Starters as Closers

It is very important for everybody to be open minded on this subject and give the idea some serious thought. This article and another that will be completed in the next couple of days can change the game for the better. The next piece is called professional baseball and pitch count.

We all have to understand that the five man rotation has been around for probably about twenty years or so. Before this the rotation consisted of a four man staff and a fifth pitcher could throw with double headers or if the starters needed a little break.

I am not exactly sure what the throwing program is for pitchers in between starts in the five man rotation.  This probably varies between the different organizations. I have some information supplied by Dr. John Bagonzi a former pitcher in the Red Sox organization. This is for a four man staff, but works very well for me to make my point.

Day 1: Pitch Game

Day 2: Take the day off- don’t touch a baseball- do some shagging and maybe some running- for those who feel they need to throw- very light game of catch.

Day 3: Work off mound in bullpen- 10-12 minutes- 60-65% velocity.

Day 4: Work off mound- concentrate on rotation- 70% velocity- 12-15 minutes

Day 5: Pitch

Dr. Bagonzi says this fits well for a professional pitcher.

You notice there is a three days of work and rest with this program, and with today’s game there is a four day rest period between starts.

I am thinking the pitcher on the fourth day there is some bullpen work and they are throwing 30-40 pitches?  What needs to be remembered is it use to be routine for pitchers to work on three days’ rest.

I would love to see  the professional level for the teams to look at having the starting pitchers close out games on the fourth day.This will not be a situation that will happen every 4th day, but it could be a good option. The starter does not even have to close out the game; if there is a situation in the 6th – 8th inning he could be available to pitch an inning. He could even be called on to pitch to just 1 to 2 hitters. I would keep his pitch count at no more than 15-20 pitches. My next article I state how we may be able to get the warm up before pitching down to about 20-25 pitches.

Bob Brown

 

 

Kozma Turning the Double Play

There was a play in the Cardinals game on Tuesday night that needs to be explained on what has to be taught. What I am going to explain, I was teaching to players at 12-13 years of age. I even told some of the opposing coaches what we do in certain situations. The very latest this has to be taught is at the high school level.

Kozma was turning the double play on a ball thrown by the first baseman. He received the ball and the runner was on him with a late slide. The runner is taught to keep your upper body upright so that you can get to the fielder covering the bag. Kozma made a high throw to first base and made Craig jump up to catch the ball, and the runner was safe. The reason the throw was high is because Kozma didn’t want to hit the runner with the ball. He threw it straight over handed and it was obvious he was worried about hitting the runner. It is the base runners responsibility to get out of the way of the thrown ball. The base runner has to either get down or peel off towards right field. There is no excuse for a baseball player to make a mistake like this at the major league level.

The middle infielders have to be taught to make the throw to first and not worry about the base runner getting hit by the ball! The base runner will get out of the way or he will pay the price. I believe it is very important for the middle infielders to be able to throw submarine, side arm, three quarters, and over handed. They have to work hard at a young age to throw the ball where they receive it, and to stay closed. They should be strong enough to do this the correct way by the age of 12-13. This has to be worked hard so that when they get to high school they have the play aced. I have always taught my players to play fast but don’t hurry!

One of several reasons for the infielder to be able to throw from the side is to make the runner get down! The runner knows you throw from the side; it keeps him from being on top of you. It is not fun for the fielder to have the runner barreling into second base, and then trying to get the throw off. This will keep the base runner honest!

The problem in some high schools, they teach the game slow and robotic. The coaches always say that you need to get your feet set for the throw, even if the runner will be safe. I always taught my players to be athletes, and to want to make the great play! I didn’t care if they threw the ball off balance as long as they made an athletic attempt to get the runner. Now if there is time the fielder needs to get set for the throw.

The best at this was Manny Trillo who played mainly for the Cubs and Phillies in the 70s and 80s. The base runners knew that if they didn’t get down they would get hit by the ball! The fielder has the right to be able to make the throw to first base.

Bob Brown

 

Cardinals Game Wrap 4-22-13

I will always let my readers know what I would have done on certain baseball situations. I will point out when a player, manager, or coach does something that is incorrect. I will not second guess a manager on complicated decisions, but I will discuss them. I will be managing the game along with Cardinal manager Mike Matheny, and will explain my decisions and maybe what Mike was thinking.

