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#1 Parker Hageman

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 01:44 PM

For those who have followed Twins Daily for some time might know that I like to dig into the hows and whys of the game in addition to the data side. Not having the opportunity to write full breakdowns here as often anymore, I wanted to create this thread to use as a place to post items discussing the game -- swings, approaches, game theories, data utilization, front office trends, etc -- things that do not necessarily involve the Twins specifically but might influence how you might view the game overall. I hope to post something to the thread on a regular basis. 

 

In the comment sections I have seen plenty of great insight and questions regarding the game so I hope we can use this thread to post videos, articles, quotes and discussion points. I hope we can make this a valuable asset of the Twins Daily community.

 

First up: Josh Donaldson on the MLB Network discussing his swing mechanics

 

 

I believe this video is a must watch for any hitter or coach. I'm sure not everyone will agree on the method but the concept and the thought-process behind his swings is unbelievable. To tie it to the Twins, after watching this, how do you think the organization has been trying to teach Byron Buxton to swing? Have they been doing him a disservice? 

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"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." -- Jim Bouton, "Ball Four"


#2 Mike Sixel

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 01:51 PM

Ok, this could be a great thread! Let's hope you can keep up the process...

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I don't know, it is a site to discuss sports, not airline safety.....maybe we should take it less seriously?


#3 Willihammer

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 02:33 PM

In some ways its the exact opposite from the way I was coached growing up. Craziness.

 

Donaldson mentions Hunter Bledsoe when talking about not thinking about his hands. Out of curiosity I pulled up the Bledsoe Agency on MLBTR. Other clients include Derrick Robinson, Justin Smoak, and then a handful of pitchers.

 

As for Buxton, I feel like you can't put the cart before the horse. His struggles are so basic- contact, pitch recognition, that to teach him a power maximizing approach like this would sort of miss the point. He needs to walk before he can dance.

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Well, there's that.

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#4 Parker Hageman

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 04:03 PM

In some ways its the exact opposite from the way I was coached growing up. Craziness.

 

 

I think that in a lot of ways, the availability of video on hitters throughout history plays a prominent role on what hitters like Donaldson are doing now versus what we were taught. Most generations relied on feel and trying to communicate what they felt was the best method to hitting (staying still, hit the top half on the ball, hands to the ball, chop down, etc). It wasn't until more recently that video has shown that successful hitters are not actually executing that way. 

 

It seems that more frequently, whenever we see a hitter having a breakout year or a career turnaround, it's often with that hitter changing their style from the previous methods to something that more closely resembles what Donaldson spoke of.

 

Brad Miller, who averaged 10 home runs per season with the Mariners, suddenly has popped off for 25 and counting. Check out how much his swing has changed. 

 

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#5 Parker Hageman

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Posted 18 August 2016 - 09:17 AM

Corey Koskie Reacts To Josh Donaldson's Hitting Instructional

 

I don't think what Donaldson was talking about is all that radical -- after all, Ted Williams detailed a lot of what he was talking about in the Science of Hitting book that came out in 1971. A lot of Donaldson's overall concepts were outlined in Williams' manuscript. Still, those ideas are not widespread throughout the game. 

 

It was interesting to see former Twin Corey Koskie weigh in on the video last night:

 

 

"I just learned how to hit 15 years too late."

 

I'd love to pick his brain and know what he was taught -- starting in his lumberjack days in Canada all the way through the Twins system. It would seem that none of those traits were presented to the players throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s... and even more recently:

 

 

"I’ve changed a lot. I remember coming into my rookie ball season and I went and just played. I thought I did a pretty good job. Then the following spring training, our hitting coordinator, Slice, wanted to change somethings and I was up for the change. I wanted to produce and do well by the team and the organization. He started to have me do a toe-tap thing." -- Trevor Plouffe

 

"They changed me in rookie ball. They closed me up. They slowed down some movement a bit." -- Byron Buxton

 

Those are just two isolated instances. I do know that Chad Allen has been really good at letting hitters find rhythm and Brunansky is supportive as well (to an extent). When I asked Brunansky about what he saw out of the Blue Jays organization, including what Donaldson was doing, this is what he said:

 

"I think that they come in free to not worry about certain things. They’re not worried about striking out (NOTE: over the last three seasons the Blue Jays have the highest slugging percentage and the 9th lowest strikeout rate in the American League). They are not worried about putting the ball in play in certain situations. They are going to go attack. They figure they are going to do enough damage. It started a long time ago, I think that philosophy started when Cito Gaston was there, when he was their hitting guy. Then it kinda took off when Cito was the manager and then they had Dwayne Murphy there,you know Murph had a leg kick. I think you can go back to the days when George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield and the era that I played, those were the same type of guys, a bunch of free swingers. So... an organizational thing, probably, and there’s really not been anybody that has come in and wanted to change what they do because they have had success with it."

