Ground Balls Induced —- A Measure of Pitching Value

 

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.

Are the Red Sox on to the next wave of measuring pitchers future success? Read this article from Baseball Musings:

January 22, 2015 Not Big on Big Game – The Red Sox appear uninterested in James Shields:

More than a month later, Shields remains unsigned and the Red Sox appear utterly disinterested despite their lack of a proven No. 1 starter. So, what gives?

Based on conversations with multiple industry sources over the past few days, this is the best we can gather: The Sox simply don’t believe Shields’ style suits Fenway Park.

It appears that James Shields does not induce enough ground balls to satisfy the Red Sox. I would argue that Shields isn’t what passes for a number one starter on the Red Sox. He was an innings eater with the Royals, helped by an excellent defense. I see him as a 3.50 ERA pitcher on a normal defensive team, and with run scoring low, that’s not that great. Shields would be another #3 starter. If the Red Sox want a true ace, they would be better off making a deal for one of the Washington pitchers that might be available now.

What does this mean for upcoming pitchers in the 14-18 age groups? It means learn how to induce ground balls.

Ground balls do not sail out of the park. Ground balls don’t rattle around on the walls in the gaps in the outfield. Ground balls usually mean an out or at most a single. (With the exception of the somewhat rare ground ball down the lines that make it past the corner infielders.) Ground balls also turn into double plays.

So how do you induce ground balls?

Pitches low in the strike zone are a start. The lower the strike the better. At the knees is best. Nothing above the hitter’s mid-thigh. The next is spin. The cross seam fastball, a pitch that is rarely taught these days to pitchers, is one weapon. It spins backwards and sinks inducing hitters to hit on top of the ball. The next is a two seam fastball with the seams. It sinks and breaks away or in to/from the hitter. It induces the hitter to also hit on top of the ball and away from the sweet part of the bat.

Another way is to throw downhill. What this means is your pitch should not be on a straight plane as it travels to the hitter. This is why colleges look for pitchers that are tall (6 feet +).The rationale is the taller the pitcher the higher the release point creating a downward path to the plate. Also pitchers with at least a ¾ arm slot are sought after (refer to the article below titled: Pre-College Age Pitchers – Achieving success in the years before college). Here is the reason why this downward action is wanted: the chance the hitter will solidly contact the ball with his horizontal swing on a downward moving ball is greatly reduced. Also what the batter sees with this type of path is the top of the ball. This induces him to hit on top of the ball more often.

The Red Sox this off-season focused on signing pitchers that induce ground balls. Keeping the ball out of the gaps, off the wall, and in the park is their strategy. The result will be lower run production for opponents. We’ll see…..

Your metric to watch is your ground ball to fly ball ratio.

The average GB/FB in the in the MLB 2014 season was 1.55. For example in the major leagues you are considered very good if you GB/FB ratio is 2 to 1. You are considered great if it is 3 to 1.

Who are the top Ground Balls to Fly Balls Allowed Ratio Leaders for the 2014 MLB season?

Out of all the MLB players, Dallas Keuchel led them all in 2014 with a GB/FB of 3.63. Who has the least Ground Balls to Fly Balls Allowed Ratio Leaders in the MLB 2014 season? Chris Young had the worst GB/FB in 2014 with 0.42.

Learn how to induce ground balls and you and your team will be more successful and attractive to college coaches. Also make sure you play for a team with good infielders.

 

The importance of framing pitches – first and second order affects

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.

The importance of framing pitches – first and second order affects

Pitchers: we both know it’s the catcher that frames the pitch—not you. My objective is for you to communicate to catchers the need to be really good at framing. This article is a must read for you AND your catcher.

Framing is a lost art. I have seen very little of it over my years in the 14-18 year old age group. I do not know why. It’s an important skill for catchers and it’s easy to learn and implement.

Here’s my rationale why catchers don’t frame enough in this age group: most parents of catchers were never catchers themselves. The number of catchers gets reduced as you move up the age groups. By the time your son is playing high school baseball there are 2 maybe 3 catchers on the team. Most travel teams also carry only 2 catchers. This numbers situation was true when the parents played just as it is true today. What this translates into is a reduced number of parents who were actually high-level catchers resulting in few parents to pass down good catching practice to the next generation. Very few coaches and parents know what it takes to be an excellent catcher.

Below are some excerpts from an article in FanGraphs by Neil Weinberg on December 29, 2014 about the value of framing pitches in the major leagues.

