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October 7, 2007
Brad Mills is Terry Francona's right-hand man. The bench coach for each of Francona's four seasons as Red Sox manager, Mills served as Philadelphia's first base coach when his former University of Arizona and Montreal Expos teammate piloted the Phillies from 1997-2000. David caught up to Mills prior to Game Two of the ALDS.
David Laurila: How are you and Terry preparing now that we've moved from the regular season to the post season? I'm referring primarily to the use of statistical analysis and scouting reports.
Brad Mills: Well, you try not to get paralysis by analysis, because you do have so much time to go over a team. You can get a little more in-depth when you have two or three days to prepare for a ball club, as opposed to only one day. Because of travel, sometimes it's only half a day. So we're able to really look at things, and analyze things, as I'm sure [the Angels] are with us. Same way. Any time that a team has a little more time to prepare for a ball club, they're able go into a little more depth.
DL: Are you talking about both the numbers and scouting reports?
BM: Yes. You try to see how they parallel each other--I think that's how you come up with tendencies. When you study the sabermetrics, or the statistical part of it, you try to see how it correlates with the scouting reports, what you see, and what you know about the guys on the other side. If you can get those to parallel, the better off you are. Sometimes maybe one thing in the scouting report will stand out a little more than the stats do. But you have to look at both of them in order to prepare the best way.
DL: You played the Angels in August. Are there things you might be passing along to the players now that you didn't at that time?
BM: Oh, yeah. There's no doubt. The more you get in, and look at those things, the more certain things will stand out. So you're able to sit down and talk to the guys--we're able to have a few more meetings without sounding like you're panicking, or being nervous because it's the playoffs. It's just the fact that you're able to spend more time doing the analysis, and to find out tendencies and how guys go about their game.
DL: Is there ever any fear of overburdening players with too much information?
BM: No doubt. You can get to that point, although I don't know that I'd call it a fear. I think that's where, if anything is a feel--you spend time with the guys all year; you're with them all year--you realize when you're maybe going a little too far, going with a little too much. Sometimes you might say a guy has problems hitting this, or we need to play this guy here, but do you know what? If a pitcher has problems throwing the ball there, or if we have a defender who doesn't go well to his left, we're going to have to try to match it to how, specifically, they're able to play the game. That's another thing you're able to do when you have an extra couple of days to work with.
DL: With so many of today's fans being statistically-savvy, is there any fear factor on the bench knowing that a move that goes against the percentages will be dissected and criticized?
BM: Fear? I can't say it's a fear. You're not scared of making a mistake. You do what you feel is best for yourself, and the job that you're given, and not burden the players with something they're not capable of dealing with. And there are a lot of things that a lot of people don't understand. They might see the stats, but we're not working with robots, we're working with human beings. We have to allow them to play this game as a game. It's not on TV, it's not Strat-O-Matic, or whatever else. We're dealing with egos; we're dealing with a lot of things. We're dealing with people.