Releasing Tommy John’s Grip on Pitchers

It’s about that time, isn’t it? The short period of time where we notice the rash of elbow and shoulder injuries to pitchers and look for answers in the usual places, like Tom Verducci’s columns (never mind that the Verducci Effect has been thoroughly debunked) where the “experts” are interviewed and say some variation on the following:

Travel ball is evil
Showcase ball will cause you to kill your arm, damn those people at Perfect Game
Latin players grow into their velocity
Americans put too much focus on velocity

Let’s not forget: If a pitcher is going to be injured, it is most likely at the beginning of the year. The reasons for this aren’t necessarily clear, but as Dirk Hayhurst pointed out in his latest book, when he hurt his shoulder in the gym, he was tempted to nurse it to the beginning of Spring Training and hope to blow it out on the mound there so medical […]

By |April 18th, 2014|Injuries, Mechanics, Research, Sabermetrics|16 Comments

How to Protect Your Curveball

I was recently in Spring Training with the MLB team I consult with, watching a few pitchers throw, when a Pitching Coordinator came over and remarked to another pitching coach that pitchers need to throw high fastballs to protect their curveball. I asked the coordinator to expand on his statement, and he explained the tunneling theory of keeping the high fastball in the same tunnel as the middle/low curveball to increase deception – that fastballs located outside of the tunnel can’t adequately “protect” the deception of a pitch with a hump in it.

As most know, I’m on board with tunneling theory, and we teach it all the time at Driveline Baseball:

However, I have never heard it referred to as “protecting your curveball.” I loved it! The phrase makes complete intuitive sense, and the pitchers on the MLB staff in question loved the idea and immediately grasped the concept. This is […]

By |March 14th, 2014|Mechanics, Research, Sabermetrics, Video|2 Comments

On Velocity Being the Most Important Thing

I am fortunate enough to have a handful of acquaintances who work in professional baseball that I can freely discuss things without fear of dismissal. One friend of mine is a minor league pitching coach, who got in a discussion with me about velocity and command. The conversation went like this:

Him: You should see some of the ridiculous crap we get. Guys who throw 95 MPH but can’t throw a strike to save their lives. Unreal. Command is so important, pounding the strike zone is so important.
Me: I agree with that for sure, but velocity is a floor – no one is going to look at a guy who throws in the low 80’s who pounds it.
Him: I dunno. Our organization is full of flamethrowers with no idea what the hell is going on. Give me the strike throwers.

20 minutes elapsed while I spoke to him about other non-baseball related topics, […]

By |October 17th, 2013|Sabermetrics, Training|2 Comments

Does Throwing Harder Mean Throwing Wilder?

A common sentiment amongst pitching coaches, dads, and your regular everyday baseball fan is that if you try to throw harder, you will be more wild. I’ve written plenty on this topic about it being a load of crap, because the human body learns to throw a ball effectively and more efficiently – not “harder” and “more controlled.” In a properly designed training program, kinesthetic sense improves and force application improves, so velocity and control both go up – not necessarily in lockstep, but they do improve together.

The idea that you first learn how to throw strikes and then learn how to throw hard is the cornerstone of every pitching coach out there that charges for a lesson, throws on a catcher’s mitt, and has the pitcher throw 24 pitches off a mound – regularly being interrupted to demonstrate some drill or pausing at the balance point. It’s garbage, and that’s why […]

By |February 19th, 2013|Sabermetrics|5 Comments

Minor League Splits – Now Open Source

I made my reboot of open source over at GitHub. Due to too much going on in my life right now, I have decided to share the code with the public in the hopes that it goes somewhere.

The world wants to see reborn. Take the code and run with it. I’ll respond to pull requests.

By |September 11th, 2012|Sabermetrics|0 Comments

Choosing the Correct Pitch Sequences: Data-Driven Decisions

I wrote this email to the parents and players of our Elite Baseball Training program and figured I’d share it with the public. We use data-driven decisions to form our opinions here, rather than traditional groupthink and coaching platitudes.


All pitchers (and parents of pitchers):

My fellow author at The Hardball Times wrote an awesome article 2+ years ago about pitch types, and updated it in 2011. It’s pretty data-intensive:

Large-scale data mining of MLB pitches using my database as well as Harry’s work has formed the backbone of why I teach the pitches I do, and the sequencing of them. Though I don’t get too in-depth into this when I work with you guys one-on-one, I figure it’s good to get this information out there for those who are really interested.

