The Story of 4 Million Pitches

What you can learn from a recent Boston University study on balls and strikes.

Baseball is back, and with it comes the familiar sight of umpires making bad calls. If you’ve been watching college baseball, you’re already used to it for this year.

Essentially, the study found that umpires make bad calls around 12% of the time and when the batter has two strikes, that ratio jumps to 29%.

We already know that umpires make bad calls so what can we learn from this? For everyone not in the MLB, we’re going to have to wait a pretty long while for robotic strike calling machines, so we’re going to do our best to learn a lesson.

A coach told me one time, the same way I go to sleep dreaming of hitting home runs, umpires go to sleep thinking of ringing guys up. Now from this data, I know for a fact it’s true.

Look at the chart. This is from a Boston, Toronto game in 2010. What do you see? I see missed calls on either side of the plate – not so much up and down.

I can imagine that the missed calls were probably on the outer half (depending on whether a righty or lefty was hitting). This tells me another thing I already know – umpires expand the zone on the outer half more times then not – especially with two strikes.

What what can you do with this new information (besides get mad at umpires)? You can learn that you should never strike out on an outside pitch. THEY WILL CALL IT IF IT’S CLOSE!!!


The Conversation – An analysis of nearly 4 million pitches shows just how many mistakes umpires make

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5 Things to do at Home to Train for the Field

So you don’t want to play baseball year round but you don’t want to come back rusty…

So you don’t want to play baseball year round but you don’t want to come back rusty…

Well here’s five ways you can train without even stepping on a field.

1. Wall Ball or “Butts Up”

A wall and a tennis ball… that’s all you need.  You can either do this as a serious drill, or as a game with your friends.


Throw the ball against the wall and try to get yourself some short hops.  Work on picking the ball with one hand.  You can do this to work on footwork or to work on soft hands.

Two Methods

  1. Don’t move your feet – work on seeing the ball into your hand.  When you don’t move your feet, it requires your hands to work better – if your footwork is good, you’ll always get the good hop so don’t use your feet and work on those tough hops.
  2. Move your feet – You should never get a bad hop.  Come through the ball and get that short hop.

A Game with Your Friends

Even though it’s just a game, you work on your footwork and your soft hands.  Also, to win, you have to have an accurate arm to give your opponents a tough ball to field so you’ll also be working on your throwing accuracy.

A fun way to work on the two most important things for a young ball player – the ability to catch and throw the ball.

2. Go to the Batting Cage

It’s the off season… your time away from baseball.  You don’t have to go three times a week.  But taking a long time away from hitting can have negative consequences.

Go to the batting cage once every week or two and just hit until your swing feels good.  That way, when you come back you don’t feel so rusty.

If you want to be proactive, find one thing to work on and ONLY think about that one thing for the whole off season so when you come back you feel stronger then when you left.

3. Play Catch/ Long Toss/ Work on Arm Strength

Whenever you have free time, go outside and play some catch.  It will help your arm strength and durability… not throwing for a long time and jumping back into it right away can have negative effects.

Keep working on your arm health…  If you’re a pitcher, taking time off definitely helps.  But you can be proactive in your time off, do arm care exercises.

Here’s a video with Angel’s pitch Garrett Richards on long toss

4. Work on your Speed

This doesn’t even have to be extra work!  If you’re playing another sport, whenever you do speed or agility workouts, just remember – speed translates to the baseball field.

Work extra hard when you do these workouts because it’s not just for the sport you’re training for – it’s for ALL the sports you play.

If you don’t play another sport, here’s an exercise you can do every day.

5. Ball Recognition Drills

Pitch recognition is one of the hardest things to learn in baseball.  Usually the best way to practice is by playing or by taking batting practice with someone throwing multiple pitches.

Since you’re in your off season, you don’t want to hit too much so here’s a way to keep your vision sharp without tons of batting practice.

The video below shows how using different colored balls can help…

You can take this to the batting cage or you can just do it at home.  You don’t need to go out and buy new balls.  Instead, grab two sharpies and make big different colored marks on each ball.

Have someone softly toss you the balls from not too far away and have them tell you which one to catch.


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Launch Angle, Changing Your Swing, and Taking Effective Batting Practice

The baseball swing for every ballplayer is ever changing.  All the way up to the MLB, players are constantly working and tweaking their swings, players are constantly talking with each other and their coaches about their swings.  A lot of players growing up don’t realize how mental the game is.  They all hear it’s 90% mental, but why?  It’s not just during the game that is the mental part.  Every time you take batting practice you need to think about what is working and what isn’t.

