Part 1 - An Overview
Now that Rogue Baseball’s methodologies, principles, expectations and goals for our fall season have been laid out, we can get into the meat and potatoes of what we do with our guys, and that is WORK! We truly believe that our program provides players the opportunity to develop their game in all aspects, and our weekly routine and the work that we put in is evidence of that. Below is the layout of a typical week in the life of a Rogue Baseball player, with detailed descriptions from the coaching side on what we do and why we do it.
Monday – OFF Day/Weight Room
Mondays don’t have any baseball specific activities scheduled. Most weeks, we have just completed a weekend tournament and Monday provides our guys with a day to focus on schoolwork, get things in order for the week ahead, and take a mini break from the game. From the coaching side, Monday gives us a day to compile the stats and video, and get that out to our guys, which I’ll dive into more specifically in the next blog post. With that info we encourage our guys to evaluate their weekend and think and look through some things they can work on in the week ahead.
Monday’s biggest priority for our guys is to get back in the weight room, which is a staple of our program and a critical part of the development process for high school players. We are very fortunate to share a facility with Push Performance, who run one of the best elite baseball strength training programs in the country. DJ Edwards and the rest of the Push staff provide a personalized program for each of our players, based off of an initial assessment that our players are taken through at the beginning of the fall. Players keep that program and record their weights throughout each lifting cycle, and continue this process throughout the fall. In the weight room, we allow players to get in there at their own convenience, rather than lifting as an entire group. This allows our guys to get their lifts in around their school and baseball schedules, which can be hectic. While they have some freedom with when they can lift they are also held accountable for being in the weight room 4 days each week. We constantly stress that being great is hard, and the ability to diligently plan their weeks and stick to that plan is the key to consistency. In general, the guys that are consistent in the weight room are the guys that show consistency on the field.
Tuesday – Team Practice Day
This fall, Tuesday is set up as our team practice day. We are lucky enough to practice at a beautiful Cherokee Trail facility thanks to my former high school coach, coaching mentor and current CT head coach Steve Eaton. We use this practice day for a number of things, varying from week to week depending on what we have learned over the course of the weekend. We start each Tuesday practice with a 10 minute team meeting discussing the positives and negatives from the week and weekend prior. In addition, we recognize our weekly top performers, awarding each of our three ball bags to our hitter, pitcher and defender of the week. Recognizing our guys like this is a great way to keep them motivated and recognized for their hard work and how it leads to their performance on a given weekend, as well as turning the burden of carrying the ball bags into a positive. We also give the helmet bag to the voted upon “Dummy of the Week,” just to keep things light and allow our guys to have some fun with each other.
After our meeting, our guys go through our stretch as a team, our band and plyoball work to prepare themselves to throw, and then our throwing progression. With our current group, we have nine two-way players, so it essential that we build both pitcher and position player focuses into our throwing progression. Players act as pitchers as they stretch out, working through three or four different steps of the pitching progression, and as position players on the way including position throws and various catch principles (tags, DP footwork etc.) At the end of our defensive progressions, our two way players throw 10-15 pitch flatgrounds, with coach Moritz guiding some pitch specific work that guys may need.
Once our throwing progression is finished, we generally work into individual defensive work, with outfielders and infielders getting focused full length reps in a variety of ways. After indy D, we may do some sort of team defense that we’ve identified as a problem area, or just something we haven’t covered. After defense we’ll transition into hitting in the cages, setting some specific parameters and drills for our guys while allowing them to get a good amount of swings.
After getting a good amount of focused reps, we’ll move into some sort of live work on the field that gets our guys out in the open and playing at full speed. These drills may include our situational point game, live at bats, the ever exciting Runnin’ Rogue game, BP competitions and others. Getting the guys to compete in a fast paced, pressure environment is key here, and they usually respond well and enjoy it. We’ll conclude with some sort of conditioning, which is in place to keep our guys accountable for the week prior’s weight room attendance. Winning practice is always a key focus for us, so the coaching staff makes a decision on whether or not we practiced well enough to win and if so, we’ll get three outs and shake hands as we would after a game win. Our players of the week take the responsibility of the small amount of field cleanup that we need to complete, and we call it a day.