I want to start in the 6th inning, Holiday was hit by a pitch and then Beltran got a single. We had runners on first and second with no outs. Molina comes up to the plate and reaches out and hits a single to right center to drive in Holiday. The reason I mention this, is the ability of Molina to hit to the opposite field. He has developed into a very good and smart hitter!

We now go to the 7th inning and Miller is still on the hill and is in trouble and Matheny brings in Joe Kelly at the correct time.  Kelly gets Tracy to hit a broken bat shallow fly to center that Jay makes a good catch for the final out.

Here is where I differ with Matheny, and I will explain why. I would have brought Kelly back out to pitch the 8th inning. This is the perfect time for Kelly to go an inning and a third and then he would have been pinch hit for in the top of the 9th.  I wrote about this exact situation the other day. Kelly needs to get some time on the hill; he has been just sitting in the bullpen.

Matheny brings in Rosenthal who is now his 8th inning specialist, and he runs into trouble but pitches out of a jam, by striking out Desmond. Hrabosky brought up a point that Rosenthal has thrown 69 pitches in the last week. This is not a lot if they were all thrown at the same time. But what has to be considered is he had to warm up 5-6 times. Ricky Horton has said it takes a reliever about 25 pitches to be ready to pitch. The starters need about 50 pitches to be ready to hurl. All you need to do is add up his warm-ups and the 8 throws he gets when he arrives on the mound. He has thrown between 234- 267 pitches, over a period of a week. This seems like a lot of pitches to me, and I will explain what needs to be done.  I will be writing about this nonsense real soon.

Matheny had Choate warming up in the pen to perhaps pitch to LaRoche, he didn’t bring in Choate because he knows LaRoche can hit the southpaws. He was also looking ahead to Desmond a right handed hitter.  LaRoche grounded out and Desmond struck out to end the inning. If this didn’t work the talking heads and second guessers would have ripped Matheny, but this was the correct call. The manager and players are not perfect and they don’t always get the clutch hit or bring in the right pitcher.

The ninth was closed out by Mujica in a grand fashion. His splitter or as he calls his change was just filthy!

Bob Brown

My Dad and Cardinal Baseball

When I was little Dad had a rule you couldn’t go to a Cardinal game until you were five years old. I think this is a good rule and I did the same with my son Jeff.

Going to a Cardinal game with Dad was always a real treat! He would never pay for parking, so we always had to park a long ways from the stadium. One more thing you have to understand is Dad was a weightlifter and also believed in hustle. We not only had to park a long way from the stadium, but we also had to run! He would take off like a gazelle and he would be encouraging me to keep up with him. Heck I was between the ages of 5 – 12, it made no difference, and he still pushed. My brother Marty and sister Robin when they reached the age of five it was the same for them. I will never forget going to a game and I was right behind Dad and I looked back and Marty and Robin were huffing and puffing to keep up. They were five and six years younger than me! I always wondered what other people were thinking as we were dashing through the crowds.

We always got there early so we could get a good seat in the bleachers and to watch batting practice. Dad really wanted to get a free baseball, and it was always a mad scramble when a ball went over the wall. These were also the cheap seats, but there was always a lot of action. I really enjoyed sitting out in the left field bleachers.

My Dad when he was younger had no patience, and I am still like that today. I am not good at waiting in line and have always been like that. He was always in a rush, and I am the same and always looking to get to a destination fast.

Well I never got to see a full game at Busch Stadium when going with my Dad. We always had to leave by the 7th inning to beat the traffic! Then when we walked out of the stadium, we had to go into a full sprint all the way back to the car! Most of the time the game would still be on the radio when we got home.

Today I always stay for the full game and will let others leave before me, and then I will fight the traffic.

We always talk and laugh among our family about going to the baseball game with Dad.

Thanks Dad I will never forget the enjoyment of going to the Cardinal baseball games.

Bob Brown

Cardinal Group Relief Pitching

In the 2012 baseball season Mike Matheny came up with a gem when the Cardinals picked up Edward Mujica, and he inserted him to be the 7th inning man. He was then able to use young stud Trevor Rosenthal as the 8th inning man. The closer was Jason Motte and this worked very well and helped the Cardinals in their drive to finish in a wild card position.

This is 2013 and the Cardinals are in a bad situation with Motte probably going to miss this season and part of next with elbow problems.  The chances are he will have to undergo Tommy John surgery.

I wrote previously that I thought Boggs would be able to handle the closer role after having done so well in the 8th inning slot in 2012. As of April 21, I have been proven wrong. I do think over a period of time that Boggs will be able to handle the role or share the spotlight with others.

