Sabermetrics Says Throw Harder

There has long been an argument that a pitcher does not need velocity to get outs. That’s true, but it does make it a whole lot easier.



How Will His Peripherals Change?

Here are some educated guesses based on sources I’ve found on the Internet:

Now, remember, these studies aren’t perfect, but they’ll give us a baseline of improvements the pitcher can expect to see if his velocity improves. You can adjust them downwards or upwards based on your own thoughts/biases if you like.

We’ll hold his innings pitched and games started constant, even though if he got a lot better, he’d probably pitch more (and deeper into games). We’ll also hold his walks, hit batters, and intentionally walked batters constant. As such, here are his new peripherals:

24 GS, 230 FB, 24 HR (10.34% HR/FB), 50 BB, 2 IBB, 7 HBP, 141 K (8.464 K/9), 150 IP (6.25 IP/start) – 4.39 FIP

A 4.39 FIP is decent – it represents a 12.5% improvement from the year previous.


Maybe Pitchers Should Talk to Themselves More

People often talk to themselves, yet very little is known about the functions of this self-directed speech. We explore effects of self-directed speech on visual processing by using a visual search task. According to the label feedback hypothesis (Lupyan, 2007a), verbal labels can change ongoing perceptual processing—for example, actually hearing “chair” compared to simply thinking about a chair can temporarily make the visual system a better “chair detector”. Participants searched for common objects, while being sometimes asked to speak the target’s name aloud. Speaking facilitated search, particularly when there was a strong association between the name and the visual target. As the discrepancy between the name and the target increased, speaking began to impair performance. Together, these results speak to the power of words to modulate ongoing visual processing.

That’s the abstract from this paper

More info here

Breaking Down 30 Unwritten Rules

The following is from a Fan Graph Article. Its the author’s opinions on these 30 unwritten rules of baseball:


1. Never put the tying or go-ahead run on base.

This seems more like a “good idea” than a rule, as it’s not really something a pitcher can control. My guess is that if they had their druthers, they’d never put anyone on base.

2. Play for the tie at home, go for the victory on the road.

This one isn’t baseball specific, as you hear announcers talk about this rule in every sport. As I understand it, the idea behind this is that the home team is more likely to win in extra innings (or overtime in other sports), so extending the game is more likely to lead to a win at home. Given that we know that home field advantage is something like 54-46 in baseball, much smaller than in other sports, this is one that probably applies much more in football or basketball.

3. Don’t hit and run with an 0-2 count.

Actually, with two outs, that might be the best time to hit and run. A batter’s expected outcomes are awful in 0-2 counts (league average of .152/.160/.217 last year), so the harm caused by a caught stealing is significantly diminished. The idea is that you don’t want to force the batter to swing at a pitch out of the zone to protect the runner when he doesn’t have any strikes to give, but a modified hit-and-run where he only swung at strikes might be a really great strategy.

4. Don’t play the infield in early in the game.

In most circumstances, this one’s right on. Unless you’re facing Roy Halladay and think that one run might just be enough to win it, you’re better off conceding an early run in order to minimize the chances of more hits getting through and leading to a big rally.

5. Never make the first or third out at third.

Maybe a better way of putting this is “don’t take unnecessary risks on the basepaths” – any good baserunner is going to eventually make an out at third that breaks this rule, but the logic behind it is sound.

6. Never steal when you’re two or more runs down.

This seems too conservative for my tastes. In the ninth inning, sure, but if you’re down 4-2 in the seventh inning and you get a great base stealer on first base, having him take second can put you in a significantly better position to get that run in and make it a one run game. Maybe at four runs I’d agree that you’re better off not risking the out, but two runs is just too narrow a gap to completely shut down an effective running game.

7. Don’t steal when you’re well ahead.

This is more of a courtesy thing, and I guess it’s up to every manager to decide what is “well ahead”. What if you have a four run lead, a bad bullpen, and you’re facing the Tigers? Are you comfortable with that? If not, add on. I can get behind not stealing runs when your win expectancy is north of 97 or 98 percent, but I wouldn’t stop trying to score runs against a good offense just to satisfy this unwritten rule.