Wednesday – Small Group Hitting Day
Wednesday for us is a hitting specific day, in which our twelve hitters are split into three groups and work through an hour of focused work at the facility. This practice always starts with players getting stretched together as a group, and then working into some mental game work. Our focus on the mental game and providing our guys with strategies that will allow them to perform on the field is something we feel really sets up apart. Visualization, relaxation and concrete ways to handle the inevitable adversity that comes as a hitter are drilled each week for a short time on Wednesday. After practicing our mental game, we generally move into some sort of lower half and upper half warmup work, employing a number of different drills and implements that help out guys optimize their swings. From there we will get into rotations, where our guys spend time with additional specific swing drills on the heavy bag, on deck with timing focuses and in the cage with flips and overhand BP. In addition to swings, our guys train with DeCervo uHIT virtual, a cutting edge program helping to train hitters pitch recognition abilities, and we take measurements with the Blast Motion sensor which gives our guys feedback in a number of different metrics including bat speed and bat path angle. In the future, all of our players will have their own Blast Sensors and uHIT accounts, allowing them to train and receive feedback when working on their own. This use of technology allows us to take some of the guess-work out of our coaching, and provide our guys with useful objective feedback. Wednesdays allow us to take what we saw from our hitters on video from the weekend and design drills to help attack those issues, as well as giving our hitters a chance to decide for themselves which drills and progressions they prefer and can use on their own. These are both critical to helping our players advance as hitters.
Thursday – Small Group Defensive and Pitching Work
This practice is built much like our Wednesday small group hitting day, just in the context of defense and pitching. Generally, our infielders arrive first, working with coach Logan Serena on fundamental aspects of infield play. The same stretching and arm care protocols are used, and catch play is geared even more towards infield skills including adding transfers and additional footwork variations into the mix. Standard fundamental drills are often done at the beginning; with additional drills built in based on weekend observations or general needs. In addition to mastering the routine aspects of infield play, allowing our guys to be athletic and make great plays is a focus as well. Drills built with different variables like oven mitts and lacrosse balls are staples, and getting guys moving around athletically in a four corners or circle drill setting keeps things moving at a brisk pace.
In the outfield, Jordan Serena coordinates the drill work with the same goals of mastering fundamental aspects of outfield play. The format closely matches that of the infielder’s work, with catch play geared towards outfielders specifically, with a heavy focus on throwing footwork. From there, drop step progressions and various drills working on reads are done, and full length, full speed drills are mixed in at the end. A big goal in outfield drills is to help our guys get comfortable being uncomfortable and the use of late and bad read drills force this. Catchers also spend time working on their craft on these days, with drill work mixed in with the catching of bullpens. Receiving, blocking and throwing drills are done on a need basis, and we always try to overtrain with our guys, working at or above game speed. After hammering home fundamentals in a drill setting, catchers can take the work into bullpens where receiving is obviously a priority and blocking is forced as well. This process works well for their development.
On the pitching side, Thursdays are a great day for pitchers to get good focused work in an individual or two on one basis. While bullpens are a priority on these days in order to prepare our guys for the weekend, they are often preceded by focused drills aimed at certain mechanical and mindset specifics. Coach Moritz does a great job of understanding each pitcher’s strengths and weaknesses and tailoring his instruction to those points. It’s a priority to get video of each of our guys over a weekend, which allows Dillon to break down that video and use it in his instruction and this video has been shared with the pitchers prior to Thursday.
In addition to high-level instruction from our coaching staff during the week, it is a constant point of emphasis to our guys that they understand what they need to work on and that these days are collaborative rather than dictatorial. We aim to build in time in all drill settings where they can work through drills that they find useful, and much of what we present to them is for the purpose of understanding and making a decision on a drill’s value to themselves as a player.
As mentioned earlier, our weekly baseball specific training is the meat and potatoes of our program, and while it most definitely is a grind, we feel that it adequately exposes our guys to what it takes to be a high level player. In the next post, we’ll dive into our fall games and how we schedule, how we work lineups and playing time, and specific stats that we look for in game situations.
Part 3 - Our Approach to Games
Part 4 - Helping Players Play at the Next Level
Part 1 – Colorado Rogue Fall Baseball - An Overview
Part 2 – Colorado Rogue Fall Baseball - Weekly Training
The third piece of our fall program revolves around our game schedule, which we work to deliberately build in order to maximize our training and give our guys opportunities to take their skills to the field and compete. Our common metaphor is academic in nature, with training and practice being the classwork and homework, and the games being the test. Our fall games provide players the chance to cut it loose on the field knowing that they have put in the work during the week, and give us as coaches the opportunities to evaluate our guys and provide them with valuable feedback that will influence their practice in the next week. We’ll take a look at our fall games in three parts; schedule, game-day lineups and rotations, and video and statistical focuses.
Our fall schedule is built to both give our guys ample game time opportunities, as well as catering to our training schedule and the busy fall life of a high school student. Typically we play somewhere in the 25 game range in the fall, which puts most guys at about 75 games for the calendar year after 20 high school games in the spring and 30-35 tournament games with us in the summer. We feel that this is a good number and provides a balanced schedule that allows for training, playing, time for social and family life, and the sometimes undervalued concept of rest. While we have played in a league in the past and it was valuable for us when our team was younger, we have worked into a tournament heavy format with our upperclassmen, supplemented by a couple of doubleheaders against some other teams from our area.
