During Joe Ross’s start on Sunday, Max Scherzer sat on the Nationals’ bench like he always does. But he had a clipboard with an intricate scorecard on his lap. As Ross pitched, Scherzer kept track of Ross’s pitches, what happened in each count and how the Marlins’ hitters reacted. At one point, pitching coach Mike Maddux walked over to Scherzer to check something on the chart.

During Scherzer’s Monday start, Gio Gonzalez sat in the dugout doing the same thing, but with Scherzer on the mound this time and facing the Braves. Stephen Strasburg, who is slated to start Wednesday, will then take his turn doing the same with Gonzalez on the mound.

Charting pitches may seem like such a simple or antiquated practice, something done in the minor leagues. But to Maddux there is a meaningful reason: it forces the next day’s starter to pay closer attention to the game and visualize patterns.

“It’s a learning tool, man,” Maddux said. “You can see tendencies on hitters just by writing it down. Because if you write stuff down, you retain it better. It’s more of a learning tool than anything. I think the guys, once they see it, they go, ‘Oh man, yeah, look at this.’ All of sudden you get guys paying more attention to what’s going on pitch by pitch.”

Nationals starters may not be used to this because they didn’t do it before. But Maddux, who is known for working with players on the mental side of pitching, said he has always done it so he brought it to Washington this season. Gonzalez said it will “absolutely” help him this season and his fellow starters are open to the practice.

“It keeps you in the game the entire time,” Gonzalez said. “Something we all agree on. It’s not individual anymore. It’s pretty cool just seeing everyone go about it.”

While Scherzer worked through his six innings, Gonzalez sat in between fellow starters Tanner Roark and Ross on the bench and marked on the chart what pitches were thrown in what count. Although the Nationals electronically record mounds of data about each pitch thrown, the paper and pen will be useful for Gonzalez because Maddux hopes to use it in their pre-game preparation Tuesday.

“I’m going to look at it,” Maddux said. “Just to show that these guys swung at the first pitch every time or this [guy] took the first pitch every time. What he hit, what he didn’t hit, what he fouled off. It shows you right there in black and white.”

Washington’s starters used to watch the game from the dugout, taking mental notes on the opposing lineup. But now, they have a hand-made, easy-to-reference guide.

“It’s part of the program and I think it’s healthy,” Maddux said. “It’s something that we always did back before everything was StatCast and stuff. It was right there in front of us and you’d look, ‘What did I do last time? Okay, I’m going here.’ It gives you a good idea of what you’ve done and what to do moving forward.”

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