8. Don’t steal third with two outs.

This is just the “third out at third base” rule again. In general, it’s mostly right.

9. Don’t bunt for a hit when you need a sacrifice.

Totally disagree. There’s no reason to not try and get on base when you’re bunting, even when you’re sacrificing. Not making the out is far more valuable than making the out, so if you can get the runner over and get yourself to first base, by all means, do it.

10. Never throw behind the runner.

“Unless he’s retreating to a base after tagging up, or you have him in a rundown, or he’s strayed too far off the base and your catcher has a strong arm.” Too many exceptions for this to be a rule.

11. Left and right fielders concede everything to center fielder.

In general, this works out most of the time. Nothing wrong with this guideline.

12. Never give up a home run on an 0-2 count.

Same deal with rule #1 – if pitchers could not give up home runs, they wouldn’t, no matter what the count. The spirit behind this one is to not center up a pitch when you’re in an 0-2 count, which is good advice, but this could be stated a lot better.

13. Never let the score influence the way you manage.

As Matt Meyers pointed out, this one invalidates nearly all of the rules that came before it, which is fun. This one’s just totally wrong – the score should absolutely dictate how you manage.

14. Don’t go against the percentages.

This is great if the managers actually know what percentages matter. Feel free to go against “this batter is 1 for 7 lifetime against this pitcher” all you want.

15. Take a strike when your club is behind in a ballgame.

In other words, do whatever you need to do to get on base and start a rally. Of course, if you believe that taking strikes is more likely to lead to getting on base, then you should probably adopt this as a strategy all the time. Getting on base more often is never bad.

16. Leadoff hitter must be a base stealer. Designated hitter must be a power hitter.

Nope. Still widely believed, but just straight up wrong.

17. Never give an intentional walk if first base is occupied.

I’d probably add in an exception about 8/9 situations in the NL, especially if the run is critical and you don’t believe the opposing manager will hit for the pitcher, but this one’s mostly right.

18. With runners in scoring position and first base open, walk the number eight hitter to get to the pitcher.

Early in the game, yes. Late in the game, you have to evaluate the other team’s pinch-hitting options and whether you’ll have to make a pitching change in order to preserve the platoon advantage.

19. In rundown situations, always run the runner back toward the base from which he came.

This is a good way to teach the rundown to kids, but it’s not really practical as a rule. Once you throw the ball to the guy behind the runner in order to try and apply the tag, he’s going to run away from the base. You have to chase him to apply the tag. But this is nitpicking – the idea is good.

20. If you play for one run, that’s all you get.


21. Don’t bunt with a power hitter up.

Amen squared. I’d probably expand to to good non-power hitters too, but many of them are fast and good at bunting, so no quibbles here.

22. Don’t take the bat out of your best hitter’s hands by sacrificing in front of him.

Amen to the third power. This anti-bunting section is awesome.

23. Only use your bullpen stopper in late-inning situations.

Meh – in the playoffs, I’d have no problem going to my best reliever early in order to keep the game close. In the regular season, I’m okay with this.

24. Don’t use your stopper in a tie game—only when you’re ahead.

No, no, a thousand times no. This one is just horribly wrong.

25. Hit behind the runner at first base.

Meh – I’d rather have my guys try to get on base themselves than focus on moving runners over. It’s an okay byproduct, but it shouldn’t be the goal. The goal should be to not make an out.

26. If one of your players gets knocked down by a pitch, retaliate.

Hopefully, this one will get phased out of baseball, but we talked about that the other day.

27. Hit the ball where it’s pitched.

“Unless you’re Jose Bautista, in which case, pull everything.” Again, decent advice to teach a youngster how to hit, but doesn’t really apply to most Major League players, who already have developed strengths and weaknesses at the plate. You don’t want your pull-power slugger just trying to loop every outside pitch the other way. If he can’t pull it, not swinging is probably a better option.

28. A manager should remain detached from his players.

I guess I don’t really have an opinion on this one. Maybe that’s better, maybe it’s not. I don’t know.