In addition to our scheduled weekends, we deliberately build in a couple of weekends off, allowing our guys to seek out other opportunities such as camps/showcases or school visits, or just take a weekend away from baseball to do something else. The split between the two options is about 50/50 with our current group, who do a great job of understanding their own personal priorities. It is important for us as coaches to remember that these guys are teenagers and having some time away from the game will allow them to be more well rounded, enjoy being a high school student and ultimately keep them fresh and motivated on the baseball side.
Below is our 2017 Fall Schedule provided as a reference. While this schedule is what we are doing this fall, we will always evaluate what is best for our current group of guys from year to year and adjust accordingly.
Day Date Opponent Site
Sat-Sun 8/19-8/20 PBR Tournament Denver, CO
Fri-Sun 8/25-8/27 UNC Tournament Greeley, CO
Fri-Mon 9/1-9/4 Slammers Tournament Denver, CO
Sat-Sun 9/9-9/10 Off Weekend
Fri-Sun 9/15-9/17 ABA Fall Tourney Albuquerque, NM
Sat-Sun 9/23-9/24 Off Weekend
Fri-Sun 9/29-10/1 Perfect Game Tourney Emerson, GA
Sat 10/7 D-Backs Scout Team 18 Peak to Peak HS
Sat. 10/14 Gameday Baseball Double Angel
Sun. 10/15 Players vs. Coaches Chaparral HS
The PBR tournament allows our guys to play local competition and is covered well by the Prep Baseball Report staff. The UNC tournament in Greeley is one of our favorites of the year and is organized by Triple Crown sports in conjunction with the baseball staff at the University of Northern Colorado. Slammers partners with Perfect Game and puts on a very good Labor Day tournament that is well scouted. The ABA fall tournament is Albuquerque is one that I have attended with our guys as well as a player and college coach. This gets us in front of some of the southern schools and gives our guys a chance to play against some different competition. The Perfect Game WWBA National Qualifier in Georgia is a really good experience for our guys and playing at the Lakepoint Complex is memorable against the very stiff competition in the southeast. We finish with a couple of double header weekends against local teams and have incorporated a players vs. coaches game which is a fun way to finish out the fall.
In addition to the schedule above, the fall provides our guys additional opportunities to showcase their skills on a more individual basis including events with Prep Baseball Report and Mountain West Baseball.
We teamed up with Prep Baseball Report to provide a scout day specifically for Rogue players as well as individual trainees from the facility. This gives our guys an opportunity to be evaluated and measured by the staff of PBR and to have a profile on the PBR website for a discounted rate. This can be very beneficial, as many college coaches use PBR as a resource in their recruiting.
Mountain West Baseball is an organization out of Utah that has secured team spots in the prestigious Arizona Fall Classic which attracts hundreds of coaches and scouts to Peoria each fall. Our players have been given an opportunity to participate in that tournament through a tryout with Mountain West and this year four of our seniors and three of our juniors will be attending the fall classic. While this is not a part of our team schedule, this is a highlight of the fall for our guys and allows them to play in front of a ton of coaches as well as against very good competition.
Game-day Lineups and Rotations
Our approach to how we structure our fall from a gameplay standpoint is rooted in our belief in providing our players with ample opportunities to get at bats, innings on the mound and time at the positions in which they need to be playing.
On the hitting side, we set a lineup on the first day of the fall and we roll that lineup in order for all of our games. The guy that ended a game on deck will lead off the next game, as the guy who made the last out moves down to the bottom of the order. When a player misses a game or two, he is just slotted right back into where he was before. This method keeps the number of at bats just about equal for all of our guys, as well as getting them time at different spots in the batting order on a game by game basis.
Defensively, we do our best to get guys sufficient work at all of the positions they may play. For some guys who play single positions such as catcher or 1st base, they will get their innings there with an understanding that may sit a little bit more than guys who are more versatile and need time at various positions. Even at the upper levels of high school baseball, we encourage players to have some versatility to their game and be open to playing in some different spots during the fall. We are firm believers that if a coach can put you anywhere on the field, your chances of playing will increase exponentially. To keep this in order, we lay out each game prior to with the template below. This makes it easy for guys to understand what they’ll be doing that game. In addition, we keep a detailed log of the amount of innings that each guy plays at each position, so that we can structure lineups properly as we go through the fall, as well as make some notes of games they may have missed.
On the pitching side, innings are laid out on the lineup template as well. Innings are thrown based on a number of factors including pitcher’s workload throughout the year, other positions they may play, the pitching role they most often find themselves in (starter, reliever, closer). Effectiveness is a factor as well, and the guys that prove to be more effective generally get a few more innings. We are very cognizant of pitch counts and make sure not to extend guys past a point we believe is safe for them. Despite pleas from our guys who wish to stay out there and continue to compete, we stick to this plan each weekend.
