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Matt Taylor - Adapt or Die


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http://kaplifestyle.com/blog/2015/07/27/adapt-or-die-matt-taylor-guest-post/

I've always dreamed about baseball. Even though the subject stayed the same, my dreams have been forced to evolve.

Growing up an Atlanta Braves fan, I always had the luxury of being able to flip the channel to TBS on any given night during the dog days of summer and see MLB games being played. Those Atlanta teams in the 1990s and early 2000s played a crucial role in my passion for baseball due not only to their success but to their accessibility. The chance to watch the best players in the world on TV every night cultivated a desire to watch, learn, and imitate what I was seeing.

I recall booting up my Nintendo 64 and trying to build the best team in the game in Ken Griffey Jr. Slugfest Baseball. Roster construction, lineup order, front office management, bullpen usage?all things I thought about from even a young age.

My dreams didn't stay confined to the TV, however. Early on, I?d constantly compare myself to Jim Edmonds and the over the shoulder basket catches he made patrolling Busch Stadium. I saw glimpses of my game in Barry Larkin?largely due to my Wilson model infield glove with his name emblazoned in looping cursive script.

One of my first evolutions came from realizing that a left-handed shortstop had no future in the big leagues. My attention turned to pitchers ? Tom Glavine, Al Leiter, and of course the infamous D-Train, Dontrelle Willis.

It turned out to be a good evolution for me. In 2011, the Baltimore Orioles gave me the opportunity to chase the dream of becoming a Major League image (1)baseball players. I was the wide-eyed, freshly drafted kid with a 96 mph fastball from the left side. It seemed like I was well on my way.

I knew every player faces setbacks, and I was no exception. It?s inevitable in life and baseball. My Low-A 2012 season was interrupted by surgery. I needed elbow surgery to remove bone spurs and loose bodies. Shortly thereafter, I had a series of kidney surgeries that left me bedridden for close to 8 weeks. Luckily, these were just temporary obstacles, and I bounced back from that difficult 2012 season with a successful 2013 season. I logged a career high in innings pitched, I didn't miss a start, I finished the season fully healthy.

Or so it seemed on the surface. The next step in the evolution of my dream was looming, even though I didn't immediately recognize it. I had always considered myself a power pitcher, with a plus fastball. After surgery, though, my velocity had dropped 6-7 MPH. I stubbornly believed it would come back. I had always thrown hard, so surely it would return "right" Why should I adapt as a pitcher? In a sport that fears change, I fit the mold easily.

As my velocity continued to decline, I began to panic. I looked for answers everywhere?watching hours of video, working with my coaches, outsourcing instruction. Hit with a flashback to my days spent as video game GM and my little league Hall of Fame role-playing, I began searching for big leaguers with similar pitch repertoires. I was 23, needing to reinvent myself as a pitcher, and about to embark on a statistical odyssey that would see me run headfirst into sabermetrics.

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This was a very fun read and made me really start rooting for this young man. But the more I think about it the more I worry that the player seemed to have to figure this stuff out on his own. Wouldn't the organization want to provide a data-based plan to maximize the success of every player? Maybe I am Reading some negative into the article that isn't there, but it seems like Matt had to develop a plan for success all on his own and that most players in his position would have been left adrift in that regard.

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This was a very fun read and made me really start rooting for this young man. But the more I think about it the more I worry that the player seemed to have to figure this stuff out on his own. Wouldn't the organization want to provide a data-based plan to maximize the success of every player? Maybe I am Reading some negative into the article that isn't there, but it seems like Matt had to develop a plan for success all on his own and that most players in his position would have been left adrift in that regard.

I think that is something all organizations are striving to get a handle on these days. I was privy to a conversation that Dan Duquette had with Oliver Drake pointing him to Ryan Flaherty's guy for help a few years back.

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