Rox elevate scout to new analytics role

Bernier will coordinate R&D, coaching staffs

February 26th, 2020

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- How efficiently can data-driven ideas make it to the field, or ideas from the dugout be researched and returned in a coachable way? , a longtime Rockies organization player and pro scout, could be part of the answer in a newly created role of Major League data and game-plan coordinator.

Bernier, 39, spent the bulk of his 16-year playing career as a utility infielder in the Rockies organization. Bernier, who played his first two Major League games with the Rockies in 2008 and saw a total of 44 games with the Twins from 2013-15, transitioned from a Rockies pro scout job that he had held for two seasons.

During Spring Training, Bernier is spending time with the Rockies’ research-and-development team and with the coaching staffs. He will not be in the dugout during regular-season games.

“I feel I'm the communication piece between the research-and-development department and the coaches and players,” he said. “Especially with the increase in analytics, my hope is to take some burden away from the coaching staff so they can spend more time in relationships -- pitching coaches with the pitchers, hitting coaches with the hitters.”

Bernier’s job title and similar ones have appeared throughout MLB in recent years, with some clubs using multiple people. While specifics of Bernier’s job are developing, the Rockies’ self-examination since last year’s 71-91 finish points to a need to address the R&D-to-coaching process. Examples:

• Right-handers , whose slider lost horizontal break, and , whose curve lost its vertical break, made adjustments for a solid season. But lefty and righties , and all took until the offseason to grasp the problems that led to poor seasons.

• Late in the year, hitting coach Dave Magadan and key hitters -- especially , and -- made major approach changes, such as narrowing their hitting zones in offensive counts.

• Hitters ended the season using a machine that offers various spins and velocities as part of pregame preparation, especially on the road -- where pitches sink and break measurably sharper than in the Denver atmosphere.

Could the information from R&D and coaches have been handled efficiently enough to help the adjustments occur in real time? Manager Bud Black sees Bernier as a time-saver for the coaches to “take a little bit off their plate as far as some of the analytical study that they have to do and ... [provide] more time for those guys in the cage or in the bullpen or on the field.”

Bernier began developing his idea-transmission skills during his playing career, when he joined the Yankees organization in 2011. At the suggestion of his wife, Sarah Bernier, the journal he used for studying the various signs and defensive plays grew into a free instruction site,

Bernier joined the Rockies as a pro scout after spending the 2018 season in the Rangers organization.

“I called his agent and his agent was like, 'Yeah, he's ready to play,'” said Jon Weil, the Rockies’ pro scouting director. “And I said, ‘Yeah, about playing … we're going to ask him about scouting.’ We met a couple of times for lunch and he blew me away. It was a tremendously short learning curve.”

Bernier quickly showed he could be used to boil down the R&D world, with its needed value of “big data” over a smaller sample size, into usable game-by-game nuggets. He’ll try to help the Major League team that way.

“There is some big-picture stuff, but I think a lot of it too is, ‘OK, what can we do today? How can we win today?'” Bernier said. “I’m just doing everything I can to have everyone as prepared as they can be.”