In this week's post contributor, Ryan Gorman, dives into his advice when you're beginning to look into creating your own scouting reports.
When scouting an opponent for an upcoming game or series, there are a lot of factors to consider when deciding what information will give your team the best chance to win. With numerous resources to utilize to form your ideal scouting report, it may be a bit overwhelming when trying to decide what the best information is in order to feel like you are prepared to win. In today’s blog, we will pose some questions a coach can ask themselves when it comes time to create the scouting report. Unfortunately, there isn’t a ton of public data or scouting resources at the high school level but still encourage all to read and learn about the scouting report process!
If you are unfamiliar with the scouting resources available, I’ll refer you to one of Jake’s blogs that covers some of the tools he utilizes at Penn State as this post will focus more on the reasoning and logic behind what goes in a scouting report.
What does your team value?
The first question is more about looking in the mirror than it is looking at what your opponent’s tendencies and performance are. Identifying what your team values on both the hitting and pitching side is important to keep in mind when deciding what you want to know about the other team. The information you are looking for should be complementary to what you as a coach preach every day to your team.
For example, a team that places a high emphasis on their pitching staff throwing 60% strikes or better with their fastball should know how the opposing hitter performs against fastballs in the zone. A way to accomplish this could be a screenshot from Synergy of where each hitter does damage in the zone.
This gives the pitching coach a clear idea of where to tell his pitcher to throw his fastball. This is especially important for pitchers that do not feel the need to know the strengths and weaknesses of the hitters they are facing.
How has your opponent been performing recently?
Collecting mass amounts of data on college baseball players can be challenging since the maximum amount of information you can find on guys would be the 4 years they spend in college. In addition to having limited time, there are other factors cutting down on the amount of data you can collect such as: players redshirting, not seeing adequate time on the field, & injuries just to name a few. Knowing this, it is vital to know the most recent performance and status of the team you’re about to face. In order to do this, there are a couple ways to see where a player is currently at on both sides of the playing field.
When we are trying to determine how a particular hitter is currently performing in contrast to the season as a whole, we can examine basic statistics such as: Strikeout %, BA, SLG, and compare the last two or three weeks to the rest of the season. In addition to these basic statistics, we can confirm our findings with expected statistics such as xBA, xSLG, & xwOBA to investigate whether the hitter is truly on a roll or is getting lucky on the balls he puts into play. If you are unfamiliar with expected statistics, Sam’s recent blog on the topic would be a great one to check out.
As for the pitching side of things, statistics such as ERA, Hits, & Strikeouts are valuable when evaluating a pitcher’s performance but taking a deeper dive into some of the more advanced statistics might help us answer some more thought provoking questions. The basic statistics do give us an idea of the pitcher’s performance, but what may be more important is figuring out whether the opposing pitcher gives their team a chance to win. Advanced statistics like BABIP, BB%, & BB/K can help better describe if the pitcher is being efficient while up on the mound. Knowing the damage opposing hitters do on the balls they hit or how often a pitcher is due to give up a walk might help your hitters make better decisions when in the box.
From the current depth chart to being aware if a certain player is hot or cold, asking yourself this question will allow you to better gauge where your opponent is currently at.
What trends does your opponent have?
Like any team, coaches are trying to preach their philosophy to their players on what they believe will help the team win games. From these philosophies, trends will emerge and can be taken advantage of on the scouting report. Since I’m a pitching guy, a good example might be how a pitching coach calls his pitches in certain parts of the batting order. If you have access to Trackman data and have a crafty student manager team that is analytically developed, one might see that a certain coach likes to pitch heavy Off-speed and Breaking Balls to the first 4 hitters but sits in a range of 60-70% fastballs in the bottom half of the order. This is great information to relay to your lineup in order to give them a better idea of what they will be seeing when they step in the box.
Who is the information for?
This question revolves around the dissemination of information and what you as a coach feel comfortable telling your players. Before handing out a 10-page document to all of your pitchers that details every aspect you have scouted on your upcoming opponent, it is important to break down what information you feel is necessary for them to know. A simple solution to this could be having two separate reports, one being for the coaches and the other for your players. As a coach knowledge is power but knowing when to share the knowledge you have with your players is what can empower a player to perform at their best or worst. This leads me to my next question:
How much information is digestible during the game?
There is only so much information a person can handle at one time. An overload of numbers and statistics circling in a player’s head can cause a drop in performance. In my opinion, this question should be asked on an individual basis, so players have the choice of what they are thinking about when they are in the heat of battle.
For example, information such as pitch usage in high leverage counts like 0-2 or 3-2, will most likely be useful for all hitters in your lineup, but there will be times when hitters are interested in knowing usage by all counts so they are more informed throughout their at-bat.
As a coach, you have limited time between each pitch and inning to make adjustments based on the situation and because of that, the information you are looking at needs to be able to answer questions efficiently for you to do your job effectively.
It’s important to remember that the goal of a scouting report is to be more informed about your opponent after you’ve read through all the information gathered. Designing a scouting report can be a daunting task when you first start out but, whether it’s spray charts, data tables, heat maps, or anything else you feel is valuable, your in-game decision-making process should be simplified with the scouting report you create. Remember, it’s not about having the most information on your opponent, it’s about having useful information at your fingertips when you need it the most.