FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Stringer at Altitude

Last season I had the privilege of working as a stringer (technically a "Datacaster") for on their Gameday system. Essentially, this means I got paid for attending 27 Kansas City Royals games at beautiful Kauffman Stadium. I shared the job with two other veteran stringers.

Of course, there was some work thrown in as well as I had to learn the software used to score the game as well as the combination of codes used to record pitches, balls put in play, and base running. The codes are actually those that were originally developed as a part of Project Scoresheet in the mid 1980s and promoted by Bill James and John Dewan who now owns Baseball Info Solutions. To illustrate the kinds of codes consider the following; if the batter singles to center on a ground ball and is thrown out by the centerifielder trying to stretch the single into a double the code would be:


S8 = single to center
G = on the ground
BX2 = batter out advancing to second
(84) = thrown out by the centerfielder with a putout for the second baseman

The software we use is a Visual Basic 6.0 application that has evolved over the years to incorporate additional functionality and communicates to servers located in New York that then feed the data to the Gameday clients implemented as a Macromedia Flash application.

And both before and after the game there are responsibilities including ensuring that the rosters are correct, printing and distributing the box scores to the other media, and double checking the official scorer’s box score and faxing the official statistics to the Elias Sports Bureau. But all in all, it’s not a bad gig to say the least.

When we decided to move to Colorado Springs this winter I was happy to discover that needed a new stringer in Denver to help handle Rockies games along with the veteran father and son team Mike and Eric. Well, tonight was my first game in that role and the first that I’ve ever attended at Coors Field with the Rockies taking on the San Diego Padres. Actually, I didn’t have to score the game since Eric was in the hot seat and showed me the ropes in my new digs while I kept a paper scoresheet.

The game was scheduled to start at 6:35 and so I left my office in Colorado Springs at 4:00 in order to make sure I arrived in plenty of time. MapQuest said my office was 59 miles from Coors Field and I made good time…at first. About 10 miles from the park I ran into a major slowdown and proceeded to cover the next three miles in 30 minutes. Needless to say I was a bit late but finally found the main parking lot out behind right field. Using my press pass I entered through the right field entrance and after two elevator rides, several questions asked of ushers, and walking half way around the ballpark and its very wide concourses I found the press box at 5:55. Eric was of course already at work and had finished checking the roster and inputing the lineups. He showed me around the press box and introduced me to the Rockies PR staff and the official scorer, all of whom were very pleasant. The press box is much larger than in Kansas City but includes the same free drinks and popcorn along with some tasty cookies.

It wasn’t long before the game was underway. Unlike in Kansas City the guys sit right down in the middle front although this doesn’t provide a view of the monitor which can help when enter pitch location into the software. Right away I was greeted to baseball at altitude as Sean Burroughs doubled over the head of Matt Holliday in left, Mark Loretta walked and Brian Giles hit a 418 foot homerun into the bullpen in right. It wasn’t long before Rockies starter Jason Jennings had given up six runs (four earned) in three innings of work. Adam Eaton for the Padres looked pretty sharp although the Rockies got to him for a single run in the first courtesy of the 327th double of Todd Helton’s career, two unearned runs in the fourth and the second homerun in as many games for shortstop Clint Barmes. An RBI double by Matt Holliday in the same inning finally chased Eaton to make the score 7-5 Padres in the fifth. On Monday Barmes became the first rookie in major league history to hit a walk-off homerun on opening day in the Rockies 12-10 win.

Jennings lasted four innings before giving way to newly acquired Byung-Hyun Kim, who looked pretty good in his two innings of work. The wheels really fell off the wagon however when Allan Simpson entered the game in the 7th. He proceeded to walk the bases loaded, give up a single, and then a two-run double to pinch hitter Eric Young to give the Padres a 10-5 lead before making his exit amid a chorus of jeers. Javier Lopez then let in the two remaining runners credited to Simpson and two of his own to make it 14-5 before getting himself pulled from the game. The Rockies were able to plate one more in the ninth courtesy of Helton again to make the final 14-6. Just another night at altitude?

Incidentally, this game illustrates why the "win" statistics for pitchers, especially relievers, is a poor proxy for performance. The Padres starter Eaton pitched just 4 and 2/3 innings and so did not qualify for the win. He was relieved by Tim Redding who pitched a third of an inning. Rudy Seanez then entered the game and pitched an inning before giving way to Chris Hammond and his 64mph changeup that he used quite effectively. The question is, who should get the win? Redding pitched just a third of an inning, Seanez only one and when Hammond came in the game was already 14-5 and he pitched just 2 innings. None of them really deserved it but Hammond was credited with it on the discretion of the official score because…somebody has to get it.

I think it’ll be an interesting year to watch the Rockies since they’ve very purposefully changed their direction. The PR campaign they’re using is "GenR" to highlight the youth of the team. In fact, on opening day the Rockies were the youngest team in all of baseball with an average age of 26 years 324 days. Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Arizona, and Kansas City round out the top five with the Royals at 28 years 178 days. Even though I doubt they’ll be close to contending it should be fun to watch these young players and see if they can develop. In the past the Rockies have made some truly bad signings, relying on expensive free agent pitchers including Denny Neagle, Mike Hampton, Bill Swift, and Bret Saberhagen, none of whom have delivered, and which has subsequently put the franchise in a hole financially. During the off-season General Manager Dan O’Dowd publicly admitted that he had made some ego-driven moves in the past and felt very comfortable with the youth movement this season. Regardless of what happens it couldn’t be any worse than watching last year’s 104 loss edition of the Royals could it?

I’ll also of course be interested to watch baseball at Coors Field and compare it to playing at sea level. While I haven’t done much investigation into the "Coors Field effect" it seems to me that if indeed Rockies hitters have difficulty adjusting after playing at altitude as some have speculated and Todd Helton has mentioned, the team is clearly at a disadvantage. And of course, it seems obvious that a team that plays in a high run environment should put a premium on relief pitching since they’ll have to use relievers more frequently. Unlike other teams the Rockies probably have a valid argument to carry 12 pitchers. Maybe a new kind of baseball might help as well.

In any case it was a fun evening and I’m looking forward to lots of hits, runs, and errors this summer.


Ron Hostetter said...

I'm glad you were able to grab the stringer position there in CO. Between you in Denver and me in KC, we'll be watching lots of "developing" this season!

Anonymous said...

Hon... we... mlbam... we don't use VB as part of our software. But thanks for mentioning us!

Dan Agonistes said...

If true, my mistake but I was told that at one point by a "higher up"