It’s no secret that hitting a baseball is up there as one of the most difficult things you can do as a human being. The game makes us suck, especially as hitters. Shoot, we only get 60 ft to see a little white circle and try to hit it with a round bat somewhere no one can catch it. Oh the balls coming in as fast as 100 mph. Sounds fun! Definitely. Sounds hard too! Even more so. Well it’s no wonder why we get so frustrated on a regular basis. Think about it, the best hitters at the highest level of baseball have a mere 30% success rate (.300 BA). I challenge you to find another profession where you wouldn’t get fired after only doing your job successfully 3 out of 10 times. And no one is happy when they don't succeed.
No doubt you've heard all this before. So what’s that mean for players? It means there’s an awful lot of times where you don’t do as well as you expect to. It’s a constant uphill battle and baseball players have chosen to make camp at the steepest of grades on the trail. What comes along with failure? Negativity. How do you play well? Positivity. Belief and confidence that you are a great player and can succeed. Herein lies the uphill battle.
It’s well known positivity makes the engine run. Even in everyday life, positivity is a habit earned and valued by the most successful of people. However, as human beings, we have this unique ability to somehow dwell upon and be affected by negative events more powerfully than positive ones, even if both occurrences are present. Psychology calls this phenomenon Negativity Bias. So when little Johnny’s goal at the dish is a hard line drive and he squares one up straight to the center fielder, will he be mad? You bet he will be. When the goal is to win the baseball game and you do but you went 0-4 with 3 K’s, you’re going to be mad about the three K’s? You get the picture.
Why are people so dang negative? It’s an acquired skill the brain has learned to try to protect us from the dangers of the environment. You’ll remember the horrible feeling of a burn from a fire more specifically than the refreshing feeling of a hot bath. The fire will hurt you again, but the bath probably wont.
“So Coach Jordan, on the baseball field my brain is automatically going to be negatively biased about everything that happens but I somehow have to find a way to be positive because that’s going to make me play better?” Right you are young man. It’s a tall task that most don’t figure out until late in their career, if at all. There’s good news, though, I believe we can practice dealing with the negativity way more effectively than we do now. Imagine that, practicing thinking. Even so, it’s a necessary part of being a successful baseball player that is vastly undervalued by players and coaches.
Here are a few general ideas players that I work with will hear me talk about to help them throughout the course of a game or season.
Acceptance - Learning to understand that you will think negatively at some point. Its an automatic response of your brain. But how we react to a negative thought defines its effect on us. Can I counter this negative thought about with something positive that will allow me to feel more confident? “I can’t find the barrell today, but I’ve got one more at-bat and I am seeing this pitcher well.” Maybe It’s true that it wasn’t your day at the plate, but the first phrase is still a negative thought. The second phrase ends this entire idea with another true positive statement. It’s certainly a victory if every thought we have is capped off with something positive.
Perspective - It’s very easy to wander into the land of seriousness when playing baseball, especially if we aspire to use the game to make something of our lives. The higher level you get, the more serious players tend to be, sometimes in a negative way. We are playing a game!! Act like it, show that smile on your face when you do well, congratulate your teammates. Absolutely be mad when you don't play well, but understand that this game will never be the end-all-be-all of your life because it will eventually end, as it does for everyone. Keeping a fresh look on why you are playing baseball in the first place can help you keep a clear view on life.
"Being positive won't guarantee you'll succeed, but being negative will guarantee you won't." - Jon Gordon
“Have an approach!!”
– Every Coach Ever
While this is sound advise, players are often in the dark on what having an approach actually means, and if it’s not clear what approach a player should have, how can a player have one??
As we went into our fall season this year, it was my goal to provide our hitters with some objective feedback on their personal approaches, based on some of the key things we focus on as a group. In today’s baseball data environment, it was important to me to be able to provide them with hard evidence of how their approaches relate to their production. By no means are these the only important things on the approach side of hitting, and there are many different approaches that hitters can employ, but the following focuses are where we decided to start.
These approach focuses while general and basic, give our guys a good baseline to work from and us as coaches good parameters to measure them. For most high school hitters, attacking fastballs in hitter’s counts is the most viable option unless the pitcher proves that he can command secondary pitches effectively. In my opinion, a hitter’s count is any count with less than 2 strikes. 0-1 to me is still a hitter’s count and feeling like you have to swing at a pitcher’s pitch in that count tends to get guys into trouble. 0-0, 1-0, 1-1, and 2-1 are counts that hitters are generally fairly comfortable in. Hunting in hitter’s counts focuses hitters on leaving pitches alone you’re not on time for, or that are out of the zone. If you’re sitting fastball, don’t chase a good breaking ball that fooled you or that bounces in the dirt. If you’re sitting breaking ball, don’t wave at a fastball. Hunt your pitch and attack it! Winning the fastball with two strikes is important because we have to adjust from hard to soft in a two strike count. The opposite will not work!! Being prepared for a fastball and battling breaking ball with two is key. We give our guys a win for battling off a fastball, as well as making good contact.
