Pitchers: For Velocity Pay Attention to Your Lower Half

Pitchers….here are some research findings that will help you add velocity. The article addresses the importance of the pitcher’s lower-half—-from the waist down. Some of the findings are obvious but we cite them to give evidence of their efficacy. The lower half of the pitching cycle is a neglected area in the literature so understanding how to use it to gain velocity will give you an edge as a pitcher. At WSC we usually stay away from mechanics because it is best left to pitching coaches but these lessons here we thought were too good not to pass along.

Here is the title of the article and the authors.

Correlation of throwing velocity to the results of lower body field tests in male college baseball players ….By: G Lehman, Eric J. Drinkwater Edith Cowan University, 2013

[As an aside….Edith Cowan University is in Perth, Australia. As a follow-up WSC is going to see what else is going on at ECU that can help pitchers. WSC—-combing the globe to create competitive edges for our pitchers]

The authors designed an experiment  to gain empirical evidence of what factors contributed to higher velocity in college pitchers. The results can be directly applied to high school pitchers.

Let’s get right into it….

The authors reported a significant relationship between throwing velocity and grip strength.

 This is new to us. We have not seen that relationship before in the literature. Lesson is obvious—–strengthen your grip. Exercise with hand squeezers to build your grip strength. An easy thing to do but how many of us do it?

Here are the findings about the importance of your drive leg.

MacWilliams et al. demonstrated that increases in force production of the trail [drive] leg in the direction of the intended target in the frontal plane correlated with higher throwing velocity leading the authors to suggest that this allowed for more potential energy to be transferred to the ball. This is congruent with Pappas et al. description of throwing as a sequential activation of body parts through a link segment beginning with the drive foot progressing through the trunk to a rapidly accelerating upper extremity

The study found the ground and pitching rubber are your friends. You need to pay attention to your drive leg to use the ground and the rubber to create force vector TOWARD the plate. You should feel the force when you start your initial move to the plate. Also be sure your drive foot is flat to create the maximum force. This is why good pitchers continuously groom the dirt just in front of the rubber to be sure it’s flat. This is where your spikes are important too. Use your spikes to create a firm grip with the ground.

 Here is the next finding….

 …throwing velocity is congruent with the information provided by MacWilliams et al. which stated increased ground reaction forces created by the drive leg in the direction towards the target were highly correlated with ball velocity.

 What this means is a strong, aggressive first move toward the plate that uses the forces built up from the downward flexing of the drive leg at the knee and the drive foot planted firmly on the ground against the rubber.

What you have to be careful of however is not flexing with your back knee too much—-doing a one-leg squat in sense. Too much straight downward movement takes away from your forces you are trying to generate toward the plate. The flexing of the drive leg at the knee has to be in perfect unison with your initial move to the plate to create maximum velocity. Your coaches can tell if you go too far with your drive leg flex. You will look like you are trying to sit down on each pitch. Some pitching coaches call this “drop and dive.” Meaning dropping down with your knee flex THEN moving toward the plate. A real velocity killer. Watch this to see a proper drive leg flex.

Here is more from the study….

.…the increase in momentum allows baseball players to transfer more energy through the kinetic chain from the trunk, to the throwing arm, and finally to the ball to produce increased ball velocities.

 The authors noted that the athletes must integrate the powerful leg drive into a fluid, continuous throwing motion.

But—-and a big but here—-you need to get the timing correct. The author’s continue….

 If peak ground reaction forces occur too early during the throwing motion, throwing velocity is reduced.


MacWilliams et al. found that the forces were gradually built up and peaked just prior to the lead foot making contact with the ground.

Your forces have to be integrated to max out just a split second BEFORE you land. Easy to say—-difficult to do. Again another finding that shows why elite pitching is so hard to master. Exact, choreographed timing has to be created by the pitcher time and time again to achieve maximum velocity with every pitch.

Here are the findings on your front, landing leg.

The strength of the lead [landing] leg was identified as a difference between high and low velocity throwing groups by Matsuo who reported that the ability to demonstrate knee extension upon landing was a common characteristic among high velocity throwers. The authors concluded that the lead leg provides both a stable base while also redirecting energy superiorly towards the upper extremities.

The lesson is you transfer energy from your drive leg through your body to your landing leg and then up back through your trunk, shoulder, and ultimately your arm.

What the authors left out is information about your landing foot. We do not know why but we will contact them.

