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Pitch to contact: many say it; but few actually sell it to their pitchers

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  • #46
    Scorekeep, I think our differences are distilling to two major issues:

    First, you say "I have grave doubts that the “tracker” has the capacity on almost all pitches that were hit, to accurately determine their location and/or type." It depends on who's doing the tracking. You almost seem to be taking the position that, because we can't glean perfect knowledge, that the information we can glean is useless or close to it. Admittedly, a coach who simply watches from the dugout or even a scorekeeper near the dugout usually can't tell a whole lot about what the pitcher is doing other than the height of the pitches and whether they're off-speed or not. But, if he's got any smarts, he'll debrief his catcher every inning or two and then between games.

    On the other hand, I am basing my opinion as someone who has videotaped games from behind the plate for the past eight years and was the official videographer for my son's HS teams for the last three years, from behind the backstop. I've videotaped tens of thousands of pitches and analyzed the results of a great many of them, though concededly not catalogued them in a spreadsheet the way that you have. And, I've filtered them through my past experience as a coach and as a player in my younger days, where I prided myself in knowing what pitches to call for each type of hitter. And, I view myself as enough of an contrarian and an iconoclast that, if my old learning of "a low ball pitcher is a happy pitcher" was contradicted by my experience I'd be happy to shout it to the rooftops (similarly to the way I've completely renounced my original thoughts about hitting once I learned and applied rotational hitting). But, there's nothing in my experience that contradicts that postulate that keeping the ball low results in far fewer hard hit balls.

    Second, with respect to my assertion that there are ways that pitchers can get their pitch selection preferences respected by coaches, you respond this way: "What you’re doing is taking what you find to be true and extrapolating it to mean that’s what goes on in every situation. I’m sorry, that’s simply not true. But let’s for a moment assume it is true everywhere."

    You're creating a 'straw man' by saying that I'm saying that this is true everywhere. Of course not; certainly there are coaches who know one way to pitch and will not bend regardless of the velocity or skill level of the pitcher. But, there are ways for kids to get their preferences known to their coaches. Certainly, many of the kids' suggestions will get knocked down, but at least there's a dialogue where the coach explains to the kid why he shouldn't do what he thought he'd like, and -- in the course of applying the coaches' suggestions in games -- the kid can work a little bit of his ideas into his repertoire.

    And, face it, coaches are rarely completely stupid. If a kid throws five fastballs out of the zone (or, worse, five 78 MPH fastballs that get clobbered) and then five sliders on the paint for strikes, no coach is going to say, "Gee, the kid is spotting his slider but I'm a big believer in fastballs so I'm not going to let him throw sliders more than two times per inning."

    In my son's first game last year (2011), he was brought in with a one-run lead and men on base and he and his catcher realized he couldn't control his fastball. So, he threw 32 consecutive sliders (at two different speeds) over 2 and 2/3 innings and shut down one of the best teams in our area to preserve the game. Did the coaches lambast them for not throwing fastballs? No, the head coach went to him and asked him if he wanted to be the closer or a starter in the rotation.

    Moving beyond this, I'd like to echo and re-state what I think that MudV is saying, in this way. In many HS hitters and all weak hitters at that level and below, I common problem is disconnection where the hands get pushed toward the pitcher, sorta as reflected in the two swings that Mud posts above. In practical terms, what it means is that the barrel starts its upward path later in the swing of the weaker hitter. With such a swing, the chances thus become much, much higher on a low swing that he'll do nothing more than beat the ball into the dirt. (On those rare occasions that he gets under it enough for the ball to go up, the amount of force transferred to the ball is much lower because he will have to have hit it only with a glancing blow for the ball to go up, so you'll only get a pop-up.) In a similar vein, the first hitter in the far left (low ball) clip has superior posture in adjusting for the height (i.e., more tilt), which again makes it easier for the hands to stay put and the bathead to complete its arc and start coming back by the point of contact.

    So, sure, a superior hitter can still hit a low pitch a long way, but if you can at least minimize the damage by keeping it to a few hitters in the lineup, you're way ahead of the game. And, of course, if you can keep the ball on the outer half of the plate and low, you're more likely to have the ball hit to the big part of the park (LCF to RCG) for a long out, and thus less likely to suffer a "cheap" double down the lines.
    sigpicIt's not whether you fall -- everyone does -- but how you come out of the fall that counts.

