The need for speed in baseball

In response to the short attention span of the ‘need it now’ society that we live in, several sports are faced with decisions on shortening the length of their games.

As our national pastime is often maligned for being too ‘old-school,’ it has been taking measures to investigate whether speeding up the game is a reasonable objective. Major League Baseball’s pace-of-game committee came up with six experimental rules quicken the pace of its game, enacted in this year’s Arizona Fall League:

  1. Hitters must keep at least one foot inside the batter’s box at all times, barring exceptions like foul balls, wild pitches, or if the umpire grants him time out.
  2. Pitchers must throw a pitch within 20 seconds of receiving the ball. Clocks posted in each dugout will count down the 20 seconds.
  3. There will be a maximum break between innings of 2:05, with a clock keeping track. Hitters must be in the batter’s box by 1:45. If the hitter’s not ready, the umpire can call a strike. If the pitcher doesn’t throw a pitch by 2:05, the umpire can call a ball.
  4. Teams will have a maximum of 2:30 to change pitchers, with the clock starting as soon as the reliever enters the playing field.
  5. Teams are limited to a maximum of three mound visits per game, not including pitching changes. This applies to trips to the mound by managers, coaches, and catchers.
  6. Pitchers no longer have to deliver four balls for an intentional walk. The manager can simply signal to the umpire.

Starting on May 1, the MLB will begin to fine batters who don’t keep a foot in the box and pitchers who don’t complete their warm-ups in time. As with anything in baseball, the changes have come with mixed results:

“I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a deal. I really don’t,” said Indians manager Terry Francona in an AP article by Tom Withers. “It’s going to be that day and it’s hot and everyone’s a little on edge, that’s when you’re going to see something. But that’s what you see during the games anyway.”

“It’s a work in progress,” MLB umpire Tom Hallion added in the same article. “It’s the first game and we’ll go from here. It’s going to take some work. It’s a change for everybody. It’s not going to get fixed on the first day.” –MLB umpire Tom Hallion

Other baseball leagues around the country have also experimented with pace of play rules. The Atlantic Independent Professional Baseball League has enacted several rules over the past few years, including calling the ‘high strike,’ a pitch clock and 90 seconds between innings. Further, any game that lasts more than two hours and 45 minutes requires a written report to be filed by the umpires, managers, the official scorer and home team general manager and sent to the league office explaining why the game took so long.

If that wasn’t enough, the Atlantic League has also experimented automatic intentional walks, closer enforcement of the traditional strike zone, batters keeping a foot in the box, mound visits and offensive timeouts, a 12-second pitch clock and six warm-up pitches between innings instead of eight. Continue reading

From the Bleachers, Spring 2015

UNC pitching coach Scott Forbes

UNC pitching coach Scott Forbes

On last issue…

I think the new ball was awesome and our pitchers really like it. I do think it is carrying more off the bat, but I also think it allows the pitcher to get a little more on the ball and get more sink on the ball. We didn’t really change much or make many adjustments, and I think with the new ball we will see more doubles and home runs than previous years, and possibly even more velo from pitchers.

Scott Forbes
Associate Head Coach/Pitching Coach
University of North Carolina

Check out our Winter 2015 feature on the new ball at http://insidepitchonline.com/2015/02/11/the-new-ball/

Great article on Brandon Finnegan. Not sure if there’s ever been a better year team-wise for a player in quite some time. Go Royals!

Jane Schwendeman

“Finnegan and again” article available at http://insidepitchonline.com/2015/02/27/finnegan-and-again/

Just wanted to send a note to commend you guys for a job well done. As a baseball enthusiast it is great to get such an in-depth look at the inner workings of baseball on many different levels. Keep up the good work.

Joseph Hampton

ABCA members to receive Inside Pitch for free!

The American Baseball Coaches Association and Inside Pitch Magazine have agreed to an official partnership that will provide all ABCA members with an electronic subscription to the magazine as part of their basic membership benefits. A complementary issue of Inside Pitch has been provided to all attendees at the ABCA Convention for the past three years.

For the full release, visit http://abca.org/news/2015/insidepitch031615

The shift is on!

shifts2

The phenomenon of the defensive shift has been making its rounds through the higher levels of baseball.

Many collegiate teams are employing Diamond Charts, a company that has streamlined the process of creating spray charts at the NCAA level. During their first season last year, more than one-third of Division-I programs used Diamond Charts, who sends spray charts of clients’ opponents each week during the season. Included in the charts are left and right split sprays, pitcher per plate appearances, ground ball-to-fly ball ratios and more.


Diamond Charts
Founder Kellen Hurst shared his thoughts on defensive shifts with Inside Pitch:

Diamond Charts sample“As shifts prove to significantly reduce the BABIP [batting average on balls in play] of dramatic pull hitters at the major league level, we envision college teams slowly adopting these more aggressive shifting methods.  However, due to lack of pitcher command at our level, dramatic defensive shifts will be used less.  Other factors (e.g. runners on-base, hitter speed, bunting ability) should be considered when deciding to dramatically shift or not.  I think the ultimate future for dramatic defensive shifts in college baseball is that it will be used sparingly for only a select few players, similar to what we’ve seen recently.”