Baseball has gotten very specialized with all the specific roles of the pitchers. The game wasn’t always like this in the 60s and the 70s. We had pitchers that were classified as closers that would pitch more than one inning. I shudder to think what the managers of teams today think of me for bringing up this subject. We had pitchers like Al Hrabosky, Goose Gossage, Lee Smith, and Bruce Sutter go two innings or more in a game. This was not for every appearance as there were times they would go an inning or less.

I have seen the situation an 8th inning pitcher blows through the opposition in a few pitches and does not get to pitch the 9th. The closer then comes in and doesn’t have his stuff and blows the game. The manager can bring his closer into the game in the 8th inning and if he does well he closes out the game. If he doesn’t have his stuff, then you bring in another reliever.

My point is if you bring a pitcher into the game in the 6th 7th or whatever inning, you ride the horse until the horse can no longer run. The problem is if you count on the 7th, 8th, and 9th inning program to work, you need all three pitchers to be at their best.I would have the 6th inning or 7th inning man pitch 2 or more innings. Here is an example if you bring in Joe Kelly, or Trevor Rosenthal and they ace the 6th or the 7th inning, let them pitch. The manager and pitching coach can tell if they are on, for that game. These two pitchers have been starters in the past. I remember Dave Duncan the Cardinals ex pitching coach saying that we had 3-4 relievers that were just one inning pitchers. I would not have a pitcher on my roster if they can’t pitch at minimum of two innings. It is a different story with the lefties, they usually pitch to just 1-2 batters or just an inning.

Here is a list of the Cardinal pitchers and their roles.

Joe Kelly– Joe has been a career starter and can be expected to go 4 innings or more. I would not hesitate to have Joe come in and finish the game after coming into the game in the 7th. This is if he has his stuff.

Trevor Rosenthal- I would love to see him come in to pitch the 8th inning and then close out the game! I really like Rosenthal, he will be a dominant closer or starter in the future. His breaking ball was really on last night! His pitch location was off but his potential is tremendous. He is a fire baller but still needs to keep his pitches down in the zone.

Mitchell Boggs– Boggs has the stuff to be a closer; they are working on his delivery and I expect they will get him straightened out. There is no reason he can’t be a two inning man. He will have an important role with the Cardinals in 2013.

Edward Mujica– His past says he is not the closer type, but he has developed a pitch that is working well. It is a splitter or a change that drops at the plate. I would not throw Mujica more than two innings.

Fernando Salas– This is the mystery man!  He was the closer in 2011 and finished with 24 saves. He lost the closer role to Motte late in the season. Salas has to keep the ball down in order to be successful. His location has been his demise; if he can be consistent he can pitch in the show. I expect him to be sent down in the future to get some time on the hill.

Marc Rzepczynski and Randy Choate– They are our lefty specialists and will be counted on to get specific hitters out in crucial situations.

What needs to be done is if a pitcher is on, let him pitch, and not to replace him with a pitcher that may not be on for that particular night.

Bob Brown

 

 

Would Cards trade Taveras for Profar?

This would not be a good deal for the Cardinals. We have a chance to have a very good lineup in 2014 if Taveras can be an above average center fielder.I have been seeing reports that his defense in center is improving! If I was coaching him, he would be living in center field before and after games! I have written several times about what the Cards need to do on this subject. I think they are seeing what needs to be done as they see the potential of Adams. I think Baseball America and other ratings organizations are wrong in their ratings of Adams. They rate him high but not as high as some other players. I was shocked with the long term deal that Texas gave Andruss. I like Andruss but Texas could have owned a younger player with a higher ceiling for the future. I thought we would be trying to deal for Andruss, Texas did not make a good decision. I like Kozma, his hitting technique has changed and I think he can be a 260-270 hitter with good speed and an above average shortstop. I think Cardinal fans will be happy with Kozma. If I am wrong there are highly rated shortstops in the minors that we can deal for with some of our strengths. Read the link from the St.Louis Post.  http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/would-cards-trade-taveras-for-profar/article_383d65bc-3b76-5ea8-83bc-c4041230f326.html

Bob Brown

Taveras in Center Field

I have read several articles about the potential of Oscar Taveras playing center field for the Cardinals. I have been beating on this drum for months and I am happy people are starting to see the potential of this reasoning. I think they are playing him exclusively in center field. He should be living in center before and after games to give him more practice.

