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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Chase Utley – One of Long Beach’s Best Products

Working at a batting cage gave Chase Utley all he needed to become an All-Star second baseman.

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Image Credits

Chase Utley – born December 17, 1978 in Pasadena, CA.  He went to Long Beach Polytechnic high school and moved on to play at UCLA.

In high school Utley spent his days working at a batting cage right next to the Long Beach airport – a batting cage I spent a lot of my days… until it was closed about 7 years ago.

I got the chance to talk to the owner of the batting cage and he told me about how Chase Utley worked at the batting cage.  Yes he got paid, but the main reason he worked there was because he could and would take hacks for free whenever the business was slow.

It’s no surprise he turned out to be such a great hitter!


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Here’s another article you might be interested in… With Trout’s contract right around the corner, the Angels will be looking for a way to get the most out of the best player in baseball!

Who the Angels Could Get for Trout


Palm Springs Power Summer Baseball

I was pleasantly surprised with the good competition for a summer ball team on the west coast.

Right now I’m about a week and a half from being done with summer ball here in Palm Springs so I thought I’d write about my experience.

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Going into my third year of summer ball I was excited to finally get to play in California.  Being in Palm Springs I knew it was going to be intensely hot, but was just happy for there not to be any humidity.

My very first impression was that the team is well organized.  I showed up and there were interns there ready to give me my t-shirt and shorts at the door.  There is nothing to complain about when it comes to the facilities (the stadium was built for a minor league Angels team).

The team was started and is run by Andrew Starke who is also an associate scout for the Philadelphia Phillies.  He’s a great leader and it seems he’s done a fantastic job with the team and the league.

The SCCBL is a small league made up of 7 teams.  The Palm Springs Power tends to dominate the league with 8 league titles in the last 10 years.

The first couple weeks I was here, we played a slew of non-conference teams, none of which showed much talent.  Once regular season games started though, I was pleasantly surprised to see much more competitive pitching.  Still not at the same level as the Prospect League or the Cal Ripken League, but it was better than I expected for a young league on the west coast.

It was $400 per player to play for the Power which is reasonable considering busing and food expenses.

Starke also runs a separate “Collegiate Training League” for players who don’t have the skills to play in the SCCBL.  This league will run you $1800 which is because there aren’t enough host families to house the 150+ players so a most of the money goes to paying for hotels.  Also, these games don’t attract the fans that the Power does so there is virtually no revenue from their games.  That being said, it is also a great place to get your at bats/ innings in.  There are usually 6 teams in the Collegiate League and you play in the morning (when it’s a lot cooler) five days a week.

The Power treat their players very well which is why I’m currently playing with two guys spending their third summer here and one spending his second.  I’ve had a great time and if you’re looking for a good spot to land for the summer, Palm Springs is a great option.  If you can’t make it to Palm Springs, check out the SCCBL website to find another team to play for in the league.



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

What College Coaches Are Looking For

The Importance of Hitting Every Day

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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