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Backing up Bases

Posted on April 22, 2014 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

Last night after our Easter festivities I settled in to watch the last half of the Red Sox vs. Orioles.  Last year (2013) the Orioles set a number of different fielding records and were rated the best defensive team in Major League Baseball.  They have been on the same path this year with only 4 fielding errors through April 20th, all made by Manny Machado's replacement third basemen Jonathon Schoop.  Insert Manny Machado, and they may be errorless through Easter Sunday.  Tonight that same great defensive team blew a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning with an error to make a total of 3 on the night.  This article will discuss how the pitcher, who did not commit an error, could have saved the game.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth and the bases loaded, Bostons' Mike Carp hit a line drive to the left fielder David Lough.  Dustin Pedroia, the runner on third, did not immediately tag up.  So when Lough caught the ball for the second out of the inning, Pedroia was scrambling back to the bag.  Lough caught the ball and threw the it in at full speed to the third baseman Schoop even though Pedroia did not tag, who was out of position as the cutoff man to home. Schoop was only a couple steps off the bag at third when he decided to dodge the ball coming at him from left field. 

The ill-advised throw to the out of position cut off man sailed 15 up the foul line, past the catcher standing at home plate and the pitcher who only gave a half hearted effort to back up the play.  Since the pitcher did not hustle from the crack of the bat to get in position to back up the throw he wasn't able to field the ball, it got past both of them, and Pedroia came into score the winning run.  The pitcher was not charged with the error but in my opinion he was just as much at fault as anyone involved in the play. 

It is the pitcher's job to hustle behind any base there may be a play and get as far back toward the fence as possible.  The further back the pitcher is from the play, the more time he has to react to a bad throw.  In this situation the Orioles pitcher only got to the edge of the home plate dirt before the errand throw came in and had no time to react.  The left fielder and third baseman also had chances to keep Pedroia at third base, but with a little hustle the pitcher could have made up for their mistakes and saved himself a loss!

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Pitches per Inning

Posted on July 04, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

Pitches Per Inning

In baseball everything is recorded and statistics are of the upmost importance. But which numbers are the most important? In pitching, everyone seems to believe individual statistics like Earned Run Average (ERA), Strikeouts (K), and Walks+Hits/Inning Pitched (WHIP) are the best measurements of success on the mound. Although these statistics are very important and do determine who dominant pitchers are, we think Pitches Per Inning (P/IP) paints a bigger picture of which pitchers are most valuable to their team and should be used alongside the current mainstay pitching stats.  

Lets first take a look at the team benefits of a low Pitches Per Inning statistic.  Below we've listed team benefits that a low P/IP measures that other individual pitching statistics do not.   

  1. Measures average pitches it takes to get outs, the most important statistic for all pitchers.
  2. Defensive fielding percentage gets better with balls put in play early and often.
  3. It gives momentum to the pitcher's offense, gets them back in the dugout.
  4. It saves energy which generally improves pitch Lokation and velocity. 
  5. Keeps the bullpen fresh generally improving team winning percentage.
  6. Gives opposing pitcher less time to rest.
  7. Umpire generally opens strike zone when pitchers prove command.
  8. Improves durability and decreases injuries, making deeper pitching staffs.
  9. Hitters see less pitches which makes timing and pitch recognition more difficult.
  10. Hitters have less chance at seeing a mistake pitch.

The lower a pitcher's P/IP is, the better all around individual statistics they will have in addition to the team benefits mentioned above. The individual statistics we are referring to do not necessarily include strikeouts because K's generally increase P/IP.  There are so many people in and around the game that are fascinated with velocity and strikeouts that they loose track of the fact that a strikeout counts the same as a ground ball to the shortstop and velocity has no value in pitching statistics.     

As of May 21st, 2013 Pitches Per Inning is already displaying its importance in MLB. Of all qualifiers, the two pitchers with the highest P/IP are Vance Worley of the Minnesota Twins and Ryan Volgelsong of the San Francisco Giants, with P/IP at 18.4 and 18.1 respectively. These numbers directly effect their other numbers- both have ERA's above 6.2.

Jordan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals has had an outstanding year thus far. He has gone 7-2 with an ERA of 1.62. Over his 66.2 innings pitched, which ranks 4th out of the qualifiers, he has struck out 45 batters. Although not a high strikeout percentage at 6 per 9 innings pitched, it directly correlates to his P/IP in which he ranks 1st in the league at an outstanding rate of 12.9, almost a full pitch better than his closest competitor Bronson Arroyo(13.6 P/IP). Zimmerman has thrived off of throwing strikes early in the count, and inducing early contact. This helps the team in numerous ways. The Nationals have won 78% of the time when Zimmerman pitches. 

