As a new member of the Atlanta Braves, one of pitcher Brad Brach’s first meetings was with the analytics staff. They showed him a string of statistics.
“They showed me a lot stuff, things like my swing-and-miss rate, how I was falling behind left-handed batters,’’ Brach said Tuesday before their series with the Nationals began in D.C. “It’s helpful information, but you still have to execute pitches.’‘
When the Orioles traded Brach, a reliever, and starter Kevin Gausman to the contending Braves in separate deals before the July 31 non-waiver deadline, the two pitchers went from a team that’s cranking up its analytics department to a team that’s in the first year of making analytics daily pregame preparations.
“It’s been 20-fold (with increased analytics) since coming over here,’’ Gausman said. “We’ve talked about analytics, because I don’t think they want to give us too much to think about so quickly. But it’s going to be helpful.’‘
Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos was hired in November and hired two researchers to come up with statistics that can help the Braves devise a game plan. Anthopoulos says analytics aren’t the answer to everything, but if the players can improve 5 percent, then the teams have done their jobs.
Braves manager Brian Snitker wasn’t familiar with analytics last season, but he’s sold on them now: “It gives players another avenue to improve.’‘
The analytics department sends to the clubhouse each day a package of stats that helps the Braves plan strategy.
Coaches meet separately with infielders, outfielders and pitchers. There are even separate meetings for left- and right-handed pitchers. And, of course, there are meetings for hitters.
On the field, defensive players hold cards in their pockets to remind them about positioning against various batters in the opposing lineup.
Brach has a three-game homestand with the Braves before they took off on a trip that sent them to New York and Washington.
He’s getting used to the new - everything from feeling comfortable around teammates to wearing the tomahawk and changing uniform numbers.
He had two choices: 65 or 46.
“Sixty-five was too high,’’ Brach said.
Brach, who started with four strikeouts and three scoreless innings for the Braves, said he doesn’t know what went wrong with the Orioles.
“It was a tough year for everybody,’’ he said. “We got off to a bad start in April and we couldn’t get going. Nothing seemed to click.’‘
Brach gave up 50 hits in 39 innings as an Oriole this season. “I gave up tons of runs with two outs and two strikes,’’ he said. “I could never get that final strike.’‘
Gausman had a 4.43 ERA for the Orioles. He pitched five innings with two strikeouts and two walks against the Mets in his Braves debut.
Gausman, who was issued No. 45 without getting a choice, was shocked at the trade. He didn’t think it would happen to him. It was difficult to say goodbye to teammates he’d played with for nearly six years.
“As teammates, you talk junk to each other because that’s how it’s done in the clubhouse,’’ Gausman said. “So to go from that to having them come up to me to wish me luck, that caught me off-guard.’‘
The good part of the trade is he’s closer to home in Baton Rouge, La.
“It’s eight hours (driving) and it’s a quick flight from Atlanta to Baton Rouge,’’ Gausman said.
So what went wrong with the Orioles’ season that started with high expectations after spring training?
“I don’t know,’’ Gausman said. “I wish I had the answer to that.’‘