How you land is important. The best advice we’ve heard is you should place your foot on the ground in a walking motion. Your foot must be flat and your knee slightly bent to first absorb lead foot placement and then to act as the foundation of your final delivery to the plate.

A good example of this is Jon Lester’s landing. Note how it is controlled, the end product of the pace of his delivery. Come to think of it now pace—or the velocity of delivery—was also left out of the study.

Another interesting topic not in the study was delivery pace. Pace—or the velocity of your delivery— should result in a direct correlation to pitch velocity. WSC so far however does not have evidence of this so that will be a topic of another article.

As an example of foot landing here is Jon in slow motion (stay with it it’s really a slow video but note his landing foot and drive leg flex).

It is controversial about whether you should have your foot planted at a slight (<45 degree) angle or with your toe straight to the plate. Young pitchers hear: “point your toe where you are going to throw” from their coaches. The best advice we’ve gotten is your foot needs to stay planted until you release the ball—-however you land. After that many pitchers rotate the lead foot somewhat due to the follow through of the momentum they build with their delivery.

Below is a good example of good foot plant. One thing to remember is major league pitchers have a very good, firm mound to work with—-most others especially pitchers at the high school level do not. So it’s difficult for a high school pitcher to not have rotation working on a mount with soft dirt. Strive however to get to the ideal and you will be a much better pitcher.


The last lesson from the research is pitchers that weigh more create more velocity. It’s physics after all: F=ma. Obviously for pitching weight has to be coordinated with mechanics but weight—-coupled with proper force-creation mechanics as we cite above—-is a powerful combination and a way to achieve your maximum velocity. Here is what they said:

 The results of this study also demonstrated that body weight had a substantial relationship with throwing velocity. Increased body weight increases the total amount of energy that can be ultimately transferred to the ball allowing for higher throwing velocity.

Lesson: weigh more but do not compromise your mechanics—-or heath.

Lastly we found an interesting conclusion of the research—that there is a strong correlation between a pitcher’s velocity and their performance in a specific test. Here is the finding from the research and a video of the test.

This study found that lateral to medial jumps, which measured the athlete’s ability to create power in the frontal plane, which is specific to the act of throwing a baseball, best predicted throwing velocity.



Can this be a way to quickly separate low velocity pitchers from high velocity pitchers through this simple test? The take away here is if you want to improve your velocity as a pitcher you should do this exercise.

The case for a non-parent coaches and selection process for the Westfield U14 Babe Ruth World Series team

Parents of players should not coach the Westfield U14 team that will participate in the 2016 Babe Ruth World Series; nor should they be involved in the player selection process.

Why you ask? The player selection process should be overtly fair—-devoid of biases parents of players bring with them either overtly or covertly. The same rationale holds for the coaching staff.

The reason why WSC is speaking out on this is the World Series is important for players. It will be a time to play very competitive baseball and showcase their skills for high school and college coaches that will be watching them. Putting the team on the field with open and fair selection and coaching processes are critical first steps.

What should happen first is the creation of a non-parent selection process. No parents of potential players would be allowed on the selection board. A selection board should run the process and be comprised of baseball people from Westfield and the other towns included in the Babe Ruth league (e.g., Southwick, Hill Towns, and Agawam). Standard evaluation criteria should also be developed to guide the selection process. The evaluation criteria should be made available to players, teams, and parents at the start of the 2016 season—-if not before—so everyone knows the factors for selection.

As for coaches….no parents of players should be allowed to coach. This will ensure fairness once practices and games are underway. Coaches should be selected for their Babe Ruth coaching capabilities (obviously) and their willingness to structure a fair and open competition for playing time.

From a WSC point of view, a fair and open approach that excludes parents of players is a good thing. The coaches and selection board that brought us the results of last year’s Little League All Star thrashing to arch enemy Leominster in the sectionals are the same ones that will have players on the U14 Babe Ruth World Series team. To those who do not know, Westfield was ousted from the sectionals quickly—-out-scored by about 45 runs over two games. The teams in the World Series will be much better than Leominster. Clearly different selection and coaching approaches are needed.

The bottom line is an overtly open and fair selection process; and fair coaching is essential for the 2016 Babe Ruth World Series team. This process should be instituted soon so parents, and parents hoping to coach, understand the process and its rationale.