 

 

Plouffe had a similar response about if he felt the Blue Jays were on to something with their hitting philosophy:

 

"In my opinion you don’t want to conform everybody to the same type of swing because everybody has grown up swinging differently. We’ve swung for 27 years now and it’s who we are. If you can get to that certain spot, people are realizing there are a million different ways to get there."

 

I don't know much from the rest of the hitting coaches and instructors in the organization but I am inclined to believe they are embracing this method more than they did in the past. 

 

 

 

"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." -- Jim Bouton, "Ball Four"


#6 Parker Hageman

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Posted 19 August 2016 - 10:14 AM

Successful changeups are about movement, not speed

 

Or so Brian Bannister and Zack Grienke discovered during the early days of PitchF/X data.

 

According to the Providence Journal’s Brian Macpherson, the duo stumbled on to some useful information regarding what made a changeup so devastating. It wasn’t speed differential, it was movement:

 

“The name of the pitch is almost deceiving,” Bannister said. “What I spent years trying to do was take more speed off it. We always watched James Shields, Felix Hernandez, and their changeups didn’t look like anybody else’s. Everybody was telling us, ‘Hold this circle change grip and just throw it slower.’ These guys, their ball is going straight down. They’re actually manipulating it. Those were the ‘Aha’ movements. My last year, in 2009, my ground-ball percentage went up before I got hurt like 10 percent that year, and it was purely because I’d figured out how to make my changeup move. Greinke is still using that today.”

 

 

Bannister washed out as a pitcher but has found a new career with the Red Sox, first as a member of the front office’s analytics team and now as a member of the coaching staff, acting as an assistant pitching coach in hopes of helping other pitchers digest this type of information.

 

This idea definitely runs counterintuitive to what is typically taught inside the game at all levels. For example, just this week I received an email from Pro Baseball Insider, a fantastic instructional site run by former Twin Doug Bernier (who has also become a disciple of the elite swing mechanics Josh Donaldson talked about). The email came equipped with a guide on how to throw a changeup written by former Twins farmhand Anthony Slama. Slama wrote that the “fundamental purpose” of the pitch is to “deceive the hitter and change his timing.”

 

By altering the speed of the pitch without altering arm-speed or delivery,” Slama wrote, “the pitcher can deceive a hitter and by doing this have a better chance at keeping the ball off his barrel.”

 

While speed separation and arm action consistency play a role, at no point does Slama mentions movement. In the early 1980s, pitching coach Johnny Podres had Frank Viola incorporate a changeup into his repertoire and helped him establish a consistent arm slot similar to his fastball. But the pitch didn’t really take off from there. By Viola’s own admission, he used “15 to 20” different grips until he worked with Dick Such where he found the right grip and that turned into the earth-scorching changeup he used throughout the rest of the 1980s.

 

When Johan Santana’s changeup was dominating baseball’s landscape and leaving piles of bodies in its path, many reports and descriptions focused on the idea that Santana’s changeup came out of his hand like a cotton ball with fastball arm action. What is often left off is how much the pitch moved.

 

Whether you are working on a changeup of your own, helping others work on their or simply watching the game on TV, remember to look for movement out of a pitcher’s changeup. 

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"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." -- Jim Bouton, "Ball Four"


#7 wsnydes

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Posted 19 August 2016 - 10:36 AM

This is some fascinating stuff and great conversation fodder.  Thanks for getting this thread going!

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#8 Parker Hageman

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Posted 20 August 2016 - 02:19 PM

Bert Blyleven On Fixing Jose Berrios

 

On Friday night in Kansas City, Bert Blyleven honed in on an aspect of Jose Berrios’ delivery that he felt needed attention.

 

“Right...there!” Blyleven exclaimed as Berrios delivered strike three to the Royals’ Jarrod Dyson in the bottom of the first. “EXPLODE towards home plate.”

 

Blyleven further elaborated his point by saying “once you get to that balance point, utilize the rubber and explode towards home plate” and that Berrios needed to “push off” the rubber more. For those who are able to see the embedded Twitter post, you can watch and listen to the entire conversation here:

 

 

Now, regular Twins broadcast viewers will recall this piece of advice. This, along with a “good downward plane”, have become common pitching jargon slung around for years. It has come to the point where if any Twins pitcher is struggling, the inevitable cure from the broadcast booth would likely be one of those two remedies.

