The new ball

new ballIn response to the BBCOR bat, TD Ameritrade Park and lower offensive outputs across the country, the DI baseball committee’s unanimous 2013 vote to change the ball to a flatter-seam version was put in play. Beginning this past fall, college baseball implemented the new ball and Inside Pitch asked coaches to chime in on their overall observations, any changes that they intend to make with coaching philosophies for their hitters or pitchers, and whether the new ball will change their recruiting mindset:

HITTING

“We are a team that likes to lengthen and shorten the field- we like to make the field real big, and we like to make the field real small- and these balls play into that. They’re going to level off the playing field, and a five-run deficit is not insurmountable anymore. It won’t be as prevalent as it was 5-7 years ago, but it is going to give hitters a fighting chance when they’re dealing with adverse conditions like wind or a bigger ballpark. I really like the new baseball, I think it’s going to add some more excitement to the game, and it might put us just about where we want to be.”

Matt Deggs, head coach, Sam Houston State
Helped UL-Lafayette to a banner 2014 season where they finished the top 10 in the nation in 14 offensive categories and had an OPS of .902

“I think you’re definitely going to see more home runs, but it’s not going to go back to ‘gorilla ball’ or anything like that. As far as coaching goes, I still like power in the middle of the lineup and speed at the top and the bottom, so we aren’t going to approach it a whole lot differently.”

Cliff Godwin, head coach, East Carolina University
His hitters ranked first in the SEC in batting average and second in home runs and runs scored in 2014

“It’s a little tough for me because I’m in a new park with new hitters, too. I think the feedback from the kids was that the ball traveled farther, which is what everyone was looking for. Hopefully it’ll balance the game back out a little bit more, adding the home run as an element for most teams. Recruiting-wise, we’ve always liked to have a nice blend of power and speed, so I don’t know that it’s going to change much. Maybe the bigger corner infielder or outfielder becomes important again, which the game has kind of gotten away from the past few years.”

Chris Lemonis, head coach, Indiana University
Former hitting coach and recruiting coordinator at Louisville helped the Cardinals to three College World Series appearances and back-to-back 50-win seasons in 2013 and 2014 Continue reading

3 up, 3 down: running game philosophies

corbinTim Corbin (Vanderbilt), Greg Goff (Campbell) and Jason Stein (Eastern Kentucky) all led their teams to prolific stolen base totals during the 2013 season. Here’s their take on a few aspects of the running game we discussed in this issue’s Feature article (http://www.insidepitchonline.com/Press-Center/Lineup/2013/Stolen-bases-an-argument-of-quality-versus-quant.aspx)

1. Would you rather have your team steal the most bases it possibly can (quantity), or have a high (75% or above) success rate?

TIM CORBIN- “I would tell you that stealing the “most bases” would not be our top priority but rather the “quality of the attempt”…right pitch, best jump, right time, what advantage did we gain, was it “show-me” stolen base or an effective team stolen base. Putting up high stolen base numbers has not necessarily translated into the most effective offense, but it can be a component of one.”

GREG GOFF- We never talk about percentage with our players, as I feel may take away from their aggressivness. I want my players to trust their instincts and be fearless on the bases.

JASON STEIN- I think you need to factor in both quantity and success.  Certainly above 75% is the goal but you must have quantity or guys throughout the line-up that will run so the opponents fear the line-up instead of just a guy or two.

2. How would you define what a “good base stealer” is? More stolen bases or higher stolen base percentage?

TIM CORBIN- I would say the high percentage runner with the most attempts, not the runner with the most attempts. To me it’s like passing the football…you can unload 60 passes in a game, but it’s worth may be minimal if your completion rate is down and your yards per catch is low. Running efficiency is like passing efficiency to me.

GREG GOFF- I feel a good base stealer is someone that trust themselves, has good instincts, and fears nothing. I prefer the bags over a percentage.We try to promote that within our program during practices and scrimmages.

JASON STEIN- A good base stealer has no fear of getting thrown out and of course must have a good success rate

3. Do you keep close track of your team’s stolen base totals and/or their accompanying percentages throughout the course of the year? What do these numbers tell you when you are scouting your opponents?