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    • #47
      Originally posted by Ursa Major View Post
      Scorekeep, I think our differences are distilling to two major issues:

      First, you say "I have grave doubts that the “tracker” has the capacity on almost all pitches that were hit, to accurately determine their location and/or type." It depends on who's doing the tracking.
      No doubt there are some people who have a better ability to gauge where a pitch was and at the same time the type of pitch it was than others. And of course the better that ability, the more the results can be counted on. And there’s no doubt there will be times when a pitch can easily be identified both in location and type.

      You almost seem to be taking the position that, because we can't glean perfect knowledge, that the information we can glean is useless or close to it. Admittedly, a coach who simply watches from the dugout or even a scorekeeper near the dugout usually can't tell a whole lot about what the pitcher is doing other than the height of the pitches and whether they're off-speed or not. But, if he's got any smarts, he'll debrief his catcher every inning or two and then between games.
      If that’e the impression I’ve left you with, I’ve done a poor job of communicating! Any information is better than no information, as long as the validity of that information is understood and taken into consideration.

      I also agree that there are ways to improve the validity of the data, such as an after inning debriefing, but let’s make sure we’re talking apples and apples. In any given inning they’ll be from 7 to 30+ pitches. Is there any conceivable way each pitch will be able to not only be remembered, but discussed? That’s not a 10 second thing, even if it could happen. And remember, its not at all unusual for the HC to be the guy calling the pitches, and once the teams change sides, he’s off to the coach’s box to move from defensive to offensive coaching.

      I’m not saying all the things that would make everything work smoothly can’t or won’t happen, but that the likelihood of them happening very well isn’t very high. In the end there’s a game going on and its changing from second to second, making it not a very good time or place to be spending a lot of time and effort on minute detail. Now if there’s a staff in place where say a pitching coach can sit down with the pitcher and catcher and glean some good information and attach it to the charts, that’s a different thing. But really, how many programs do that?

      On the other hand, I am basing my opinion as someone who has videotaped games from behind the plate for the past eight years and was the official videographer for my son's HS teams for the last three years, from behind the backstop. I've videotaped tens of thousands of pitches and analyzed the results of a great many of them, though concededly not catalogued them in a spreadsheet the way that you have. And, I've filtered them through my past experience as a coach and as a player in my younger days, where I prided myself in knowing what pitches to call for each type of hitter. And, I view myself as enough of an contrarian and an iconoclast that, if my old learning of "a low ball pitcher is a happy pitcher" was contradicted by my experience I'd be happy to shout it to the rooftops (similarly to the way I've completely renounced my original thoughts about hitting once I learned and applied rotational hitting). But, there's nothing in my experience that contradicts that postulate that keeping the ball low results in far fewer hard hit balls.
      1st of all, I DO NOT USE SPREADSHEETS for baseball stats of any kind. Never have and never will.

      Remember, I haven’t said that wasn’t true, but rather that I’ve seen no proof of it, and before announcing some truth, I’d dang sure have catalogued what I was seeing. Why didn’t you do that? You had all the tools necessary to turn what you had into factual data rather than anecdotal data. Even if you’d have used a spreadsheet, the data would have been there for examination. So now when I question what really took place, instead of being able to present some data to defend your position, you have to ask that everyone just assume what you’re saying is true. Again, I’m not saying it isn’t, but I am saying having messed around with baseball numbers for so long, I just haven’t seen signs that things happen nearly as often as people perceive.

      [/QUOTE]Second, with respect to my assertion that there are ways that pitchers can get their pitch selection preferences respected by coaches, you respond this way: "What you’re doing is taking what you find to be true and extrapolating it to mean that’s what goes on in every situation. I’m sorry, that’s simply not true. But let’s for a moment assume it is true everywhere."

      You're creating a 'straw man' by saying that I'm saying that this is true everywhere. Of course not; certainly there are coaches who know one way to pitch and will not bend regardless of the velocity or skill level of the pitcher. But, there are ways for kids to get their preferences known to their coaches. Certainly, many of the kids' suggestions will get knocked down, but at least there's a dialogue where the coach explains to the kid why he shouldn't do what he thought he'd like, and -- in the course of applying the coaches' suggestions in games -- the kid can work a little bit of his ideas into his repertoire. [/QUOTE]

      If it isn’t true everywhere, don’t couch your statements to allow the belief that maybe it does. The fact is, there are all kinds of situations out there from free-wheeling do whatever you want, to absolute dictatorship where no question is tolerated. I suppose a lot of what I believe comes from my experiences as a catcher. In the program I played, I never had to bother looking over at the bench. It was my job to call the ball game, period.

