Mike Wickham: For the most part, no. I support Grady (Fuson) and basically run the day-to-day operations on the minor league side. When Grady is out scouting, Tom Gamboa and myself are the eyes and ears for him.
For the rest of the year, assisting with anything that is coming up system wide. There are a billion different things that come up, especially during the season.
The main thing is making sure there is consistency in our philosophies that are being instilled in our system, roster management.
With so many teams in so many distinct places that are spread across the country, how difficult is it on a day-to-day basis to monitor that philosophy while making sure your people are instilling it in the way you want it to be disseminated?
Mike Wickham: First of all, that process started three years ago – patiently, aggressive on the hitting side and strike throwers that pitch three pitches or less and keep the ball down in the zone on the pitching side.
It starts with having the staff on the same page. When Grady came aboard, we decided we were going to change the philosophy in the system. We had to educate the staff on not only what we wanted but also on how to do it. There was a process that started with educating the staff and getting coordinators that bought into the system and getting them to a point where they taught it so it trickled down to the coaching staff at each affiliate. Then, after all of that, drafting players that had that kind of skill set already in college – plate discipline, strike throwers, guys that have a good base and solid approach.
How that is monitored on a day-to-day basis is the rovers moving around, Grady moving around, myself moving around through the system and you can see it. You can see it in batting practice. It starts with the grass roots of what they are doing before it even gets to the game. You can see what guys are doing in batting practice (BP) – if they are trying to use the whole field, if they are going the other way, their batting practice routine, if they are taking pitches that are balls in batting practice – you can see what the coaches are talking to the players about, ‘That is a ball.' We want them taking those pitches in BP just like they would in a game. That is where it starts.
Getting that through six affiliates – it starts in spring training when everyone is together. The philosophy is pounded into everyone, over and over again.
During the season, it is brought together by the coordinators and seeing what guys are doing. If we know that a hitter like Jaff Decker – and this is just an example - is extremely selective and everyone knows it, but he is going through a stretch where he is not being selective, there has to be a reason why. Is he struggling? Is he being too aggressive? Is he swinging at balls outside the zone? There has to be some basis for it.
When you look at a daily report things that are coming back to you and the key elements you are looking for so you can then take it back to the player and figure out why he isn't getting enough ‘hard contacts' or ‘he is swinging outside the zone again'?
Mike Wickham: We get a game report with a detailed summary of everyone that played the night before.
Starting with the hitters, we will get a report that says, ‘3-for-4, one hard contact.' The result was obviously good, 3-for-4 but one hard contact – you would prefer to have a hard contact as much as possible. Getting to a hard contact is a product of getting the pitches you want to hit, getting a solid base, which leads to a solid approach and seeing the ball. In the description marks, it might say, ‘3-for-4 with a double, lunging out on the front side, not staying back, still not seeing the breaking ball, got a few seeing-eye hits.'
You are looking for comments that say, ‘solid approach, seeing the ball well, was 0-for-4 but took good swings, but hard luck and hit the ball right at people, went into deep counts – got into three full counts and struck out three times but all three were productive.'
Just because the end result says four strikeouts, which might look bad, maybe he saw 28 pitches and ground the pitcher down. There are guys who can strike out four times and see 32 pitches that were effective in their ABs and that is a lot better than the guy who has four strikeouts and only sees 14 pitches. Those aren't quality at-bats.
You are looking for those kinds of things within the game reports where you can see guys who are more aggressive that don't work the counts as much and they don't have as much polish.
It is funny that you mention that because when I was out at your Instructional League, I saw Yefri Carvajal walk three times in a game and wondered whether it might provide some excitement to those reading the reports.
Mike Wickham: Those guys like to hit. Not every single one, obviously, but growing up they have not been taught about plate discipline. In general, they hack and go to swing and want to make something happen.
A guy like Carvy who has tremendous power and can throw and hit – he has to be more selective if he is going to move his way up the ladder and be successful. It takes time. In instructs, trying to beat that into him – to see him take it into a game is really exciting to see. ‘Wow, Carvy walked three times?' Don't get me wrong, we are not asking guys to walk, but it tells us he is being selective.
We don't jump up and down here when we see a guy go 0-for-0 with four walks. That is not our goal. We want to see them be selective with hard contacts with the walks sprinkled in because that tells us they are getting their pitches, and if they are not getting them, they are laying off.
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