29. Never mention a no-hitter while it’s in progress.

For on field personnel, there’s nothing wrong with this one. It probably wouldn’t help anything to be actively discussing it in front of the pitcher, so an outright ban is fine. That some fans try to carry it over to announcers and those watching the game is silly.

30. With a right-hander on the mound, don’t walk a right-handed hitter to pitch to a left-handed hitter.

But apparently, it’s totally okay for an LHP to walk an LHB to get to an RHB? This is basically just “don’t give up the platoon split”, but there are way too many exceptions to make this a rule. If your RHP wants to walk Dustin Pedroia to get to Nick Punto, that’s fine with me.

Why Scuff Balls Are Illegal

Here’s video of Mike Scott’s no hitter for the Astros to clinch the 1986 West division title. Scott threw 3 breaking balls the entire day. The rest were scuff balls. He would take a hole punch of sand paper, super glue it to his right ring finger and scratch one side of the ball as he had the ball in his hand. Watch how much dirty movement results from that little scuff.

Oates: Baseball Specific Exercise

The reason this is a problem is because of the fact that a baseball player, whether a pitcher or hitter, doesn’t use this energy system. Baseball athletes use the ATP energy system, which can provide energy for movements up to 10 seconds. A pitch or swing is a very short, explosive movement that is followed by a 10-20 second rest before the movement is repeated. This is far different than a continuous movement for many minutes at a time. Consequently, if a pitcher or hitter wants to increase their explosiveness, whether it is to increase the velocity on his fastball or improve his bat speed, he will need to train to be explosive through short explosive movements.

Perhaps the best way to put it in perspective, a 100 meter sprinter does not train by running long distances. Instead, that sprinter works on running short distances, such as training to be as explosive as possible off the blocks. In the same regard, a baseball athlete is not going to be helping himself by training for long periods of time in order to be more explosive.

By simply performing a random selection of exercises that don’t require any type of rotational movement, a baseball athlete is not preparing himself for the stress that those rotational movements will create on his body. In particular, a baseball athlete needs to specifically address thoracic spine and hip mobility as well as anti-rotation core stability. Crossfit does not address these sport specific concerns.

Full Article

A (Mostly) Free Strike

We’ve talked about the odds being in your favor when grooving a 3-0 pitch. What we all know but forgot to discuss is that most hitters are taught to NEVER swing 3-0. So if you groove one, its most likely going to be taken, suddenly its 3-1, and the hitter is not only allowed to swing but often takes a hack. That one grooved pitch can get you back into the count enough that on the next pitch, you get the hitter to put a bad swing on a bad pitch.

On May 4, 2002, Seattle’s Mike Cameron stepped to the plate in the top of the ninth inning with two on, nobody out and his team leading the Chicago White Sox, 15-4. When reliever Mike Porzio started him off with three straight balls, Cameron knew just what to do—his manager, Lou Piniella, was a stickler for the unwritten rules and had taught his players well.
Cameron watched the fourth pitch split the plate for a called strike. It didn’t even occur to him that he’d already hit four home runs on the day, and couldn’t have asked for a pitch served up more nicely to give him a record fifth. As Cameron proved, however, should players let it, the Code even trumps history.

Full Article

How Many Catcher’s Need Tommy John Surgery?

Catcher’s are forever taught to be short with their arm actions, as a means of getting the ball to second base quickly. Combine this with a decrease time to release the ball and the body naturally finds its most efficient movement pattern.



A Different Approach

I Wouldn’t Have Thought of This. What About You?
By Jill Wolforth, Texas Baseball Ranch

There are many neat things about being in the baseball/softball training business. This time of year is special in that we get to attend Spring Training and see our pro guys. One week this past month, Ron, Garrett & I were in Arizona watching players in the Cactus League.


We got to see Trevor Bauer pitch against the Padres. He did a great job, pitching 2 innings, giving up 0 runs on 2 hits. He had 3 K’s and 1 walk. It was a very special for us because it was the first time we’d ever seen Trevor pitch in a game.