I have a link of a writer talking about the progress of Taveras and what over joys me is the two plays he made in center field. Check out this link and a couple of my previous articles on this subject.

http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130418&content_id=45095878&fext=.jsp&vkey=news_milb&sid=milb

http://baseballcommentary.com/2013/03/oscar-taveras-sent-to-memphis/

http://baseballcommentary.com/2013/03/cardinals-spring-training-3-17-19/

Bob Brown

Terrible Cardinal Base running!

In the first inning Jay hits a single and Carpenter follows up with an infield single. We have runners on first and second. Holiday is up and bombs a deep fly to right field. The ball hits high on the wall and bounces to the right fielder. There was no way the fielder was going to catch the long drive. We ended up with runners on second and third with one out! I am beside myself, I have seen this happen in high school and it should never happen there!

I am going to explain in detail what happened and what should have been done.

Jay was tagging up on the long fly ball; there is no excuse for this to happen! He had to be far enough off of the bag in order to be able to score. He should have been about twenty to thirty feet off the bag and then he would have scored. If the ball would have been caught, he still would have had time to tag up! We worked and talked about this play in practice, and this should never happen in the majors!

Carpenter did everything right except not knowing where Jay was. Carpenter, if the lead runner did his job, should have been at second or real close. He would have been in position to go either way. Carpenter should be thinking, to come all the way home! Holiday was just shocked by what was happening in front of him. The mistake Holiday makes if the lead runner did his job, was not running hard on the play!

Then on the very next play is a hard grounder to the right of the third baseman and he boots the ball. The hitter would have been safe at first base! Carpenter is running on a ball that is in front of him, and gets tagged out!!

My goal is to have the youth and high school coaches, pound into the players the right way to play the game!

The rest of the game will be hard to watch with baseball like this.

If my young players had done something this bad we would be working like heck to correct this terrible baseball. This bad baseball has to be corrected at the youth or high school level.

We are in the second inning and Jay does not slide into second the correct way on a double to right field. It was a close play and he did a stand up slide with his left foot leading, which means his body is closer to the tag. He needed to do a fade away slide to stay away from the tag. His right foot hooks onto the far inside of the bag and his body stays low!

The Pirate catcher has a ball in the dirt and he tries to back hand the ball instead of blocking the ball. The ball may not have even been in the dirt in the replay. I didn’t pay real good attention, because I am disgusted with bad baseball!

The Pirate shortstop fields a ground ball and throws a little wide to the right of the first baseman. He is in full stretch and the ball just hits the tip of his glove. He had time to stretch for the ball and then over extend beyond the ball with his foot off the bag. He then catches the ball on the way back in with his weight coming back to the bag. This is a rocking action that can be practiced!

They are now talking about how the Cardinal farm system has a reputation for teaching the game the right way. A discussion like this after the first inning of terrible baseball! Hrabosky did say  there is more teaching done at the major league level than ever before. I have heard him say this several times. Why is the game not being taught right at the young ages?  I think all these mistakes should be corrected at the high school level. I was teaching the right way to play at the youth level.

We are all going to work real hard to make the game better!

Bob Brown

Kozma Superb Base running!

Pete Kozma ran the bases very well last night! This is another teaching moment, and should be taught all the way to youth baseball.

The situation had Kozma on first base with one out. The pitcher was up Shelby Miller and everybody knew he would be trying to bunt Kozma over to second. The Brewers had the corners charging and the pitcher all looking for the bunt. Miller laid down a good bunt and Kozma after getting his secondary lead, took off for second. He could see that there was going to be no play at second base. The shortstop was covering the bag anticipating a force play to get the lead runner. Kozma noticed there was no one covering third base and ran for the bag and was safe! This is real good baseball and was my favorite play last night!

I am going to go through and explain what each player and coach has to do in this situation. This is what we will be doing with Big Dog Baseball USA. There will be a lot of teaching and going into details that you will not get anywhere else!

Shelby Miller is the hitter and also the starting pitcher. He understands that he needs to put the ball down and move Kozma to second base. Kozma has good speed, so Miller knows he does not have to lay down a perfect bunt.

The pitcher for the Brewers knows that the ball is going to be bunted. I am sure he has seen the scouting report on Miller that he has had very few attempts to hit because of the DH in the minor leagues. His responsibility is to field his position and also to keep the pitches up in the zone, and to throw heat. Curves and balls down in the zone are easier to bunt. The pitch should be elevated to increase the chance of Miller popping the ball up.

