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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First Pitch Strikes

Why does throwing a first pitch strike shift the statistics so far in the pitchers favor? I think it’s all mental.

We’ve all been told to throw first pitch strikes and we know the odds are more in our favor if we do so, but why?  Why is an 0-1 fastball outside more effective then the same pitch in a 1-0 count?

The Stats

  • 92.7% of first pitch strikes lead to outs
  • 69% of strikeouts start with first pitch strikes

I could go even deeper into the statistics but those tell the story.  Pitchers are FAR more productive when they get the first pitch strike.

No More Stats.

Melissa Wall – Off the Wall Photography

I’m not going to talk ground ball/ fly ball statistics, average exit velo or swing and miss % after first pitch ball or first pitch strike……  I’m going to talk about the mental side of the whole thing.

There will be little hard evidence to support my claims so feel free to comment if if you agree or disagree.


Mental Game

So we know that hitters are worse off in pitchers counts.  But why?  Do pitchers always throw more quality pitches when they’re ahead in the count?

The short answer is no.

What does happen is pitchers gain confidence and hitters lose confidence.


When a pitcher gains confidence a few things happen mentally:

  • You feel like you can throw any of your pitches effectively
    • You don’t have to worry as much if you have trouble controlling your off speed.
  • You feel more comfortable flirting with the black on your next pitch.
  • You whole body loosens up because you don’t have to worry about going down 2-0
    • Looser body = more velocity & movement.

Conversely, a few things happen in the hitters head:


Melissa Wall – Off the Wall Photography



  • You’re less sure of what the pitcher will throw next.
    • 1-0 you know the pitcher is going to do everything in his power to throw a strike, and depending on his tenancies, you might even know what PITCH is coming.
    • 0-1, his tenancies almost fly out the window – you might know what he usually throws 0-1, but since he’s ahead he can do whatever he wants.
  • Some batters at this point feel pressured to get bat on the ball at anything in the strike zone – they don’t want to go down 0-2
    • A batter ahead in the count can watch a curve ball go by, even if it’s a strike in search of a better pitch to hit.
  • The pressure of the at bat builds against their favor
    • This creates tension in the muscles.  Tension takes a huge toll on bat speed and on the efficiency of a person’s decision making process.


Mental Changes are Magnified in Youth Players

I have absolutely no statistics to back the claim I’m about to make, but I think it’s safe to say that these confidence changes take a bigger effect on youth ball players.

Youth players aren’t as used to the failures that come with every single baseball game.  To some kids, giving up a hit can be the end of the world.  To a seasoned veteran, giving up a hit is just a part of the game and has little or no effect on him.

If the fate of the world rides on each and every batter, then getting that first pitch strike takes a huge weight off the pitcher’s shoulders and delicately places it right back on to the batter’s shoulders.

No matter what the pitcher is throwing; whether it’s a fastball, slider, curveball, change up mix or a fastball changeup mix – once that first strike has been thrown, the pressure has been shifted to the batter.  That alone can change the outcome without even mentioning the other things taking place in both the batter and pitcher’s minds.


all hustle baseball logo

Source: Weinstein Baseball

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Related Articles:

What College Coaches Look For

5 Tips for Players Looking for a Scholarship

Does Position Matter to College Scouts?

Silverback Sports Ballistic Hitting Ball Set

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You want to hit the ball farther… but how?  Strengthen your legs, arms, back, forearms… etc, etc, etc…


Melissa Wall – Off the Wall Photography

To me, it’s always made sense that hitting heavier balls would give me the strength to hit the regular balls harder!  If I can hit a heavy ball feet, then a regular ball will go feet!


With a proper swing, the player will feel the right muscles working.  After 10 reps on each side, the player should feel soreness in his/ her:

  • Legs
  • Butt
  • Core
  • Back
  • Forearms

It should be a total body workout – working the muscles you use to hit a ball.  No more, no less.

Do not Overuse

Just with any workout, it is advised not to over train with the balls.  Make sure you’re not swinging a ‘tired’ bat.  Quality swings are a must.  If you allow yourself to swing when you’re tired you can create bad habits.  So consistent use every day is much more effective than trying to get all your swings in at the same time.