“We’re continuing to grow approaching the 2015 season.  Our system is more focused on saving coaches’ valuable time while preparing scouting reports as we provide data to help make more decisions than simple shifts; our data helps with areas such as pitching strategy, hitting approach, platoon/substitution match-ups, game strategy, and more; however, we have had feedback that marginal shifts, against certain players, have shown to gain a couple of outs each game.  Sometimes this is the difference in one-run games.”

There are a wide range of opinions out there when it comes to shuffling the defensive deck, including some who wonder if shifts should be allowed at all. MLB Reports chief writer Hunter Stokes is calling for a rule that prevents the third baseman and shortstop from being able to shift to the other side of second base (and vice versa). “With the new approach of the players not caring about strikeouts,” Stokes adds, “it would cause them to make an out on a more frequent basis than just trying to plow through the shift.” Continue reading

“Change up” the Season

FODspring15Instead of warmer temperatures and sunshine earlier this spring, Mother Nature taught the majority of the country a new vocabulary word- polar vortex.

Waves of arctic air dropped high temperatures 10 to 20 degrees below average across the United States, and subzero temperatures were recorded in parts of 26 states in March. Record lows were also set in several southeastern states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina.

Also known as the Siberian Express (the suspected origin of the air mass), the polar vortex shattered 647 record lows across the U.S.

For years, there have been a few voices calling for a change to the season to late spring/early summer. After the coldest early spring (by far) since college baseball’s common start date in 2007, those voices are getting a little louder.

Minnesota head coach John Anderson proposed the idea a few years ago for the Big Ten alone, believing that it would be the best move for the conference even if its schools would’ve essentially been eliminated from consideration for NCAA Regionals and ultimately the College World Series.

Recently, West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey has come up with his own proposal for pushing back the college season.

“The fan interest is so minimal compared to Major League Baseball,” Mazey said of the college game in a recent D1baseball.com podcast. “[We’re] not even on the radar; the interest in lower levels of minor league baseball is better than the highest levels of college baseball.”

Mazey’s proposal would make the college season look much more like a professional one- with pitchers and catchers beginning training in mid-February, hitters starting around the second week of March, and opening day penciled in for the first week of April. The proposal is even complete with a “rivalry week” during July 4th weekend to finish the regular season. Continue reading

New Approved Hit by Pitch Rule Could Change Approaches

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Former Arizona State star Andre Ethier is the Dodgers’ franchise leader in HBP (Click here for Los Angeles Dodgers tickets)

By Justin Brown

“Hold up!”

This spring there could potentially be a drop in one statistic across the country. How significant remains to be seen, but there is a new interpretation taking place that could effect on base percentages across the college landscape- the hit by pitch.

In previous years, if a batter was hit by a pitch while in the batter’s box, he was awarded first base by the umpire as long as the pitch was not deemed to be in the strike zone. This allowed the batter to lean in to pitches in an attempt to reach base. Often in the thrills of a close game if an inside pitch just missed the batter, chants of “wear it!” riddled the hitter as teammates in the dugout wished the batter would have actively attempted to get hit by the pitch in order to reach base, keep the rally going, and score runs to win the game. This is known by many as “taking one for the team” or “wearing” pitches. Continue reading

Back to basics

article by Publisher Keith Madison

article by Publisher Keith Madison

To help get me through a tougher than usual winter and the long drought of “life without baseball” between the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention and college baseball season, my wife Sharon ordered some baseball documentaries-“When It Was A Game”- through Netflix.

While enjoying these classic DVD’s featuring strong, skilled baseball men wearing wool uniforms and playing the game with pride and enthusiasm, I tried to put my finger on what was so different about the baseball experience of today and way the players of “yesteryear” played the game. I noticed many differences. The stadiums were filled with men smoking cigars and wearing hats, suits and ties. The playing surfaces looked rough and the grass was stressed and worn (did ground crews exist in the 40’s?). The infielders actually left their gloves on the field at the end of the inning…they just tossed them out on the outfield after the third out!

Maybe it’s just me, but they looked like they had more fun. Many major league players were paid so poorly that they worked during the off season or went on “barn storming” tours around the nation playing “pick up” games in towns without a major league team; but yet, they had fun. They ran the bases as if their pants were on fire. The way they ran the bases reminds me of something I heard my mentor Ron Polk say many years ago, “Gentlemen, run the bases with reckless abandon under control.” Their hitting and pitching mechanics, in most cases, weren’t nearly as “pretty” as the modern player, but hitters seemed to hit for higher averages and pitchers logged many more innings than today’s players. They just seemed to be having so much dog gone fun! Continue reading