Pitching strategies for the higher level pitcher

As we said before, understanding hitters will pay off for you and your team. It requires paying attention to how hitters approach their at bat and pitching to the holes in their approach.

All hitters have holes. Spend your time on the mound paying attention and it will pay off. Compose your pitching approach to exploit each individual hitter’s hole.

Here is an excerpt that does a great job at the basics. We looked high and low and this is the best we have found.

Remember these principles:

  1. Every hitter has weaknesses (a hole). Those weaknesses can be exploited. It’s your job to find them.
  2. Every hitter gives you information on what they can and cannot do at the plate. It’s your job to collect that information.
  3. Every pitcher has weaknesses. That means you too. Know yourself and what you can and can’t do on the mound.

These baseball pitching tips will give you a guideline of what to look for in a batting stance, when to look for it, and how to look for it. Try them in your next outing and see the difference it can make in your performance.

  1. Front or Back?

Look and see where the hitter’s batting stance is in the box. The chances are that he stands in the back of the box generally to have more time to see the fastball. If he’s in the back of the box, a good curveball will be tough for him to hit.

If he sets up in the front of the batter’s box, consider using your fastball. The closer he is to you, the less time he has to react to your fastball.

Also remember hitters that struggle with breaking pitches tend to scoot closer to the pitcher to hit the pitch before it has time to fully break. So you can also use the breaking pitch effectively to this hitter as well.

  1. In or Out?

Does the hitter setup his batting stance a considerable distance away from the plate? Stay away from hitters who setup away from the plate and who don’t dive in to the outside pitch. These hitters want to get their hands extended and they typically can’t get around on inside fastballs, which is why they setup off the plate.

Does the hitter crowd the plate? This hitter can be one of two things: a weak hitter who wants to get hit and get on base; or he can be a good fastball hitter who wants you to challenge him. Either way, you must develop the skill of pitching inside. Also, breaking balls and located fastballs are in order for the good hitter who crowds the plate.

  1. Open Stance Hitter Who Stays Open

This hitter wants the ball inside. He has a better chance of getting to this pitch if his hips are already pre-set to be open. Pitch this batter away until he proves he can hit the ball to the opposite field. His swing path is not setup to take the ball the other way which will cause him to miss hit and roll-over pitches for weak ground balls and easy outs.

  1. Closed Stance Hitter Who Stays Closed

This type of hitter generally likes to go the other way and overall wants to make contact. A closed stance is a great opportunity to establish the inside part of the plate. Closing the stance creates a significant hole in the swing and makes it very difficult to hit the inside pitch. A moving two-seam fastball would be an excellent for this hitter until he proves he can handle it.

  1. Hitter with a Low Stance that Stays Low

This type of hitter is typically not a power guy and is most interested in a short swing that produces contact. This hitter still has two options: He can try to pull the ball, like most hitters do. Or he can try to go the other way predominantly.

Most hitters now are training themselves to go the opposite way and therefore will gear their swings only to go that way. Bust those hitters in. If a hitter stays low in his stance and still tries to pull the ball, keep your pitches away from him and up in the zone.

  1. Hitters Who Have a Normal Stance

The hitters who have normal stance without much excessive movement typically are your better hitters. They don’t give away clues as to what pitches they struggle with. Although these hitters may be harder to read in the box by their stance there are other ways to get an idea of their abilities.

Ask these questions: Where does he hit in the lineup? What are his stats? Where did other pitchers on my team pitch him in the past? What body type does he have? If he’s short and stocky, he can probably handle the low pitch. If he’s left handed and strong, I might not start him off with pitches low and inside.

  1. Hitters with a Long, Slow Swing

Most hitters will struggle keeping their hands inside the baseball when hitting. That means that the hitter’s hands go away from his body during his swing. This provides a great opportunity to throw fastballs inside and establish your presence there.

Even if a hitter has quick hands, if the path of his bat ends up going around the ball, he cannot handle the inside fastball well. If contact is made, it will likely result in a foul ball.

Here is another message to remember from this article…..learn to throw inside. Many pitchers—as WSC has seen over the years—- stayed too long with the instructions they learned in little league to pitch hitters outside to get them out. The reason this was taught  at the lower levels is younger hitters have a hard time catching up to the outside fastball. Pitchers–especially those with good little league fastballs—-found success using this strategy and carried it over to the high school level.  Throwing outside, however, does not work as well as hitters become more skilled.

