If you haven’t already read this morning’s Morning Brushback over at Nats Journal, you should. Adam Kilgore goes into how Kurt Suzuki researches opposing hitters and prepares his game plan.
Zuk, it turns out, is a stat-head. He likes to use statistical data on opposing hitters to figure out just how he should call a game. But that’s not all:
“I think you look more than just the stats,” Suzuki said. “If he’s hitting .600 on fastballs inside, you look to see if they were hard hits or bloopers or grounders or choppers or something like that. They might be hitting .600, but they’re not hard hits, so you still go in there. So sometimes you have to dig a little deeper than just the stats.”
Sample size and recency play a major role in how Suzuki prepares, and why he chooses to mix in video study with the work on tendencies. He knows the numbers when he sits down to watch video of hitters. He wants to know how legitimate the numbers are, and/or if a hitter has changed his approach recently to make the numbers less relevant.
It’s a good synthesis of the “eyeball” and “moneyball” schools of thought. Suzuki is trying (perhaps in vain) to exploit micro-level fluctuations in a hitter’s performance day to day and series to series. All of those fluctuations come out in the wash for us stat-heads, because we like to study good, long track records. But Zuk’s busy trying to figure out what might happen tomorrow or next series, and he doesn’t really have all that much data for that.
I tend to think about it like this: stat-minded fans like me are trying to figure out long-term trends and fundamentals. Suzuki is more like a day-trader, trying to time the market.