High-Tech Scouting Hits College Baseball

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn Head Coach Butch Thompson has adjusted his scouting philosophy over the years as new technology has arrived.

For many years, different coaches would scout opponents either in person or through connections with other coaches on teams, in addition to utilizing every statistic they could get their hands on.

Some coaches had players personally scout opponents and had members of their coaching staff scour every newspaper they could which had information about future opponents. Any and all information was valuable.

With more games being televised over the years, recording those games that opponents played and watching every hitter and pitcher became an important advancement.

Now virtually every game has a video feed of some sort that is broadcast over the internet on all levels of college baseball.

Several years ago, Synergy Sports Technology for baseball was introduced which brought an entirely new level of scouting sophistication to the game.

Video of games at schools dissect and analyze every pitch, player, plate appearance, game situation and outcome. Then this company sorts those details and pairs it with supporting video.

This technology was one of the big reasons you now see extreme defensive shifting in college baseball just like in Major League games.

During the 2019 College World Series, one of the biggest tactical changes in college baseball was on full display as extreme shifting took place for the first time ever at this event.

Collegiate Baseball tracked each of the 28 instances of extreme defensive shifting used by teams at the event, and some interesting trends surfaced.

Not once during those 28 trips to the plate by batters did they try to hit a ball the opposite way or bunt the opposite way which would have been easy singles.

In 28 trips to the plate, only one batter got on base, and that was via a walk.

With the other 27 trips to the plate, the batter was out by striking out, grounding out or flying out.

Not one ball was hit to the opposite field by these pull hitters. Every ball was hit to the pull side.

The overwhelming data from Synergy Sports backed these extreme shifts.

“Synergy data has been huge for us,” said Thompson.

“But I don’t think it is the most important thing. Statistics capture the entire body of work by an opposing hitter. But we also want to know what opposing hitters have done with their last 20 at-bats and what tendencies they show.

“Those last 20 at-bats are probably the rhythm they are in currently. With that said, we try not to alter what our pitchers do best. Pitchers like Casey Mize and Tanner Burns bring unique skill sets to pitching. Our starters try to flip the lineup from an opponent three times. We consider that a quality start.

“The identity of the pitcher is absolutely crucial. They have to throw their game. Just because we are playing somebody else doesn’t mean they attack opposing hitters differently. We identify who the power guys are, bunters and runners will be. Pitchers need to know this important information before one of these types of players gets on first base.

“We have this overabundance of information now which pinpoints a power hitter, who will bunt and who will run. I want our pitchers to know this information as they walk into a game.

“Maybe the most important category is who is hot on the other team. Sometimes you can face a great hitter. But if he is not swinging it well those last 20 at-bats, maybe he isn’t as dangerous. When somebody is hot, they are hot.

“When somebody is on autopilot and seems to stick his bat out there and get hits, it is important to know. Knowing the hot hitter is vital to know as you go through a season.”

To read more of this in-depth story, purchase the May 1, 2020 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. Thompson delves much more into the subject of scouting opponents.