Here is even another reason to pitch inside. Hitters spend endless hours in the cage practicing to hit outside pitches. “Take the outside pitch the other way” is the hitting coach’s mantra drummed in to them from an early age. Little time is spent on how to handle the inside pitch. That’s an opportunity for us pitchers. Many of the strategies cited in the article  mandate inside pitches. Pitch inside and you will be a more successful pitcher. There will be more about throwing inside in a following article.

Spin is in: Why spin matters as much as velocity for pitchers

Due to the application of Doppler radar technology [the same technology that is used in weather forecasting] to baseball we are getting a new look at what makes pitchers successful—-even if they are not the highest velocity throwers. The importance of fastball spin is a new concept in pitching. It’s always been there but until now it has been difficult to measure. Now that Doppler is in use we are finding out just how important it is. What we are going to prove is the efficacy of spin and show you how to get more spin on your fastballs. To start here are some excerpts from the seminal article about fastball spin.

Fastball Spin

An average MLB fastball makes 2200 revolutions per minute (RPMs) on its way to home plate. What’s a good fastball spin? As evidenced by the chart below, the spin put on a fastball directly correlates to ground ball rate and swings-and-misses.

Fastball SpinMLB 2010-2013
RPM (00s) SwStr% GB %
<- 20 5.5% 47.3%
20 – 21 6.1% 43.0%
21 – 22 6.8% 40.3%
22 – 23 7.7% 38.7%
23 – 24 8.7% 37.4%
24 – 25 10.4% 36.3%
25 -> 13.4% 37.2%

Velocity isn’t the only way to get whiffs with the fastball—you can now throw high spin into that equation. “Sneaky” is one of the terms often used to describe a fastball with average to below-average velocity that hitters still swing at and miss at an elevated rate. High spin gives hop or sneak to your fastball. [The] research is now revealing that average fastball spin has a higher correlation to swinging strike rate than average fastball velocity……Boston’s Koji Uehara is a great contemporary example of a pitcher with a high-spin heater.

Pitcher MPH RPM
Average MLB FB 92 2200
Koji Uehara 89 2427

A ball thrown with true backspin that spins at a high rate will work against gravity [due to the aerodynamic effects of the seams], causing it to sink less quickly than a ball with lower spin. As a result, hitters’ eyes are deceived, because the ball doesn’t sink as much as they expect it to. No one can defy gravity completely and throw a rising fastball, but pitchers can work with and against gravity as a form of deception. Want to test this out? Set up a pitching machine to throw an 80 MPH fastball with 3000 RPMs and see how hard it is to hit. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself swinging through and fouling off pitches. You won’t see this offering in actual games—no current pitcher throws a fastball with 3000 RPMs.[but it will give you an understanding why spin matters so much].

This concept is gradually being taken on in the pros and colleges. If you use these concepts at your level you will be way ahead of the hitters you are facing.

You ask….WSC ……“How do I create backward spin on my fastball?”

Here’s how… The tips of your fingers are key. One of the reasons Pedro Martinez was so effective was his long fingers. He released the ball using the tips of his fingers in a quick, downward motion creating backspin on his 4 seam fastball. You need to learn to do the same. It takes some practice however. The more you do it however you will build up confidence in the delivery. You will also with time build up calluses on the tips of your fingers that will help you get even more spin.

Another way is to throw a cross seam fastball. This where you hold the ball with 2 fingers across the two closest seams. What you do is place the tips of your fingers just beyond the front seam. When you throw you use the front seam as leverage to create downward whip with your fingers and the backspin you want. This grip is not taught these days. I could not even find a picture of it on the web. I do not know why it is not taught because it’s a great way to get backspin on your pitches.

Why are pitches with spin hard to hit? It’s a round bat trying to get square contact with another round, fast rotating object — the ball. If the hitter misses direct, square contact by just a fraction of an inch high or low it will cause a pop up or ground ball. Spin greatly decreases the probability of solid contact by the hitter. Also, if the ball is hit, the bat must first overcome the fast spinning ball to go anywhere. The more spin the harder it is for hitters to hit the ball fair and deep.

One last thing…..you have to stay with these high spin pitches. You have to follow through to get the downward whip you need. Also keep the pitch either high or low in the strike zone. High because the hitter will swing under it thinking the ball will be lower than it actually is (as the article cites). Low because the hitter will think the pitch will be out of the strike zone when in it actually keep its height and be a low strike.