There’s an interesting story to Trevor’s outing that day that I want to share with you and is the real message behind this week’s email. It gives a glimpse at how he looks at things differently, specifically when it comes to preparation.


Trevor is typically a starter and goes through a very intense pre-game warm-up. On this particular day of Spring Training, Diamondbacks Manager Kirk Gibson, was going to use Trevor for 2 or 3 innings but not as a starter. On this day, Trevor is scheduled to relieve in the 4th. This causes an interesting challenge for Trevor because he won’t be able to do his normal routine which includes long tossing on the field from foul pole to foul pole.


Most of us would make our adjustments, try to get SOME warm-up in, SOME arm care in and SOME throwing drills and then our bullpen pitches and head out when called on. You probably are guessing based on my set up here, that’s not how Trevor handled it.


Trevor decided to treat it like he was starting anyway with the thought that when he actually went in the game it was going to be his 4th inning of pitching. Let me explain. He did his entire pre-game warm-up before the game as usual and then went to the bullpen. When the game started and the Diamondbacks pitcher went to the mound, Trevor toed the rubber in the bullpen. When the Diamondbacks hit, Trevor rested. Each time his team went on the field, Trevor pitched the inning in the bullpen until he was called to enter the game in the 4th. So, in total he simulated a 6 inning day (not just two innings) which he also believed would get him better prepared for the start of the season.


That’s pretty impressive. It was certainly thinking out of the box. I encourage you to keep this in mind when it looks like you’re going to be thrown out of your routine (whether in baseball or life). Ask yourself, “How can I make the very most out of the situation?”

I Wouldn’t Have Thought of This.                                What About You?
By Jill Wolforth

There are many neat things about being in the baseball/softball training business. This time of year is special in that we get to attend Spring Training and see our pro guys. One week this past month, Ron, Garrett & I were in Arizona watching players in the Cactus League.


We got to see Trevor Bauer pitch against the Padres. He did a great job, pitching 2 innings, giving up 0 runs on 2 hits. He had 3 K’s and 1 walk. It was a very special for us because it was the first time we’d ever seen Trevor pitch in a game.


There’s an interesting story to Trevor’s outing that day that I want to share with you and is the real message behind this week’s email. It gives a glimpse at how he looks at things differently, specifically when it comes to preparation.


Trevor is typically a starter and goes through a very intense pre-game warm-up. On this particular day of Spring Training, Diamondbacks Manager Kirk Gibson, was going to use Trevor for 2 or 3 innings but not as a starter. On this day, Trevor is scheduled to relieve in the 4th. This causes an interesting challenge for Trevor because he won’t be able to do his normal routine which includes long tossing on the field from foul pole to foul pole.


Most of us would make our adjustments, try to get SOME warm-up in, SOME arm care in and SOME throwing drills and then our bullpen pitches and head out when called on. You probably are guessing based on my set up here, that’s not how Trevor handled it.


Trevor decided to treat it like he was starting anyway with the thought that when he actually went in the game it was going to be his 4th inning of pitching. Let me explain. He did his entire pre-game warm-up before the game as usual and then went to the bullpen. When the game started and the Diamondbacks pitcher went to the mound, Trevor toed the rubber in the bullpen. When the Diamondbacks hit, Trevor rested. Each time his team went on the field, Trevor pitched the inning in the bullpen until he was called to enter the game in the 4th. So, in total he simulated a 6 inning day (not just two innings) which he also believed would get him better prepared for the start of the season.


That’s pretty impressive. It was certainly thinking out of the box. I encourage you to keep this in mind when it looks like you’re going to be thrown out of your routine (whether in baseball or life). Ask yourself, “How can I make the very most out of the situation?”

Knowledge Can/Does Make You Dumber

Take a couple minutes and see if you can figure this out. Answer is at the bottom.

