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Tampa Bay Rays go high-tech with advance scouting

PORT CHARLOTTE — The Rays learned a lot during their first trip through the postseason.

And among the ideas is to switch from having a traditional advance scout on the road watching their next opponent in person, as most teams still do, to instead, as a few other teams do, preparing their reports internally using computers, data and video.

The theory, executive vice president Andrew Friedman said, is to provide manager Joe Maddon and staff with more extensive information — trends, stats, tendencies, etc. — that can be more easily applied.

With unlimited resources, Friedman said, they might try to do it both ways. But for this season, anyway, they're going to try it the new way.

"We feel like net-net, this will provide us with the best information, up-to-date information and thorough information in a cost-effective way," he said.

Mike Calitri, a 30-year-old former minor-league player and Vanderbilt staffer, has been hired to head up the program, analyze the data and prepare the reports with Elanis Westbrooks, who handled the advance duties last season. They joined the other major-league scouts, who regularly watch other teams in person anyway.

"We're definitely still going to have that presence," Friedman said.

Basically, the Rays looked back on the extensive scouting reports they prepared on their postseason opponents and modified them to what the field staff wants. For example, more extensive, and updated, databases on pitchers' delivery times, outfielders' arms, catchers' throws to second.

Maddon said that while there's always some benefit "to have a guy in the stands to feel the heartbeat" and notice things that aren't on camera — such as signs, players' reactions and how a pitch actually breaks — so much information can be gleaned that he is excited about the possibilities.

"When an advance scout goes in there, he's seeing it for three, four days," he said. "The data we're going to accumulate goes over a longer period of time, which would indicate it's more correct and not as much one man's subjective opinion. We feel as though this may be the next level of advance scouting."

Ticket time: President Matt Silverman said a "high percentage" of renewals has led to an overall increase in season-ticket sales. The team is now focused on adding to the base by pushing full- and partial-season plans, which because the packages include the home opener might be the only way to get good seats for the April 13 pennant-raiser. Individual ticket sales start this week.

Rays rumblings: Silverman wouldn't go quite as far as calling for a salary cap or zone as officials of other teams have but said, "I'm in favor of anything that improves the competitive balance of the sport." … Principal owner Stuart Sternberg is expected for Wednesday's spring opener. … LF Carl Crawford told ESPN's Jayson Stark that one benefit of last year's success is he feels better about going out in public: "It's nice to go to Subway and get a sandwich now." … ESPN.com's Rob Neyer says the Rays would be better off using LHP David Price in the big-league bullpen than sending him to Triple-A Durham because, "This isn't the time to station one of your best units where nobody is trying to win a war." … The team plans to award more than 200 AL championship rings, which will feature the Rays logo, to players and staff. … If Trop heckler Robert Szasz ends up in court over his extensive financial problems, how would he react to being jeered from the gallery?

Tampa Bay Rays go high-tech with advance scouting 02/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 21, 2009 7:27pm]
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