6 Useful Statistics for the High School Baseball Coach

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

The Time Is Now…

year round throwing manualThe time is now to jump into Alan Jaeger’s latest passion- the Year Round Throwing Manual.

After more than two decades working alongside countless amateur and professional baseball players, Jaeger put pen to paper and developed a detailed throwing plan that is applicable for pitchers of all shapes, sizes and ages.

“The inspiration for writing this was twofold,” said Jaeger. “First, we wanted to put all of our research and experience in one place, where a player, coach or parent could have as many questions answered as possible. Secondly, in response to the dramatic increase in arm injuries, we felt it was important to put information out there that could make a huge impact in the reduction of arm injuries and provide guidelines to help optimize the health, endurance, strength and recovery of the arm.”

The manual outlines a year-round plan for arm training, maintenance, rest and protection by detailing Jaeger’s time-tested protocols for arm training, keys to training the arm, how to ‘listen’ to the arm, and the role of long toss. Pre- and post-throwing arm care is also discussed. The Manual also discusses when the best time of year is to start a player’s ‘throwing cycle,’ along with how to approach the throwing cycle. Continue reading

Interview with Dave Klontz, Heath (Oh.) High School

klontzThe ABCA Ethics in Coaching Award is awarded annually to a person who has answered coaching’s highest calling- to teach life’s lessons and model the character traits of honesty, integrity, respect and personal responsibility.

For a half-century, Dave Klontz has done exactly that.

The longtime head coach of Heath (Oh.) High School has led the Bulldogs to a pair of state championships (2002, 2007) to go with three regional, seven district and 17 sectional titles. Having been involved with the Bulldog program for 50 years, Klontz has been named Coach of the Year at various levels a staggering 26 times and has been named a Hall of Famer four times (Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association, Heath High School Athletics; Mid-State (Ohio) League; Central District (Ohio) Baseball Coaches).

As decorated as he is in terms of on-field accolades, Klontz is quick tell you his work off the field is much more instrumental. He was a Physical Education and Heath teacher at Heath for 39 years and has served 36 years as the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) advisor. He also coached football for 36 years and has served as a city councilman and Parks and Charter board member.

Inside Pitch sat down with Klontz to talk about his latest achievement and just what has made his experience as a baseball coach so special.

IP: What was your experience like as a player at Heath High School and how did you first get involved with coaching? Continue reading

Chris Burke’s four keys to stealing bases

article by Chris Burke

article by Chris Burke

Amateur baseball is in the midst of what many have called the “dead bat” era. Home runs are way down in both college and high school baseball, thus scores are much lower and runs are at a premium. With tougher scoring conditions teams have looked to a number of alternatives to gain an edge offensively.

Some programs have emphasized the bunting game, some have worked diligently on situational hitting and others have decided to recruit more speed in an attempt to steal more bases.  While all of these areas are vital components of an effective offensive attack, the stolen base can be the most disruptive and ultimately lead to increased run production. With that said, let me first admit that the hardest base to steal is first base, but assuming the offense is producing base runners, here are four keys to swiping more bags:

1) Practice, practice, practice
I was blessed to play for Rod Delmonico at the University of Tennessee. Coach D loved to steal bases and he put a strong emphasis on it during all of our practices. We talked leads, starts, slides, situations, and constantly worked on our breaks!  During our scrimmages we had a mandatory steal rule. It was a must steal within the first 3 pitches of every at bat. This type of mindset was equally beneficial for the offense and the defense. As base runners we developed an aggressive mentality, and learned how to steal bases when the defense was on high alert. While the offense is gaining confidence and learning, the defense is getting invaluable game reps as they work to control the running game. Continue reading

Greener grass

article by Publisher Keith Madison

article by Publisher Keith Madison

“If I could only get the coaching job at _________, I would be happy.”  “Playing at ______________ would be a dream come true.” Baseball coaches and players, alike, sometimes get so caught up on where they want to be that they forget where they are now! We all need to be reminded to do the best we can with what we have to work with at the present, then where we “want to be” will have a better chance of coming to fruition.

As a former coach at the Division l level, one of the most frequently asked questions coaches ask me is, “How can I get a job in college baseball?”  Or, “How can I move from the NAIA level or the D-ll level to the D-l ranks?”  From a players standpoint, I’ve been often asked, “I want to play college baseball, how can I get noticed by college coaches?”  Or, “My dream is to play professional baseball.  What can I do to receive more recognition from professional scouts?” Continue reading

MLB talent evaluators

"Quick Pitch" with Eddie Comeaux

“Quick Pitch” with Eddie Comeaux

Over the years, I have attended my fair share of little league and high school baseball games. And if I had a dollar for every time amateur players, parents, and novice coaches ask about the professional baseball scouting and evaluative process and how players increase their exposure to scouts, well, I would indeed invest in an independent scouting bureau that renders services to aspiring pro players and the baseball community.

Ok, I probably wouldn’t initiate such services for various reasons, but you get my hyperbolic point.