“The essence of pitch framing is well-established and relatively simple. Due to the imperfect nature of human eyes and the lack of a uniformly enforced strike zone, the way a catcher receives a pitch can influence whether that pitch is called a strike. Certain catchers have the ability to make balls look like strikes and to make sure that very few strikes look like balls. And certain catchers obviously lack this ability.

The way a catcher receives the ball influences the call, meaning good framers reduce the number of runs scored against their team and make their pitchers look great in the process. Jonathan Lucroy, catcher extraordinaire, is someone who seems to do this very well. The two leading framing metrics (via Stat Corner and Baseball Prospectus) mark Lucroy among the best in the business. And while the metrics are feeding the reputation, Lucroy also has a public reputation as an excellent framer. Players and coaches who don’t spend much time reading sabermetric blogs also consider Lucroy to have a talent for stealing strikes.

Also Lucroy doesn’t just get better calls on the same pitches, he would guides his pitcher to throw pitches farther and farther away from the center of the strike zone, even if he’s essentially calling the same pitches. Call it “second-order framing.”

In general, the pitcher, at some point in time, develops an opinion about his catcher’s ability to frame pitches (his reputation) and also observes the actual, tangible results (his statistics). [As a pitcher] if you’re throwing to someone you think is a bad framer, you would presumably throw the ball closer to the zone than if you were throwing to someone you think is an excellent framer.

Not only does Lucroy get better calls on the same pitches, but that fact creates more pitches in the areas around the plate in which a pitch can be framed. And those pitches are also usually more difficult to hit, which is another point in favor of the great framers.

It might not seem like Lucroy should be able to find a couple of wins per season above average by stealing extra strikes, but if great framers are also creating more opportunities for themselves — and poor framers are creating fewer. The bottom line is this indicates pitchers have tons of confidence in Lucroy and in framing numbers, but what’s hiding behind that is the idea that good framers don’t just steal strikes — they keep the ball away from the heart of the plate simply with their presence.”

So what does the mean? The first order affect of good framers is more strikes. The second order affect is the pitcher becomes more confident in the expanded strike zone and better at keeping the ball away from the hitter’s prime hitting zone.

Framing is an even more valuable capability in the 14-18 year old age group. Umpires are not as skilled at this level (obviously) when compared to the pro umps. Umps at this level are loathed to call a strike that does not look like a strike to the players on the field and the people watching the game. The umps want to be correct AND look like they are correct. A good framer makes pitches—especially close pitches—look like obvious strikes and easy for the umps to call strikes.

Your catchers should emulate Jon Lucroy. He is the recognized best in the business. A strike call in a critical spot in the game can mean the difference between winning and losing. A confident pitcher with an expanded strike zone is a much better pitcher.

Pitchers: get a catcher that is an expert at framing. You, the catcher, and the team will be more competitive and win more games. Both you and the catcher will also look better to a college coach that could be watching.

 

Pre-College Age Pitchers – Achieving success in the years before college

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.

Pre-College Age Pitchers – Achieving success in the years before college

Your Pitches  

Your competition as a pitcher is the hitter. There are 9 of them and one of you. The more you understand them the more you can use your capabilities to get them out. Think about the guys you know that play baseball with you that are hitters. They have trained–since they were young–in batting cages with machines that threw straight fastballs. Their parents progressively cranked up the machines and little Johnny got very good at hitting fastballs. What this means is just about every hitter in the 14-18 age group can hit straight fastballs.

Pitchers hit a wall as they progress up the levels because of over reliance on the straight fastball. Too many times I have seen “great” pitchers in the lower leagues with fastballs few hitters could hit. I have also seen many of these same “pitchers” stick by their fastball too long as they moved up the 14-18 age groups. They got clobbered. These players became ex-pitchers very quickly. Straight velocity only got them so far. You need to be able to use movement to be successful as you move up the age levels as a pitcher.

The 4 seam fastball is your highest velocity, straightest pitch. It’s the most hittable pitch for hitters in your age group because it’s just like the batting cage fastballs hitters always have seen in practice. Pick your spots for your 4 seam fastball. It must be located properly when thrown for a strike. Throw it sparingly. I’ll have more about just how much you should throw it shortly.