 

When it comes to utilizing the rubber by pushing off, as Blyleven suggests, science might not agree with the Dutchman’s assessment. According to Kyle Boddy and his Driveline Baseball think tank in Seattle, Washington has studied the “push off” phenomenon and his preliminary research shows that the back leg push off is not the velocity-inducing catalyst that people think it is.

 

Boddy offered the Mariners’ Arquimedes Caminero as a good example of how velocity isn’t generated off the back leg. When he gets to his balance point and goes forward, his foot disengages the rubber area but doesn’t push off.

 

cxLJzHG.gif

 

When it comes this particular pitching cue, Blyleven is incorrect. By Boddy’s account, coming someone who has dedicated their career to understanding the science behind it, pushing from the back leg has little influence with velocity or command. What we hear from players, former players and coaches is a disconnect between what they FELT and what is actually happening during the process. To Blyleven, the act of driving off the back leg may have felt like pushing off the pitching rubber but that is not what actually transpires in the kinetic chain.

 

There is no question Berrios needs some refinement. When it comes to his fastball command, he has found the zone just 46% of the time -- compared to the 53.5% major league average. In fact, of those who have thrown 350 or more fastballs, Berrios’ in-zone rate is the fifth lowest. Beyond that, Berrios also struggles to command his fastball in the zone, missing the glove by a wide margin and winding up in a hitter’s whump-em zone. That being said, in spite of the poor command, Berrios’ movement and velocity on his fastball has incited plenty of swing-and-misses making it a very good weapon.

 

[Berrios' fastball location vs Kansas City]

Berrios KC.PNG

 

In the case of Berrios’ development, as Mike Berardino of the St Paul Pioneer Press recently phrased it, the Twins are using a “village” approach. In addition to Blyleven, Berrios has been receiving advice from Neil Allen, Eddie Guardado and teammate Ervin Santana. While the guidance of multiple experienced baseball men can be beneficial, there is also the danger that a young prospect has too many messages being communicated -- especially when some of the advice, in spite of the well-meaning nature, is wrong. 

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"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." -- Jim Bouton, "Ball Four"


#9 Parker Hageman

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 09:19 AM

Rays Organization Evaluating Hitters Differently

 

The Tampa Bay Rays organization have always been at the leading edge of using information and data before other teams latch on and this might be yet another example. TangoTiger, co-author of The Book, shared a line from a forthcoming Sports Illustrated article:

 

 

For those who are unable to see the embedded tweet, Albert Chen's article notes that the "Rays’ organization... are told that hitters ... are not measured by batting average but by batted-ball exit velocity."

 

That's a significant mindset shift for minor leaguers who tend to focus more on the newspaper box score stats. Moving to a measurement system that captures the process of what makes a good hitter (exit velocity, launch angle, etc) is far superior.

 

To be sure, the Twins do have Trackman in most of their minor league ballparks and use that data to evaluate their players, but I would guess that inside the front office the Twins employees are likely discussing Byungho Park's batting average rather than his exit velocity.

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#10 Willihammer

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 10:58 AM

Blyleven further elaborated his point by saying “once you get to that balance point, utilize the rubber and explode towards home plate” and that Berrios needed to “push off” the rubber more. For those who are able to see the embedded Twitter post, you can watch and listen to the entire conversation here:
 

Is it just Bert? At the end he says "that's the motion I think Neil Allen wants to see."

Well, there's that.

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#11 KGB

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 03:02 PM

 

Rays Organization Evaluating Hitters Differently

 

The Tampa Bay Rays organization have always been at the leading edge of using information and data before other teams latch on and this might be yet another example. TangoTiger, co-author of The Book, shared a line from a forthcoming Sports Illustrated article:

 

 

For those who are unable to see the embedded tweet, Albert Chen's article notes that the "Rays’ organization... are told that hitters ... are not measured by batting average but by batted-ball exit velocity."

 

That's a significant mindset shift for minor leaguers who tend to focus more on the newspaper box score stats. Moving to a measurement system that captures the process of what makes a good hitter (exit velocity, launch angle, etc) is far superior.

 

To be sure, the Twins do have Trackman in most of their minor league ballparks and use that data to evaluate their players, but I would guess that inside the front office the Twins employees are likely discussing Byungho Park's batting average rather than his exit velocity.

The Rays have been 27th out of 30 teams since 2014 in runs scored, maybe they should concentrate a little more on batting average and less of exit velocity.


#12 Parker Hageman

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 07:59 PM

 

The Rays have been 27th out of 30 teams since 2014 in runs scored, maybe they should concentrate a little more on batting average and less of exit velocity.