As the chil­dren we once were, grow­ing up was a process of becom­ing adults. Not only bio­log­i­cally but also men­tally. We learned to be respon­si­ble, to pay the bills, to get things done and we learned the com­plex world of adult­hood. To become adults we had to lose our tantrums, silli­ness, our child­hood. And we lost our minds. Our child-like minds.
The mind of a child is the great­est gift we will ever receive. As embryos in our moth­ers’ womb, our heart, the first organ to develop only to power the next organ—the devel­op­ing brain which is soon mak­ing a quar­ter of a mil­lion new neu­rons every minute. In the first 10 years of life, our infant brain will have made bil­lions and bil­lions of con­nec­tions. It is a super­charged engine for learn­ing and cre­ativ­ity. Yet by adult­hood we have lost most of this creativity. We now think like adults. That is we think too much and our thoughts are too influ­enced by our knowl­edge. We need to get back our abil­ity to think like kids again. How?

Think about how this applies to pitching. Then think about how this applies to your life. The life part is much more important.













Answer to the numbers question
The ques­tion has noth­ing to do with math­e­mat­ics. Look for the closed loops or shapes in each num­ber and count them. In 0, 6, 8 and 9. 8 has two of them. 2581 has two. The answer is 2.

Original Outcome

Michael Pineda

Michael Pineda is having shoulder issues. Can you guess why?

Hand dominated delivery puts force further from the body which means more stress.

Hand dominated delivery is slow and gets left behind putting even more for on the shoulder.

High elbow at foot strike.

Very little trunk rotation at release.

Very little trunk rotation after release.

Hardly any pronation (You can actually see the bang after release)


Pitching Up in the Zone vs. Pitching Down in the Zone

There is a big disconnect in baseball philosophies. Pitchers are told to pitch down and get groundballs, while hitters are also told to hit the ball on the ground rather than in the air.  Only one of those can be correct.

Here’s an article from FanGraphs about the value of pitching fastballs up in the zone. They use major league data but I think the general trends are applicable.

Because we play in a collegiate wooden bat league that plays primarily in cold weather, I think that throwing up in the zone is actually more beneficial then in the MLB. This limits the distance of balls hit, so I think we avoid extra base hits more often.

 FB High in Zone % of Pitches in Top of Zone AVG for Balls in Play Bases Per Hit Bases per Batted Ball Swing and Miss
Collmenter 59.3% 0.300 1.82 0.55 5.1%
Kennedy 50.7% 0.305 1.71 0.52 14.1%
Hudson 42.9% 0.283 1.59 0.45 17.1%
Cahill 49.3% 0.324 1.73 0.56 5.9%
Saunders 47.4% 0.334 1.63 0.55 6.9%
Weaver 60.9% 0.304 1.84 0.56 10.1%
Beachy 51.9% 0.277 1.65 0.46 15.0%
League Avg 57.0% 0.336 1.67 0.56 12.2%


FB Low In Zone AVG for Balls in Play Bases Per Hit Bases per Batted Ball Swing and Miss
Collmenter 0.301 1.45 0.44 10.2%
Kennedy 0.360 1.65 0.59 5.7%
Hudson 0.360 1.50 0.54 6.3%
Cahill 0.337 1.88 0.63 8.6%
Saunders 0.351 1.60 0.56 5.6%
Weaver 0.363 1.59 0.58 6.9%
Beachy 0.458 1.64 0.75 5.1%
League Avg 0.358 1.54 0.55 8.7%


What we can basically take from these numbers is that batters have a better chance at an extra base hit with a fastball up in the zone rather than down in the zone. Bauer stated that he “bet more of those jacks came on fastballs in the lower half of the zone than came on fastballs in the upper half.” What these numbers show is that more bases per hit come when fastballs are in the upper portion of the zone, while bases per ball in play are more-or-less equal. So, if a pitcher consistently throws fastball up in the zone, he is more likely to create more outs but also allow more extra base hits. There is a decent trade off there, and this data could be useful for certain in game situations. For instance, with a big lead, it may be worthwhile to throw fastballs up in the zone to create outs more often despite the likelihood of allowing an extra base hit.

Swing and miss rates also favor fastballs in the upper portion of the zone. The league average of 12.2% swing and misses in the upper portion easily trumps the 8.7% rate on fastballs in the lower half. This goes in line with traditional thinking, as higher fastballs are generally thought to be more difficult to catch up to.

