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.

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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!!!


Credits:

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.

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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:

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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.

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Source: Weinstein Baseball

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Related Articles:

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Follow Up to ‘Youth Pitchers Get the Short Straw’

While the rise of Tommy John Surgeries has risen, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop pitching.

On July 26th I posted the article, “Youth Pitchers Get the Short Straw” and I got feedback that made me rethink what I said.  Instead of take down my post I’m going to write about what I learned.

Essentially, in the initial post I said that if your goal is to make it Division 1 ball or pro ball, you should refrain from pitching until you get to high school.

Some of the feedback was that you can’t be scared to pitch.  You should not prohibit players from doing what they want.  If that’s what makes the game fun, then that’s what they should do.  Also, I had someone tell me that age restrictions from pitching weren’t the solution, better yet, focus on pre-habilitation.

I completely agree with both of these statements.  Like I said in “3 Tips for Travel Ball Pitchers,” arm care is extremely important.

So What?

There’s not much I can do about the risk that comes with pitching.  I can only warn about what can happen.  I regret trying to tell you that your players shouldn’t pitch.  Here are my key points – what I think are the most important takeaways from this conversation people are having every day:

  • Be aware of the risk involved with pitching.  Young kids sometimes think they’re invincible but they’re not.
    • Just because you don’t get have any severe pain doesn’t mean you have an iron arm.  Years of throwing takes its toll slowly over the course of years.
  • Don’t worry about impressing people with velocity or with a curve ball if you haven’t done the necessary pre-habilitation required to throw hard or to throw that curve.
    • The stage isn’t big enough to do that until you’re older anyway!
  • Don’t be afraid of pitching – in my last post I was too conservative.  There needs to be enough pitchers for this game to continue growing!  If pitching keeps your son in the game, whether he’s 9 or 19, do it.

 

I hope I don’t have to write to many more articles admitting I’m wrong.  But I’ll never take down a post and pretend it never happened.  I will learn from you as much as I hope you learn from me.

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Related Articles:

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5 Things to do to Get a Baseball Scholarship

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

 

Who could the LA Angels get for Trout?

We all know that there’s no way the LA Angels would ever willingly give Mike Trout away, but what if they did?  Who COULD they get?

We all know that there’s no way the LA Angels would ever willingly give Mike Trout away, but what if they did?  Who COULD they get?

Even now, coming off his worst year… he was only 4th or 5th in MVP voting (boohoo) he is in the top three most valuable players in the league.  It is interesting to wonder exactly who the Angels could get by giving up Trout.

First we’ll take into account the teams that NEED a center fielder.  Yes the Pirates or the Marlins would have a better center fielder if they replaced Starling Marte or Christian Yelich with Mike, but it’s not so worth it for them.

By using Bleacher Report’s power ranking, I’ve identified the 3 teams that need a center fielder the most.  The Mets, Giants, and Indians.  Now, let’s go through the trading power Mike Trout might hold.

We will also be taking into account the Angels need for pitching and the fact that giving up Trout would mean that they would need someone to replace him.

Mets

The Mets have an absolutely stacked starting rotation with deGrom and Syndergaard leading the charge.  Their starters ranked 3rd in ERA compared to the rest of the MLB in 2017 so they could lose one guy if it worked in their favor.

Just imagine this, Noah Syndergaard and Brandon Nimmo for Mike Trout.  Nimmo is a career .264 hitter with little pop, but would be better than Jefry Marte who is the Angels’ only other outfielder right now.  It may or may not be a good trade, that’s for you to decide, but it would give the Angels a dominant ace.

Giants

The Giants have a few guys on their roster who I could never see leaving – Hunter Pence, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner.  So we’ll stay somewhat realistic and stay away from those three.

That being said, the Giants also ranked well on the B/R power rankings.  A team ERA of 3.65 spotted them 4th out of all the teams in the league.  I’m going to forget about trying to replace Trout here and go all or nothing – Mike Trout for Johnny Cueto and Mark Melancon.

Cueto had a somewhat tough year last year posting a 4.52 ERA but his 3.33 ERA shows that he is still a valuable pitcher.  Someone with his stuff on the mound will not have two consecutive years like that.  Melancon is a reliever with a 2.72 career ERA.  These additions to the Angels would possibly provide an ace, if not, the second starter and more depth in the bullpen.

While this move would greatly improve the Angels defensively, since the Giants have nobody good to give the Angels to fill Trout’s spot, the cost might be too great.

