Dodgers Team News

How the Dodgers’ Outfielders Use Positioning Cards Reveals Less Than Total Reliance on Analytics

When a new outfielder joins the Los Angels Dodgers, coach Clayton McCullough will spend a few minutes with him before his first game going over positioning. So it was last week when Taylor Trammell arrived in the Dodgers’ clubhouse prior to his first game of the season.

Trammell, like practically all major leaguers who play the position, has been roaming outfields since he was a boy. There are few situations he hasn’t encountered.

The Dodgers make it even easier on their outfielders by making laminated cards, kept in the outfielders’ back pockets, showing where they should be positioned when each opposing hitter steps to the plate. If there are any ambiguities about where a fielder should be positioned, the Dodgers have a system for it.

The Dodgers’ system is baseball’s version of a “plug and play” game: Stick any player into the outfield, give him a positioning card, and he should be good to go. So what could possibly demand McCullough’s time with Trammell, or any new outfielder?

The answer reveals the limitations of what can fit on a laminated pocket card — and the limits of the Dodgers’ reliance on analytical shift data — as McCullough explained to Dodgers Nation.

“First thing, we showed (Trammell) what our positioning card looks like in the outfield, just to explain what it all means when you look at it and some of the reasoning behind it,” McCullough said. “Then as we go along, getting in more to specifics on individuals on our (pitching) staff: ‘You’re playing on this side of the field, maybe anticipate more this type of ball. … You get out there tonight, this is what the card’s going to look like, this is what the information means,’ and how to navigate yourself around.”

McCullough said it might take an outfielder a couple games to get acclimated to the data shown on the positioning card. He also explained that, although the cards are “terrific,” they’re not gospel.

“The information we have on there is good,” McCullough said. “There are moments, contexts in the game where situationally —  the score, the inning — we might want to adjust something. Or maybe it’s a player that doesn’t have as much major league data or information so maybe you’re not as much radared in as you are with a Paul Goldschmidt who’s been playing a long time —  there’s just more history to go off of. We might have to adjust more based off of what we’re seeing in real time.

“Then the moments in the game, maybe you want to shallow up a little bit here. We’re down some runs. There’s another guy in scoring position, and we don’t want something to fall in front. Or it’s late in the game, we want to protect the slug a little bit, so maybe we back up some. Just give ourselves a chance to have multiple hitters to get out of that inning. … Some of the swings you’re seeing, just the situation, how it leads to more of those adjustments.”

It’s a perfect example of how the Dodgers are not slaves to the analytical aspects of the game, but encourage improvisation when the moment calls for it.

Photo Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

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JP Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra writes and edits Major League Baseball content for and is the author of 'The 50 Greatest Dodger Games Of All Time.' He once recorded a keyboard solo on the same album as two of the original Doors. Follow at

One Comment

  1. Fastball v change up? Are the hitters making hard contact? Third time through the line-up? Glasnow untouchable today? Speed on the bases? Protect against doubles? One run lead v several run lead? Center fielder close enough to back me up? What about these things?

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