Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Mike Scioscia spent 13 seasons as a catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, beginning in 1980 and going through the 1992 season.
Often praised for his defensive ability, Scioscia helped the Dodgers win World Series titles in 1981 and 1988, serving as the backup in 1981 and starting in 1988.
Before playing in the Major Leagues, Scioscia majored in computer science at Penn State University, which seems to have helped him become a successful catcher and manager.
In a game where information and data is so important, Scioscia was ahead of the times as he helped teach his pitchers how to break down pitches and swings in a way that teams use data and Ivy League grads to do now, Orel Hershiser told Will Rosenblatt of The Daily Collegian:
“What he taught me to do was some of the things that are coming from the data right now,” Hershiser told the Collegian. “Evaluating breaking balls on a daily basis, evaluating hitter swings, evaluating movement and speed.”
Today, the main way teams acquire data for pitch tracking and swing data is through Statcast, which uses tracking sensors from Hawk-Eye Innovations and infrastructure from Google Cloud.
The system features 12 cameras around each park with five cameras operating at 100 frames per second for pitch tracking and the other seven are focused on tracking players and batted balls at 50 frames per second.
With this information, teams are able to evaluate how much a pitch moves, how much the baseball spins, its exact velocity and path, and how players’ swings match up against specific pitch movements.
It is a remarkable system that allows baseball to be understood down to the number, which makes it more incredible that Scioscia was doing similar things by himself without technology.
The ability to break down pitches and swings helped Scioscia earn the trust of his pitchers and gave him the reputation of an elite defensive catcher, which carried him to a long career in the league.
Scioscia guides Team USA to Silver Medal
While no longer managing in the Majors, Scioscia was tabbed to lead Team USA Baseball in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The United States fell to Japan, but returned statewide with a Silver Medal. Scioscia’s team included Eddy Alvarez, who recently signed a Minor League contract with the Dodgers.
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