The third and first baseman are charging hard and want to throw Kozma out at second base. They should know Kozma has good speed and they have to play fast.

The second baseman goes to cover first and the shortstop goes to second base.

The third base coach as soon as he sees there will be no play at second base yells to Kozma, UP! This is very important because a smart infielder will try to make Kozma think there is a play at second base. The coach sees there is nobody covering third base and motions Kozma to come all the way over. I think Kozma was the one that realized third base was vacant and he could make it to the base safe. This is real good baseball and good instincts by Kozma. This can be taught and pounded into the players!

There should have been a player covering third base. I am not sure who fielded the ball; I have been looking for a highlight and can’t find one. This makes a difference with who is suppose to be at third. The responsibility of covering the bag goes to the pitcher, third baseman or even the catcher.

Bob Brown

 

High School Baseball Coaching Needs to Improve # 1

I think this is the level of play that can help baseball improve the most. A good high school program can create a real good pipeline of talent from youth baseball, to the higher levels. Read my article on coaching high school baseball, there is some good information.

A good high school coach not only runs his own program but also has some input on the youth program in his community. In order for this to work, the coach needs to be well respected and has to really know the game. The community needs to see his leadership, enthusiasm and concern for his players and program. He is in a position to elevate the play and encourage the better athletes to play baseball. This coach is the person that can make a difference in the way the game is played at all levels.

The correct instruction that is being taught at the MLB level needs to be funneled down to the high school level. Then the high school coach gets the youth coaches in on the program. You notice I say the correct instruction at the MLB level. There are some things being taught at this level that I shake my head and think, what is going on here. Everybody needs to read all of my articles and how I report on the Cardinals and MLB! I will explain numerous situations and plays that are just not correct. The commentators are even shocked by what is going on in the game today. They can’t say too much because they are being paid by the team. I am not being paid by MLB so I can say exactly what is right and what is wrong.

I see a lot of problems in the way the high school game is being taught. I am going to do my best to correct and explain in detail, what needs to be done. I have been saying for years, they are trying to make the game easier to play, but not better. I have high expectations for the players and will not dummy down the game.

My experience at the high school level was not good and for my son Jeff, it was even worse. There was 3-3 ½ hours of practice where there was so much wasted time. I watched some practices and heard about them and wondered how this coach was going to improve the players. The way of teaching was just running scrimmages, and standing around. This is just terrible! Read some of my previous articles on coaching, and what needs to be done to improve the game.

In this article I will discuss a couple plays and what is being taught.

The first play to discuss is the slow roller hit to the third baseman and he has to come in and bare hand it or glove it and throw to first base. I always taught my players how to bare hand the ball and stay low and throw to first base. I had a player at the age of 13-14 that could do this like a MLB player. The reason Ross could excel at this play was hard work and high expectations. I never did dummy down to my players and I do not want any coaches to ever dummy down again.

We get to the high school level and it is totally different. They were taught to never bare hand a ball unless it was stopped! I really wasn’t shocked because I had anticipated this would happen.

The ball that is hit a little harder and you need to use the glove, is the next subject. The way to teach this is for the third baseman to charge in and use his glove as a shovel, in front of his body. He shovels the ball to his bare hand and then stays low and throws across his body to first base. This is only done when there is not time to get your feet set.

The high school thought is to charge and field the ball on your left side using only your glove. You transfer the ball to your bare hand after running several steps, and you then throw from an upright, set position. By running several steps you are giving the runner more time to get to first base. This always drove me crazy, do not teach this way! This exact play just happened in a high school game and the coaches were happy, and the announcer said the play was done right by the third baseman getting his feet set first. The runner was safe and could have been out if done correctly.

I do understand that some third basemen at a young age will not be able to make this play correctly and will have to set their feet. The problem is this is also being taught at the higher levels and is not correct.  I want my players to be athletes and not a bunch of robots. The idea of this play is to get the runner out.

It is the same with a roller to the second baseman. You either bare hand or use your glove like a shovel. The second baseman needs to stay low and throw from a low position. The second baseman should make all of his throws from a low position. They teach the second baseman to field the ground ball and rise up straight and throw over handed to first. If there is a close play, the time for the second baseman to rise up and throw can make a difference in the runner being safe or out.  I always taught to play fast but don’t hurry! We need to get everybody to think this way to improve the game!

Bob Brown