This vast traveling library lived in a red, wheeled trunk that was modeled after an equipment box that was once re-engineered to have a secret compartment for stashing booze during prohibition.
Hiding goodies goes with the job.
But instead of housing something for after the game, this red trunk carried binders and binders and binders loaded with info to help during the game. One morning in Arizona, former Cardinals bench coach Joe Pettini was digging through this crate – which was labeled “DUNCAN” – and pulling out three hold-punched sheets with intricate notes and drawings on them. He was updating the binders from a vast filing system of players. There were sheets for players who had long since retired, and yet they were there just in case, say, Bobby Bonilla popped up at third base for the Houston Astros one day.
The binders and notes were pitching coach Dave Duncan’s scouting reports – the data he and his colleagues meticulously kept. For each hitter, they’d know what pitch got him out and where to put the fielders to aid in that outcome. These sheets molded the Cardinals pitching game plans and their defensive alignment for more than the past decade. This old-school database, stacked neatly in the trunk, was had elements of Moneyball before Moneyball had a name. And when Duncan took a leave of absence this winter, that stockpile of info went with him.
The Cardinals believe they have ways to replace the Duncan database.
It could be part of a subtle sea change in the clubhouse when it comes to how baseball’s new metrics are used and embraced.