The 2 seam fastball should the core part of your pitch-set. The 2 seam fastball can be 3 different pitches. The with-the-seams version breaks late and sinks away—or into–hitters depending on your finger pressure. The cross-the-seam version breaks straight down. Learn all three.  The 2 seam fast ball—all 3 versions of it–should be your primary pitch. Very few hitters in this age group will be able to tell a 4 seam fastball from a 2 seam fastball. The late break and sink make it very difficult for them to hit. A good pitcher can start the 2 seam off the plate and have it come back over the plate for a strike. Perfect it so you can get it to move either way. That will really have the hitter guessing. Use the cross seam fastball when you need a ground ball. Most hitters will hit on top of it.

The circle change-up is the most powerful pitch from ages 14-18 (it’s also a powerful pitch in college and pros). The problem is it’s hard to throw well. Even major leaguers struggle to throw one. The change up is more important than a breaking ball because—and remember this—speed harder to read than break for hitters. Hitters—even in the major leagues—have a hard time reading a changeup. The change becomes more important as you move up in velocity with your pitches and play against more mature hitters. The reason is reaction time. The higher a velocity on a pitch the less time a hitter has to decide to swing. A hitter’s swing-decision is on an increasingly narrower hair-trigger the more he progresses up the levels due to the increased speed of the pitches. The change-up takes advantage of this tension. It gets the hitter to commit on what he perceives as a fastball when it is not. The hitter ends up starting his swing too early. It gets him off-balance. As for pitch action, a good circle change tumbles and falls off a bit when it reaches the hitter due to the loss of velocity and the effects of the seams at lower speeds. Learn to throw a circle change early as you can. It will keep the hitters guessing about whether your next pitch will be on or off speed. Keep it low in the strike zone too. A high change can be hit well. It’s okay to bounce the pitch too. You’ll know you have a good change when hitters swing at pitches that end up in the dirt. A good change will “fall off the table.”  There is nothing better as a pitcher than striking out the number 4 hitter and making him look bad at the same time. Don’t be afraid to throw 2 changes in a row either; and either to a left or right hand hitter.

The next pitch is your breaking pitch. Learn to throw both a slider and a 12-6 curve. The 12-6 curve will both break and drop (it used to be called a drop pitch in the old days). Its two-dimensional path makes to very difficult for the hitter to square up. Most will hit on top or on the bottom of the ball creating a lazy pop up or grounder. I would suggest, however, you throw the slider more than a 12-6 curve. Many umps at this level do not know how to call a curve—-especially a good 12-6 curve. Just like hitters, umps at this level are also used to straight, hard pitches. They do not wait for the full break to make their call. Also catchers at this level usually do not wait for the pitch to come to them with a full break thus not giving the ump a good look at it. A slider has break on a single plane but a hitter at this level will have a tough time with it because it looks like a fastball for a good part of its path. It is also easier for the umps to call it a strike. Another thing is throw your 12-6 curve mostly the first time through the order then your slider the second time through.  The reason is the opposing coach will tell hitters at this level to lay off the “big” curve and wait for a fastball (the straight one I was talking about) the next time they are up. The slider looks somewhat like a fastball at first and it will fool the hitters. Also the hitters at this level do not know how to quickly tell a fastball from a slider so you will have them right where you want them. Be sure however you always can throw both your breaking pitches for strikes. This will take away the situation where the hitter will lay off the pitch anytime they see spin. Speaking of spin learn to throw a 2 seam slider not a 4 seam. The reason is hitters look for the telltale red dot on the spinning ball to indicate a slider. The 4 seam creates a red dot. The two seam slider does not. It’s axis of rotation is about a white part of the ball. Unlike the 4 seam where the axis is about part of the red laces.

Here is what I recommend for a pitch mix per game for this age group:

2 seam (includes all 3 types)  – 50%

Change – 20%

Breaking pitch – 20%

4 seam – 10%

Here is some more advice for the rising pitcher:

Nothing turns off coaches more–especially college coaches that may be looking at you—than lack of command. Throw strikes or quit being a pitcher.

Mound presence is important. Look like a pitcher—not a hitter. Act like pitcher too.

Put the back of your drive-foot heel against the front of the rubber. You will be closer to plate and not affected by crap rubbers or holes. If opposing coaches or the ump gives you a hard time about it tell them the rule book says you just have to be in contact with the rubber and you are—with the back of your heel.

Warm up like someone you want to watch you is watching you (like a college coach).

