Yesterday I wrote an article laying out differences in approach based on numbers at the Major League level. I had initially intended to write about our approach at the high school I coach at. Therefore, I decided to write two days in a row and explain how we go about teaching approach at our level and what we are planning to do in the future to have a more consistent approach. Here are 3 things about our approach and what we will do to change it.
1.) Get on the fastball early
At the high school I’m at we have very limited resources, because of this we have only scouted a few times in the 3 years that I’ve been there. I’d love to have scouting reports on the pitchers we face so our hitters could have an understanding before the game of what they are up against. However, since this is not the case, we have simplified it down for our hitters. Our goal is to get our best swing off on a fastball within the first 3 pitches, afforded we get the opportunity to. I don’t want to teach blind aggression to our hitters, but I want them to be ready to swing and ready to swing early. This also teaches our hitters to be prepared to hit every pitch. One thing I encountered when I first began coaching was how many hitters weren’t prepared to hit every pitch. They would start their load incredibly late and have no chance to be on time against velocity. This would cause hitters to get frustrated and fear velocity, when they had enough bat speed to catch up. Therefore, it is our goal this year to not get beat by the fastball. If you’re going to beat us, it’s going to have to be a different way.
2.) Use the data you have to shape approach
I had the opportunity to go to Wenatchee Valley College and watch their team scrimmage. Their hitting coach, Dusting Kerns, talked to me about a study he did of their league, tracking each pitch thrown against them this last year. Here is one of the things he found:
At the high school level, I’d put that 90.6 % closer to 100 %. If you want to hit the fastball, you have the best chance to do it early. This has helped to shape the approach we will have at the plate. However, having a fastball only approach is still incomplete and you can get into trouble against guys that can spin it. That brings me to my last point.
3.) Track everything you can and teach them to hit spin
This year we will be tracking every pitch thrown again us. I’m interested to find out the differences in pitchers and programs. In high school a lot of schools still call pitches and it’ll be intriguing to see if they sequence similarly from game to game or series to series. I’m, also interested in finding out what pitches are thrown in what counts and if there are statistical anomalies or if there is a pretty consistent sequencing done throughout the league. We will also be doing a self audit to find out how we sequence games. This year we have a more experienced catcher so we will let him call games and this will be a great way to work with him from game to game to find out why he called certain pitches in different situations. I know scouting is done at the college and professional levels, but we don’t have that luxury, so we are going to create a mini-scouting department and figure out if there is usable data to help our hitters and pitchers in the future be more successful.
Lastly, high school hitters fear spin. This is the first time they’ve seen difficult spin and they’re uncomfortable with it. Therefore, in BP we like to mix pitches, bring in the slider machine, and do a two plate curveball drill that Zach Clanton, the head coach for Wenatchee Valley College, posted the other day saying:
They need to be challenged and need to see it if you expect them to hit it in game. Our approach therefore, is to be aggressive on the fastball, but be prepared for off-speed when needed and unafraid to hit a hanger a long ways. We are excited to look into things more this year and find out how we can help our guys in the future.