Every kid who plays baseball has the dream of playing in a game, getting the walk-off hit, being mobbed by his teammates, and then having a college or professional scout come up to him offering a scholarship or professional contract. The fact of the matter is that most kids are greeted by their family, friends, and teammates after a game and never even meet a college coach or professional scout unless they are a family friend. Why is this the case? They’re just not choosable.
Most parents think that being choosable is about their son’s game stats. I’ve heard parents rattle of their son’s batting average, OPS, ERA, and like as if it’s their favorite lyric to their favorite song. Unfortunately, their son’s game statistics have nothing to do with being choosable. I’ve sat with multiple parents over the past month who knew the game stats, but when they were asked about their son’s Throwing Velocity, Ball Exit Velocity, or 60-Yard Dash time, they don’t know the answer.
Those three numbers are the most important numbers you can possibly know and develop in the game of baseball. Throwing Velocity, Ball Exit Speed, and your 60-Yard Dash time make you choosable. Focus your time, resources, and training on these three elements. Train them. Know them. Improve them. Bardo’s is here to help in the advancement and training of these measurements for your son. Play less, train more.
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We believe that more baseball players in the region can become choosable by choosing the right training opportunities, and we desire to be a part of your son’s baseball training. Let’s work together to make your son one who is chosen to advance his baseball career from youth to high school, from high school to college, and even from high school or college to the professional ranks!
The most critical part of all of this is bringing it together to get hitters out. Enter tunneling. The idea of tunneling is getting two different pitches to travel down the same path as long as possible, ideally to the point where hitters have to decide to swing or not. Having elite stuff will get hitters out at a lot of levels. Tunneling becomes a much bigger factor as players get better and begin to have a real approach at the plate. If a pitcher has a fastball that hitters do not routinely catch up to, pounding the strike zone and using offspeed as necessary will get most hitters out. However, it is a good thing to begin to understand and use even at younger ages. The most simple and particularly at younger ages effective is tunneling a fastball and a change-up.
Change-ups are good because they look like fastballs and fairly easy to throw with the same arm action and similar release point as fastballs. If a pitcher can throw a good fastball to any location, throwing a change-up that beings in the same spot and ends slightly different will be highly effective. As pitchers begin to throw more breaking balls, setting them up will usually begin with a more elevated fastball. If a pitcher gets good 12-6 break on a breaking ball, a fastball at the letters will allow a pitcher to start their breaking ball just above the strike zone and still finish for a strike. Just imagine the kid that can never get the ball down being told to pound the top of the zone with fastballs and throw their curveball in the zone, game changer.
This is again where knowing the spin rate and actual action of all pitches is important. The other major factor is controlling the baseball. It does not have to be pinpoint command, but it will be most effective if the pitches are around their intended location. However, I believe this can still play at all levels because the goal should be to control the fastball to both sides of the plate as well as up and down. It cannot be overstated that the first goal should be to have develop quality stuff. If hitters do not hit the ball in the strike zone, pitchers don’t need to make it more complex.
Throw your fastball where it is most effective, throw a breaking ball that looks like that fastball for as long as possible. If people chase it, throw it out of the zone more often. If they miss it in the zone, don’t try to force them to chase.
Want to find out your spin rate? Give us a call and find out how you can set up a time to get on the Rapsodo and find out how to really use your stuff!
In Part 1 we talked about spin rate and how it affects fastballs. Part 2 will cover spin axis and tunneling fastballs and offspeed.
Spin Axis and Gyro Spin
There are few pitches thrown in baseball that are perfectly straight. Typically guys are said to have natural “run” movement towards the arm side or “cut” movement towards the glove side. This is because very few people have true backspin on the baseball. The angle or tilt of the baseball will alter the way that it moves. This angle or tilt is typically referred to as the spin axis.
While fastballs can be altered by changing the axis, breaking balls are even more susceptible to change in this way. For example a true overhand curveball would ideally be thrown perfect topspin, a 12 o’clock axis. As it reaches home plate it would work straight down (like a shadow hitting the 12 and the 6 on a clock) giving it a significant amount of vertical break and very little horizontal break. However, if the spin axis was closer to 11:00, the pitch would still have significant vertical break, but also more horizontal break. One is not necessarily better than the other, however knowing which spin your pitch has is important. While the spin rate of a breaking pitch is important it works differently than a fastball because not all spin is equal.
There is another factor that goes along with spin axis - gyro spin. Everyone has heard of the famous gyro ball that was said to be the secret weapon of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Gyro spin is similar the spiral of a football. It allows the ball to resist drag but also keeps the ball straight. Therefore a gyro ball would spin like a football and stay straight (also known as a bad slider). The amount of gyro spin on each pitch will factor into the overall effectiveness of the pitch. With the exception of sliders, the less gyro spin the better as this spin does not help the pitch break. As I said earlier, not all spin is created equal. Rapsodo provides a number for the total spin minus the gyro spin on each pitch, also known as useful spin. The ball will typically break more if there is less gyro spin, or more true spin driving the break of the pitch.
