I’ve watched a couple of scrimmages, including all of one Tuesday. The guy who stood out to me was Carson Shaddy. Yes, he can hit. We all know that. But can he play a position? He looked good at second base to me. No errors, no throwing mistakes. He snared one line drive by laying out to his left. But the play that produced the most cheers from his teammates was a dash to his right to stab a hard bouncer up the middle, then a plant and throw back across his body from near the grass in center field to nip a runner at first. It was as good of a play as you’ll ever see by a second baseman. It appears the arm that was rebuilt with Tommy John surgery in the summer of 2015 is now healthy. If he can play solid at second base, it’s a major development for this team.
The other thing that is of note is the way Wes Johnson and the entire team (pitchers and hitters) are using the new TrackMan system. The radar device hangs on the railings in front of the Hog Heaven seats in front of the press box. It’s hard to miss. I’d suggest that you Google TrackMan and see what it can do. Amazing technology. Basically, it tracks the baseball, the spin and the velocity. They use it for a lot of things, but Dominic Taccolini said Wes Johnson uses it to show the break on the baseball, basically, as a tracer like you see on TV at golf tournaments. You might see it on baseball broadcasts, too. Pitchers are understanding why and how to get the hard break on the end of their pitches.
There was a foul ball home run by McFarland. It was way out of the park to left but it curved foul. When did it curve foul? That was the question. I agreed with the plate umpire that it was foul before it went by the pole, but some of the players in McFarland’s dugout thought it was fair. Of course, they didn’t have a good view. One player yelled, let’s let TrackMan tell us. It probably could have. That’s the nature of the technology.
I sat by a major league scout Tuesday. I asked him about what I perceived as a main difference with the pitchers. I thought I was seeing more reliance on breaking pitches. He said, “This coach calls the game backwards and yes, you are right.” By that, he means calling the breaking pitch on fast ball counts. The breaker is going to be the first pitch of at bats and on 3-1 counts. There will be more use of the breaker. Jorn was a guy who believed in calling the fast ball and working both sides of the plate with it. Johnson will do that, but he’s going to call a lot more breaking pitches and insist that they be hard moving breakers.