Sig Mejdal hasn’t seen a baseball game in person in months.
The Orioles were careful to limit the number of non-uniformed personnel at both Camden Yards and the alternate site in Bowie this summer, so Mejdal worked from home, like most Americans.
But Mejdal stayed in the loop, thanks in part to the latest gadgets in the game - body sensors, bat trackers, force pads and more.
A bit more advanced than Zoom.
“Beyond the fact that there were fewer games, no minor league games in the parks, ... we had a full allocation of coaches and a full allocation of whatever tech we have in our system,” Mejdal said in a recent interview with “MASN All Access.”
In his second season as Orioles vice president and assistant general manager of analytics, Mejdal reprised his role of the invisible counselor: collecting and analyzing data to help players fix flaws in their game that had previously gone undetected.
But that role doesn’t often require Mejdal to work directly with players. Even in a normal season, there is a degree of separation in place between the analytics team, players and coaches.
“In an ideal world, it’s the coaches interacting with the players, and we’re not middle men or anything,” Mejdal said. “We have a modern group of coaches who ... it’s the opposite of being threatened by this stuff. They can’t wait to see what the technology or data could reveal and they can’t wait to put it into action with the players.”
Never was coaching more important than at the alternate site, where some of the organization’s top prospects spent more than two months in an environment that featured intrasquad games and hands-on instruction.
The focus of the camp was clear: use the time allotted to further develop the Orioles of the future.
“It was an usual change,” Mejdal said. “Instead of riding the bus, traveling, playing the baseball game, trying to find something decent to eat and doing it all again, we had them at the same park every day with a great collection of coaches, simply practicing and working on the process of getting better. Yeah, they were playing games, but it was less games and more practice.”
The reviews were glowing.
“Going to Bowie and then going to instructional camp was probably the most beneficial two months that I’ve had in baseball in a long time in terms of development,” said left-hander Zac Lowther, who is ranked as the Orioles’ No. 11 prospect by MLBPipeline.com.
“When you’re there, you don’t have that desire to get better as well as compete, because sometimes you get both of those and they get crossed up and one or the other suffers. Having these two camps this year gave me an opportunity to work on stuff without having to worry about results.”
Numbers, of course, don’t tell the full story. No data set can be complete without the proper context. This became especially apparent around the trade deadline, when the Orioles front office leaned on Mejdal and the analytics team to help evaluate players in other farm systems.
Teams shared data from their respective alternate sites with each other throughout the summer. But without having scouts there in person, it was sometimes difficult to determine what information was useful and what wasn’t.
“It’s not a real competitive game,” Mejdal said. “So with that in mind, we were careful to not overreact to velocity being a couple miles lower, their curveball not having as much spin or whatever. That it may have simply been (that) they are working on something and not pitching at 100 percent. So we had to take that into consideration and of course were careful with all that.”
Even armed with the best data-collecting technologies around, Mejdal and his team can only do so much. Ultimately, it’s incumbent on the player to use the data to make the necessary changes to their game.
But when it comes to new ways to improve, today’s players are more open-minded than ever.
“It keeps surprising me how quickly the interest from the players for these previously pushed back-on technologies or data or processes or ideas, how rapidly that changes,” Mejdal said. “You can’t be a player today and expect to be all you can be without taking advantage of all the resources available and that includes the technology that’s out there now.”