Top Coach Podcast Preview- Chip Baker

topcoachOne of college baseball’s most versatile individuals, Chip Baker has been the longtime right-hand man of Mike Martin. For the past three-plus decades, Baker has served as a Seminole assistant coach, camp instructor, and director of operations. Here’s a sneak peek at Jack Warren’s latest interview with Baker, which covers family ties in high school, working with the game’s best coaches, what it’s like to run baseball operations at a program like Florida State and yes, even his experience driving the bus.

Upbringing at North Rowan (NC) High School

“My father was a high school basketball coach and director of athletics at the same high school my brother and I went to. My mother taught physical education and health and my grandmother was head of the cafeteria, so I go to school and my whole family was there, it was unique. My dad gave me the master key in eighth grade, so I could go lift weights, play basketball, hit off the tee, and if he ever needed me to do something, I had a key! It was a thrill to be there with my family. It really was.”

Experience as a college baseball player at High Point University and beginning as a coach Continue reading

Understanding the new RPI

The Rating Percentage Index (RPI) was adopted by the NCAA many years ago with the intent to rank teams based on their strength of schedule. Recommended changes to the RPI formula have been approved by the Division I Baseball Committee and will take effect at the start of the 2013 season. It will still be calculated using three statistical parameters:

  • Division I winning percentage (25%)
  • Opponent’s Division I winning percentage (50%)
  • Opponents’ opponents’ Division I winning percentage (25%)

The new formula will value each home win as 0.7 and each road victory as 1.3, a change from the customary 1.0 of the past. Conversely, each home loss will be weighted as 1.3, and each road loss will count 0.7 against a team’s RPI.

Neutral site games will continue to be weighted the same value of 1.0.

The new method is not quite as extreme as basketball’s (1.4 for home losses and road wins, 0.6 for home wins and road losses), but the overriding factor with baseball is that the vast majority of games are played outside. Further, baseball schedules are also filled with three-game series as opposed to single games against opponents.

“To be honest the whole thing is a little confusing to me, we just try to go out and win every game we play,” said Clemson head coach Jack Leggett. “They showed us what it would be with the new RPI and what is was before and it wasnt that big of a difference.”

Leggett is right; in 2011, Clemson finished ranked No. 7 in the RPI, and would have stayed there if the new RPI had already been implemented. For the most part, “southern” schools from BCS conferences weren’t affected by the change. So who was?

The adjusted winning percentage was exemplified in a breakdown of 2011 RPI’s in college baseball. Inside Pitch researched the breakdown and found the following facts: Continue reading

The bats have changed… is the baseball next?

Taking a round bat and hitting a round ball squarely is arguably the hardest thing to do in all of sports.

It got even harder in college baseball recently when BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) bats were implemented to lessen the trampoline effect the barrel has on the ball. The immediate effect of the bat regulations has resulted in a considerable transition process in the college game, as teams have gone from “Gorilla Ball” to more of a small ball approach. Sitting back and waiting for the long ball has taken a backseat to pitching, defense, and situational play.

In our Winter issue last year, Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell admitted the challenge the new bats posed; “With the change in the bats, we saw the game change right before our eyes and I’ll be the first to say we weren’t prepared for it. We weren’t prepared to defend the bunt, and on offense we didn’t incorporate it enough.”

After finishing 32-29 in 2011, the 2012 Cardinals won the Big East and finished the season in the top 25, bowing out to eventual national champ Arizona in the Tucson Regional.

While generally supported throughout college baseball, the new bats certainly have their detractors. In Small ball returns to the college game, a 2011 piece by the L.A. Times, Oregon head coach George Horton claimed that the bats had “changed our game for the worse,” and UC Irvine head man Mike Gillespie agreed, noting that “balls that might have gone 10 feet over the fence are landing 10 feet in front. It just dies and comes down like one of those parachute toys.” Continue reading

The great dis-connect: the improving impact of the mental game in baseball

In sports, people are always looking for a way to get an edge on the competition. Over the past few years, we have seen a meteoric rise in the once-neglected fields of nutrition, weight training, video review, and more. Players, parents, and coaches have collectively spent millions of dollars investing in dietitians, cutting-edge conditioning programs, top-of-the-line HD cameras and anything else in hopes of helping players get the most out of their God-given talent.

With all the changes in the current amateur baseball climate (roster limits, scholarship constraints, bat restrictions, a new RPI formula, and the pitch clock, to name a few), many amateur teams and professional organizations are just looking for some consistency with their game. Over the past few years, there is another field that has arguably gained as much ground as any, utilizing a much more advanced tool- that space between your ears.

Yes, the power of the mind and its importance has seen a dramatic rise of late… even for baseball players. Continue reading

Kevin O’Sullivan interview

osullivanInside Pitch caught up with Univeristy of Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan, who is married to wife Barbara Jo and has a daughter, Payton Tyler O’Sullivan, to discuss just how he’s made the Gator chomp so vicious.

Inside Pitch: When did you realize you were going to be a coach?

Kevin O’Sullivan: After I graduated from the University of Virginia I basically had two career paths: physical therapy or med school, or get into the coaching side of things. I graduated in December, so I had the spring semester at home in Jupiter (Fl.), where I did some substitute teaching and got into high school coaching and from that point on, I knew it was what I was going to do.

A big influence on me was Bob Shaw. He lived in my hometown and took me under his wing. It was very eye opening, an opportunity that most people don’t get. After practice, we’d go get something to eat and we’d break it down: pitching, bunting, base running, infield play, you name it. He was such a knowledgeable guy in all phases of the game and to this day, I still remember writing notes down on napkins, going home and thinking about some of the things we spoke about. Continue reading