Josh Donaldson raves about A’s Matt Chapman

TORONTO — The last A’s rookie to homer in three consecutive games before Matt Chapman was ... Josh Donaldson, who had many nice words about Chapman on Tuesday after the rookie third baseman’s big night in the series opener.

“That was a nice night,” Oakland’s former third baseman told The Chronicle. “He made some great plays — that double play to make the stop and to still be able to get off the throw, and then that leaping catch at shortstop, those were tough. His athleticism was definitely on display.”

Donaldson has kept tabs on Chapman because he remembers meeting him after Chapman signed as an A’s first-round draft pick in 2014. “I remember talking to him and his parent, and I remember (A’s executives) Billy Beane and David Forst saying he could throw 98-100 mph off the mound, so you knew he’d have the arm strength,” Donaldson said. “I remember we took some grounders together and we chatted a while. I gave him a little advice.

“In some ways, it was like passing the torch. It’s funny how it all plays out.”

Chapman, 24, remembers his talk with Donaldson well. “It was a cool experience,” he said. “He told me a lot about his experiences in the minor leagues and gave me some things he thought I could use to help me, some general things: dos and don’ts, things to look out for.

“When he came by third, he told me, ‘Congratulations on making it up.’ It was pretty neat.”

Chapman has watched Donaldson closely over the years, in part because they were in the same organization and in part because they have a lot of similarities, including similar builds. “I feel like I can take away a lot from watching him,” Chapman said.

This Season’s First Half Was a Home Run Derby JONATHAN DANIEL / GETTY IMAGES By TYLER KEPNER




    JULY 10, 2017

    On Monday in Miami, as a prelude to the All-Star Game the next night, a parade of major leaguers will step to the plate, swing hard and try to lift baseballs into the seats. Officially, it is known as the annual Home Run Derby. It will also seem redundant, because it basically describes the entire first half of the season.

    “Guys are going for it more, up and down the lineup,” said the San Francisco Giants’ Buster Posey, the starting catcher for the National League. “Even like your second basemen, guys that traditionally might just be handling the bat, now they’re letting it eat, letting it go. That’s the biggest difference I see — guys are taking some hacks.”

    All that hacking is producing home runs at an unprecedented rate. Through Saturday, baseball was on pace for 6,117 home runs this season, which would shatter the record of 5,693 set in 2000, in the era before steroid testing. Hitters swatted 1,101 home runs in June, the most for any month in baseball history.

    Whether this makes for a better brand of baseball is debatable. The instant surge of excitement from a homer can be offset by the loss of nuance — and the relative lack of action — that goes with an all-or-nothing approach to the game.


    J.D. Martinez of the Detroit Tigers hitting a home run against his former team, the Houston Astros, on May 25. After the 2013 season, Martinez worked to alter his swing path to hit more fly balls.


    “There’s just something about home runs,” said Dick Williams, the general manager of the Cincinnati Reds, whose pitching staff leads the majors in home runs allowed. “It’s like, I wish they were harder to hit. They have too much of an impact on the game to be happening this frequently.”


    It is possible, of course, that this power boom is caused by chemicals. But that would mean a widespread wave of cheating is taking place despite increasingly stringent drug testing. Many pitchers believe the ball is harder than usual, with lower seams, though Major League Baseball insists that all testing shows the balls to meet normal specifications.

    More plausible, perhaps, is that the homers are an outgrowth of baseball’s statistical revolution and the logical concepts it has popularized. Hitters understand that driving the ball in the air, instead of on the ground, offers far more potential for production and financial reward. Technology shows them precisely how to angle their bats to turn fly balls into homers, and many have the skills to apply what they know.

    “We’re allowing analytics people to come in, and for years baseball people didn’t like analytics people; they were a bunch of nerds,” said Craig Wallenbrock, a longtime hitting trainer and a former scout who consults for the Los Angeles Dodgers. “That may or may not be true, but that has nothing to do with what they’re measuring. They’re looking at launch angle, exit velocity, working with actual facts about what happens. It hasn’t changed the way we hit a baseball, but it’s changed our understanding of what’s going on.”


    Interactive Graphic | Baseball’s Upward Trend Is Leaving Some Players Grounded Not every batter benefits from a higher launch angle.

    The pace of the adjustments has been sudden, with the home run spike beginning in the summer of 2015, the year that began the so-called Statcast Era, when baseball began measuring — and publicly emphasizing — the DNA within every ball in flight: the rate of spin for each pitch, the angle of the hitter’s bat upon contact, the speed at which every batted ball travels.

    For the best hitters in the world, more data means a more precise road map from bat to bleachers. And while the proportion of ground balls has essentially held steady — 44.3 percent to 45.3 percent for each year of this decade, according to FanGraphs — hitters seem to know how to drive fly balls with more backspin to make them into homers. The percentage of fly balls that become homers has risen in each of the last four years, from 9.5 percent in 2014 to 13.7 percent this season.