Pair Heavy Balls with a Heavy Training Bat

Heavy training bats go hand in hand with heavy balls.  If you can swing a heavy bat quickly, you can swing a normal bat even faster.  Of course, you can also train using under weight bats.

Here is a video of Bryce Harper before he was in the MLB using a 40 oz. bat.

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Does Position Make a Difference to College Scouts?

Does the position you play matter to scouts? What are scouts looking for when they watch defense?

When you go to tournaments and play in front of scouts, does it matter to them whether you’re at shortstop or right field?  I’ve got your answer…


First of all, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the outfield.  The only problem will come when you prove yourself to be a bad outfielder or you show just how much you don’t want to be in the outfield.

big train fielding
©2017 Jacqui South Photography

Here are two tips from me about the outfield.

  1. Do everything you can to get that center field spot.  Sometimes coaches assume the smaller guy is the center fielder because they think he is faster.  If you think you’re faster than the center fielder, tell the coach that.  The center fielder is the leader and when you’re in center it is assumed you are fast and at least slightly more athletic than the other two outfielders.
    • Sometimes simply telling the coach you want to play center is enough to make him think about it more.  Often times coaches will assume a lot of things just by your appearance and won’t second guess their decisions.  Make him second guess his decision.
  2. If you’re in the outfield, don’t treat it like a walk in the park.  Obviously, on routine balls which will be 90% of your outfield experience, you won’t be showcasing much by catching a lazy fly ball or ground ball.  So here’s a few things to focus on when you’re out there…
    • Make every single routine play – messing up routine plays shows a lack of focus more than a lack of ability… which is probably worse.
    • Do ALL the little things.  Back up bags, throws and fielding infielders.  This shows strong focus, baseball IQ, and hustle.
    • Make smart plays… know the situation.  Every time you get a ball you should already know where it’s going without having to listen to anybody else.  Also never miss your cutoff, letting runners get an extra bag does not (or should never) happen at the college level.


By showing that you play the infield, you’re showing you have a skill that the outfielder’s might not have – fielding a ground ball.  That being said, by playing the infield you’re going to be presented with the opportunity to prove that you CAN’T field a ground ball.

My #1 piece of advice for an infielder is to just make the routine plays.  That doesn’t sound like much, but picking up the ball and getting it over to first on time constantly is the first thing coaches look for.

It’s great making outstanding plays, but don’t be the guy that makes incredible plays but just can’t figure out how to field the ball right at him.

Shortstop vs the Other Positions…

In high school I had a friend who transferred schools because he wasn’t playing short stop.  Do I think it’s that important to play short stop?  No.  At second or third base you showcase the same exact skills.

At my college, all the second basemen played short, and all the short stops played both second and third.  The only difference between third basemen is that they sometimes are bigger and have less range, but just because you play third doesn’t mean that’s true.

Whether you play second, third or short, my advice stays the same.  Show that you can consistently make routine plays and coaches will be able to trust you playing the field for their school.


If you’re a catcher and you really commit yourself to becoming a great defensive player, you’ll have a huge leg up on many other catchers.  There are a lot of decent catchers and not too many great ones.

If you’re a great catcher, then how you hit doesn’t really matter.  That being said, if you’re a great catcher and a pretty good hitter then you’re a premium player.

Most players have to attract college scouts on the offensive side first.  Catchers can attract offers on both sides of the field.  You can grab yourself a scholarship hitting .200 if you’re a top tier catcher.  I had a friend at school who got drafted as a catcher… he was top 20 in division 1 strikeouts…..

Yes, he had a ton of power, but he didn’t prove much on the offensive side of the ball.  Yet, he was given a lot of money by the Chicago White Sox.

I’m not going to do a section on pitchers because you’re not technically a position player.  I will write about pitchers in the near future though.



Like what you see? Follow me for more!

Like my Facebook page, and follow my blog via email for updates when I make new posts!