Study hitters. Understand various hitters’ strengths and weaknesses by looking at them. Look at their place in the batting order, then their stance, and then their baseball image. Observe what other players and coaches say to them when they are at bat. Get a look at them in the on deck circle too.  Good hitters will try to sync up their load with your wind up when they are on deck. Use this against them when they are up hitting with changes in your delivery timing. I will say more about this in another article. Pitch selection is an advanced topic that needs much more coverage.

Use fear to your advantage. Throw inside both high and low. Hitters should know how to get out of the way. If they do not they should not be playing. Set up your inside 12-6 curve with a high and tight 4 seam fastball. The hitters will think the curve is another pitch high and tight and flinch while the pitch curves over for a strike.

Hitters are taught to look for a first pitch fastball low and outside. Avoid throwing one of these for a first pitch. Throw a 2 seamer on the inside for a strike to cross them up.

Get your catcher to be close to the hitter. If he is far away umps have a hard time seeing and calling the low strike. I see this all the time at this level.  Ask the coach to help weed out poor catchers that do this.

Get a catcher that can catch and block the ball. Your pitches will move a lot and will sometimes end up in the dirt—-especially your change.

Play for a coach that was a pitcher. Avoid coaches that were hitters. Ex-hitters have no idea what it is like to pitch. Ex-hitters will over pitch you, do not understand what is needed to warm up, and leave you in too long when you are tired or struggling.

Do not pitch for at least 3 months out of the year. You are growing and need to rejuvenate. Avoid playing fall baseball as a pitcher.

Do not pitch when your arm or shoulder hurts. (See do not play for ex-hitters above)

Pitch quickly. Use no more than 5-7 seconds between pitches. Hitters dwell on the last pitch in their minds. Pitching quickly can catch them still thinking about the last pitch when the new on is on its way. Hitters like a lot of time between pitches. Cross them up and use the timing between your pitches to your advantage.

The more the ball looks the same color the more advantage for the pitcher. The better hitters get a tell on the type of pitch from the variations of red and white as the ball comes out of your hand. Straight red lines across the ball mean a 4 seam fastball. Two red lines straight up and down are a 2 seam fastball. A red dot on a spinning ball slightly off-center is a slider. A red dot further off-center is a curve. So my point is the less the hitter can discern between the red and white of the ball the better for the pitcher. Make the ball the same color as early as possible in the game. How you do it is up to you and your catcher. This should be relatively easy at this level of baseball since there are a limited number of balls used during a game. Dirt is your friend. This is also one of the reasons the pros use many baseballs during a game.

In summary, notice what I did not discuss: pitching mechanics and pitch grips. The reason is there is a lot of information about this on the internet and from coaches. To master these parts of pitching you need to actually do it. No amount of writing will teach you good mechanics or how to grip different pitches. My suggestion is to experiment with various grips and find what works for you. Learn good mechanics through actual pitching not reading about it.

Coming articles are:

Showcases as a pitcher

Summer team selection

Reading hitters and selecting the correct pitches

Pitching from the stretch

Playing 2 positions, one being a pitcher

Marketing yourself to college coaches

Producing videos

Dealing with college baseball coaches

Playing up

Attending showcases as a pitcher

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.

Showcases as a pitcher

We’ve attended 9 showcases over the past 3 years. It was well worth the investment. When you get a college scholarship the money you save on tuition will far outweigh the cost of the showcases. Start going early (at 16 years old) to get experience throwing in front of college coaches, to measure yourself against the others in attendance, and to get used to how they are conducted. At first attend showcases that have bullpen sessions for pitchers—not the ones with simulated games. That way you can get in front of coaches without facing older hitters at first. Attend the ones with simulated games after you get a few under your belt.

Many parents and coaches will tell you—-based on their experiences—-showcases are not worth the money; and will not get you recognized by college coaches.  What happened was the players they were referring to did get recognized—-recognized as not having the abilities to play at the college level. These players failed to put the show in showcase. As a pitcher, you have to show excellent mechanics, command with all of your pitches, be over 6 feet tall, look athletic, have at least a ¾ arm slot, and bring the velocity. The coaches will ask you to showcase your fastball, breaking pitch, and change. I saw over 100 pitchers and less than 10% could throw a good change-up. Know how to throw it. Stay home and save your money if you have a strange delivery, trouble throwing strikes, and velocity under 80. Trust me, you will be amazed at the poor pitchers that attend showcases.