While it may be difficult to drastically improve the spin rate of a pitch in a short amount of time, the spin axis can often be changed simply by tinkering with grip and the feel at release. Knowing the spin axis and useful spin also takes the guesswork out of improving a pitch because it will provide instant feedback of if it improved. While much of it is still trial and error, it can even be beneficial just to know what the ball is really doing, not just what the eye test tells us. The classic, “get on top of it” is not always the answer. We often see that some guys are really just trying too hard to get a certain break. Some guys have struggled with curveballs for years that were really trying to force a slider, with an axis around 3:00 and low spin efficiency to break straight down. Breaking balls can be much easier to duplicate if you aren’t fighting them the whole time and the overall command can improve drastically.
I started measuring exit velocity with my hitters in 2008. We started including a measurement station in all of our hitting practices in an effort to learn. Generally speaking, it was me sitting on a bucket with a radar gun and a clipboard across from a player hitting the ball off of a tee towards me. It was so early in this revolution that I had a Major League scout in the area ask me a simple question one morning during one of our workouts - “What are you doing?”
The story seems crazy now as data dominates every baseball conversation. Baseball facilities across the country either own or are familiar with brand names such as Trackman, Rapsodo, HitTrax, K Motion, and Blast Motion. The question is no longer whether or not a coach is collecting data, but it’s whether or not a coach can help a player improve his current data.
The next revolution is movement and coaching proper efficient movements. Our 3D Hitting team here at Bardo’s has created a Swing Movement Assessment that we use to guide players into individual protocols for their success. In my lessons and 3D groups, I’m using the 3D Movement drills and protocols, as well as data from HitTrax and a Blast Motion sensor. Gone are the days of just waiting for a kid to grow and get stronger. I’ve got to help him move better and improve now.
I’m sure that same scout would come up to me during a lesson or hitting group now with the same question. My laptop is open next to my phone as I crosscheck Blast Motion data from previous sessions while monitoring HitTrax data. I’m still learning, but I’ve got 10 years of understanding the data to apply. Now, thanks to the 3D Movement Assessment and the coaches here at Bardo’s Diamond Sports, I’ve got even more to share.
To join a 3D Hitting group, contact our 3D Hitting Coordinator, Conner Reynolds, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have all seen it before, two pitchers that throw with the same velocity and get completely different results. One seems to be able to throw everything down the middle and never get touched, while the other seems like everything is hit hard even when they get outs. Major League Baseball has been recording 27 different metics about pitchers and their pitches thanks to the TrackMan technology that allows them to measure these metrics for every pitch of every game.
Spin rate has become a major topic of conversation around major league teams. Some organizations are keeping pitchers around solely because of their spin rate and, as usual, some are ignoring it. Spin rate is the measure of how fast a ball is spinning from release to the plate, measured in revolutions per minute. Spin rate plays a major role in how much or little a ball drops on it’s way to the plate. While there is not an “ideal” spin rate, there is an average and this average plays a large roll in the type of contact a pitcher usually gets.
The “flat” fastball that people like to talk about isn’t that it comes in as straight as an arrow it is simply the average of the fastballs they have seen before. The MLB “average” fastball is 92.87 mph at 2,262.48 rpm. The most effective fastballs are simply not average. In order to have a highly effective fastball a pitcher needs to be about 200 above or below the average. If a pitcher threw a 92.87 mph fastball with a spin rate of 2400 rpm or greater, it would cross the plate be higher than the average fastball. This “rising” fastball, drops less than a hitter anticipates and generally results in more swings and misses as well as fly balls. The opposite is true for a 92.87 mph that with a spin rate 2000 rpm or lower, it drops faster than normal causing hitters to hit it on the ground more often. However, in general, it’s easier to make contact with.
Pitchers at the highest level are beginning to adapt their entire game plan around their fastball spin rate. Pitch selection and location are changing, high spin pitchers are throwing fastballs up in the zone more frequently which effects how they use their breaking ball. Some pitchers like Gerrit Cole are using 4 seams more often than two seams and some are doing the opposite. While there are no hard truths when it comes to how to get hitters out, knowing how the baseball actually moves is having a big effect on the game.
While amatuer baseball is not as big into analytics as the professionals for many reasons including the inability to track everything, knowing a pitchers spin rate can still be beneficial. The age old adage of get the fastball down to have success or favoring ground outs over fly outs is quickly becoming outdated. It really just confirms what the eye sees. There have always been pitchers that would regularly pump fastballs at the letters and not get hit. Much like velocity, you can tell when a guy throws hard, you can see when a ball has life. Now it can be identified earlier and pitchers can develop a plan. Also, it may help speed up the time it takes a pitcher to develop control of their arsenal. If your best fastball is at the letters, practicing throwing it at the knees is not an effective way to spend your developmental time. It could also make it easier to use offspeed effectively since it would now be easier to set up.
In the brief time that we have been able to measure spin rate in Bardo’s using the Rapsodo we have been able to help people create their plan. While a nine year old who is constantly changing does not need to worry about their spin rate. A rising freshman that may be ahead developmentally can really benefit from knowing that they currently don’t have numbers that say a sinker would be effective. There are many other factors that affect how baseballs move and there will be more on that soon.