by Adam Newland, Madison County (GA) High School and Matt Thompson, Cass (GA) High School
Despite the protests of Goose Gossage, analytics in baseball are here to stay. Instead of relying solely on the eye test, coaches are now armed with statistics that can help them gain a competitive advantage in ways which may escape the naked eye. Continue reading
by Seth Daniels, Managing Director of North America
Pitchers occupy one of the most high-pressure and physically taxing positions in the sport of baseball. At all levels of the game, great lengths are taken to maintain pitchers’ performance and ensure that they are in top form season after season. But across the professional, college and high school levels, one thing is lacking when it comes to the building, training and preserving elite pitchers – data analysis. Many will say that overuse, lack of conditioning, and improper pitch mechanics are the biggest problem facing pitchers over the course of their careers, and that may be true at some level. But, the real issue is coaches and trainers need more data on how their pitchers are performing over time, and in specific instances.
New data collection and analysis tools allow teams to track every single ball a pitcher throws, measuring velocity, strike zone, curve, rotation, and more. By analyzing this level of data over time, coaches can get a far more accurate read on a player’s ability and performance levels.
Statistics and baseball have always gone hand-in-hand. But, big data in baseball is a relatively new development. Coaches have always been aware that arm strength, stamina, max pitch count, recovery time, and warm up routines vary from pitcher to pitcher. But until recently, observation has been the primary metric for determining player readiness and performance.
Here are several game-changing applications for pitch data collection and analysis:
Advancements in technology have presented a unique opportunity for use in the world of sports, as high-definition cameras and computer systems have enabled several sports to implement forms of new technology in its officiating.
The game of baseball is not ignorant to this fact. Major League Baseball’s replay system has made a splash in this field, and most everyone who has ever had a Cracker Jack has an opinion on it. While some may not like it, it’s here to stay, and it may not be alone.
Here are some forms of available technology that just might be used in our game sooner rather than later: Continue reading
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:
“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
New Mexico State head coach Brian Green was the subject of an excellent Inside Interview.
Read why Eddie Comeaux thinks that Little League World Series players should be compensated, and check out Louisville Slugger’s 2015 performance bats.
The ultimate walk-off was registered towards the end of the 2014 season. Did you miss it?
Drs. Michael Ciccotti and Ben Kibler address the arm injury epidemic in Part 1 of our Arm care double feature.
Also don’t miss three resolutions we should all try, Chris Burke’s Frame by Frame breakdown of Giancarlo’s Ground Force, how to love the game more by playing it less, and the ABCA offering clinic videos to all.
Keep your internet browsers pointed this way for all the Winter 2015 articles coming soon!
The second half of our two-part “Armcare” series features a Q&A with two of the foremost experts on shoulder and elbow injuries.
Why do you think we haven’t seen a pronounced spike like this in injury rates before?
Michael Ciccotti: Part of it might be that we didn’t understand these injuries quite as much at the time as we do now. Ballplayers today, with the way they’re recruited into high school, college and ultimately professional baseball, it almost necessitates that they start focusing on exclusively baseball at incredibly early ages. Arguably, they have more mileage on them than the elite level ballplayers decades ago, and more mileage on them than multi-sport athletes today.
Up until college and sometimes through college, players used to play multiple sports; there was a broad balance of stress throughout the musculoskeletal system, rather than years and years of competitive stress in the same areas of the body. It’s like having two beautiful cars; one of them has a thousand miles on it and the other has 50,000 miles on it. They look the same, they’re both beautiful, but the car that has 50,000 miles on it is more likely to have problems than the other car.
What can coaches do to mitigate the occurrence of arm injuries with their players?
Ben Kibler: Coaches are very observational and analytical. They can pick out a lot of things and compare them to the standard that they’ve developed. We need to look for the cause of the observed motions: the elbow dips because the shoulder is tired, the shoulder blade is slumping down or the legs are weak. Arms are slow because of hip weakness, resulting in the arm being behind. If you look at the legs, you can find most of the problems associated with the hand, you can find hip weakness or a tight back. It is possible to observe these things, so coaches and doctors need to work together to agree on what is happening.
I worked with the Houston Astros for several years, and we got the point where the coaches and I were talking the same language, talking about the same things. Now I’m working to make that happen with the Kansas City Royals. The point is that sitting down across the table from each other is the best way to do it- ‘this is what I see, what do you see?’
Ultimately, it’s our goal to provide information through research to the coaches, allowing them go get the best players possible on their teams programs. The players benefit because things are getting done right and the professional teams are benefitting because in general, they’re getting a higher-quality product with less miles on it. It’s a big win all the way around if we can do this right.
MC: One of the things that coaches can provide has to do with mechanics of throwing. Some coaches are brilliant with that and other coaches are novice, but I think the majority of coaches have a sense of [the mechanics of throwing] and how to optimize mechanics. Number two is encouraging athletes to be well-conditioned from the ground-up. We’re focused on the shoulder and the elbow, but coaches can help make sure these athletes are involved in some sort of conditioning program that involves the legs, hips, and core along with the upper extremities.
When you’re a collegiate coach, it’s really hard; you’re there to win and your job security is often dependent on winning with 18, 19, and 20-year olds. You want the best players and you want them to be available.
How would you explain these injury rates in Latin American countries?