Bauer also specifically mentioned how “Colly,” which we assume means Josh Collmenter, pitches in the upper half of the zone and has “great success,” as he put it. For reference, we looked at Collmenter’s results with all of his pitches in the upper and lower parts of the zone as well as the results of his fastball.

Collmenter All Pitches % of Pitches in Top of Zone AVG for Balls in Play Bases Per Hit Bases per Batted Ball Swing and Miss
Top Zone 50.8% 0.307 1.73 0.53 12.3%
Bottom Zone 49.2% 0.306 1.47 0.46 14.6%


Collmenter FB % of Pitches in Top of Zone AVG for Balls in Play Bases Per Hit Bases per Batted Ball Swing and Miss
Top Zone 59% 0.300 1.82 0.55 5.1%
Bottom Zone 41% 0.301 1.45 0.44 10.2%

Collmenter did see above average success last year in terms of bases per batted ball in the upper half of the zone, but he also saw similar success in regards to pitches in the lower half of the zone. His swing and miss rates for both halves of the zone were slightly better than average, so it is difficult to say that Collmenter sees “great success” in the upper half of the zone specifically. Looking at his fastball specifically, which he threw with 68% of his pitches last year and kept in the upper portion of the zone 59.3% of the time, he actually performed better in the lower part of the zone. With a BABIP and bases per hit average much lower than league average in the lower portion of the zone compared to average or worse than average marks in the upper portion, you can actually say he saw more success with his fastball in the lower portion.

What Collmenter did do is create outs without receiving ground balls, which likely caused Bauer to have the opinion that he sees great success up in the zone. He was certainly accurate in stating that he does throw up in the zone regularly, as he throws more than 50% of his pitches in the upper half yet still posted a better than average home run per fly ball rate of 7.7%.

There is also a decent chance that Collmenter was simply fortunate with balls in play. His overall .255 BABIP indicates that this is a possibility. For a pitcher with a 47% fly ball rate, he certainly did receive favorable results. It will be interesting to monitor Collmenter’s zone tendencies along with his home run per fly ball rate and BABIP this season. Maybe there is something to Collmenter’s pitching style, but it could also have just been a season filled with some good fortune.

Bauer stood by his opinion that balls are not necessarily harder hit up in the zone compared to lower in the zone throughout the debate. While it is possible that the balls are not physically hit harder, the likelihood for them to end up in places where the hitter can gain extra bases does increase. Bauer seemed extremely confident in his position, and by the sound of it he was basing it off of data – which would be very interesting to see if this were the case. The numbers ran by Jeff do not necessarily debunk his theory, but they do explain that more hits come from balls in the lower part of the zone and more extra bases come from balls up in the zone, which certainly does not help Bauer’s argument. We will most certainly follow Bauer’s numbers in this regard throughout the season, once he reaches the Majors, and also throughout his career.

Full Article

Don’t Waste Money on IcyHot

IcyHot falls into a category of products called non-narcotic analgesics, or pain relievers. The way it’s supposed to work is by interfering with and disrupting the pain signals traveling to the brain from an affected area, hence the use of the icy and hot sensations. In actual fact there is no cold or heat from this product.

It’s similar to drinking coffee, in that the caffeine molecule attaches to brain receptors and prevents you from feeling tired, but when it wears off you crash. Well the same is true here. If you do reach any level of comfort from use, it will wear off and allow those signals to finally reach their destination.

I think people may be mislead into thinking Icy Hot reduces pain or inflammation, and therefore continue exercising or being active. But in my opinion, if it works at all, it’s just blocking pain and giving you a false sense of feeling better, which would lead you to an even more serious injury.

The statement that it “penetrates deep” is also false in my opinion, as IcyHot is a topical agent, meaning it sits on the skin and never actually gets into your bloodstream as other true anti-inflammatory medicines do. The last point I want to make is that pain exists for a reason – to let you know something isn’t right. I don’t think it’s a good idea to throw a blanket over it and cover it up, you need to stop, listen and take action.