Pitchers: learn and use spin. The more you use it with your fastballs the more success you will have. Hitters at your level do not see pitches like this.

What we are going to see is spin will soon be an important factor in the evaluation pitchers.

Besides a high spin fastball a  lower spin fastball is also important to understand and incorporate into your arsenal. That topic will be in another article.

This is another example of the value of WSC. It not only tells you the whats and whys but also the how tos. The how-to part was left out of the cited article about spin. How to put baseball research into practice is one of our strengths.

Too much pitching is not a good thing

As tryouts start for baseball we thought it was a good time to remind pitchers, parents, and coaches about over pitching. We found an excellent set of short videos about the perils of pitching too much—–especially when you are younger.

The videos show the effects on arms of too many throws. Parents and coaches….don’t be like the dorks shown in these videos. Your son or player will be done being a pitcher before you know it if you are not careful.

The videos explain the increase in risk if you pitch and play another position—especially catcher. All of the throws you do add up. They cover warning signs of arm problems, Tommy John surgery, and the after effects of Tommy John surgery (it talks about why it’s not true—as many believe—pitchers are better after they have Tommy John).

On the down side too we found out through these videos they don’t cut your arm open as much these days. The days of a 6 to 8 inch scar is gone. It’s done arthroscopically. We don’t think this is good because you can’t show off your cool tattoos you integrated with the scar to your friends in the bar when your 30, telling them what a great pitcher you were when you were 14 but you had to quit.

Be careful. Serious arm problems are happening to younger pitchers at an increasing rate. You don’t want to be like the pitchers in the videos.



How to Pitch to Hitters That Choke Up With 2 Strikes

Hitters are usually looking to drive the ball. With 2 strikes desperation sets in however and hitters become more conservative. The hitter’s two-strike syndrome is:  “something is better than nothing.” The nothing being striking out. The something is putting the ball in play and hoping it results in a hit.

Due to this desperation some hitters change their approach. Think back to your little league days. Coaches told hitters with 2 strikes to “choke up and get a piece of the ball.” Here is an article by a hitting expert telling hitters what to do with 2 strikes:

Two Strike Hitting

There has been a lot made of two strike hitting over the last 10 years or so. Strikeouts have been climbing for hitters which is a result of trying to drive the ball for extra bases. Many hitters that have potential to hit the ball out of the park would rather take a chance to drive the ball and strikeout on a good swing than choke up and take a good pitch and hit a ground ball to the second baseman.  I understand not wanting to completely change who you are as a hitter, but I also believe we can cut our swing down, make more consistent contact and still drive the baseball. There are 3 common physical adjustments that can be used at the plate when hitting with 2 strikes.

Choke up on the bat

This will increase your bat control, by making the bat feel lighter in your hands, your bat will feel more balanced, but you will give up a little whip.

It will give you a shorter swing. The distance from your hands to the barrel is closer, thus making the distance your bat has to cover a little shorter.

It will give you a quicker swing. This is because your bat path and the distance your bat has to cover a little shorter, making your swing time a little quicker.

Spread out your stance.

This will give you less body movement. Which is good when trying to make contact, the less moving parts in your swing the easier it is to hit the baseball.

It will give you less head movement. Anytime you can limit the movement in your head the better hitter you will become. You can’t hit it if you can’t see it, and the more your head moves the harder it is to see the baseball.Will help you cover the outside part of the plate better. This can be a good approach because most of the pitches that a pitcher uses to get you out, are on the outer part of the plate.

Get closer to the plate

Being closer to the plate will give the pitcher less room for error on an inside pitch. Standing closer to the plate will force the pitcher to make a good pitch if he tries to come inside. If he makes a mistake, you may get a good pitch to hit, or the ball may hit you and you will be awarded 1st base. Moving closer to the plate [however] opens up a potential hole for the hitter, because now if the pitcher can throw the ball inside for a strike, it may tie up the hitter and make it more difficult to hit.

So this is what hitters do (the unmanly ones): choke up, move closer to the plate, and spread out their stance.

The first issue is: why don’t they do this all the time? It’s likely they think they are manly and want to impress everyone by driving the ball. That’s a good thing for us pitchers because can exploit it.

So what do we have to do as pitchers? First watch what the hitter does when he has 2 strikes.