Video and Statistical Focuses
As mentioned earlier, the weekend is an opportunity for us as coaches to continue with the development process by getting game video as well as keeping a detailed set of statistics that we use with our players.
On the video side, hitting and pitching are the main focuses and we try to get a handful of swings and pitches that we can reference going forward. We put our iPad on a tripod and we’ll have the player who was the last out of the previous inning run the video. We keep all swings including balls in play, foul balls and swings and misses, and upload them into our Hudl Technique account, which is shared to all of the guys’ individual accounts. They have these videos forever, and many guys refer to them daily while others quickly peek at them and move on. As coaches we will make some notes on guys’ swings and build our training around them. Pitching wise the process is the same, and we will make sure to get video of the pitcher from straight across on the arm side. These videos are also used for player’s reference and the next week’s training. Defensively we will get video if the need arises, but obviously it’s a little tougher to predict each guy’s reps in the field so our focuses defensively are left to the naked eye.
On the statistics side, we have a healthy mix of process and result based stats in each phase that we focus on during games.
At the plate, I keep a running notecard of the results of our guys’ plate appearances. On my notecard, I circle the result if the player notched a quality plate appearance or QPA, and can easily tally these up for our reference throughout the game. I put Qs on our lineup card so that guys can see how many they have that day, and their in game goal is to have a QPA each time. In our program, a quality plate appearance is defined as one of the following: Hit, walk, hit by pitch, moved runner, hard hit ball, 8+ pitch at bat, sacrifice. In addition, I keep a number of approach stats that track a few of our points of emphasis. With these we are able to really lock in the foundation of our players at bats. These stats include hitters count fastball swings and takes, hitters count chases, positive and negative results in hitters counts, and wins and losses on fastballs with 2 strikes. We have found that having hard proof that identifies our guys’ approaches has been invaluable, and after a weekend I will match up our approach and result stats and we find that there is a strong correlation between guys’ approaches and their production. In my opinion, these numbers go much further with the players than my subjective opinions on their approaches and results.
On the mound, coach Moritz keeps stats in the same manner, with a mix of process based stats and traditional pitcher numbers. He places a big emphasis on 1st pitch strikes, less than 4 pitch hitters, and less than 12 pitch innings, and these are guidelines for our guys. In addition, he will keep the traditional numbers including earned runs, strikeouts, walks as well as leadoff and two out walks. Finally pitch counts and innings are factored in and each player’s numbers are molded into the “DMO Index” after the weekend giving a good number showing their efficiency.
Defensively, the main focus for Logan is players making routine plays, as well as tracking pre-pitch movement from our guys. Routine plays that are made and missed are tracked from infielders and outfielders, and catcher’s blocks and throws are also tracked. Pre-pitch, the emphasis is that all of our guys are on time for the ball in the strike zone, so we keep an eye and make sure that our guys are on time on two feet. Any poor “prep steps” are noted and shared with our guys later.
Jordan has taken on the role of making sure our guys are running hard, and tracking times from home to first and making sure guys are getting on and off the field are his main points of emphasis. 5 seconds is the benchmark that we want our guys to be under on both a balls in the infield and the outfield. On and off the field, we are looking to get there in 20 seconds in order to keep pushing the pace.
For us as coaches, the process-based stats give us feedback that can be presented to the players mid-game, while keeping track of the results allows for analysis after the weekend. As I mentioned earlier, it is very interesting for us to match up our process focuses and see the correlations of guys who are producing good results. We can use this info to help guide what we coach and emphasize in the future.
As the fall season is past midway for us at Rogue Baseball, it is our desire to share some of the ins and outs of our fall program and the methodology that drives the things we do with our team. We feel very strongly that the training environment and culture that we are in the process of creating (and will always be looking to improve upon) provides high school baseball players with some of the best opportunities to develop as into a high level player at their current level, and help them towards their goals of advancing to the next level of baseball. This post will be pretty extensive, providing full insight into the processes that we work through on a daily and weekly basis.
This is not a “Showcase” team!
Our goal every fall is to provide our guys with the feel of a college baseball program, as it is most guys’ goal to get to that level. This is in large contrast to the “we’ll see ya next weekend” mentality that many programs employ during the fall season. We are firm believers that if we can expose them to what it takes to play college baseball from a commitment standpoint, we have provided them the opportunity to decide if it is in fact something they want to pursue, as well as prepare them for that commitment on the baseball skills side. Because this is such a different mindset than most guys are used to, it often comes as a shock to some of our players. Early on, many have a little bit of “what did I get myself into”, but most of our guys settle in and embrace the commitment after understanding and experiencing what’s expected of them. Some guys however do not, and realize that it’s too much and find other options. To us, that is just fine. For a player, facing the reality and learning what they don’t want to do is just as important as learning what they do want to do, and we want guys in our program who embrace and enjoy the grind.
