JUPITER, Fla. — Baseball is awash in data, and the game is better for it. Numbers reveal truths that broaden fans’ understanding. Executives make better-informed decisions. Players with subtly valuable skills are appreciated more, and paid accordingly.
But it is nice to know there is still a place for people like Perry Hill, the infield coach for the Miami Marlins. Every night after a game, at home or in his hotel room, Hill unwinds for 45 minutes with a four-color Bic pen and a binder of handwritten fielding charts. He would prefer to use colored pencils, he said, but the lines would be too thick, and he must plot every ball put in play by every hitter the Marlins face, noting the pitcher, the count, the location and the type of pitch. The pages fill up fast.
“I’m just not very smart,” Hill said this week, showing a visitor his markings for a rival team. “I’ve got to write it down myself so I’ll remember it. They bring me all kinds of stuff from upstairs, but golly, if I look at it, it just doesn’t tell me what I need to know.”
The Marlins, who are trying to end a 13-year playoff drought — the longest among National League teams — have added Barry Bonds to their coaching staff as the hitting instructor. Bonds is among the most accomplished players in major league history, while Hill never played in the affiliated minors. He toiled for one season in the Gulf States League, where he hit .200, and five in Mexico. But Hill may be the Bonds of his profession, perhaps the best in the game at what he does