I hate to say this but you have to throw at least 84+ consistently when you are 17 if you want a chance at a D1 school. When you are a senior in high school you should be at least 87. Below that you will have a really hard time. Lefties get a 2-3 mph break but righties really need to be 87+ these days to have a chance. A recent example is 197 pitchers in the class of 2015 threw 90+ at the Jupiter, FL showcase in October 2014. Throwing over 90 as a junior is not that rare these days. Sorry but velocity is the acid test for measuring potential for college level pitchers. Anything you have heard to the contrary is just not true.

I have also have had the opportunity to witness many non-pitchers at these showcases (pitchers do a lot of sitting around).  As a hitter you have to put on a show–hitting to all fields with power and hitting home runs. It’s batting practice after all.  At all of the showcases I attended I saw zero home runs. I was not impressed at all with the hitters. None stood out. Also fielding ability matters little.  Same with a catchers pop time. You just have to be okay because being able to hit with power sells these days. If you can hit college coaches believe they can teach you defense. Stay home and save your money if you’re a defensive specialist that is just a so-so hitter. Hitters should try to face the weakest pitchers at the simulated games. This sounds mean but it will help you put on more of a show. When you are standing around look at the crop of pitchers. Get yourself into a slot where you can really spank the ball against the weakest one.

Like I said. Pitchers do a lot of waiting around.  Plan your warm up accordingly. Bring food and drinks to eat and drink at the proper time before you are in. We’ve waited 4 hours once to pitch for about 20 pitches. It’s like a cattle call for movie casting. It stinks but you have to get used to it.

Before and after the showcase email the coaches to tell them who you are and that you will be there. Also include a 1-page summary of your results with pictures of you from a game. Make sure the pictures show excellent mechanics. One look at a bad pitching form and you will be quickly dismissed by the coach even before you arrive. If you have a short video (no more than 5 minutes) include that too. After email the coaches for feedback. All of the coaches in the showcases we attended got back to us with an evaluation. Do not be afraid to email them more than once. After all you paid good money so you want something for it. I’ll have more about how to best market yourself in another article.

Lastly, do not do anything besides pitch. Maybe shag balls during hitting but that is it. Do not run in the 60 yard dash–it does not matter. Also do not attend a showcase as a dual player (pitcher/hitter). Pick one. As a pitcher the fielding and hitting will tire you out and negatively impact your pitching. Also the dual players are looked at a jack of all trades and a master of none. Many believe being a dual player increases your chances of being recognized and offered a scholarship. It does not. Pitchers and hitters are coached and managed separately in college. Trying to have a foot in both camps will result in too many compromises.

As a parent you should be looking at your son’s competition at the showcase. Make an assessment of where he is in relation to all of the other pitchers there. If he is at one of his first showcases he should be at least in the middle of the pack. As he gets older and attends more showcases he should be the best pitcher at the showcase.  A general rule of thumb is if your son is placed in the first 5 pitchers that pitch the coaches want to give them a good look. The reason is they pair them up against the best hitters at the showcase. These are the guys they care about. The others they just want their money.

Use showcases as one of your marketing tools. They are great to gain early recognition. Through these events coaches will know who you are and what you can do from a live, in person experience. That is why it is important to go when you are younger. It’s not a one and done thing. After the initial showcase you can show them your progress through videos as you improve. Don’t be afraid to attend subsequent showcases to show them your progress live and in person too.

New Super 8 State Tournament for MA Baseball in 2014

A new state-wide tournament will be tried for the first time in 2014 for Massachusetts high school baseball. The selection process and format will be similar to the existing hockey Super 8 tournament.

Below is an interesting article about the planned tournament. Note that Westfield is not spoken of highly in it toward the end of the article.

Is Super 8 A Mistake? From: ON BASEBALLConor WalshThe Gloucester Daily TimesTue Mar 19, 2013, 10:21 AM EDT

Perhaps more than any other high school state tournament, the baseball tournament is almost always filled with surprises.

Take, for instance, the 2009 Gloucester baseball team’s run to the Division 1 North title. The Fishermen were a good team that year, going 16-4 through the regular season, but few put them in the same class as the likes of Lincoln-Sudbury and St. John’s Prep.

Still, they knocked off each of those teams during their storybook run to becoming North champions and proved that they were in the same class as any baseball team in the entire state.

I’m sure plenty of you out there remember that run and remember it well. Hope you enjoyed it, because starting next spring, those kinds of stories may be gone forever, as the MIAA approved a new Super Eight tournament for baseball, passed by the MIAA last week and beginning on a two-year interim basis in 2014.