Indians

The Indians are another team without a dominant center fielder.  The difference is, they could provide the Angels with someone decent to replace Trout.

Lonnie Chisenhall (.288 AVG with 12 HRs) and Corey Kluber (2.25 ERA) for Mike Trout.

Once again, the Angels could get a dominant ace AND a pretty good outfielder in exchange for Trout.  And once again, these are all just my own speculations.

There is absolutely no backing behind these speculations, but it’s fun to think about how quickly the Angel’s identity could change.  The Angels have so much equity in one player right now, they could turn another team’s weakness in the outfield into even more equity for themselves.

Mike Trout’s new future being part of a better line up

Using the overflow of 1st basemen to improve the pitching staff

Credits:
  • mlb.com
  • bleacherreport.com
  • espn.com

Problems Shohei Ohtani Will Run Into

Why is Babe Ruth the Last Good Two Way Player?

Babe Ruth came into the league as a pitcher. He had to prove that he was a good hitter before they put him out there. Obviously it was the right decision, but he was in a different era then Ohtani. First of all, Ruth only played 151 game seasons. Ohtani will be

babe ruthplaying 162 games per season. Also, when Ruth played, 25 people were allowed to be on the roster during the entire season. That counts someone who played 2 games and got injured, so two way players were MUCH more valuable. Now, people can be taken off and put on the roster, and on Sept. 1, the roster expands to 40 people.
the real ohtani stats as picture

Shohei Otani is Legit

Before I get started, I want to say that Shohei Otani is an absolute monster. To be able to get to this level in the first place is incredible. I watched him pitch against a series of the world’s best hitters in 2015 when Japan played against the MLB all stars. I don’t fully remember, but I know he racked up more than 7 K’s in less than 7 innings or less of work and did not give up a run. I know he has what it takes to not only pitch, but be an all star pitcher his first year in the league.

Just like everyone else, I have seen Otani’s highlight tape of him hitting and all I really got from it is that he has tremendous pop to the opposite field. I can only judge him based off his stats and his swing. His stats speak for itself and his swing looks smooth. He does a great job being direct to the ball and loves putting it over the shortstop’s head. On top of that, a lot of people don’t know that he’s got Mike Trout speed. He will be incredible to watch

The rest of the article is about the reason he needs to EXCEL to stay a two way. The game just doesn’t need them anymore, but obviously, if he shoves and rakes… Why not?

otani hitting

Why There aren’t Two Ways Today Explained

The biggest reason there aren’t two ways in the game today is because hitting or pitching, by themselves, are extremely difficult at the major league level. So more times than not, players pick one and get really good at it… If Otani fails at being a two way, it is not for a lack of skill.

I’ve compiled a shortlist to break down the difficulties of playing major league baseball on both sides of the field.

  1. He Needs to Do Well At Both – Unless he excels at both pitching and hitting, they don’t need him to. He only needs to excel at either hitting or pitching to help the team win in the league today. They have the roster space to find someone who can focus on either pitching or hitting to replace his role. By doing both Otani will only make it harder for himself and by taking one of his jobs away he would be able to focus on the other. In order to keep his two way role, I’d say he needs to keep his ERA under around a 3.50 and he needs to keep his OPS above .750. Otherwise, teams will tell him to pick one. It’s just like any regular player. If they don’t do well, they get cut. Only Otani wouldn’t be cut, he would be asked to choose one, and they would probably tell him he’s better off pitching.
  2. They Have the Roster Space – Back when Babe Ruth played, they had 25 spots. Just like today right? No. Back then, anyone that was ever on the roster was on the roster for the whole season. There was no DL and there was no calling people up mid season. So the two way was an incredible asset to have – someone who could fill two roles and take only one roster spot. Today, it’s not even nearly the same. You can send a player to the DL and have him replaced within the week. You can send guys down and bring them up. On top of that, when Sept. 1 rolls around, you get to have 40 people on your roster. On a 40 man squad, you don’t need the two way, you just need everyone to play their absolute best.
  3. Wear and Tear on the Body – Pitchers today get five days between starts. That’s five days of doing nothing but getting ready for their next start. Otani wouldn’t get that time. I play at the Division 1 level, and we have a player who was one of our best pitchers and hitters. We play a 60 game season, and I have never seen someone so physically and mentally exhausted at the end of a season. I can only imagine what almost three times that, with far fewer days off would do to somebody. On the day after he pitches, I would hope he would have it off, but if not, he would be playing in the DH role for sure. Last year Albert Pujols filled the DH role for most of the year, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

shohei Ohtanei

 

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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