TIM CORBIN- I look more at who an opponent is running against – are the numbers bullied or true. If you are running on a team that defends the running game well…then you must have an efficient running game.

GREG GOFF- We talk more about the process than actual numbers. What are pitchers trying to do to stop us and find their weakness and expose it. Stolen bases are a big part of our offense and I feel  helps us score runs. Educate them on good times to run and when not to run, help them gain confidence through practice and scrimmage games, and turn them  loose in the spring is my approach to the running game. Its always a risk but to me you can’t reach your full potential without risk taken.

JASON STEIN- We keep track of all percentages and hopefully teams are worrying about the running game.

The best drills in baseball

godwindrillCliff Godwin, Ole Miss

Played at East Carolina University; has prior coaching experience at UNC-Wilmington, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, LSU and Central Florida

“Here are a few drills our guys do every single day before they ever have a live pitch thrown to them:

1. Fungo swings- toss up the ball and hit 10-15 balls with a fungo to get loose. Try to hit line drives.

2. High tee drill series- set tee up away to start with and go “no-low half” where you’re eliminating the lower half where you’ve already taken your stride and both your feet are on the ground. You can either have your hands in a normal position or put them out on their front shoulder (front shoulder load).

The whole basis of the drill is to eliminate the lower half and produce three head-high line drives over the opposite-field infielder’s head. [Our players at Ole Miss] have to do three in a row and that’s what I really take pride in, getting our guys to do that, because anybody can produce one line drive and move on to the next step, but it’s not consistent. Once they do that, they take swings regularly off the high tee away and do three in a row there. Then we move the tee to the middle and finally to the inner half, repeating the same sequence: Continue reading

Vanderbilt’s Scott Brown

scottbrownTHE JOURNEY

I think the first thing about being a “top assistant coach” is your loyalty to the head coach and then to be able to implement your personality into the overall culture that the head coach wants presented.

I’ve had the luxury of working under/alongside and playing for some great coaches. I started at Cortland State, a Division-III school in upstate New York that is a national contender each year. I played Steve Owens (who’s now the head coach at Bryant University) and I picked up a lot from him as far as your work ethic and the energy you bring every day, paying attention to small details as a player, and most importantly a mentality and passion that he has for everything he does. Continue reading

Cliff Godwin

godwinOne of the top assistants in college baseball has prior coaching experience at UNC-Wilmington, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, LSU, and Central Florida.

On coaching journey…

“I’ve been very blessed to have worked for a lot of successful coaches. My first stop was as a volunteer assistant at UNC-Wilmington with head coach Mark Scalf. He’s been there for 21 years and they’re done a great job with their program. I got to work with Tim Corbin, who’s done such a great job at Vanderbilt, Paul Maineri (Notre Dame, now at LSU), Terry Rooney (Central Florida), and now Mike Bianco (Ole Miss). They’re all successful head coaches and I’ve been very blessed to take bits and pieces from every single guy and hopefully one day when I become a head coach I’ll have a lot of very successful people’s ideas that will help me along the way.”

On being a Director of Operations at Vanderbilt… Continue reading

Tim Corbin interview

Tim Corbin/AP photo

Tim Corbin/AP photo

On fall ball…

“Fall is all about building foundations of what a team is all about. We teach those concepts more than anything else, because when you have kids coming back and coming in, there’s an expectation level of what they’ve accomplished in the past.

The younger guys want to understand what your program is all about and what exists inside the culture of the program. As much as we teach baseball, I think concepts and foundations of team most important.”

Advice to incoming players

“Use the two things on the side of your head [your ears] rather than the one in the middle [your mouth]. Listen, listen, listen; and use your eyes to observe. A lot can be learned from watching the returners, so it’s important for them [the returners] to be leadership models.”

Advice to coaches

“There’s so much information that can be learned in the fall. I think the coaches’ role in that is trying to get the kids to be patient, trying to get them to understand what’s in front of them. It’s important to be firm, but also to understand that there’s a learning progression that takes place.”

What makes Vandy baseball unique?READ THE REST