Our Coaching Staff
With any good program, the coaches that lead it are of paramount importance, or “the golden goose” as once described to me. We are fortunate to have a group of coaches that have an incredible passion for teaching, a strong base of current knowledge, the time to commit to fully developing our guys and most importantly a willingness to constantly challenge the things they are doing and learn about new ways to make our players better. The mindset of “this is how I did it, so you’re going to do it this way” is completely nonexistent in our staff and forever will be. Everything we do has purpose behind it and is always communicated to our guys. We aren’t scared to try new things that may be outside the box, as well as checking our ego’s enough to do things that others have proven to work. A quick introduction of our staff includes Logan Serena who is in charge of our infielders as well as coaching third base and dominates throwing batting practice (an extremely important skill.) Dillon Moritz is our pitching coach and does an incredible job at preparing and guiding our pitchers, as well as throwing great BP (which is rare from a pitcher.) Jordan Serena is a current professional player with the Angels and is a huge asset to our guys given his experiences at baseball’s highest levels. Jordan works with outfielders, catchers and base-runners. I run our hitting, as well as coordinating and overseeing everything within our program. Although our staff members all have well defined roles, it’s understood that the better each coach understands and can teach each aspect of the game, the more productive we can be. We take pride in treating practice and game days like workdays, rather than rolling the balls out, sitting on a bucket and spectating.
Our Core Principles
In the spirit of operating like a college baseball program, we have found that having a set of core principles that guide our processes has been of huge benefit to us as coaches and to the players. It helps us as coaches classify our expectations as well as have a specific focus for the things we do to train our players and for the players it gives them guidelines to how they should be approaching each day. Below is a description of our principles, creating a definition for the word “Rogue”.
Routined - Rogue coaches help players and teams understand the importance of creating and executing daily and pitch-to-pitch routines, as well as maintaining a focus on mastering the routine aspects of the game.
Optimized - Rogue coaches work tirelessly to help players and teams develop their Tools, Actions and Game-ability in the optimal way, understanding that there are foundational principles that all great players work to master. Coaches work to help players achieve optimization within his own individual style.
Gritty - Through a hard working, blue collar attitude and approach to the game, Rogue coaches, players and teams understand how play the game hard, how to handle inevitable adversity and how to continuously trust the process as they look to improve.
Unselfish - Rogue coaches, players, and teams understand that personal greatness can still be achieved with a team first attitude. Cooperation, sacrifice, and the success of the team are driving forces and are celebrated above all else.
Energetic - Rogue coaches, players and teams bring the three C’s every single day; Concentration on the task at hand, Commitment to giving 100% effort at all times in any role, and purposeful Communication with themselves and those around them.
Our belief in and daily adherence to these principles will guide our culture and continue to provide the best baseball development environment possible.
Our Expectations of our Players
While developing great baseball players is an exciting and enjoyable task, developing great men is a far more important one for us as coaches. With that in mind, accountability is at the forefront of our expectations of our guys. While there are constantly little (yet important things) things that we try to teach our guys, we don’t have a giant rules list and there are two main expectations that we have. Number one is communication. Whether it’s something off the field like a schedule question or that you are going to be a few minutes late to practice, or on field items like discussion of swing/throwing/fielding mechanics, we are huge believers that our guys need to learn to communicate well. The reality is that everything that is going on in our program revolves around them, so they are the center point of all communication between coaches, themselves, and their parents. In very rare cases do we speak with parents without players being included in the conversation. Our number two expectation is that our guys be prepared. Having the proper tools, apparel, nutrition and idea of the purposes that day all come with being a prepared player, and we expect our guys to operate in that fashion. With these two guidelines, we believe that we are helping our guys with basic skills that will help them be successful as ballplayers but more importantly as people.
In the next post, we'll dive into the specifics of how we train our players, including a strong empahsis on the strength aspect, layouts of our weekly practices, and our goals and routines within those sessions.
Part 2 - Weekly Training
To finish our series outlining our fall program, I’d like to briefly discuss how we approach the task of getting our players to paly at the collegiate level. To begin, I think it is appropriate to emphasize that one of our main objectives is to attract players that have the desire to play at the next level and are willing to put in the time and energy to strive towards that goal. The ways that we help players to do that from the physical side are outlined in the previous posts, but it is important to note that the time and energy are not just spent on the field or in the gym, but in the attacking of the recruiting process. Another important thing to note is that every single player is going to be different. An understanding that there is no blanket way to get kids to the next level, and that their paths are going to vary is important for us as coaches to remember, and players and parents to grasp. With that said, this post will be split into two simple parts, the responsibility of us as coaches and the responsibility of the players and parents.
