Interview: Ron Wotus

I asked Ron Wotus about the Giants’ defense. Specifically, I wondered how much of their recent success was due to keen defensive positioning and how much was just the result of talented defensive players. I also asked him about how the Giants utilize video and such in organizing their defense. What follows is a transcript of the interview…

Giants Nirvana: In the past three seasons, the Giants have put together very good defenses, and this is something that’s just flown under the radar. They’ve ranked sixth, fourth, and fourth in the majors in park-adjusted defensive efficiency in 2011, 2010, and 2009, respectively. How much of that would you attribute to keen defensive positioning, and how much of it would you attribute simply to the defensive talent level of the players on the team?

Ron Wotus: You have to give the players credit, for one — making the play… I mean, this is a very difficult park to play in with the wind…it’s cold, it can be damp, and typically there’s a lot more errors, and the conditions that we have to play in so you have to tip your caps to the players for executing the plays…as far as the defensive positioning, you have to credit the player for knowing where to be. I mean, sure, I oversee it, I give ‘em information on where to be, but when you get in the game, you have to make adjustments on what you’re seeing. And as a coaching staff, and with our pitching staff, we really emphasize defense and being in the right spot. I mean, when we get a groundball, we want to be in the right spot. So, I think the player deserves all the credit, but I think how important it is to us, and we really realize the benefits of it, and we make it a priority…is a big help to the player as well.

Giants Nirvana: The Giants, I believe, were one of the first teams to install a Field F/X camera system in the park. Is that something that’s been utilized by the team, to help?

Ron Wotus: The one up top?

Giants Nirvana: Yeah.

Ron Wotus: Well, we do a great job, Danny, Martin, and our video coordinator, we do a great job getting the coaches and players the information. We utilize — I’m not sure what in particular the F/X camera is doing…Danny would know, but he gives us the video that we need, he gives us the plots of the ball where we need…we do that all in house. I mean, you get stuff from services like Inside Edge or STATS, Inc. on where to play and all that, but to me, you need to have your own information to make sure it’s accurate. When you get other people’s information, it may not be accurate. You don’t know. So we keep our own information and really what benefits more than anything, I think, is keeping what hitters do against our pitchers. We don’t care what the hitters do, necessarily, against the rest of the league’s pitchers…but what are they doing against Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum…our guys. And when you get enough data there, it really helps you be in the right spot. You know, you look back to the Atlanta Braves when they had the same starting pitchers for all those years. They seemed like they were always in the right spot. And part of the reason was, the pitchers knew how — they could locate the baseball, the defense knew how the pitchers were gonna pitch because they’d been there for multiple years. And plus, I’m sure they had the data to back up that information. So when you could — another side of this nobody thinks about, but when you keep your pitching staff together, you have more data against other people in the league, and now it really becomes a tendency more than just guessing or not knowing.

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