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:
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.