As we looked to quantify these approaches during our games this fall, I kept a notecard each game that tracked not only our players results as shown on the front of the card, but their performance in our approach stats on the back. This killed two birds with one stone, as the ability to reference the card allowed me to have a better focus on our guys approaches in game as well as see how our team approach contributed to that our performance as a whole that day. A fancier, more official chart may soon follow, but this worked well this fall!
As we collected that data throughout the fall, both the result and approach data was input into a spreadsheet tracked throughout. The goal was to see how production was influenced by how well guys executed our approach focuses, and to see how our top performers compared to our lower end guys. With that goal in mind we needed a production number, and lucky for me my pal Chris Dunn has come up with a killer stat called QwOBA that combines Weighted On Base Average with our own focus on Quality Plate Appearances. In short, the number gives weight to traditional production stats including singles, doubles, triples, home runs, walks and HBP, as well as rewarding QPA’s that don’t show up or are marked as negatives on the stat sheet. These to us are; hard hit outs, sacrifice flies and bunts, moving and scoring runners and 8+ pitch at bats. This stat sums up how we value our hitters very nicely.
With this number at hand, we compared what we saw in production with what we saw with approach. Here are the approach stats that we put together based on the items we tracked.
Here’s the full number breakdown, as well as how each player performed statistically both result and approach wise in the stats above. Below it is a look at how our top four, middle four and bottom four producers fared as a group, which is where we will spend most of our time.
Take a look at the second chart and you can see that aside from the obvious differences in QwOBA and QPA production, there are some noticeable differences in the approaches of those three groups. It’s important to note that this fall we kept a rolling lineup throughout or 22 games and that with a couple exceptions, our guys plate appearances were very close in number.
You can see that the top producers were much more aggressive on fastballs than the bottom two groups, supporting our focus on the value of attacking fastballs in hitter’s counts. Going down to chases/player, you see that the top producing group actually chases more balls per player than the bottom group does, highlighting the fact that aggressiveness sometimes makes mistakes and being too passive is safer but less productive. Another interesting thing is that the guys that chase too much in that middle group have less fastball swings, but more chases, indicating the possibility of a little bit more of a guesswork aspect to their approaches as a whole.
Working down to HC Positive %, it’s no surprise that the top four produce more in hitters counts, although not by a wide margin. They make 12 percent more contact than the middle group with virtually the same production there, which tells us that when the middle group made contact, they made it count while putting the ball in play often is what propelled the top group. The bottom group put the ball in play more than the middle group, but yielded far 12% less positive results. This is where other factors including swing quality and pitch selection come into play.
Going down to fastball wins on two strikes, we can see that the top group dominated in this category and was a likely contributor to their success while the bottom group’s ability to battle there gave added some production for them.
It’s important to understand that these numbers just show trends and that hitting is a multidimensional process. Swing quality, pitch recognition, game situations and a handful of other factors all play a part here, and these numbers show generalities. In the same breath, you can see that different players went about it in different ways. For example, Player 2 didn’t make great contact in hitter’s counts, but was very good with 2 strikes at 87%, while Player 1 had just slightly better production by being more consistent throughout with his contact, positive result and two strike percentages. Thinking about these two guys as specifically, swing differences and mentalities come into play as who they are as people and how they can be productive. Player one is a bit better techanically, while player two makes up for it with a big time grinder mentaility. Looking at the general trends and noticing areas where they can improve is important, but seeing how each guy is productive allows players to stick to their personal approaches and coaches to understand. If a guy can produce while being less aggressive early and battling with 2 strikes, so be it!!
While these numbers and their logic are not rocket science, it does shed light on general trends that we can observe and work towards and as well as providing each player with an idea of who he is as a hitter and how his personal approach relates to his own production. 651 plate appearances is a realtively small sample size, so the continued tracking of these stats as well as exploring additional pieces will aid in our understanding of how high school hitters can be productive.
!!!BONUS!!! - A more specific look at our hitters' fall result stats. The numbers are reflected as percentages of total plate appearances. More on this in the future!
Here at Rogue we have developed a stat that will not show up in the box score of any major league game; It's called the DMO index. I'd argue that all dominate pitchers in the league would have very high DMO indexes even though they don't know it. The stat is process based, rather than result based like most of the well kept stats in baseball.