Hitters that move closer to the plate and choke  up call for inside pitches that run in on their hands. If they do make contact it will be on the shaft part of the bat. It will also give them a sting that will last for some time. You can use your 4 seamer too as a set up pitch for hitters close to the plate. Throw it inside to back them off the plate if you have a waste pitch to give. When they move back in the box—-afraid of getting hit—-come back with an outside pitch they will have trouble reaching now they are further away and choked up.

As for the spread stance hitters are off balance somewhat due to the stance being different than their normal stance.  A change in this case will get them off balance more easily.  If they do hit the pitch they will likely hit on top of the ball causing a weak ground ball.

Your fielders should be paying attention too. They can move in—-especially in the outfield—-expecting a shorter length hit if the hitter ends up making contact.

As a note, straight fastballs will not work here. The hitter’s bat is quicker due to the reasons cited above.

Use these methods and get out more hitters with 2 strikes. What’s strange however you will not see very many hitters in the 3-6 slots in the order doing this—-they are too manly. Pitch those guys as normal.

Maybe that is the reason hitting is down. Hitters these days are taught to use one swing and to stick with that swing. Not to give away to the enemy but that is one of the reasons why there is a hitting drought. Pitchers on the other hand have an arsenal of many different pitches and locations. What the “hitting experts” need is a paradigm shift in what they teach hitters. Hitters should have a variety of swings for different pitches and situations. Until they do the drought will continue. The current environment is great for us as pitchers. Keep it up hitters and “hitting experts”—–your own teachings are leading to your own demise.

Baseball Rules Makers Massing Against Pitchers —- Part 1

This is a series of articles to help pre-college age (ages 14-18) pitchers improve, get noticed by college coaches, and get a scholarship to play baseball.

Pitchers, you have demonstrated your superiority against hitters. Offence is at an all-time low in the MLB and in colleges. What is happening now is the rules makers want to change the rules to help out the poor state of hitting these days.

Over recent years pitchers have improved their capabilities and their strategies of how they pitch. Now we are likely going to be penalized. Penalized because hitters have not improved over the same time period. You hear the whining from hitters all the time now how difficult it is to hit a baseball. Instead of manning up and improving they are lobbying baseball’s  governing rules guys to change the rules. Look at what is happening in the MLB. It will likely flow down to colleges in short order. Below is an excerpt from Yahoo Sports:

 MLB could alter strike zone as response to declining offense

Major League Baseball is considering altering the textbook definition of the strike zone for the first time in nearly two decades, fearful that the proliferation of the low strike has sapped too much offense from the game, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Concern around baseball about the strike zone filtered down to the MLB’s Playing Rules Committee, which must formally adopt a rules change before it’s implemented. The committee will pay close attention to the size of the strike zone in 2015 with an eye on change as early as 2016 after studies showed it has expanded significantly since 2009, coinciding with a precipitous dip in run scoring. Of particular concern, sources said, is the low strike, a scourge not only because it has stretched beyond the zone’s boundaries but is considered a significantly more difficult pitch to hit.

Runs per game fell to 4.07 in 2014, the lowest mark since 1981 and the 13th fewest since World War II, and studies from The Hardball Times’ Jon Roegele and Florida professor Brian Mills pegged the low strike as a significant culprit.

Since 2009, the average size of the called strike zone has jumped from 435 square inches to 475 square inches, according to Roegele’s research. The results: Pitchers are throwing more in the lower part of the zone, and hitters are swinging at an increased rate, knowing the tough-to-drive pitches will be called strikes. The strike zone has lowered about three inches since 2009. (Hardball Times)

Strike Zone

Roegele’s study estimated 31 percent of the offensive drought could be attributed to the strike zone while Mills estimated it’s between 24 percent and 41 percent. After seeing a strong correlation among the size of the strike zone, all-time-high strikeout rates and historically low walk rates, members of the committee now are fairly certain the relationship is causative, too, and seem primed to do something about it.

The problem, sources said, stems from technological leaps that caused unintended consequences. In 1996, when the league last changed the strike zone to extend it from the top of the knees to the bottom, beneath the hollow of the kneecap, it did so to encourage umpires to call knee-level strikes. The lower end of the zone, in practice, was about three-quarters of the way down the thigh, so the idea was that by adjusting the eye levels of umpires to look lower, the result would be a more traditional strike zone.