Pitches per inning measures more than just individual statistics and looks beyond the "aw factor" of high velocity and strikeouts that everyone seems to be so fascinated with.  P/ IP measures pitches that get outs better than any other statistic. In the Lokator System pitches that get outs will always be the most important!

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Sunday at the Players Championship

Posted on May 13, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

After watching all four days of the Players Championship on the PGA Tour, I can't help but see more similarities between pitching and golf.  Tiger Woods closed the deal and clinched the tournament title  and I wanted to write a little about how he got it done.  

Tiger managed the course brilliantly.  He avoided the big miss off the tee by using his 3 and 5 wood instead of the driver. On his approach shots he consistently hit greens in safer spots than the rest of the field.  He gave himself good looks at the cup by understanding what part of the green would give him the best chance to hit the putt.  Then he finished the deal when it came time to knock it down.

Woods hitting a controlled 3 or 5 wood off the tee box and shaping shots instead of blasting a driver every time was an example of him choosing Lokation over power and distance.  It reminded me of a pitcher who hits Lokations at 90% velocity and knows how to use the movement of pitches to their advantage instead of using maximum effort and trying to blow hitters away.  There were times when Tiger hit the driver but he chose his spots wisely.  The same should hold true with pitchers, know when that extra few MPH's is needed and use it accordingly.

On approach shots Tiger was obviously able to avoid hazards but he also knew where the slopes of the green were and which area around the green was the best place to putt from.  He kept the ball below the hole when possible and rarely missed to the short side of the green.  I compared this aspect of Tiger's game to a scouting report on hitters because he understood what the course was giving him and then executed a shot based on a many different variables, the same way a pitcher chooses pitch Lokation, selection, and sequencing.

When Tiger got to the green and started his putting routine it really became evident how much putting and pitching have in common.  The process of determining a line to hit the putt was comparable to choosing a Lokation to aim at.  The length of the putt and whether it was uphill or downhill determined the force of the ball strike just like a pitcher determines what speed to throw the ball.  Finally, when Tiger read the green for left or right breaking putt it reminded me of a pitcher accounting for the movement of pitches.

Managing a golf course and managing the game as a pitcher are comparable on so many different levels.  First, it's not always how far you hit the ball or how hard you can throw it, but can you control it?  Second, it's not possible to hit all Lokations or always have 2 foot birdie putts, but can you put yourself in a position to succeed?  Finally, when it is time to perform and you have taken all variables into consideration, can you execute the putt or pitch to close the deal?  Tiger did it all today.

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Damage Control in Pitching and Golf

Posted on April 14, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

Today I'm watching the final round of the Masters, my favorite day to watch golf all year.  Augusta National is the most beautiful, yet unforgiving golf course on the planet.  When golfers miss their Lokations during this tournament they are penalized more than on any other.  By the same token, pitchers are hit around when they miss Lokations facing great hitters.  In this blog entry I want to discus how playing an unforgiving golf course and pitching to a great hitter are similar.  

In pitching the opponent is the hitter, while the opponent in golf is the course.  When you face tough hitters, just as when you play tough courses, Lokation becomes the most important aspect of success.  Good hitters will take advantage of Lokation mistakes and make you pay by driving the ball for extra base hits or taking a walk.  Difficult golf courses will make you pay with penalty strokes after missing Lokations in the water, woods, or the short side of the hole.

Damage control is a huge key to scoring well on a hard golf course or getting a good hitter out.  You have to miss in the correct Lokations to give yourself a chance at success.  For example, hitting an aproach shot into a green with water on the right is comparable to facing a right-handed pull hitter on the mound.  You obviously want to hit your Lokation first and foremost in either situation, but if you don't, you want to miss to the left of the green or away from the batter.

It is very important to be aware of the correct miss whenever you are weighing your options on the course or on the mound.  The good news is that pitchers should have an easier time than golfers when it comes to damage control because in pitching it is rarely a mistake to miss low, as in the 4 Zone or below.  For golfers, missing in the correct Lokation will be more difficult because their damage control miss could be different everytime.  

Whether you are a golfer, pitcher, or both, the next time you are on the mound or course, pay special attention to where your misses end up and the result that follows.  You'll find out that if you are concious of damage control and make adjustments accordingly, you will have a lower score in golf and give up less runs on the mound.     

 

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