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Plotting Your Advantage With Spray Charts


From GameChanger and Tom Glave, a freelance reporter for Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Piedmont (Ala.) High softball coach Rachel Smith makes sure her pitchers are prepared.

The Bulldogs use GameChanger to plot opposing batters’ spray charts and then print those charts directly from the app for future reference.

“(When making) decisions for games, I like to use the spray charts on our opponents,” Smith said. “We print those and consolidate those and have (the results of each of our pitchers).”

Smith will print out the spray charts from last year or from earlier match-ups with opponents and arrange them in the batting order. The Bulldogs then have a concrete record of what their opponents like to do.

“If she roped the last ball we threw her, we make sure we stay away from that part of the plate,” Smith said. “If we identify someone as a dead pull hitter, we’re certainly not going to throw her inside. We’ll work on the outside of the plate.

“If I have records on batters, we make sure we use them.”

The Bulldogs will see opponents several times during the season, through tournaments and home-and-away play against area teams.

“I can definitely say our strategy on certain batters has paid off,” Smith said. “I know we’ve had a strategy to throw a certain batter inside or throw a certain batter outside. It definitely has paid off.”

The information has also been beneficial for Smith’s pitchers. The Bulldogs reached the regional tournament last year and return two pitchers from that team.

“They certainly appreciate the feedback,” Smith said. “They know what they’re most effective at.”

Smith tracks pitches during games on GameChanger, and the app also posts half-inning updates to Twitter and the team’s fan page.

Smith’s favorite stat to track is quality at-bats.

“One of the things I try to encourage our kids to do is to be selective and work the count deep and learn to try to hit behind our runners when possible,” Smith said.

Those quality at-bats — which include three pitches after two strikes, a six-plus-pitch at-bat, hard hit balls, two-out RBIs, sacrifice bunts or sacrifice flies — have proven to be important to the Bulldogs.

“Looking at our stats from last year, most of the games where we had more quality at-bats, we won,” Smith said. “I just think that’s something that helps you offensively — working the count deep and being selective on which pitches you hit.”

Smith also uses the stats to reinforce the importance of focus to her pitches.

“One of the things we want to make sure we don’t do is walk the leadoff batter,” Smith said. “Using the stats from GameChanger and being able to show the pitchers how many times leadoff walks score, it helps them focus. When you see that on paper, it makes it a little bit more effective I think.”