Here are a few other posts you might be interested in:

5 Things You Can Change to Get a College Scholarship

My View on the Launch Angle Focused Swing

Choosing a Travel Ball Team

5 Things to do to Get a Baseball Scholarship

5 things you can do to become more appealing to college scouts

Getting a scholarship is one of the most life changing things that can happen to an athlete… so how do you make that happen?  As someone who has been through the process and seen other people go through it countless times, here are some things that help the most when trying to get a scholarship:

1. Play Well

Image result for bethesda big train picture matt greenThis one is obvious which is why I started with it.  In order for you to get even a look, the
first thing you need to do is show that you can compete at the next level.  Whether that means playing for a Division 1, 2, 3 or NAIA school.

The biggest reason I put this in the list was to say that this is only the first step.  While this is the most obvious way to get a scholarship, for most, it’s only one part of a larger process.

2. Get Good Grades

Once a college scout sees you perform well, the first thing he will ask your coach is, “What do his grades look like?”  Meaning, what is his GPA?

How high the GPA requirement is depends on the school.  It can be as low as 2.8 or as high as a 3.5 (don’t try to push it, you want as many options as you can have, a 3.3 is probably a safe bet anywhere you want to go).  Be safe and just do the absolute best you can in school.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I went on an unofficial visit to UC Riverside.  I was walked around all the facilities just to be brought into the head coaches office to be told that my grades were too low.  I was sitting at a 2.7 at the time.  That was a huge wake up call for me and the very next semester got a 3.5.

If you have a bad GPA now, it’s not too late.  Bringing it up and keeping it up will show scouts that you are committing yourself to school, no matter how late you are doing it.  You can prove to them that you are capable.  They are human and will see your effort.

3. Show Your Maturity

Like I talked about in an earlier post about what college recruiters are looking for,  they’re recruiting a person, not just a player.  A huge part of a great college team is a great team culture.  If somehow the coach finds out you love to drink and party, or slightly less bad – love to sit on the couch and do nothing, they won’t want you as bad.

There are thousands of kids just as good as you who want it just a little more.  Give yourself a leg up on your competition by showing your maturity and desire to do well.

The coach is also considering putting HIS name behind YOURS.  When you get a scholarship, the coach is telling the world that he believes in you.  The coach has a reputation to keep and he will be a lot less willing to put his name behind someone who loves to get in trouble, or someone who doesn’t really care about doing well.

On the field, show everyone how bad you want it.

4. Play as Often as You Can

Get on one or more travel teams and play, play, play.  I know there is a lot of controversy about playing too much ball, but the more you play the more eyes you’ll get.  If you’re a pitcher, make sure you take care of yourself every single day especially before and after pitching.

Playing is the only way to be seen.  Fortunately, if you don’t want to play every weekend, you can go to big tournaments where scouts tend to gather.  Perfect Game tournaments come to mind the most.  I know that the most heavily scouted tournaments tend to be in Arizona and Florida at the minor league facilities.

Yes, that means you might have to make the drive or flight.  These tournaments can really run up your bill, but if you perform, the scholarship will pay for all of your expenses in the long haul.


5. Market Yourself

When I was in high school I hated kids that always talked about how hard they worked.  Especially the kids who always said they worked hard but clearly didn’t.

If you can work hard when nobody is watching you will become a much better athlete.  Nobody’s watching most of the time.  But when you’re trying to get scouted, you need to recognize when people are watching and work even harder.

I don’t care what anybody else says when they notice it.  When people are watching, you need to step your game way up.  That being said, the way to become great is by working as hard as you can 24/7.

Someone with a great work ethic has the best potential.  If you play with or against someone who is better than you but you clearly have the better work ethic, coaches might see more potential in you than him.


Hopefully this helps you, if you have any more questions for me, leave a question in the comments and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.


Like what you see? Follow me for more!

Like my Facebook page, and follow my blog via email for updates when I make new posts!

Here are a few other posts you might be interested in:

What College Coaches are Looking For

Choosing a Travel Ball Team

The Importance of Hitting Every Day