out, 3-1 https://twitter.com/GoTwinkiesGo/status/1119309817019944960 Pitcher: Ken Giles Throw: 97 mph fastball Result: Strike 2 Dick's Call: "Strike two on the outside corner... 97 in a REAL GOOD SPOT." Analysis: Perfection. Mastery. Finally, near the climax of this game, we find what has eluded us: A true corner, spotted in the wild for all of us to enjoy, and Dick refuses to let it go to waste. His initial hushed tones give way to wonder and amazement, before his final accentuation that not only hammers home the exact precision of this corner, but makes us feel that we too knew it all along, even if we didn't happen to be looking at the TV at the time. Even if we didn't know what a strike zone was. All of us, collectively, knew what we had seen. We are enlightened and made whole. We are one with baseball, and one with each other. ACV: 10/10 BCV: 12/10 Adjusted score: +2 Final Score: +20 Adjusted Corner Value This concludes part one of this series. Stay tuned for part two, when we extend our gaze to the rest of the strike zone, and learn about the subtext necessary when one is not allowed to call a professional baseball player a 'belly itcher' and get away with it for long. In the meantime, for my research purposes, please share any high-BCV highlights for your team of choice in the comments.
  2. Part of Paul Molitor's appeal as a managerial candidate for the Minnesota Twins has been his willingness to embrace data and information in ways that his predecessor did not. Not only would Molitor be able to draw from his years of experience in the game but he would also add to it an analytical side that would provide an advantage for his players. As it turns out, not everyone on the team shares the same opinion on sabermetrics.“I think whoever believes in that sabermetrics stuff never played the game and won’t understand it. There’s no way you can measure playing outfield. Only eyes can do that,” the 39-year-old Torii Hunter told a room full of media onlookers, whirling recorders and broadcasting cameras last Wednesday. That would be only the fourth-most troublesome thing he said during the introductory press conference. Here’s the thing about Hunter’s opinion on sabermetrics: It doesn’t matter what he thinks. The stats community releases plenty of deep sighs whenever a player makes a reference to sabermetrics being nothing but a bunch of nerdery for Harry Potter enthusiasts to post on the internet between live-action role playing sessions. It doesn’t matter if Hunter thinks UZR stands for Untamed Zebra Riders and measures space lint; Hunter and other players do not need to know or understand the data, they just need to execute. Take Glen Perkins. Perkins might be the closest thing to a stathead in the major leagues. And though he will tell you he looks at fielding independent pitching numbers to help balance himself between outings, once he hits the field the numbers disappear. ‘‘The only thing I analyze when I’m out there is what stuff I have and what the hitter is doing,’’ he told the Star Tribune’s Jim Souhan in 2013. ‘‘All the numbers, all the stuff that I love, doesn’t play when you’re on the field. None of that stuff is a scouting tool for a player facing another player.’’ Like Hunter, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier wants little to do with the sabermetric fielding data and shares the same sentiment in regard to those who do use it. "Obviously that's part of the game now more than ever. I really don't (pay attention to it) because as far as defensively, sabermetrically, anything like that, I think it's people behind a desk trying to dictate how you play the game," Dozier told FoxSportsNorth.com’s Tyler Mason this past April. "That's not the way the game's been played. Nobody can see what's inside of you.” Haters gonna hate. Players gonna play. In spite of the fact that Hunter may think sabermetrics is on par with unicorn droppings, his new manager Paul Molitor “believes” in the sabermetrics stuff and had played the game a little bit himself. “My reaction to Torii’s sabermetrics declining considerably in the past few years, that doesn’t concern me,” Molitor told reporters in sunsoaked San Diego on Tuesday during the Winter Meetings. “Now you can measure range and all those things, but I’ll take his experience and knowledge and throw him out there with a couple of young outfielders and take my chances with no hesitancy whatsoever. Yeah, he’s 39. He’s not 29. We all get that, but I’m confident about what he’s going to bring to our team from many different areas including not being concerned about his defense.” In not so many words Molitor acknowledged that Hunter’s range has diminished, which is what the sabermetric stats were