For the younger guys, we always recommend training as a starter first, which means commanding two fastballs (four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball/sinker), a […]

By |May 28th, 2012|Sabermetrics|0 Comments

Locating Up in the Zone – Better for Amateur/Recreational Pitchers

Pitchers at all levels of the game are told to locate their pitches in the bottom half of the zone so they can get hitters to swing over the top of the pitch and produce ground balls. As everyone knows, ground balls are the best way to prevent runs, since you can’t hit ground balls over the fence and it’s tough to hit them into the gaps for extra bases. Apologies to all coaches of youth, high school, and many college pitchers, but: You’re wrong. Pitchers should locate their fastballs and breaking balls in the top half of the zone to get the most success when competing against average youth, high school, and most college hitters.
Ground Balls: Be Careful What You Wish For
It’s happened to everyone – including me – you get a ton of ground balls, your defense boots the ball around, you end up giving up 1 or 2 earned runs but a plethora of unearned runs. When your coach comes and pulls you from the game, he says: “Nothing you could have done, kid. Defense just didn’t play behind you,” pats you on the butt, and tells you to get your running in.

Your teammates apologize for booting that easy ball in the hole, for not picking that ball at first base, and dropping that easy double play opportunity. Being a good teammate, you say “Ah, it happens. Get ‘em next time.” Then while running your poles, you reflect on how particularly unlucky you were that day. If only Bobby hadn’t lost that ball in the sun and Roger didn’t sail that ball from shortstop, you would have gotten out of that long inning. But were you unlucky? Think about it: You did everything you were supposed to – get a few strikeouts, not walk too many, and got a lot of ground balls. And what were you rewarded with? Hasn’t this happened before? What if you got fly balls instead? Don’t hitters swing and miss on your fastballs up in the zone – and when they make contact, don’t they often go for fly ball outs? How many home runs does the entire school have, anyway? Four? But what’s the team batting average – .380? Here are the two major reasons you want to get ground balls at the MLB level:

Sluggers often hit fly balls over the fence.
Defense at the MLB level is insanely elite.

Think about those reasons for a minute. Do either of those reasons apply to your high school league? What do you think the average HR rate on fly balls is in your league? I guarantee it’s not 11%. (MLB Average HR/FB rate.) We’ve already established defenders at the HS/College level are orders of magnitude worse than the Dominican and Venezuelan infielders of MLB (to say nothing of the local product), so why are you applying a heuristic to a completely different game?

Tons of data and a shattered myth after the jump… […]

By |May 14th, 2012|Articles, Sabermetrics|2 Comments

Making the Sabermetric Argument for Increasing Fastball Velocity

In talking with major league executives, I often tell them: “What would it be worth if you could restore the velocity of guys who are dropping off, or improve the velocity of organizational players?” They all respond with: “Oh, a lot. For sure.”

However, I never could get a dollar figure out of them, and I hadn’t done any research myself, so I decided to roll up my sleeves and do a little educated guesswork on my own. Here are the given variables for a starting pitcher in the major leagues (loosely based off a former pitcher in the last 5 years with middling/decreasing velocity who ended up out of baseball last year):

FIP Constant 3.12
Pitcher is a right-handed starter
Peripherals: 24 GS, 255 FB, 28 HR (11% HR/FB), 50 BB, 2 IBB, 7 HBP, 120 K (7.2 K/9), 150 IP (6.25 IP/start) – 5.02 FIP 
Park Factor = 100 (neutral)
League Average FIP = […]

By |May 12th, 2012|Sabermetrics|5 Comments

The Three Problems With Teaching Youth Pitchers a Changeup

The changeup is a deadly weapon at the major league level: Entire careers are made (Jamie Moyer) or destroyed (countless starters who couldn’t master one) as a result of the pitch. Change-ups are typically 10-15% slower than a pitcher’s best four-seam fastball he’ll use in a game and will have both arm-side run and sink to it. The result is a pitch that changes both speeds and locations while having a similar trajectory to a four-seam fastball. It’s best used to mitigate platoon advantage (and in some cases, completely neutralize it – see also Shaun Marcum’s three-year reverse splits) so starting pitchers can get opposite-handed batters out.

It’s common knowledge that batters who face opposite-handed pitchers (right-handed batter vs. left-handed pitcher, for example) have an advantage compared to facing a same-handed pitcher. The changeup helps swing that advantage back in the pitcher’s favor by giving the hurler a pitch that moves […]

By |August 27th, 2011|Mechanics, Sabermetrics, Training|4 Comments

TangoTiger Fans’ Scouting Report

The Fans’ Scouting Report is a crowd-sourced effort to get scouting grades on all the players in MLB. Anyone can fill out a ballot of players for their hometown team (and others if you like) to contribute to the effort.
Baseball’s fans are very perceptive. Take a large group of them, and they can pick out the final standings with the best of them. They can forecast the performance of players as well as those guys with rather sophisticated forecasting engines. Bill James, in one of his later Abstracts, had the fans vote in for the ranking of the best to worst players by position. And they did a darn good job.

There is an enormous amount of untapped knowledge here. There are 70 million fans at MLB parks every year, and a whole lot more watching the games on television. When I was a teenager, I had no problem picking out […]

By |August 23rd, 2011|Links, Sabermetrics|0 Comments