      Were there people who worked with me in practice to improve my skills? You bet! But it was beat into our heads that when the game began there would be no one there to hold our hands. Any failure or successes were our and ours alone, and we took pride in that. Maybe if I’d been brought up in the system used today I’d feel different, but I honestly can’t see how I’d have much to be proud of in a system where all the decisions were made by the coach. Different time and different definition of pride of accomplishment.

      And, face it, coaches are rarely completely stupid. If a kid throws five fastballs out of the zone (or, worse, five 78 MPH fastballs that get clobbered) and then five sliders on the paint for strikes, no coach is going to say, "Gee, the kid is spotting his slider but I'm a big believer in fastballs so I'm not going to let him throw sliders more than two times per inning."
      True. But how many times is that coach calling pitches actually thinking who’s on the mound, what their best pitches are, where they miss with each of them when they miss, all while trying to stop the other team from taking advantage of 2 great runners on, no outs, with the league’s best hitter on deck, and pitcher on the mound who might be getting tired on a 105 degree day after throwing 60+ pitches in 3 innings?

      My point is, most coaches can do an adequate job in low or even medium pressure situations, but then again, not much coaching is required in those situations either. Its when the pucker factor move into the red that things start getting tense and many of the things that get done in normal situation start getting overlooked.

      And again, it varies from program to program. If the coach has a great staff of assistants and they plan things out and work well together, a lot can be accomplished. But what about situations like ours where the HC is one of the best, but he only sees his assistants at games, so most of the time at practices he’s working by himself. Yet the strongest team in our league has at least 5 assistants at every practice, including old alums or ex pro players to help out.

      There’s a perfect way and then there’s the way 99% of all teams have to go.

      In my son's first game last year (2011), he was brought in with a one-run lead and men on base and he and his catcher realized he couldn't control his fastball. So, he threw 32 consecutive sliders (at two different speeds) over 2 and 2/3 innings and shut down one of the best teams in our area to preserve the game. Did the coaches lambast them for not throwing fastballs? No, the head coach went to him and asked him if he wanted to be the closer or a starter in the rotation.
      One instance in your program doesn’t mean it’s the same everywhere or even anywhere else. My son was one of the very best pitchers in the entire area and shook off a FB called to a player he’d faced and played with for 4 years. He got yanked out of the game right then and there. SO who’s story is more normal? Likely neither one but they both happened.

      Moving beyond this, I'd like to echo and re-state what I think that MudV is saying, in this way. In many HS hitters and all weak hitters at that level and below, I common problem is disconnection where the hands get pushed toward the pitcher, sorta as reflected in the two swings that Mud posts above. In practical terms, what it means is that the barrel starts its upward path later in the swing of the weaker hitter. With such a swing, the chances thus become much, much higher on a low swing that he'll do nothing more than beat the ball into the dirt. (On those rare occasions that he gets under it enough for the ball to go up, the amount of force transferred to the ball is much lower because he will have to have hit it only with a glancing blow for the ball to go up, so you'll only get a pop-up.) In a similar vein, the first hitter in the far left (low ball) clip has superior posture in adjusting for the height (i.e., more tilt), which again makes it easier for the hands to stay put and the bathead to complete its arc and start coming back by the point of contact.

      So, sure, a superior hitter can still hit a low pitch a long way, but if you can at least minimize the damage by keeping it to a few hitters in the lineup, you're way ahead of the game. And, of course, if you can keep the ball on the outer half of the plate and low, you're more likely to have the ball hit to the big part of the park (LCF to RCG) for a long out, and thus less likely to suffer a "cheap" double down the lines.
      I too believe that keeping the ball down and away is far better than anyplace else. But, I know there’s no place the bat can reach that’s safe.

      Now for a question that can be answered without guessing, but I might have to ask it in the stats and sabermetrics forum.

      When you look at a pitch(F/X) graph, there’s normally a box with a bunch of data points Does that box represent a fixed point in space no matter who’s up, or does it vary according to the batter?

      IOW, if I ask to see all pitches by CC Sabathia that were XBHs, is a pitch at the top of the box for Adam Dunn in the same spot as a pitch at the top of the box for Dustin Pedroia?
      The pitcher who’s afraid to throw strikes, will soon be standing in the shower with the hitter who's afraid to swing.

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