 

Since Trackman data only became available at all stadiums starting in 2015, I'll assume they didn't have that in-play dating back to 2014. But, more to the point, exit velocity/launch angle is a much more valuable data set to examine when it comes to player development than batting average. 

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#13 Parker Hageman

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 08:02 PM

 

Is it just Bert? At the end he says "that's the motion I think Neil Allen wants to see."

 

That is a fair point and, to be honest, I don't know what Neil Allen is telling Berrios, so I refrained from commenting on that. 

"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." -- Jim Bouton, "Ball Four"


#14 KGB

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Posted 22 August 2016 - 06:01 AM

 

Since Trackman data only became available at all stadiums starting in 2015, I'll assume they didn't have that in-play dating back to 2014. But, more to the point, exit velocity/launch angle is a much more valuable data set to examine when it comes to player development than batting average. 

Since we only have data back to 2015, isn't a more accurate to say this is a theory not an "much more valuable data set"?


#15 Platoon

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Posted 22 August 2016 - 06:59 AM

How does Berrios FB strike % in MLB compare with his MiLB stats. Meaning is this an outlier, or SOP?
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#16 biggentleben

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Posted 22 August 2016 - 07:10 AM

I may or may not have watched that Donaldson video about 1,000 times now. Pitching is an area that I can watch and just get, but hitting...well, I still need work on that in my scouting eye. His video was incredible.

 

The change up stuff is more than just movement. The movement has to initially mimic the fastball. It can tail differently in the end or something to that effect, but the initial dip or rise or cut of the pitch should mimic the pitcher's primary fastball, and that is as much key as velocity separation. 

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#17 Parker Hageman

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Posted 22 August 2016 - 08:02 AM

 

Since we only have data back to 2015, isn't a more accurate to say this is a theory not an "much more valuable data set"?

 

In the case of how individuals fare season-to-season, maybe. Certainly there isn't enough data around to know how a player will perform year-over-year. 

 

The real value comes from the insanely large data set that has been studied and extensively and one of the amazing findings is that hits happen at a higher rate on batted balls that have an exit velocity of 90 MPH or greater and a launch angle between 10-30 degrees. In terms of development, if you know that one of your prospects is hitting more of those types of balls in play, you know that they are doing something right. It may be reflected in their batting average but that is not always the case. Conversely, if they are not hitting a high percentage of balls in that range, then you likely know there is something to work on. 

 

Again, I see the value as a common language of the front office. If you are discussing a player's performance in the minors and just say "he's hitting .280 the last 30 days for Fort Myers", that doesn't mean anything in regards to his actual performance. If you talk about his exit velocity/launch angles and how many optimal batted balls he has put into play (in additional to strikeout rates, walk rates, etc), for example, now you know have a better understanding of that performance. 

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#18 Parker Hageman

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Posted 22 August 2016 - 08:06 AM

 

How does Berrios FB strike % in MLB compare with his MiLB stats. Meaning is this an outlier, or SOP?

 

There is no minor league data available like that but based on scouting reports over the years, there were frequently lines written about needing to improve/refine his fastball command. 

"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." -- Jim Bouton, "Ball Four"


#19 Parker Hageman

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Posted 22 August 2016 - 08:10 AM

 

The change up stuff is more than just movement. The movement has to initially mimic the fastball. It can tail differently in the end or something to that effect, but the initial dip or rise or cut of the pitch should mimic the pitcher's primary fastball, and that is as much key as velocity separation. 

 

With all your pitches, you are going to want to have them look the same to a hitter before moving. Often times you hear a pitcher who gets his curveball smacked around as having one that humps -- jumps up off the line from the fastball prematurely and hitters recognize it. 

 

There is a lot that goes into a good changeup but what Bannister has found is that THE BEST ones are about movement, not speed. 

"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." -- Jim Bouton, "Ball Four"


#20 markos

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Posted 22 August 2016 - 08:29 AM

 

With all your pitches, you are going to want to have them look the same to a hitter before moving. Often times you hear a pitcher who gets his curveball smacked around as having one that humps -- jumps up off the line from the fastball prematurely and hitters recognize it. 

 

There is a lot that goes into a good changeup but what Bannister has found is that THE BEST ones are about movement, not speed. 

Do you think the movement has to be in a specific direction relative (opposite? perpendicular?) to the fastball movement? Basically, it is easier for a hitter to slow down a swing (or keep the barrel in the zone?) long enough that a change up that differs in only speed will still be hit (or easier to hit?). But if the movement is drastically different, the batter has to adjust timing AND swing-plane, which makes a change up much more difficult.




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