In reality, absent is a tested formula for predicting baseball player success and value to an MLB organization although proponents of Moneyball or sabermetrics- a radical method to manage and to assess baseball talent statistically- would say otherwise.

I am of the school of thought that scouting is not an exact science. Rather, scouting baseball talent is a subjective process that requires trained scouts to make evaluations based on observations, intuition, and robust information exchanges with coaches, other scouts, and the prospect.

Individual scouting perspectives will vary from player to player; in other words, two trained scouts can arrive at different opinions and conclusions on the same amateur player.

Nonetheless, there are analogous minimum standards employed by most, if not all MLB organizations, and carried out by scouts to create profiles, draw conclusions, and make informed decisions about prospects. MLB organizations generally have basic evaluation guidelines that are particular to both position players and pitchers.

Position players generally are graded on the following categories: hitting ability, hitting for power, running speed, arm strength, and fielding. Of course, each position requires a skill set that is most important for that specific position. For example, it is more valuable for a center fielder to have running speed than arm strength.

Of the aforementioned categories, it is somewhat difficult to forecast the future hitting ability of an amateur prospect, as an MLB scout, who wanted to remain anonymous, said “the biggest challenge is believing that they [amateur prospects] will hit at the big league level.”

When evaluating an amateur hitter, another veteran pro scout said that he tends to focus on “the player’s hand speed, contact consistency on the ‘sweet spot,’ and how the ball travels at contact.”

For pitchers, they generally are graded on arm strength, quality of breaking pitch (i.e., curveball, slider), “other” pitch (e.g., change-up, knuckler, split-finger), delivery and arm action, and body type and frame. If a pitcher doesn’t throw an “other” pitch, scouts generally grade them on current pitch types. In this scenario, trained scouts rely to a significant degree on their intuitions to determine whether a pitcher with only two pitch types can develop an “other” pitch based on his arm action and mental make-up.

Evaluation of a player’s personality and character or mental tools can be a particularly strenuous process for MLB scouts considering that most top amateur prospects have rarely failed or faced adversity during their amateur careers.

A veteran professional scout of 21 years said that the most glaring challenge when evaluating both position players and pitchers is to “figure out their ‘makeup’ and how much they love the game of baseball.” He went on to say, “I can’t look into their heart.”

Intangible qualities assigned to both position players and pitchers can include ‘coachability,’ mental toughness, intelligence, perseverance, aggressiveness, instinct, and work ethic.

Without question, makeup commonly separates great ballplayers from successful players.

So what is the grading scheme for amateur players?

In an attempt to quantify the “projected” professional baseball potential of amateur players, scouts use a scale of 2-8 in each category to assign a current and future grade. Grades in each category are added and multiplied by two to calculate an Overall Future Potential (OFP). The OFP number for Major League prospects range from a total of 40-80. The higher the OFP, the better the prospect is considered.

Interpretation of final grades is similar for most organizations. Amateur players with OFPs of 60 + generally are drafted in the 1 st round, OFPs of 58-59 are considered 1st and 2nd round players, and OFPs of 55-57 generally are 2 nd to 4th round draft picks. And after the 5 th round, the OFPs and draft slots can vary significantly because of “signability” issues and organizational needs to name a few.

How do you gain the attention of MLB scouts?

An MLB scout once told me, with some humor, that aspiring professional baseball players can be categorized as prospects and suspects.  

If you consider yourself an MLB prospect, there are ways to appropriately position yourself to gain exposure to MLB scouts. Recommendations for amateur baseball prospects to maximize their exposure to professional scouts include, but are not limited to: (1) playing on high-level and competitive winter and summer league teams ; (2) attending open amateur tryouts that are generally held by all MLB organizations; (3) attending at least one invited showcase camp; and (4) sending an informational package about yourself (including a highlight video) to the amateur scouting director of all MLB organizations.

Above all, amateurs can dream about and prepare for a professional baseball career. The truth is there are not enough MLB uniforms to pass out to every dreamer and every gifted and talented athlete.

This is not to say that we should not support and encourage the dreams of our youth; we should, however, be mindful of the competitive sports landscape and the more achievable career possibilities in other professional areas such as education, engineering, and medicine. Sociologist Harry Edwards firmly asserted: “Statistically, you have a better chance of getting hit by meteorite in the next 10 years than getting work as an athlete.”

There is some truth to that claim as roughly 7% of the players who sign a minor league contract will play in the major leagues.

During a time where the United States ranks 23rd in science and 31st in math in standardized tests and 27th in college graduates with degrees in science and math among developed countries, let’s make sure that we are encouraging the development of high-achievers as both student and athlete.

Dr. Eddie Comeaux received his B.A. at Cal-Berkeley, where he also played baseball. In 1994, he was drafted by the Texas Rangers and spent four years playing professional baseball.

Dr. Comeaux is currently an Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Riverside, where his research interests include student engagement, intercollegiate athletics, and diversity competence and leadership in defined social systems.

Dr. Comeaux can be reached at eddie.comeaux@ucr.edu