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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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Behind Plate Camera Angle

Posted on March 27, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

I am watching the Oakland A's play the Chicago White Sox in a Spring Training game.  One of the camera crew members backed the TV truck over the centerfield camera wires and they haven't gotten it fixed yet, so they are showing the game from the camera angle from behind home plate.  The game has an old school feel and it makes me imagine what it would have been like to watch a game on film from the mid 1930s to the late 1950s. 

The behind the plate angle pulls my eye toward the hitter more than the center field camera does.  It makes me pay more attention to the hitter's reaction because pitch Lokation cannot be seen as easily from behind the plate.  Watching the hitter can tell a story on how well they are seeing the ball and whether their timing is good or not.

The A's pitcher Jarrod Parker has thrown four perfect innings with five strikeouts up to this point in the game and he is commanding extremely effective off speed pitches in the Go Zone and 4 Zone.  From this angle I can see hitter's weight shift forward early on the off speed pitches and how his off speed command is making the hitter's swing late on fastballs.  

The worse a hitter's timing is, the less precise Lokation needs to be.  The better a hitter's timing is, the more precise pitch Lokation must be.  Tonight Parker has disrupted timing and had precise Lokation, a great combination that often ends up in a victory for the team.

We cannot forget to pay attention to hitter's body language and reactions as coaches, catchers, and pitchers.  A check swing on a pitch that isn't even close probably means the hitter isn't seeing the ball well and they're timing isn't the best.  When a hitter can take a very close pitch without flinching (quiet take) then it generally means they are seeing the ball well and their timing is better. 

The camera angle behind the plate can also paint a bigger picture of what is happening from pitch to pitch. It shows base runners getting leads and the jump they get when attempting to steal a base.  It gives viewers a chance to see middle infielders working to hold runners on second or the timing involved in bunt plays.  Fans are also able to see the pitcher changing his hold times in the stretch so runners cannot time the delivery and get a good jump.  

Generally as pitchers we want to gravitate towards our strengths more than the hitter's weaknesses, but don't ignore what the hitter is telling you about their mindset with body language during the at bat. Body language is the most frequently used and strongest form of communication there is.  Always remember to look for reactions from the hitter and use it your advantage if it fits in your skill set.  

 

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