It’ll follow the same format of hockey’s Super Eight, which is perhaps the most riveting of all of the state’s postseason tournaments and has been proven exciting since its incorporation in 1991.

The difference? Hockey needs the Super Eight. Baseball doesn’t.

The separation between the state’s upper echelon and the rest of the competition in Massachusetts high school hockey is staggering. The Malden Catholics, Catholic Memorials and St. John’s Preps of the world are absolutely in a world of their own, and a Super Eight is really the only way to do things.

It allows the Catholic schools and public school powers like Reading and Hingham to battle against other truly elite teams, while lesser — but still often very good — teams battle for the Division 1 and Division 2 crowns.

As has been proven time and time again in baseball, though, that separation just isn’t the same. And, because of that, the tournament is always filled with drama. Last year, you saw a 10-10 Lynn English team knock off Peabody, a D-1 North favorite, in the first round.

You saw Gloucester plow through the North bracket in ‘09. You saw a 13-7 Amherst team — champions of D-1 West — claim the state title in 2010. In fact, since 2008, you’ve seen 11 teams seeded tenth or higher in D-1 North or South reach their respective tournament’s semifinals — forming the proverbial “Super Eight” of eastern Mass.

And that’s what makes it awesome. Any team can catch fire and knock off a Catholic Conference power or high-seeded Dual-County League squad.

Look at Newton North last year. 10-10 in the regular season, No. 22 seed in D-1 North. Then it got hot and knocked off Lexington, Billerica, St. John’s Prep and Acton-Boxborough before dropping the North final.

Now, the case I’ve laid out could easily be turned back against me. One could argue that an “undeserving” team knocking off a power actually cheapens the product of the tournament and a Super Eight would ensure that the best of the best battle each other.

This brings me to my next point. With baseball’s obvious parity, how do you narrow down the top teams? Obviously, you’ll see many of the same biases that you see during the hockey selection.

A baseball Super Eight’s always going to have at least three, usually four or five, Catholic Conference teams. That’s a given. You’ll probably also see other private schools like Central Catholic perennially in the mix.

Beyond that, probably a few public schools. Bridgewater-Raynham’s usually a force. Franklin. Taunton. Lowell and Lawrence and Lincoln-Sudbury and Acton-Boxorough. Peabody. The list goes on.

I’d imagine that, like hockey, central and western Mass. will be largely ignored. In hockey, you’ll usually see one team — St. John’s of Shrewsbury or Springfield Cathedral — in the Super Eight.

But what about a team like Westfield, which wins the D-1 West baseball title seemingly every year? Will it get a look, or will its relatively weak schedule keep it out?

Or how about a D-2 team? Theoretically, Division 2 teams are eligible for hockey’s Super Eight, with teams like Wilmington this year getting some consideration. It never happens, though.

And it probably won’t in baseball, either. The difference is that there will be plenty more D-2 teams with resumes and the ability to compete with the state’s best.

There are plenty of Northeastern Conference teams, playing a schedule mixed with D-1 and D-2 opponents, that compete in Division 2 despite proving good enough to play with the best.

Case in point: Gloucester, which is now Division 2 in baseball despite winning D-1 North just four years ago.

Others include North Andover, Danvers, Masconomet, Beverly, Reading, Burlington and Lynn Classical. And that’s just in Division 2 North.

The current format just isn’t broken. Every year it’s exciting, and the single-elimination format of the brackets allow for a team to catch lightning in a bottle and pull off an incredible upset.

You lose that with a Super Eight. Not only does it cheapen the regular Division 1 (and 2) tournaments, but its double-elimination, nine-inning format favors the private powers so much it’s absurd.

In the standard high school season, a team can get by with three starting pitchers — with the No. 3 coming largely out of the bullpen and serving as a spot starter during busy weeks.

You tack an extra two innings onto every game in a double-elimination tournament, and the teams that will survive will be the ones with five or six quality pitchers. That kind of depth doesn’t really exist in public schools. It hardly even exists with the private school powers.

This format simply doesn’t work for high school baseball. It’s too hard to differentiate between the top eight teams and the rest of the state, certainly much more difficult than it is for hockey. All that this is going to do is create controversy every year and effectively water-down, if not ruin, one of the state’s best postseason tournaments. The good news is that it’s only on a trial basis. Hopefully after two years, the MIAA will see the light.

I won’t count on it, though, and you can probably kiss the ‘09 Gloucesters of the high school baseball world goodbye.