saying about him all along. The response was a diplomatic managerial answer. Ultimately, Molitor views Hunter’s defense -- at least the portions that are not measured by ultimate zone rating or Inside Edge’s video scouts -- as a significant upgrade over Oswaldo Arcia. “I watched how Scottie [ulger] worked with [Arcia] last year in the outfield, and they’ll go out there in right field and Scottie will hit balls in corner and say this ball is a double. Your objective is not to play it into a triple,” Molitor explained. “During the game someone will hit it down the line and he’ll try to slide and stop the ball before it gets into the corner and it turns a double into a triple.” Choosing to downplay Hunter’s defensive data does not mean Molitor is avoiding the statistical side of the game as a manager. Molitor credits his time around some of the game’s forward-thinkers at the helm, particularly former Brewers manager Tom Trebelhorn. “I was fortunate being around guys like George [bamberger], and Harvey [Kuenn], and a young Buck Rogers in his first time managing, and then a young guy like Tom Trebelhorn comes in and kind of innovative and a new thinker and you learn from that.” Trebelhorn was one of the early adaptors of statistical analysis in the dugout. According to his book “Behind-the-Scenes Baseball”, Doug Decatur recalls his time as a statistical consultant for Trebelhorn and the Brewers, writing over 200 stat reports that he would fax the then-Brewers manager. In 1991, Decatur would provide Trebelhorn with information for best bullpen deployment or batting order optimization, ideas that are almost standard now and available online but were groundbreaking at the time. “I’m learning more about sabermetrics all the time. Obviously, as a coach last year, I was exposed to them at a deeper level than I had been as a minor league player development person,” Molitor said. At the major league level, the available data can be enough to “choke a cow” as hitting coach Tom Brunansky tells it. Or it is like “drinking out of a firehose” as former pitcher Cole Devries described it. For Molitor, as a coach he was able to take it in at a slower pace. The exposure to data last year was something he sought out on his own, according to Twins’ manager of baseball research Jack Goin. When he was hired as a coach, Goin and his team briefed Molitor on what they could provide him and how he could obtain it. From there, Molitor was highly proficient at procuring information and implementing it into action, such as in the form of an increase in infield shifts. Now the team’s manager, Molitor is seemingly headed towards expanding the use of the information but with caution. “I’m going to try to learn what I think is valuable in assessing who plays, lineups, all those type of things. But I’m going to hopefully have enough confidence in myself to have a feel for players, and flow, and season, and momentum where I can trust some of that too. But I think with all the things that are out there, you can overwhelm yourself. But obviously some of it makes sense, and it’s proven to be successful in how managers integrate it into their system both defensively and offensively.” Click here to view the article
  3. “I think whoever believes in that sabermetrics stuff never played the game and won’t understand it. There’s no way you can measure playing outfield. Only eyes can do that,” the 39-year-old Torii Hunter told a room full of media onlookers, whirling recorders and broadcasting cameras last Wednesday. That would be only the fourth-most troublesome thing he said during the introductory press conference. Here’s the thing about Hunter’s opinion on sabermetrics: It doesn’t matter what he thinks. The stats community releases plenty of deep sighs whenever a player makes a reference to sabermetrics being nothing but a bunch of nerdery for Harry Potter enthusiasts to post on the internet between live-action role playing sessions. It doesn’t matter if Hunter thinks UZR stands for Untamed Zebra Riders and measures space lint; Hunter and other players do not need to know or understand the data, they just need to execute. Take Glen Perkins. Perkins might be the closest thing to a stathead in the major leagues. And though he will tell you he looks at fielding independent pitching numbers to help balance himself between outings, once he hits the field the numbers disappear. ‘‘The only thing I analyze when I’m out there is what stuff I have and what the hitter is doing,’’ he told the Star Tribune’s Jim Souhan in 2013. ‘‘All the numbers, all the stuff that I love, doesn’t play when you’re on the field. None of that stuff is a scouting tool for a player facing another player.’’ Like Hunter, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier wants little to do with the sabermetric fielding data and shares the same sentiment in regard to those who do use it. "Obviously that's part of the game now more than ever. I really don't (pay attention to it) because as far as defensively, sabermetrically, anything like that, I think it's people behind a desk trying to dictate how you play the game," Dozier told FoxSportsNorth.com’s Tyler Mason this past April. "That's not the way the game's been played. Nobody can see what's inside of you.” Haters gonna hate. Players gonna play. In spite of the fact that Hunter may think sabermetrics is on par with unicorn droppings, his new manager Paul Molitor “believes” in the sabermetrics stuff and had played the game a little bit himself. “My reaction to Torii’s sabermetrics declining considerably in the past few years, that doesn’t concern me,” Molitor told reporters in sunsoaked San Diego on Tuesday during the Winter Meetings. “Now you can measure range and all those things, but I’ll take his experience and knowledge and throw him out there with a couple of young outfielders and take my chances with no hesitancy whatsoever. Yeah, he’s 39. He’s not 29. We all get that, but I’m confident about what he’s going to bring to our team from many different areas including not being concerned about his defense.” In not so many words Molitor acknowledged that Hunter’s range has diminished, which is what the sabermetric stats were saying about him all along. The response was a diplomatic managerial answer. Ultimately, Molitor views Hunter’s defense -- at least the portions that are not measured by ultimate zone rating or Inside Edge’s video scouts -- as a significant upgrade over Oswaldo Arcia. “I watched how Scottie [ulger] worked with [Arcia] last year in the outfield, and they’ll go out there in right field and Scottie will hit balls in corner and say this ball is a double. Your objective is not to play it into a triple,” Molitor explained. “During the game someone will hit it down the line and he’ll try to slide and stop the ball before it gets into the corner and it turns a double into a triple.” Choosing to downplay Hunter’s defensive data does not mean Molitor is avoiding the statistical side of the game as a manager. Molitor credits his time around some of the game’s forward-thinkers at the helm, particularly former Brewers manager Tom Trebelhorn. “I was fortunate being around guys like George [bamberger], and Harvey [Kuenn], and a young Buck Rogers in his first time managing, and then a young guy like Tom Trebelhorn comes in and kind of innovative and a new thinker and you learn from that.” Trebelhorn was one of the early adaptors of statistical analysis in the dugout. According to his book “Behind-the-Scenes Baseball”, Doug Decatur recalls his time as a statistical consultant for Trebelhorn and the Brewers, writing over 200 stat reports that he would fax the then-Brewers manager. In 1991, Decatur would provide Trebelhorn with information for best bullpen deployment or batting order optimization, ideas that are almost standard now and available online but were groundbreaking at the time. “I’m learning more about sabermetrics all the time. Obviously, as a coach last year, I was exposed to them at a deeper level than I had been as a minor league player development person,” Molitor said. At the major league level, the available data can be enough to “choke a cow” as hitting coach Tom Brunansky tells it. Or it is like “drinking out of a firehose” as former pitcher Cole Devries described it. For Molitor, as a coach he was able to take it in at a slower pace. The exposure to data last year was something he sought out on his own, according to Twins’ manager of baseball research Jack Goin. When he was hired as a coach, Goin and his team briefed Molitor on what they could provide him and how he could obtain it. From there, Molitor was highly proficient at procuring information and implementing it into action, such as in the form of an increase in infield shifts. Now the team’s manager, Molitor is seemingly headed towards expanding the use of the information but with caution. “I’m going to try to learn what I think is valuable in assessing who plays, lineups, all those type of things. But I’m going to hopefully have enough confidence in myself to have a feel for players, and flow, and season, and momentum where I can trust some of that too. But I think with all the things that are out there, you can overwhelm yourself. But obviously some of it makes sense, and it’s proven to be successful in how managers integrate it into their system both defensively and offensively.”
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