Now, Tommy Hottovy has the perfect 21st-century baseball occupation: Director of Run Prevention for the Chicago Cubs.
For Hottovy's part, the Chicago Cubs have allowed the least amount of run in all of MLB this year. Recently, we caught up with former MLB pitcher, JustBats alum, and Cubs' Director of Run Prevention for a Q&A.
What exactly does Director of Run Prevention for the Chicago Cubs entail?
Officially, my title is Coordinator of Advance Scouting, and my main focus is on run prevention, which encompasses anything that helps prevent the other team from scoring runs. My daily responsibilities are pretty extensive, as I do a lot for the game that day, as well as prep work for the upcoming teams we will see. But, my main responsibilities are breaking down the opposing hitters and working with our coaching staff to determine our plan of attack, coordinating all of our defensive positionings, and communicating with the coaching staff that will be positioning the players during the game to make sure we are all on the same page.
Also, I'm in charge of making notes on the opposing offense in general and things they like to do specifically during the game (i.e. when they run, situational hitting, bunting, etc.), and communicating with any Pro Scouts we have in the field to make sure our plan is on the right track with what they may be seeing in a short look before our series.
What is the best part of your job?
By far the best part of my job is getting to work directly with the players and staff and have an immediate impact on the game that night. If I am breaking down a hitter, and we decide we want to pitch a guy a certain way (i.e. we want to start him with a curveball in his second at-bat) and he gets a hit or if we decide to play a shift on a hitter, and he hits against the shift in a big part of the game, I have to be able to answer for the decisions we make. Luckily, we have a great group of guys, and we have created an environment where communication flows constantly. Very rarely is there a time where the pitcher or player is not informed with what we want to do, pitching or positioning wise, and in the end, the players see how much time and effort goes into every game, and every series and you earn their trust as the season goes on.
What is the toughest part of the job?
Without question, the toughest part of my job are the deadlines. We are constantly working on a three-day deadline. Most of the time I am working on two teams at the same time, the daily communication and strategy for the team we are playing, as well as all the prep work, reports, and positioning for the team we are about to play. The minute one team finishes the next team begins, so there is very little down time during the season.
Why do you think sabermetrics is important to the future of baseball?
To me, it's the same reason data analysis is to any company. It is an integral part of the future success of an organization. Technically, everyone has access to the same data, which is an insane amount. Ultimately, the collection, interpretation, and distribution/communication of the data are what separates one team from the next. You can have all the data in the world, but if you can't sift through it, find what is pertinent not only to the team as a whole but also to the individual player, and then be able to translate that information into a language that the recipient understands (which in some cases is actually a different language), then you won't be successful and in some cases, the data could actually be a hinderance.
My ultimate goal, and what I feel the most important role sabermetrics will play in the future of baseball, is to find the right balance between all of these aspects. So, in the end, when the game is on the line, the player feels 100% comfortable with any situation they could potentially see on the field.
Are there any aspects of your job that youth and high school teams could or should adopt?
Without question. What I tell most high school or youth teams that I talk to is that it is hard to gather much pertinent information on opposing players because you just don't see them enough, and the sample sizes are pretty low. What you can do, though, is gather information and tendencies of your players to help come up with game plans. For example, each pitcher should have their spray chart of where hitters hit the ball off them, not just where that hitter himself hits the ball, which can help tailor a defense to what a specific pitcher likes to do.
There are pretty standard defenses you can run that data has proven over the course of baseball history that can be baseline defenses for a team to run and then make adjustments off of depending on any pitcher/hitter tendencies that you may see.
What did you enjoy the most about working for JustBats.com and Pro Athlete, Inc.?
Obviously, I was very fortunate to get to work with some amazing people, and I cherish the interactions and conversations I had with all of them on a daily basis. But, the thing I enjoyed the most working for Pro Athlete was the freedom, encouragement, and opportunities they give every employee to grow professionally, not only in their daily activities but for their future endeavors, as well.
JustBats thanks Tommy Hottovy for taking the time to answer some questions and, of course, wishes him continued success in his career with the Chicago Cubs. If you have any questions on baseball bats or softball bats, give the Pros at JustBats a call at (866) 321-2287. Who knows, you might be talking to a future MLB player.
What do you think of Hottovy's job? Do you use sabermetrics?