Full Article Here

Matt Moore Is Good…So Learn From Him

Matt Moore is the game’s top pitching prospect and he just dominated a potent lineup, in his second big league start, in a post-season contest. Of course, you already knew that. Given the plethora of articles lauding and analyzing the 22-year-old lefthander, it is likely you know plenty more. With that in mind, what better way to delve even deeper than by discussing the art of pitching with the man himself?

Moore sat down to talk about his overpowering repertoire, and his approach on the mound, when the Rays visited Fenway Park late in the regular season.


David Laurila: Do you identify yourself as a power pitcher?

Matt Moore: I sit 93 to 95, and I’m a starter, so I guess that fits into the classification of a power pitcher. I throw a hard breaking ball, around 82-84, and my changeup is around the same, about 81-83. I don’t have a mentality of, “Okay, I’m going to blow this by somebody,” but I do like to challenge guys with my best fastball. I have a good fastball — it’s my strength — so I’m going to challenge guys.

DL: Do individual hitters influence what you do on the mound?

MM: Not really. It doesn’t matter what they do at the plate, it matters what I do on the mound. As far as I’m concerned, if I take care of the things I need to… I’ll just go from there, and as soon as an adjustment needs to be made, then I’ll think about it.

For me, the simpler things are — especially what’s going on between my ears — the better off I am. When I’m going good, there aren’t a lot of things going through my mind. The easier and simpler I make things, the easier it is for me to pitch.

DL: Have you made any mechanical changes since signing?

MM: Yes. It’s been four years now, so there have definitely been some mechanical changes. I go over my head now, whereas when I first got here, I didn’t. I throw from the third base side of the rubber instead of the first base side. Aside from that, it’s basically been repetition. Little things change here and there without you really even paying attention to them.

DL: Is there a Rays pitching philosophy that you were taught coming up through the system?

MM: No, they just want us to get guys out. That’s it. It’s just baseball. It’s not like the Rays try to do anything different from the Yankees or the Red Sox. Every pitcher has their own set of tools and what they do. For an organization to say, “Okay, this is the way we want everybody to pitch”… Nobody does that.

There are certain things that are mandatory for us to do, such as lead recognition. That’s something that’s huge in our organization — what are they doing when they’re on base? But as far as mentality, and the way that you pitch, it’s all up to you, your catcher, and your coach, at each level.

DL: I assume the value of first-pitch strikes is emphasized?

MM: Yes, and that’s the biggest thing that has changed with me. My walk rate has gone down incredibly, because I started doing a better job of throwing strike one.

DL: How would you describe your curveball?

MM: I throw a spiked curveball. I use it for strike one and it’s the same pitch for a put away. It’s 82-84, so it’s more of a slurve. It’s not really a 12-to-6, or a slider, it’s somewhere in between. It’s been a big pitch for me the last four years and I’m confident in throwing it in any count now.

DL: There’s no difference in break or velocity depending on counts or situations?

MM: Not really. There’s maybe a little difference in the sense that when I’m throwing strike one, I’m going to aim somewhere different, because I want to throw strike one. When I’m throwing it for a put away, I don’t want it in the zone; I want to throw it in the zone and then out of the zone. Other than that, it’s the same pitch.

DL: How precise are you about finger placement, and finger pressure, when you throw your curveball?

MM: It’s just the same pitch. I just grab it. It’s something that’s as easy as tying your shoes. You tie your shoes the same way every day, don’t you? It’s the same way with baseball players. There’s no reason for somebody to change something unless it needs to be changed, so it’s the same pitch. I don’t think about it. It’s natural and I just grip the ball and throw it.

DL: What if you don’t have a good feel for it on a given day?

MM: You might [think about the grip] if you’re trying to figure out the pitch, but once you have that pitch going… It’s just whatever the feel is that night. Some nights your arm might not feel as good, so you start grabbing the ball a little tighter to get it to bite a little more. Or maybe you have to loosen back, because you’re spiking it. It’s just adjustments, really small adjustments like that, but you really don’t even notice anymore, because it’s just so automatic. As soon as something… If you spike one, all right, maybe I’m gripping it a little too tight. There are so many variables going on, but as an individual pitcher, I know myself. I know when something isn’t going right and I know how to fix it, hopefully within two pitches.