Our Responsibility as Coaches
From a coaching standpoint, we undoubtedly have an important role in helping our guys get to the next level. This starts with the task of developing their skills to a level that can play at the next level. This to us in the most important and obvious piece of the puzzle. Simply put, if you can’t physically play at the next level, you aren’t going to play at the next level. We emphasize this to our guys all the time and make sure that they understand that exposure doesn’t do you any good if there is nothing to expose!
The next thing we do at the beginning of each season is provide our guys with a valuable resource from College Baseball Advisors. This group out of Arizona has put together comprehensive material helping guide players through the recruiting process, and Don Mitchell has seen baseball from every level. This provides families with a guide that they can refer to whenever they need!
From there, we make a concerted effort to help our guys make a quality skills video that they can have as a tool to send to coaches. In the Internet age we live in, a skills video is extremely valuable for college coaches, as it allows them to get a good look at a player without having to travel across the country. We spend a practice day at the end of the fall getting footage of our guys hitting, taking groundballs and fly balls, throwing and pitching and compile the clips. The video is put up on our YouTube page so that our guys have easy access to the link and can use it as they see fit.
Another big responsibility for us as coaches is to make sure we are aware of opportunities for our guys, and creating a schedule that will get them as many potential looks as possible. We were fortunate enough to play at UNC, Metro State and University of New Mexico’s ballparks this fall where there were coaches from those schools as well as others present. This is the best thing we can do as a team to get our guys looks from those schools and others in the vicinity. In addition to what we do as a team, having a knowledge of players aspirations and aware of potential opportunities for them is important as well. If we can help advise them in camps and showcases that would suit their athletic and academic levels, we are doing our job. As mentioned earlier, each player is different, so not every player is going to be well suited for every opportunity. This fall, our players have an opportunity to attend the Arizona Fall Classics, which provide a good opportunity for all of those guys given the large number of schools at various levels that attend.
Finally, it our responsibility to connect with college coaches and prove ourselves to be a reputable source for those guys. Using previously established relationships, and working to connect to new coaches as much as we can is important not only for our current players, but for our future guys as well. In addition, we feel that the quality of our program and the reputation we are building in the baseball community is going to not only attract the right kinds of players, but also attract interest from college coaches who know that our guys are being developed to play at their level. This is a major goal of ours. Another tool we utilize is the Field Level website, which allows us to connect with coaches, and promote our guys who may fit that school and that level. We also work to reach out to coaches at schools that interest our players in other ways, such as an email or a phone call. When it boils down to it, our main responsibility is to work with and for each of our players individually to help them find the best opportunity at the next level.
Responsibilities of the Players
As much as we as coaches can help, we are firm believers that it is ultimately our players’ job to find a way to play at the college level. This may sound harsh, but having a plan and strategy from a player and family standpoint is the starting point, and we can help guide that process as coaches. I’ll jump right in and say that it is our players’ number one job work hard enough to be good enough to play at the college level, and that is stressed to our guys often! Exposure works both ways, and if you are exposing how “not good” you are, it won’t get you anywhere. Read more on that subject HERE. Having the tools, actions and game-ability to play at the next level is what coaches are looking for! While the saying “if youre good enough they’ll find you” rings true to us, players must take ownership of the recruiting process in order for that to happen
That being said, it is important that players make a list of schools that they are interested in attending at a realistic level. This takes some extra time and effort from our guys, but ultimately will be a guide for them as they look to play at the college level. It is important to remember that the academics are key, and that after a coach sees that he likes a players skills he immediately looks at grades. If schools can provide players with academic money, that’s less of a commitment that the baseball program has to make, which is a huge deal with a max scholarship amount of 11.7 in NCAA.
Our 2018 class this fall is very strong academically, so many of our guys have high academic Division 2 and Division 3 schools on their lists. We have a couple of junior college type players and students as well, so they are targeting that level. They have done a great job of researching these institutions, reaching out to coaches on their own with video, attending camps and taking visits. All of these pieces are what we encourage, and the guys that take ownership of this process are the ones that find a place to play. We encourage our guys to use the Target Schools feature on the Field Level website to make their list of schools. This allows us to see the updated list, connect with those coaches and promote our guys if they fit that school. We won’t promote that player if we don’t think he can play at that level, and we’ll work through those lists with our guys.
As stated earlier, the recruiting process is different for every single player, and it is our main objective within our fall program to work the process with each guy. We hold end of fall meetings with each player, and in addition to talking about their performance and skills from the fall and next steps in training, we also go over the recruiting process and next steps there. We by no means have this thing figured out, and we will continue to take what we learn from each player’s processes and help it with our players in the future!