Over the last few years there has been a change in swing culture.  The goal used to be to hit low line drives, and now it is to hit deep fly balls in the gap or over the fence.  When you’re going through the process of changing your swing, you need to be extra mindful and you need to work on it every single day.

Ever since Josh Donaldson went on Studio 42 and gave us all his two cents on hitting ground balls, virtually all the coaches in America have turned their players on to hitting deep fly balls hoping for extra base hits.

Here’s the full video – CLICK HERE

Here’s the important part (5:22 in the full video) – CLICK HERE

I am entirely bought into the thought process Donaldson describes in the video.  If I want to get anywhere with my baseball career (especially as a corner outfielder/ 1st baseman), I’m not going to get there hitting ground balls through the four hole.  So I completely changed my swing.  I have completely bought into working every single day on my spine angle and making sure it’s perfect on every swing.  It’s to the point where I believe that when almost anything goes wrong, I feel like it is because of my spine angle.

There is one thing I’ve noticed about this swing though.  High heat is impossible to catch if you repeat this swing no matter where the ball is.  I say high heat because it’s only a problem if you’re facing velo.  If not, it’s not a problem.  The uppercut swing is direct and at a perfect angle to the low ball, but when the ball is up, the swing becomes very long to the ball.

There’s two ways to go about dealing with this;

1. Do what Mike Trout does: Take high fastballs.  Now, this sounds easy, but there’s a reason Mike Trout is the only person I’m calling out here.  He is the only one that is able to consistently take fastballs up… for strikes.  Yes, just because it’s a strike, doesn’t mean you have to swing.  Mike Trout is successful for many reasons, but one of them is because he knows his swing and will not swing at a fastball, even if it is for a strike if he’s not going to be on time.  I challenge you to find a video of Mike Trout being beat by a high fastball.

2. Learn how to hit it.  This one also sounds easy but obviously it’s not.  Baseball is hard.  If you want to have this uppercut swing, but also want to be able to hit middle/ up fastballs, you CAN NOT start with your spinal angle set which is what some players do to cheat to those low pitches they can crush.  You need to start with a normal spine angle, recognize ball down, and set your spinal angle while the ball is coming.  This is entirely possible and is what most ball players do without even knowing it.  While it gives you a better chance to hit the high pitch, you will no longer have as much of the advantage you had with the low pitches with your pre set spinal angle.

Next time you’re taking batting practice, try to find which zones you like the best and which ones you don’t like and find out why it’s like that.  Instead of mindlessly hitting, learn about your swing.  The more you know your swing, the better your approach at the plate can be and the better your swing will be.  You can either be aware of what you don’t like and take those pitches and/ or make minor changes in your swing to correct those flaws over time.

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The Importance of Hitting Every Day

Most people say hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in all of sports.  That being said, you’re given a lot of room to work with – you only have to get a hit 30% of the time to be an all star.  The only way to get better then everybody else is to practice more often, harder and smarter than everybody else (ESPECIALLY when you’re young).

At a young age, keep it simple.  First of all, your kid needs to be strong enough to swing all the way through the ball.  If the ball pushes his bat back on contact, he’s losing power.  To fix this, mike trout 2the best way to get stronger is to hit bigger, heavier balls.  Second, tell your son or student to aim for a certain part of the cage.  Young players don’t understand how their body is moving the same way an older athlete does.  By giving him the simple goal to hit a ball in a certain spot, his body will naturally create more efficient mechanics.  It won’t create perfect mechanics, but he will be able to fix a lot of kinks in his swing without you having to tell him about them all.

It is imperative that you hit at least every other day.  Now that I’m in college, I hit every day.  I’ll take one or two days off a week.  Two or three times a year I’ll take a week or more.

However you’re practicing, whether it’s off a tee, front toss, live arm or off a machine… you’re getting better.  Especially if you’re in high school – those who practice everyday get rewarded, period.  You’ll get better, your coaches will know you’re a grinder and college scouts love grinders.  People will always tell you how many people are working harder canothan you, but if you do an hour of extra batting practice after everyone else is done, you’re working harder than MOST high school ball players.

Once you get yourself in the cage, it’s not just about hitting the ball.  Work on something.  Pick one thing to work on and do it until it becomes natural.  Pick just one thing so you don’t confuse yourself and mess up your swing.



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