    The rapid evolution does not surprise Billy Eppler, the Los Angeles Angels’ general manager.

    “It doesn’t, because of something that, actually, Alex Rodriguez told me some years back: ‘If you can articulate what you value, and what you’re looking for, players of this caliber of athleticism can turn themselves into it,’” said Eppler, a former Yankees assistant. “It’s kind of standing the test of time, where guys know that runs are valuable, and the ones that have the capability to do it — meaning the strength — are lifting the ball a little bit more and putting more balls in the seats. But the trade-off that comes with that is contact.”

    That’s because the emphasis on home runs creates more holes in hitters’ swings and pitchers are well equipped to exploit them. The most extreme case, perhaps, is San Diego’s Ryan Schimpf, who had 14 homers, and just 12 other hits, to go with 70 strikeouts before his demotion last month.


    Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros with Dave Hudgens, the team’s hitting coach, in Oakland, Calif., in April. Hudgens wants hitters to swing only if they believe they can hit the pitch for a homer.


    Strikeout rates have risen every year for a decade; this year, the average total of strikeouts per game is 16.489, up from last year’s record of 16.055. The average fastball velocity has risen each year since 2008, according to FanGraphs, and is now up to 93.6 miles per hour, as starters go fewer and fewer innings and teams turn to more and more hard-throwing relievers to fill the rest of the game. All of them are being encouraged to be more aggressive, which also becomes a factor in the home run surge.


    “What has happened is, because of the increase in velocities, you’re seeing more pitchers pitching up — more pitching coaches and organizations encouraging pitches thrown up at the top of the zone — where that was never the case before,” said Colorado Rockies Manager Bud Black, who pitched in the majors from 1981 to 1995. “My generation was down, down, down and away, and if there was a guy who would chase a high fastball, you would throw it up. But you never made it part of your game.”

    That can lead to more strikeouts, but also more mistakes that get hammered. Jon Lester, the veteran left-hander for the Chicago Cubs, added that umpires also seemed to be calling fewer strikes on low pitches this year.

    “You’ve got to bring that ball up just a little bit, giving them a better opportunity to hit the ball,” Lester said.


    Mike Bryant in 2014. Bryant, a former minor leaguer for the Boston Red Sox, instructed his son Kris in hitting.


    One hitter who takes advantage is Lester’s teammate, third baseman Kris Bryant, the National League rookie of the year in 2015 and the most valuable player last year. Bryant’s father, Mike, was a minor leaguer for the Boston Red Sox and learned hitting from Ted Williams. Mike Bryant now instructs young hitters in Las Vegas, and helped mold Kris into a prodigious — and unapologetic — fly-ball machine.

    “Keep it really simple: Hit it hard, hit it in the air,” Mike Bryant said. “We want them to swing aggressively, we want them to make a big move forward into the ball, transfer their weight forward. Swing up, don’t chop down. Barrel below the hands at contact, not above. ‘Don’t hit the top of the ball, don’t throw your hands, don’t stay back’ — all the phrases that you’ve heard for years and years are totally the wrong things to teach.”

    He said strikeouts were up because the pitchers were better, not because hitters had changed. Actually, he said, hitters have not changed as much as they have learned how to use launch angles to their advantage. Greats of the past like Williams and Mel Ott, Bryant said, may have done so intuitively.

    Ott, the third player to reach 500 homers — after Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx — would practice lofting fly balls down the short right-field line at the Polo Grounds, to hook home runs inside the foul pole. Playing for the New York Giants from 1926 to 1947, he led the National League 10 times in at-bats per homer, succeeding with an unorthodox style.


    Ryan Schimpf of the San Diego Padres hitting a two-run home run against the Washington Nationals on May 28. This season, Schimpf had 14 homers and 12 other hits, but also 70 strikeouts.


    “You go back to Mel Ott, look at the way he held the bat,” Mike Bryant said. “Why did he point the bat straight back at the catcher? Do you think he just did that to be different? No, he did that with purpose. He pointed the bat straight back at the catcher because he wanted to start with his hands low and finish high, or at his shoulders, because he thought, ‘How am I gonna hit this pitch?’ He wanted the swing plane to be up because they had a high mound and they were pitching downhill. These guys were thinkers. Everybody’s been telling you for generations not to think too much. You have to think.”


    Today, the thinking hitter wants to know the reason for an outcome, and he knows data will provide an answer. Batters this season have a .252 batting average on fly balls and a .241 mark on ground balls, many of which are gobbled up by over-shifted infielders. The gap in slugging percentages is much more striking: .751 on fly balls, .261 on grounders, according to FanGraphs. Understandably, hitters are less likely than ever to accept the wisdom that prevailed not long ago.