As mentioned in my post outlining the how we assess our hitters, having detailed information is great but utilizing it in a training environment is the key. As we look at a player’s assessment and organize and evaluate the data, we try to create a picture that provides players with the most important info in the simplest form possible. Overloading young (or any) hitters with a bunch of specific data about their spin axis or rotational acceleration may very well cause paralysis by analysis and detract from them learning to master simple movements and approaches. However, coaches knowing that a player top-spins a lot of balls and that his ability to rotate is under the typical range for his age level will allow us to program specific drills in order to attack those deficiencies.
In addition, we have been diligent about keeping all of our hitter’s data organized by age and playing level, so comparing a hitter’s info to that of his peers at our facility is another key part of how we inform our hitters. In our experience, knowing where you stand in relation to your peers, as well as having information about what it takes to play at the next level serves as a powerful form of motivation. This article outlines some of the main things we look to evaluate from a hitter’s initial assessment data.
Raw Numbers Testing Progress and Level Comparison
When we sit a player down for his assessment meeting, we start with looking at the raw information that our evaluation tools have shown us. Here is a quick breakdown of each metric we have on our report sheet
Height and weight: tracking how the hitter is growing and putting on weight
Exit Velocity: peak, average and consistency of batted ball speed
Launch angle: average and standard deviation of the batted ball angle
Peak distance: the farthest ball the hitter hit
Average direction: the average direction in which the hitter hits
Average spin rate: a good look at how well the hitter squares the ball up
Peak and average bat speed: the fastest the hitter swung the bat, and his overall average bat speed
Attack angle: average and standard deviation of horizontal angle through the zone
Power: peak and average power from Blast sensor, measured in kW
Time to contact: average of how quickly the hitter the gets from start of swing to contact
Blast Factor: Blast Motion’s overall swing score
It is important for us to understand the peak potential of each player in order to gauge what their ceiling is and how their overall performance relates. As players mature, train, and guide their focus in the correct direction, peak numbers should go up over time. In this manner, it is important to know that a player’s potential is growing.
Averages and Consistencies
While peak numbers are important in understanding potential, averages and consistencies are probably more important in understanding how players can perform relative to that potential. Averages are a broad view of how each metric plays over the course of the assessment, while consistency measures how close the average is to the peak. In addition we use standard deviations in some cases to understand consistency. The consistency of exit velocity can be taken by dividing the average by the peak, because the player’s peak EV is a the absolute desired outcome. The percentage shows us a “grade” of how they make hard contact. Launch angle is a situation where we use a standard deviation, because there is no single optimal launch angle. If a player has an average 15 degree LA, but the standard deviation is 15, that means he hits a ball at 15 degrees, then 30, then 15, then 0. (Line drive, fly ball, line drive, groundball) This compared to a player with a standard deviation of 5 (15, 20, 15, 10), who would be much more consistent.
With all of these specific metrics measured for the hitter, we can then compare their performance to their previous assessments as well as compare to the average metrics of players at their current playing level, the next playing level, and players their age. Comparing to previous tests gives us the context of progress made through training, comparing to their peers gives players an idea of where they stand at their current age or level, and looking at the metrics from the next level shows players where they need to improve to get to where they want to go. All three can serve as a strong source of motivation for players, and give both player and coach a guide to the next training cycle. For the player who is in their first test, all of these numbers simply serve as a starting point.
In addition to the raw batted ball and swing metrics listed above, we can give our players an in depth look at how those balls profile through a more “real life” lense in a more traditional language.
Batted Ball Types: Percentage breakdown of the different types of balls they hit.
Ground balls = <6 degrees
Line drives = 6-24 degrees
Fly balls = 25-49 degrees
Pop ups = 50+ degrees
Optimally hit balls: Percentage breakdown of the four main things we can describe as optimal.
Hard hits = balls hit within top 10% of max exit velocity
Line drives = balls hit between 6 and 24 degrees
Hard hit line drives = balls within top 10% of max EV hit at 6-24 degrees
Deep balls = balls hit within 10% of player’s max distance
Balls by field: Percentage breakdown of balls to the pull side, middle of the field, and opposite field. Rapsodo’s exit direction allows us to sort this data.
For the vast majority of our hitters, our focus is on increasing the percentages of hard hit balls, line drives, and hard hit line drives. Deep balls are only cited as a focal point if the player’s deep balls are going to do consistent damage at their level. With an understanding of the frequency that these outcomes take place, we are then able to look at the specifics on each of those outcomes and dive a little bit deeper.
The first graph shows each type of batted ball and three specific metrics, Exit velocity, launch angle and attack angle. We can look at which types of balls have the highest exit velocity, which gives us an idea of where their swing tends to trend. If the hardest hit balls are too low or too high, we can prioritize making that change. If they are right on, we can place our focus elsewhere. In addition, we can see if there are large variances in their attack angles in each of these batted ball types, which can give us an understanding of why the contact may be what it is.
