‘Reading the Bat’…Advice from former MLB Pitcher David Cone

Submitted by Mark Pizzo, Chicago Fire MSBL World Series Participant

I heard something interesting during today’s Yankees-Jays game. David Cone (far-and-away the best thing about the Yankees booth) was calling a sequence of pitches from Aroldis Chapman to Bo Bichette. Chapman shook off a sign from his catcher. Cone noted Chapman wanted the slider on 3-2. “You better not hang it,” he cautioned.

Chapman proceeded to hang it. Bichette laced a single. Cone then explained why Chapman made an error in shaking off the fastball. His catcher, Austin Romine, was “reading the bat” of Bichette, knew Bichette was late on every fastball to that point, could read his reaction time, and that on 3-2, Chapman had no choice but to throw a slider in the zone. Advantage Bichette.

To paraphrase Cone: “Reading the bat is real-time analytics. You won’t get that back in the clubhouse. That’s on-the-field analytics and no computer can give you that.”

For those who don’t tune in to Yankees games, Cone is an unabashed proponent of analytics–he’s the furthest thing from the “old school” approach to strategy. He’ll drop references to a dozen advanced stats throughout the course of a game. “Reading the bat.” I loved it.

His commentary today was one of the best explanations of how analytics and observation can co-exist (and produce winning baseball) that I can recall.