    “Go back a decade and almost every hitting coach was telling you to hit the ball hard on the ground, hard on top,” said San Diego Padres Manager Andy Green, a utility player in the majors from 2004 to 2009. “That’s just not the vernacular of the game today.”

    A record 111 major leaguers bashed at least 20 home runs last season, making power almost a job requirement for a spot in the lineup. Accordingly, more and more players — Josh Donaldson, J. D. Martinez, Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner — have tailored their swings to change their style of hitting, often through an intense off-season overhaul with a private coach.


    Mel Ott of the New York Giants, practicing for a World Series opener in Yankee Stadium. Ott, who used an unorthodox style, was the third player to reach 500 homers.


    “The winter has to be the time for practice mode, because game mode’s got to be all about competition and not mechanics,” said Wallenbrock, who has about 50 clients. “It’s got to be just automatic. Guys in the past used to rest in the off-season. The modern player thinks, ‘Hey, October to February 15, that’s the time I can work on my swing and break mechanics down.’ Then during the season, you can always call that guy and put a Band-Aid on.”

    After the 2013 season, Martinez visited Wallenbrock in Southern California, hoping to alter his swing path to hit more fly balls. After posting a .387 slugging percentage over three years with the Houston Astros, Martinez has not had a slugging percentage below .535 in four years with the Detroit Tigers. He is poised to cash in as a free agent this winter.

    “Young players, who have a better understanding of technology and use it more, they’re seeing what’s going on,” Wallenbrock said. “They say, ‘I need to upper-cut.’”

    Dave Hudgens, the hitting coach for the Houston Astros, frames the modern mind-set around pitch selection: He wants hitters to swing only if they believe they can hit the pitch for a homer. That works for the talented Astros, who lead the majors in slugging while also striking out the least. For other teams, though, the downside stands out more.


    The Tampa Bay Rays are winning with a high-homer, high-strikeout offense, but the Oakland Athletics are not. Darren Bush, the Oakland hitting coach, cautioned that not every hitter can be like Kris Bryant and strive for fly balls.

    “He thinks that way and it works for him. But other guys, if they try to think that way, they get real long in the back — a real slow swing — and guys just blow fastballs by them,” Bush said. “There are guys trying to create that elevation, and some guys are having a lot of success with it. A lot of guys aren’t, though. There’s a lot of guys in the minor leagues trying to do that, too.”

    Yet for those players, and for journeymen seeking a mechanical makeover, it may be a risk worth taking. It could be a matter of survival in a daily home run derby.

    Seattle Mariners: Eric Filia is riding out a two-month hot streak thanks to absurd strike zone discipline

    Modesto, California —— When play ended on May 1, Eric Filia was hitting just .195 and slugging .244. Nearly two full months later, the Seattle Mariners prospect is a different player, thanks to an absurd May (Filia slashed .376/.460/.523 over 28 games that month) and a nearly-as-good June (he’s hit .346/.409/.474 through his first 22 games this month, too) with the Modesto Nuts. If Brendan Rodgers didn’t have the most ridiculous first half in all of minor league baseball, Eric Filia would have deservedly earned considerably more praise for his efforts.

    Better still, as @MiLBMariners pointed out this morning, Filia hasn’t struck out in nearly three full weeks. In June alone, the outfielder has walked nine times against that single strikeout. Across the full season, he’s walked 33 times over 267 at-bats with only 19 strikeouts. Just go to his splits page and look at some of his exceptional first-half work for yourself rather than have me drop it; again, if Rodgers is the gold standard in the Cal League this summer, you’ll find that Eric Filia isn’t far off.

    It’s one thing to hit for average, another to hit for power, and it’s impressive to do some of both in your first try at full-season ball, as is the case for the Seattle Mariners outfielder this year in Modesto. But the strikeout-to-walk ratio tells the bigger story here about a player who has an approach far more advanced than any of the pitchers he’s facing: first summer of full-season ball or not, I don’t think Eric Filia is going to be in the California League much longer.

    What do the Seattle Mariners have in Eric Filia?

    We’ve been fortunate enough to get about 20 of Filia’s at-bats on tape early this year. Watch those clips below for a good, long look at the outfielder—who is a fascinating cross between Craig Counsell‘s high-handed setup and Tony Batista‘s wide-open stance with some athletic, muscular raw power to boot:

    I’ve seen him hit quite literally everywhere in the lineup already this year, from last, to leadoff, to middle-of-the-order, and he’s got the combination of great contact skills, good pop, decent speed, and a professional approach to make things work almost anywhere. And just like one of his Modesto outfield mates, Filia is trying to do damage every time he swings the bat. He doesn’t have much to show by way of power on the stat line yet (seven career homers in 141 minor league games), but his swing plane, bat speed, and big, strong frame with broad shoulders and thick thighs all tell the story: over-the-fence pop will soon come.

