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10/29/07 3:00 AM ET

Preparation plays role in Sox's title

Advanced scouting no small factor in World Series run

DENVER -- At the point of attack, baseball is fundamentally and beautifully an individual game. Batter faces pitcher, and somebody wins.

But at every moment up to that point of attack, it's a collaborative effort. The Red Sox understand that as well as anyone, and it's part of why they're celebrating a second World Series championship in four seasons.

The front office put the club together. The manager put the players in position. And the players play. Everyone in New England can tell you that much and can name people like general manager Theo Epstein, skipper Terry Francona and stars Josh Beckett, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.

Quietly, though, all of those people benefit from the work of Todd Claus and Dana Levangie, Boston's advance scouts. The Red Sox have committed to advance scouting, and they've reaped the benefits twice now.

"We've had some continuity there with Dana Levangie and now Todd Claus leading the way," Epstein said on Sunday. "We've had some practice, because we've been in the postseason four of the past five years. So I think the system and the process that we've developed is sound. It's the result of a lot of hard work and a lot of great baseball people. But it doesn't mean anything unless you have a manager, a coaching staff, and most importantly, ultimately, players who buy into it."

Go back to 2004, when Boston slowed the freight train that had been the St. Louis Cardinals' offense. The Red Sox won that World Series for a lot of reasons, but not least among them was that they scouted the Cards brilliantly and had a perfectly constructed plan for retiring St. Louis' sluggers. In 2007, they did it again, squelching the Rockies' bats and taking advantage of Colorado's pitchers.

"As a unit, our team, the players themselves, they want the edge," Levangie said. "Any edge they can catch, they want to take. Whether it be on the bases, exposing arms in the outfield, all those things. So, as a whole, I would say that's our benefit."

Levangie and Claus do the scouting. Allard Baird, formerly the general manager of the Kansas City Royals, coordinates their work. The coaching staff and players go over the information. Everyone works together to make the information work.

Jonathan Papelbon's pickoff of Matt Holliday in Boston drew attention to the Sox's scouts, but they've been doing it for longer than that. They look for tendencies on the basepaths and on defense, but mostly they look for hitters' and pitchers' tendencies.

They want to give the pitchers the best way to go after hitters, and the hitters the best way to go after opposing pitchers.

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"The most important thing about advance scouting to me is the battle between batter and pitcher, that dynamic," Epstein said. "Most important to me is how to get their hitters out. Your pitcher dictates what pitch he's going to throw, to what location, in what count. If you control the ball, they have to respond to that. That's the ultimate in advance scouting, trying to get their guys out.

"And then second most important to me is how to develop an approach that works against the opposing pitcher."

Boston hitters make a great match for what the scouts are trying to accomplish. The Red Sox consistently field a lineup filled with selective hitters. They go up with a plan, rather than hacking blindly. No doubt, that's the kind of hitter that can benefit from a good scouting report.

"I would say so," Levangie agreed. "When I try to [evaluate] a pitcher, I make known his strengths and what are his weaknesses. Does he miss location? And it gives our hitters somewhat of a picture of how we're going to approach things. And [hitting coach] Dave Magadan sells it to them."

While Magadan serves as a conduit to the hitters, the pitchers have two men filtering the information. One is pitching coach John Farrell, but there's also Jason Varitek. It's the Sox catcher who takes the information on opposing hitters to help him call a game.

"We have one long meeting with the coaches, staff, the advance scouts and then the catchers," Varitek said. "And we get our ideas passed out in there. We agree to disagree in there, and that's the time to speak up and not bite your tongue.

"They've done the same job [in this year's playoffs]. I can't say that all of a sudden they did more. They've just done a great job all year. You take that, and that helps tremendously. But the guys on the mound have to execute. If they don't execute, advance scouts don't mean a thing."

That's the key that everyone keeps coming back to when they talk about the Red Sox's plan for scouting. They all have to work together. Levangie prides himself not only on gathering information, but on culling what's useful. He considers eliminating the red herrings to be at least as valuable as finding the a-ha moments.

In so doing, in providing the players with what they can use, he earns their trust. They buy in, they use it and they succeed. And the cycle turns over.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.