DL: Can you say a little about your changeup?

MM: This is the first year I’ve actually thrown my changeup as much as I have, and in the situations that I have. It was a mindset going into the season. I knew I had to develop the pitch and I wasn’t going to develop a pitch just by simply throwing it. I was going to develop it by throwing it in situations where I wasn’t comfortable. I had to be uncomfortable before I got comfortable.

That pitch, now… I wouldn’t say that I have a second or third pitch. I’d say that my changeup and breaking ball are right there. It’s whichever one, depending on which side of the plate the guy is standing on, and what kind of swings he’s been taking. I’m equally confident with my curveball and changeup.

DL: Do you need to strike hitters out in order to be successful?

MM: Well, I don’t strike everybody out. If I strike out 200 guys a season, that’s only a small percentage of the at bats. I get more outs in ways other than strikeouts. If I’m out there for seven innings, there are 21 outs to be made and maybe I’ll strike out eight or nine. I’ll get more outs from ground balls or fly balls.

DL: Are you concerned with your fly ball-ground ball ratio?

MM: Not at all. I’m just concerned about getting guys out. An out is an out.

DL: You’re in a situation similar to what David Price was in a few years ago. Have you talked to him about that?

MM: Yeah, a little bit. But there’s a lot of stuff going on right now, so [I do] as much as I can without getting in the way of what he’s doing, I’m trying to pick his brain at a rate that’s not annoying. At the same time, he’s very understanding and very helpful. He’s one of the nicer guys I’ve met and he’s definitely there for me.

There have been some discussions between us about what it’s like to come out of the bullpen. He was a starter at Vanderbilt and when he came here, in 2008, they started using him out of the pen, so there have been little things like what to expect and how to prepare for them.

DL: Is part of his advice to just keep doing what you got you here?

MM: Yeah. What he’s basically told me is that what I was doing in the minor leagues is the reason why I’m here. It doesn’t make sense to start trying to anything different just because I’m [in the big leagues]. That would just make me uncomfortable, and this game is all about being comfortable.


Original Article

Pitching Backwards While Still Throwing First Pitch Strike

Since a young age, pitchers have had it drilled into them that the best pitch they can throw is strike one. Hitters take a vastly different approach when behind in the count rather than ahead, and so the first pitch of an at-bat is almost always the most important one. Because they want to get ahead in the count, most pitchers throw first pitch fastballs, as it’s the pitch they are most confident that they can put in the strike zone.

Well, Sean Marshall is not most pitchers – at least not anymore. He followed the traditional first pitch fastball model for the first few years of his career, throwing it 64 percent of the time in 2006 and 56 percent of the time in 2007. He was moved to the bullpen in 2008, and dropped his first-pitch fastball usage down to 44 percent, though it was still the pitch he used most often.

The last two years, though, it has lost its prominence, thanks to the addition of the ever popular cutter. Last year, he threw a first-pitch fastball just 23 percent of the time, and this year it’s down to 18 percent, half as often as he throws a first-pitch curveball. He’s also more likely to throw a cutter (27 percent) or a slider (19 percent) on the first pitch of an at-bat.

Despite pitching backwards, Marshall has actually thrown more first pitch strikes than he did when he was featuring his fastball – 57 percent this year. He’s achieving the goal of getting ahead of hitters, but he’s just doing it with off-speed stuff.

Even when he falls behind 1-0, he still doesn’t throw the fastball. He bags the curveball for the most part, but throws a lot of cutters and sliders. Even 2-0, he only throws 26 percent fastballs, sticking with the two softer pitches he feels he can throw for strikes. He finally relents on 3-0, throwing the fastball 86 percent of the time, but given how often hitters have the take sign, he knows its not all that likely to be chased. On 3-1 counts, he rarely throws it.

Read the Full Article:  Sean Marshal is a Rebel