Video increasingly key to Mariners’ success
Just behind the dugout of the Seattle Mariners’ clubhouse, Jimmy Hartley sits in what looks like the ultimate sports bar or man cave. The walls are lined with video screens – major league and college baseball games on every one of them.
As the Mariners video director and advance scout, it’s his job to keep a close eye on all of the team’s opponents, whether they’re playing other teams or the M’s.
At Safeco Field, he has more than 15 angles to choose from around the stadium. He’s looking for anything that will give the M’s an edge, especially the hitters.
“We try to look at the opposing pitcher, maybe see if he’s tipping his pitches,” Hartley said. “We convey that information to the batter. They still have to go out and do it, but it’s nice whenever you might play a small part in their success.”
It’s clearly working, especially this season. The M’s have been tearing the cover off the ball as they soared to the top of the AL West.
Among those enjoying early-season success at the plate, outfielder Seth Smith, who ripped two home runs in a game against the Padres earlier this week.
“Mostly it’s [the video] just to see the pitchers that I’ll be facing and kind of getting an idea of what they throw and when they’re going to throw it and how they’re going to attack me,” Smith said.
From Smith to Seager, Jimmy has watched countless hours of every Mariners player at the plate and on the mound. He learns the strengths and weaknesses of each player, but he’s not about to point out a problem to them.
“I try not to overstep my bounds and leave the coaching to Edgar [Martinez] and Mel [Stottlemyre],” he said.
But if you ever need your cable hooked up or computer programmed, Hartley’s the guy. He’s constantly immersed in the latest technology, always looking for the next big thing.
“I remember when I used to be with the Rockies,” he said. “We were one of the first teams to put video on the two-inch screen iPods. Everyone thought that was game-changing technology at the time. And now we have these huge iPads. It’s always evolving. I’m always reading tech blogs trying to stay up on new technology.”
Hartley recently installed a camera right behind home plate so batters can go in the cage behind the dugout and virtually hit against the opposing pitcher.
“We can do side-by-side comparisons,” he said. We can draw on the video, frame by frame slow motion. There are a lot of things we can do.”
For some players, it can almost be too much. Smith says it’s a delicate balance to not let all that information get in the way of just playing.
“Now I think I’ve figured out the amount of information I need where I can still be instinctive and reactive on the field but still have a good base of knowledge to make some educated decisions,” Smith said.
It can certainly get to be too much for even a die-hard baseball lover like Hartley. He admits he needs a break from watching the game whenever he can.
“I will say when I have an off day, I’m not watching baseball,” he said.
Instead, he opts for binge watching series like House of Cards.
“I just finished the fourth season on the last road trip,” he laughed.
As long as the M’s keep putting up wins, I think everyone would agree Hartley can change the channel whenever he wants.