I believe strongly in pitching efficiently over everything else. Good pitchers get 3 outs as quickly as possible so their hitters can keep momentum and fielders stay alert. (I'll touch more on the philosophy in later blogs) The DMO index consists of six individual statistics, three positive, three negative. The three positive stats include first pitch strikes, getting batters out in 4 pitches or less, and completing innings in 12 pitches or less. In order to score well in these three categories the pitcher must be extremely effective and use the defense. On the flip side, there are three negative stats that hurt the pitchers chances of having a quick inning. First pitch balls, walks and bad walks (no out walks and 2 out walks).
The calculation is simple. Each individual stat is weighted based on its effectiveness and ineffectiveness to help the pitcher be successful. (First pitch balls and strikes are weighted as -1+1, walks/HBP and less than 4 pitch at bats are -2 +2 and bad walks and completing innings in 12 pitches or less are -3+3) We take the totals multiply them by their appropriate weight, subtract the negative from the positive and divide by the total number of innings to calculate their DMO index during a given outing or over the course of the season.
Billy's stat line reads
5 innings pitched
10 first pitch strikes
8 first pitch balls
1 bad walk
6 batters out in 4 pitches or less
1 twelve pitch inning
Positives - Negatives / Innings pitched = DMO index
((10*1)+(6*2)+(1*3))-((8*1)+(1*2)+(1*3))/5 = 2.4
Here is a peek at some of our DMO Indexes from the fall with our 18U guys
The goal of the stat is to encourage our guys to stop worrying about results and evaluate how they did each game in their processes and approaches to each situation. A good DMO index is around +3. Anything above that is getting to Extreme Efficiency and what we strive for! As you can see, as a team we did a pretty good job of being effiicient, and the guys with the high DMO index numbers were definitely our most consistant guys. If they have a good DMO index they will most likely have good result stats as well, like ERA and WHIP. In the future, we will work to provide a basic correlation between a player's DMO Index and their traditional stats, but not enough data was collected this fall to provide that. We believe this stat helps our pitchers stay locked in on the bump and helps them perform in a way that will best give us a chance to win.
The best tool a baseball player can have is a strong mind. Most players would agree the mental aspect of baseball is harder than the physical aspect. I once sat down during a junior college practice with Scott Elarton (big league pitcher from 1998-2008) and asked him what the biggest difference between each level of pro ball was? His answer surprised me, it wasn't the velocity of pitchers or the strength of hitters or the crowds but the understanding of knowing you belong at each level of the game. He said, " I saw some of the best athletes with the greatest tools in Double-A, but they never made it because they weren't mentally strong." At the time, it really helped me develop and educate myself on what will make me better mentally on the field. I truly believe that talk changed me from an average competitor to a mentally strong bulldog.
What's a bulldog? A bulldog is someone that never allows negativity to cloud their mind, they are always in attack mode and locked in on the task at hand. When the opposing team scores or their team makes an error, the emotions do not keep a bulldog from being ready for the next play. They understand they will fail and fail often but know how to overcome that failure quickly.
Having this mindset is what all ball players should strive for. I was great at this my sophomore season, it was my best season in college by far but like I said, "baseball is a sport with a lot of failure." I lost that mentality after blowing my first save in my college career during my junior season against our rivals at home in front of one of our biggest crowds. I gave up back to back home runs to lose the lead. Looking back I should have chalked it up to a bad day and stayed with my routine that got me my success. However, the game got the best of me and I decided to change everything and anything to make sure that would never happen again. I went from bulldog to lost puppy. I made mechanical changes, routine changes and eventually gave up on my dream of playing pro ball a year later because the failure was too much for me. One game or one play can eat at you and ruin your mindset if you allow it to. At Rogue, we try to teach our guys how to avoid this.
Mental training is often overlooked in high school but heavily emphasized in college and pro ball so we are trying to implement it as much as we can. Our main tool for helping our guys cope with failure is a strategy called release and refocus. Doing this connects a physical movement or gesture with the release of a negative thought, then refocusing on the next task in a positive mindset. Recreating how the brain thinks is a larger task than incorporating a physical movement, so linking the body to the brain to release and refocus embeds the mental routine into the physical. The best example is the physical movement of unstrapping your batting gloves to release the bad call the ump just made combined with a deep breath, once the mentality is back to neutral or positive strap them back up, refocus and you are ready to go again.
This strategy helps give the guys a tool to use and develop in a way that makes sense to them. Instead of just telling them to be mentally strong, we try to provide them ways of accomplishing that task. It's something they can work on between every repetition at practice, whether it's in the cage or during a bullpen; if the rep was a failure, can they succeed at clearing their mind for the next pitch or ground ball? Then once failure happens in a game they aren't surprised and lost but have their routine of release and refocus to fall back on. It is not easy but it is crucial to becoming a successful ball player.
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.