You can find Part 1 of this interview here. Thanks again to Brian for taking the time to talk with us. It's a real pleasure getting to listen to his analysis on a daily basis -- we've certainly lucked out.
DRB: Is there anything available to you now that you wish you had at your disposal when you were pitching?
BA: Oh, there's tons. Before, when I first started, it was basically the pitching coach told you where the hot zones were -- this is how we were going to pitch him -- and that was it. There was nothing at a player's disposal. The internet wasn't that popular at that time, and there weren't really any sites to go to in the first place. As things went on, it got more involved.
I think for a pitcher the best thing you can do is watch video. The first year I really got into breaking down and studying video -- I mean, not just generic video, but video pertaining to me -- Curt Schilling in 2002 bought me a computer. We had a guy in northern California that had a program where you could basically do what teams do nowadays: you could break down your last 10 at bats against a certain hitter. What am I throwing this guy in 0-2 counts? All of those clips, all of those different things Schilling had on his laptop. So he got me a laptop, set me up with his guy, and let me have at it.
My first year doing that was 2003 and that made a huge difference. You felt so much more prepared when you went into a game -- better than I had before that. But it wasn't too long after that I started getting hurt, and never took full advantage of it afterward. I got hurt in 2004, had surgery in 2005, and I was never able to make it back.
The wealth of information that's at the player's fingertips now is great. It would be nothing more than looking at a hitter's hot zones, then compare that with his hot zones against me. Obviously if you've never faced a guy (or faced him just a couple of times), you may look at the way lefties generally pitch this guy, but when you get 4, 5, 6, 10 at bats, you don't need that info anymore. All I need to do is go look at video of him versus me, and that will tell me exactly what he's trying to do and how I can combat that. I wish that type of video would have been around a little earlier than it actually was. It makes a huge difference.
*We recorded this interview using Skype, but it ever so predictably crashed halfway in. The following answers aren't as detailed because I didn't have the audio file, but they're no less true.
DRB: Dewayne Staats has been in the broadcasting business about as long as you've been alive. What advice has he given you in your time with the broadcast?
BA: First off, I have so much love and respect for the man. Early on he told me to, "Ignore all of the other stuff and just be yourself." We try to just be two guys in your living room watching the game with you, while telling you what we see. We know we can't please everyone due to the broad range of fan types following along at home, but we try and mix in explanations of what we see in hopes fans notice it later in games.
DRB: If you had to choose one stat that you feel best encapsulates how a pitcher is doing in any given season, what would that be?
BA: The first thing I look at on the opposing stat sheet is baserunners per nine and flyballs. From there, I peel back the layers to see what's left. High walk and high flyball rates equal trouble for a pitcher. If a pitcher has a high groundball rate but a low number strikeouts, he can still have success.
DRB: How much credit do you give Jim Hickey for the amount of success Rays' pitchers, i.e. a brand new bullpen, have had this season?
BA: A lot. I have dual appreciation of Hickey, having worked under him in the past and now watching him work with the staff. He brings so much data to the table: scouting reports, video clips, etc. He relies on heavy video usage so guys can immediately see what they're doing right/wrong. The pitcher's meetings leave no stone unturned.
DRB: Which Rays pitcher do you most enjoy watching? Either from pure entertainment or a more technical aspect.
BA: I'm pretty blessed that I get to watch a great pitcher every night. It's extremely fun to watch James Shields dominate with his changeup since I featured one as well. The same thing goes for Hellickson and Cobb. Those two pitch with maturity beyond their years. Niemann is actually fun to watch because he brings 5-6 different pitches to the mound and narrows it down depending on what is working. And of course, watching Price dominating with his heat is fun. The pitchers have really controlled the running game this year, and that's been a difference maker at times.
DRB: What do you think of Wade Davis' approach this season? He's come out and said he's actively pitching with less velocity and trying to create more contact. That hasn't seemed to work thus far.
BA: I think he has to be more aggressive. I said on one of the broadcasts in May that he wasn't going to have a good rest of the season if he continued with the low strikeout, high walk, high fly ball ways. The only time he's showing his velocity is when he's behind in the count, but batters are hitting over .330 against him when they're ahead. I think he can be successful without a good third pitch if he works batters inside more. Most outs are going to come off the outer half of the plate, but only if you have hitters honest on the inner half.
DRB: What do you think about the rumors about blowing up the division format and going to two 15 team leagues?
BA: I haven't much attention to it honestly, but I hate interleague play and the unbalanced schedules. Everyone should play each other the same amount, travel be damned.