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Mike Nickeas, Access & Analytics Together

Posted By Eno Sarris On September 30, 2011 @ 10:30 am In Big Idea,Interview,Things That Contain Multitudes | 2 Comments


In my writeup about BlogsWithBalls 4.0 and the future of blogging, there was some discussion of the role of access in a blogger’s life. It’s complicated.

Access to players can harm a writer’s ability to be coldly analytical. How does one dismiss a hot start as a BABIP-driven streak and then hang out with the player in the dugout later? Or knock a contract as too generous and then congratulate the player on signing it? Or point out that a trade brought too little back and then meet the new players in the clubhouse? Access can create a bit of a pickle, especially for the snarky blogger.

But access, combined with analytics, can also be very exciting.

Consider Mike Fast’s excellent piece on catcher framing and the value it provides teams. One of the notable findings was the role of catcher movement in affecting the call. Less movement of the glove (and the catcher’s head) meant it was more likely the umpire would call the pitch a strike. Excellent analytics without access.

Ted Berg of TedQuarters fame enjoyed the piece. He planned on asking Mets backup catcher Mike Nickeas about it. Here’s what happened.

It’s a modest video, but the implications are great. In it, and off camera, the player admits that catcher framing is something the catchers work on and that they realize it’s a foundation skill. Catchers are taught that all movement is bad, too. Even trying to pull the ball back into the zone can be something that an umpire notices, in a bad way. In the video, the catcher expresses disbelief that the effect is that high, but admits that it’s in the name of the position. It’s an important skill.

So access and analytics have come together to paint a picture. This somewhat unheralded skill, now quantified, can come out into the light. Player input put a human face on the analytics. Talking to the catcher showed us how the findings were actually implemented.

This is the future.

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