Remember I said I would try to find out if the A's positioned their defense any differently up the middle with Trevor Cahill's fielding acumen, and especially his big wingspan, in mind? I talked to Gallego before the game on Saturday, and I have to say that of all the answers I was expecting I might get, he managed to surprise me. Here's how the conversation went...
I approached Gallego and asked if I could ask a couple questions when he had a moment. He had never seen me before and probably doesn't get approached all that often for interviews anymore, so he wasn't especially friendly at this point. "About what?" he wanted to know.
I said it was about defensive positioning, and he still seemed a little guarded, but said sure. "Like what?" So I said, "You know, just things like, for example, do you play your middle infielders more to the hole when Cahill's pitching, because he fields his position well and has a good wingspan?"
At that point, Gallego kind of stared at me for a few moments and didn't say anything for what seemed like the longest time. I thought maybe he was about to start laughing at me or maybe he was going to ask, sarcastically, whether he thought I should coach 3B and he could be a nobody asking stupid questions. Or perhaps he was going to deck me. I really wasn't sure why he was looking at me and why he wasn't saying anything.
Then he finally spoke. "You know, honestly, I never thought of that," he said. "That's really interesting." And suddenly, he smiled and got animated, and we talked for about 10 minutes about why that might make sense, and why it might not, and how you would track it, and I mentioned that we had a guy named Dan who was really good at finding the right data and also converting the data into useful and easy-to-read spray charts, and if Gallego was interested I could see if Dan might want to see what he could come up with --
Before I could finish my thought, Gallego was writing down his private email address for me to send any data that might indicate whether or not it would behoove the A's to cheat Pennington or Ellis to the hole behind Cahill. Paging Danbot; come in, Danbot! Quite seriously, he was very intent that I share anything I can directly with him, and not with anyone else.That was kind of cool, I have to say.
What I learned from Gallego, in the course of our conversation, was that he likes, in general, to cheat infielders to their weak side so he'll usually pinch Ellis up the middle knowing he can range so well and so far to his left -- and trying to minimize the number of balls he has to range to his right to field (those are balls he's likely not to be able to complete for outs due to his arm strength).
I agree with that, so I'm thinking that if there is any validity to the theory that one can "cheat to the hole" behind Cahill, it's probably Pennington who should shade a half-step or step to his right so that he can get in front of, or at least get to, more balls between 3B and SS, gambling that Cahill will cover an extra step's worth through his wingspan and overall fielding acumen.
Gallego also confirmed that he first started hearing about "Pitch FX" and/or "Hit FX" and/or "Field Effect" -- he couldn't recall the name -- a couple years ago, but that it is not something yet available to coaches. I suggested that he keep a close ear to the ground on it -- that whenever it becomes available it is likely to be the next thing that brings defensive data, positioning, etc. to a new level.
Finally, he reminded me that his son was named Nico, which gave me faint hope that he will be the rare player or coach I interview who might actually remember my name the next time I see him.
Programming Note: My interview with Trevor Cahill will run in two parts later this week: Wednesday at 4:30pm and Thursday at 4:30pm.