Bailey Ober on His 2019 Successes
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins DailyA quick glance at his overall numbers is the stuff of video games. In eight starts with Ft. Myers, he went 4-0 with a 0.99 ERA. In four starts with Pensacola, he is 3-0 with a 0.38 ERA. Overall, he’s given up just eight walks while striking out 87 batters in 69 2/3 innings. The sample size was small, but his numbers remained strong and even improved as he moved up to Double-A.
“I haven’t really tried to change anything from my standpoint. I’ve mainly been sticking to my strengths and doing what I do well. But there are some differences. There are some guys who will take pitches that are borderline. For right now, my stuff that’s been in the zone has been playing as it was playing in Ft. Myers. However, these guys definitely are more polished. If you leave one over the middle, they might smack one a little farther than they would down there.”
On the other hand, Ober knows the kind of talent that he is playing with on this Pensacola roster. He played with these guys in Cedar Rapids in 2018, and with the Miracle earlier in 2019.
“It’s really cool. A lot of these guys were down there (Ft. Myers) during the first half of the year. The first month or two in Ft. Myers, we were winning a lot. Once we got these guys up here in Pensacola, they’ve started shifting that way as well, and the last couple of weeks, we’ve been playing very well.”
So, what has been the key for Ober? How has he been able to maintain his success this season despite missing a couple of months and despite moving up a level?
“I just think my mentality is different. This year I’ve been able to focus in with all four of my pitches. That’s been a big thing. I’ve been able to mix really well, trusting my command. Not having to fall behind hitters, always being in attack mode. Being ahead and controlling the pace of the game.”
Ober’s primary pitch this year has been a four-seam fastball. He adds, “primarily throwing it up in the zone. I’m trying to use my extension, my carry, and my movement on the fastball to get swings and misses up there.”
Ober added, “Started throwing that and having a lot of success living with my four-seam up in the zone and in and out. Once we established that pitch, we started working on breaking balls that I could tunnel the same type of path that the fastball has and it breaks at the last second.”
“Tunneling” is one of those new baseball terms. Essentially it is working to maintain a release point so that the ball will travel most of the way toward the plate on the same path until breaking or moving differently. As Ober says, “It’s throwing every pitch the same way and letting them work off each other.”
His secondary stuff has really improved as well. As he notes, “I’ve been using my slider a lot to get ahead and it’s been a lot better this year. Same with my changeup. I think my curve ball’s been a big difference, being able to play off of my high fastball and getting more swings and misses on that.”
We know that the Twins have embraced the use of analytics and technology throughout the minor leagues for years, but that has been amped up the last couple of seasons. It’s something that Ober has used and embraces as well.
“I learned about all this stuff in 2018 at spring training. They introduced it to a lot of our guys. They sat down with us and explained how it works and what it shows us, and the type of information and feedback that it can give us. Being able to know what works best, and when, definitely helped out a lot of our guys, especially me. I came into the Twins organization only throwing two-seam fastballs in college. I showed up, and immediately once I got put on the Rapsodo, they were like, ‘Hey, you’ve got good carry on the two-seam, let’s try the four-seam too.”
One other value of the Rapsodo and other technologies might be trying to discover ways of keeping pitchers healthy, obviously something that is important to all pitchers in all organizations. Whether is noticing a drop in spin rate, velocity, release point or something else, may help determine what can be done. With Ober having spent time on the injured list this year and in previous years, they have worked and reviewed the data.
“Not so much with my extension. They say that’s pretty healthy. Have a better lead leg so I can stabilize my weight balance and leg transfer. When your lead leg is not stable, it can lead to some inconsistencies in arm path which can lead to some injuries. So that’s mainly the thing we’ve been working on. This past year, we’ve been working on it a lot. It’s better to the point where I feel healthier on the mound but I still have a little ways to go.”
In short, the data and technology are certainly being used in an attempt to keep pitchers healthy. Imagine the value in keeping even one pitcher away from surgery.
The Blue Wahoos put Ober on the IL before Game 5 on Sunday morning with some elbow inflammation. It is not believed to be serious.
Ober was fantastic in April with the Miracle. Unfortunately, as the month ended, he was placed on the IL with a forearm injury. He rehabbed for two months and returned to the GCL for some rehab games.
The timing worked out well for Ober on a personal level. “My wife and I welcomed a baby girl on June 26th. I was doing my rehab then, so I was able to go home for a couple of days to be with her.”
He returned to Ft. Myers and began his rehab on July 2nd. Since then, he has had plenty of family with him. “Recently, they were able to come out when I got the news that I was going to go to Pensacola. I called and said, ‘Hey, I’m going up there, see if you guys can fly out and spend the rest of the year here.’”
It worked out, so he was able to have his newly-expanded family with him for the remainder of the season.
“It’s awesome. It’s been a little different, trying to adjust to a dad lifestyle, but I love it.”
Ober and his wife (and daughter Blake) live in Denver during the offseason. They moved there from North Carolina to be near his wife’s family.
Ober graduated from the College of Charleston last fall with a degree in Business Administration. (“No more school for me!”) In the offseason, he will be working as a pitching instructor and some other side jobs while preparing himself for the 2020 season. He noted that he has been invited to go to Ft. Myers for camps at the end of this month.
Hopefully he gets lots and lots of time this winter to work on that dad lifestyle!
You can follow Bailey Ober on Twitter and Instagram.
Get to Know Bailey Ober(interview following the 2017 season)
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