Then along came Questec, the computerized pitch-tracking system, followed by Zone Evaluation, the current version tied in to MLB’s PITCHf/x system. With a tremendous degree of accuracy – especially in recent years – the systems tracked textbook balls and strikes, and the home-plate umpires’ performances were graded on a nightly basis. Over time, not only did umpires’ strike zones move down to the knees, they went to the hollow and even a smidge below.

“I don’t think the Playing Rules Committee at the time of the last change ever expected that the umpires would call strikes at the hollow of the knee,” said Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, the current chairman of the committee. “To their credit, the umpires now are.”

Most agreed that raising the strike zone almost certainly would spark offense. The potential issue: More offense equals longer games, and with pace of play one of new commissioner Rob Manfred’s priorities, balancing the two remains a difficult proposition

Pitchers, the strike zone has not increased as this article wants readers to believe. Low strikes are being called as low strikes. An alternate way of looking at this—as we do—is hitters had way too much of an advantage before. Offence before was inflated. Now a strike is a strike.

Anyways can’t hitters learn to hit the low strike? As we cited in a recent article hitters train on tees almost exclusively set low in the strike zone. It’s not like they have not seen low pitches before. What are hitting coaches doing about this inability to hit the low strike? We think very little. We have not noticed anything on web sites by the hitting experts about new strategies to deal with the low strike.

What is next? Making the bats bigger? Maybe they should make the bats flatter.

Pitchers, continue to throw the low strike. Also—-as we have said on this site—-get your catchers to get as close as possible to the hitter so the umpire has a good look at the low strike.

We are going to start a few rules movements ourselves like this one. We suggest the holes in golf be enlarged to the size of a manhole. This will help our poor scores on the links. Also we are all for basketball hoops to be larger too. We want more scoring in basketball. Scores like 210-190 will make us happy.

Hitters come on. Do you really have to change the rules to compete? Isn’t this an embarrassment for you?

Another rule change that is going into effect this year in college baseball is a new ball with lower seams. The new balls are designed to help hitters too. We will address this in another article.

Local Sports, Local Politics —- Will the New Mayor of Westfield Support the Planned Improvements to Bullens and Jachym Fields for the Babe Ruth World Series?

Mayor Knapik has announced he will not be running for reelection. Come November Westfield will have a new mayor. Also coming soon after —- in the summer of 2016 —– will be the Babe Ruth 14 year-old World Series. The Babe Ruth players, parents, and local businesses are counting on the improvements to Bullens and Jachym fields for their event. The following is an excerpt from the December 2014 CH 22 announcement about the World Series:

The [World Series] will likely have a ripple effect as the decision will put into motion a series of capital improvement projects to Bullens and Jachym fields that Ruthers and high school players will enjoy for decades to come.

Plans call for bleacher-style seats to be installed along the large concrete steps located behind home plate at Bullens Field, state-of-the-art LED lights to replace the ones currently housed on the light poles, and fencing to be brought in along the third base line. It is possible the press box area could be expanded. The entire park is expected to be handicap accessible per the Americans with Disabilities Act by game time in 2016.

According to Karen Gomez, athletic director for Westfield and Westfield Vocational-Technical High Schools, there are also plans to install dugouts at Jachym Field and expand seating there as well.

“All three high school athletic programs (Westfield, Westfield Voc-Tech, St. Mary) will benefit (from this decision),” Gomez said.

Westfield Mayor Daniel M. Knapik has said the city will put those projects out to bid next summer [summer 2015].


So Westfield Sports Center readers we have an issue: Will the new mayor carry through on what was started by Mayor Knaipk?

The view of WSC is Brian Sullivan likely will due to his background coaching baseball in Westfield for many years. As for Mike Roeder—the only other announced candidate— it is unknown. The WSC view is Roeder likely does not know about the World Series; the improvement plans; or what it means to the sports people and local businesses of Westfield. The press to date portrays him as out of touch with local issues due to not living in Westfield over the past few years. That may not be fair but that’s what been said to date.

This issue needs to be addressed during the campaign. Ideally both candidates come out in support of the improvement plans. However if only one candidate supports the plans the WSC will support that candidate and encourage our readership (a significant voting bloc) to vote for that candidate. If neither candidate supports carrying through on the plans the Babe Ruth Committee, players, parents, and local businesses have to know as soon as possible so alternatives can be found. Stay tuned to WSC for updates about this issue.

By Westfield Sports Center Editorial Board —- the leader in sports-centric political issues