The second graph we look at is for the player’s optimally hit balls. This shows the average exit velocities, launch angles and attack angles of balls hit meeting these criteria. We can again see about the type of contact a player makes by looking at the average launch angle of their hard hit balls. In addition, this is where we can get a really good idea of a preferred attack angle for each player by looking at attack angle average on hard hit line drives. We very often use this as the player’s “target attack angle”, which works well for them as an measured internal guideline during training.
The third graph we look at is the exit velocities, launch angles and attack angles by field. This gives us a great look into how well a player hits a ball to certain parts of the ballpark, and how their average attack angles correlate with those balls. Understanding these trends gives us a great way to program different external focuses into a player’s training, like forcing them to hit the ball lower to the opposite field or pull the ball in the air. The attack angle info allows us to use a Blast sensor in training to give them an internally focused goal (swing at target attack angle) to try and accomplish an external task (pull ball in the air).
The last graphic we look at is the spray chart that Rapsodo produces, which gives some context as to how far and which direction balls are being hit. This is nicely color coded based on batted ball type can be an eye opener for some guys who think they are hitting “cage bombs” but in reality are hitting mid-outfield fly ball outs. This is a very simple way for hitters to visually evaluate the quality of their assessment round.
Strike Zone Performance
In addition to batted ball metrics, Rapsodo also provides us with information on where each ball is contacted with the strike zone (or outside of it). This information paired with the batted ball info and our swing metrics gives us great insight into how each player performs inside the zone. We can break down metrics in a more general way (up, middle, down & in, middle, out) as well as get even more granular by looking at each of the nine zones specifically. This information allows us to have hitters work on their weak zones in training, as well as highlighting their strengths and being able to build an approach around them. We can also use zone performance information with our uHIT pitch decision program, because knowing where they succeed in their swing allows players to work on hunting their pitch in an informed way.
Presenting the Information to Hitters
As was mentioned before, dumping all of this information on players at once is not advisable, and starting simple and working our way deeper into the information is the approach we try and take. In each section of our report sheet, there is an “evaluation” line where the coach can look at the data, and pull out the key points and summarize into a few short sentences. When we sit down with a hitter we start by giving them that brief breakdown, and then allow them to ask more specific questions if they want. Many hitters will just take the basic evaluation and trust what we have shown them, while others want to look through the metrics more specifically. This is where knowing our guys well comes into play, and making sure they are getting a full understanding of themselves as a hitter while not getting “numbers obsessed” is the goal here.
We also give the hitter a baseline on his performance using the uHIT pitch decision program, as we will utilize this software on a daily basis and we can specifically target and work to improve upon these numbers as well. uHIT gives us a player's accuracy and reaction time for both strike and pitch recognition competitions, and we created the AR Number (Accuracy/Reaction Time) as a way to gauge a player's performance as the two relate. Ideally we want the accuracy to be as high as possible, with the reaction time as low as possible, creating a larger AR number.
Blast and Rapsodo provide us with a host of additional metrics on top of the ones listed above, that can provide us with further insight into player’s batted balls and swings. As a general rule, we keep these amongst the coaches, and use them in player’s programming when we see fit. Again it is very easy to dump all of the provided information on the hitter, but by withholding some of it we try and protect ourselves from doing so. Occasionally we see something major and share some of these extra metrics with hitters, but this is done on a case by case and need basis.
The final part of our assessment evaluation is looking at video of the hitter, which tends to be one of the most important pieces of the puzzle as we get going into training. As a general statement, most of the issues we see in the batted ball and swing data come from a movement/swing defienciency that we can see when looking at video. We are able to slow this video down for each hitter and really dive into what we see they need to improve upon mechanically in order to get better results. In our experience, young hitters are very visual in their learning style, and looking at the video allows them to grasp concepts that we will discuss in order to put them into action in our training.
For new hitters, we spend a lot of time really breaking down what we are looking for in a swing, using major league hitters as examples in order to convey specific swing principles. This is extremely important for us to lay a foundation for a training by giving the hitter an understanding of what a swing should look like. For returning hitters who have gone through a training cycle with us, we encourage them to analyze their own swings at this time, drawing on focuses from the last training cycle and comparing to video from their initial assessment. This gives the hitter ownership of his progress and a deeper understanding of the principles and the continued steps that need to be taken to improve.
Moving Forward into Training
As we finish up going through the assessment process with each hitter, we leave them with a few basic metrics that we use frequently in our training sessions. The following metrics provide players with context as we work through swings and competitions in the small group and individual settings.
This concludes the very imporatant evaluation and presentation portion of our hitter assessment, in the next post I will talk about simple ways we work to use this data on an everyday basis with our hitters, followed by some of the trends we have seen with our hitters as we have compiled the data over the course of the winter months.
Rogue Baseball Performance