Oakland A’s finding different approach to getting hitters out

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 30: Jake Diekman #35 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the game against the Chicago White Sox at RingCentral Coliseum on September 30, 2020 in Oakland, California. The Athletics defeated the White Sox 5-3. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 30: Jake Diekman #35 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the game against the Chicago White Sox at RingCentral Coliseum on September 30, 2020 in Oakland, California. The Athletics defeated the White Sox 5-3. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images) /
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Several Oakland A’s pitchers are focusing on a different way of getting hitters out – instead of looking at pitching mistakes, target where the batter struggles.

The heat map is a common graphic when watching a baseball game. We see which zones the batter performs well in, and then watch as a pitcher puts their offering right in one of those spots. Naturally, that pitch tends to fall in for a hit, and we wonder why the pitcher chose to attack that spot.

This is an area that the Oakland A’s are beginning to look into as well. As pitchers had been getting generic information, they had begun to wonder why those scouting reports or heat maps were not tailored more to their specific repertoire.

Several A’s and Giants pitchers have found just that. An analytics company called Codify has been generated personalized heat maps, showing what areas those pitchers should be attacking instead of focusing on their mistakes.

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Based on the production of some of those pitchers, it is difficult to argue with this path. Liam Hendriks has used these charts as part of his preparation, helping his transition to become one of the more dominant closers in the game. Jake Diekman, who is expected to be the A’s closer in 2021, allowed just one run last season.

It is not just the A’s relievers that have found these charts useful. Both Sean Manaea and Jesus Luzardo have been using these scouting reports as well. Although their results in 2020 may have been inconsistent, Manaea has had success in the past while the A’s are hopeful that Luzardo can develop into that staff ace they need.

Finding advantages such as these can make a difference. These players are utilizing a resource that others have not, potentially allowing them to get outs they otherwise would be unable to record. It is a different strategy, but one that could pay off handsomely for the A’s in 2021.

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Several Oakland A’s pitchers are using a new resource to attack hitters. This resource made a difference in 2020, and it could continue to do so for years to come.

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