Development

What Sabermetrics can teach us about development

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As originally defined by Bill James in 1980, sabermetrics is “the search for objective knowledge about baseball. Sabermetrics gives us tons of objective data that can help us determine what is successful and what is not. From offensive firepower to defensive runs saved, it’s important to understand how sabermetrics can help us from a development standpoint. Lets discuss how certain numbers can give us a better understanding of how to develop an approach at the plate.

 

Its common knowledge that line drives are the ideal batted ball flight for a hitter to have success. It’s also common knowledge that 0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-1, and 3-0 are “hitters counts”. But do we really use this information to our advantage the way we should?

 

Take a look at the graph below, which is the 2014 Major League statistics for hitters by count.

 

Pitch 4

 

The first thing I noticed was the significant drop in batting average with 2 strikes. Although that is to be expected, I don’t think we realize just how much of a disadvantage the hitter has when put in 2-strike situations. In contrast, look at the Batting Average, Slugging Percentage, and OPS in the hitters’ counts I mentioned above. They are: .334, .339, .356, .337, .375, and .350. Those are mind-boggling statistics against Major League pitching!

 

So how can we use this information as hitters? Well, most of you are saying it’s obvious, get into hitters counts. Which is easier said than done. For me, I look at the statistics and think, be aggressive early in the count. So many coaches at the youth, high school, and college levels teach patience. They want you to “work the count” and “wear down” the pitcher. To me wearing down the pitcher is not about working the count. You wear down the pitcher by putting stress on him. Hitting balls hard, getting guys on base, and scoring runs!

 

These statistics clearly show that being aggressive early in the count is advantageous to your success. Because when you get to 2 strikes, hitters in the big leagues are hitting under .200. But if you ok with hitting under .200, keep taking until you get to 2 strikes. Sub .200 hitters in the big leagues seem to stick around for a while.

 

The second thing amateur coaches always preach is to hit line drives and groundballs. Now we know that line drives are advantageous to success, but is it really true that we should error on the side of groundball? Lets see what the numbers say:

 

A quote from Fangraphs as it relates to the 2014 season states, “A line drive produces 1.26 runs per out, while fly balls produce 0.13 runs per out and ground balls produce 0.05 runs per out. In other words, batters want to hit lots of line drives and fly balls, while pitchers generally want to cause batters to hit ground balls.”

 

If our ultimate goal offensively is to score more runs, our objective in each at bat should be to hit more line drives and fly balls. Instead of preaching at youth levels to hit the ball on the ground, lets develop players to reach their MAXIMUM potential. Coaches at youth levels want their players to hit ground balls in part because the defensive players are not as good and will make errors. But if we really have the development of the player in mind, we should be more cognizant of what will benefit them in the long-run. Which is ultimately to get the ball in the air.

 

Take two quotes as an example of how you should approach an at bat by two of the brightest young stars in the game today:

 

“I don’t think about my hands too much. Just trying to hit the ball in the air. Hit the ball in the air!” –Joc Pederson

 

“My goal every game is to go out there and hit the ball in the air four times” –Kris Bryant

 

Sabermetrics and their results would say they have the right idea…

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About Brian Hamm

My name is Brian Hamm and I am all about "Baseball Development". Through my journey as a high school and college player, I always felt that a competitive advantage eluded me. I constantly researched and discovered new resources, ideas, and theories that have shaped how I coach today. It’s my goal to work relentlessly in order to give my players, clients, and coaches the biggest competitive advantage that will allow them to reach their full potential. My mission is to spread my knowledge to baseball players around the world and help change the developmental process forever.

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