    And yet the most impressive part of it all remains his contact ability and strike zone discipline while developing that power. Virtually every one of the low-strikeout, contact heavy guys I profile are slash-and-run types with limited long-term offensive profiles. Guys like Michael De Leon are able to keep strikeouts down and put the ball in play by sacrificing power and shooting holes in the infield; then, they must rely on plus speed and situational awareness to live at the bottom of a batting order while carrying themselves through the minors on plus defensive ability at a premium position. That’s a respectable, viable path to the big leagues, and De Leon in particular could exploit that path to play in the Majors for a very, very long time.

    But that’s also why Eric Filia is such an outlier here: he’s been matching the bat-to-ball skills and employing the same strike zone discipline while also showing off a legitimate line drive swing with mechanics that put the ball hard in the air. You don’t get that combo every day. I’d like to see Filia play a few more times in Modesto before I try to project out his long-term value, but frankly, I’m not sure I’ll get the chance. Now, don’t go anointing him the Seattle Mariners’ next big league star-in-waiting just yet—he is 24 years old in High-A with a long way to go across some tough leagues in the high minors before Seattle will be in his sights—but the contact skills and exceptional strike zone discipline will play at any level and should give him a fighting chance in the upper minors very, very soon. Until then, if you get an opportunity to watch Eric Filia hit this summer, sit back and enjoy the show. (Conversely, if you aren’t able to see Filia—or most any other prospect—in person this summer, subscribe to our YouTube channel and we’ll happily supply you with hundreds and hundreds of prospect videos.)

    In the Hunt: San Diego Padres give Blake his shot

    The 2017 Major League Baseball First-year Player Draft supplied an uncanny amount of Orange County connections.

    Three county players were selected in the top 14, including the No. 1 overall pick in UC Irvine commit Royce Lewis.

    Although he can play multiple positions, the Minnesota Twins chose Lewis out of San Juan Capistrano JSerra Catholic High with the intent of developing him as a shortstop.

    Having played in the same league his entire career, Mater Dei catcher Blake Hunt was more than happy to share the spotlight. While the scouts were probably showing up to closely observe a next-level talent like Lewis, or the next hot arm like Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Hunter Greene, Hunt recognized their presence was also an opportunity for himself.


    “That’s only beneficial to me, and it was this season, because if it’s a name on the other team, they’ll still see me play as well,” Hunt said. “Luckily, I’m able to perform whenever they are there for those other people.

    “When we played (Orange Lutheran) and JSerra, Garrett Mitchell and Royce (Lewis), there’s a lot of eyes. You’ve got guys on each side of the diamond that can play.”

    Trinity League players are privy to a number of high-exposure events. Hunt’s favorite was a trip back to North Carolina for the USA Baseball National High School Invitational his junior year.

    In addition, Mater Dei and JSerra co-host the Boras Classic, an annual showcase that Hunt had three chances to play in. He recalled the stands being filled with as many as 60 to 75 scouts for the tournament this year, when they matched up against Notre Dame and Corona Santiago.

    Hunt’s draft stock rose as he played in front of bigger crowds. Evaluators were impressed with his defensive skills, and the San Diego Padres thought enough of the Monarchs backstop to make him a first-day selection.

    A sizable crowd of family, friends, and neighbors gathered around the television at the Hunt house on Monday. Hunt received 15 minutes of advanced notice that he was going to be picked.

    He told only one person, his teammate Maxwell Foxcroft, who had been sitting right next to him when he received the call.

    “I had some friends go on a little walk with me and just kind of be there for me,” Hunt said. “It was really emotional because you’ve worked for it this long, and when you’ve finally achieved it, it seemed like a dream.”

    Those 15 minutes must have felt like 15 years. Hunt reckons he contacted his agent (Erik Castro of PSI Sports), still in a state of disbelief only minutes before his name was called.

    “I didn’t believe it,” Hunt remarked. “I actually texted my agent five minutes before, ‘Is this still happening?’ I was expecting it to fall through.”

    If his emotions were hard to keep in check, it has been the same way for his parents, too. Hunt claims that his mom, Cyndi, has not stopped crying since the announcement was made on Monday.

    “So happy to see his dreams come true, and still, humility came through on him,” Cyndi said, the tears of joy still flowing prior to her son’s practice session on Wednesday morning. “He couldn’t believe it, either. I’m just so proud of him to see his dream fulfilled. That’s any mother’s wish.

    “The love that was in the room, the nice thing about it is that the people that were there during that moment would have supported him whether it happened or not.”

    The Padres selected Hunt with the 69th overall pick, a slot that commands a recommended signing bonus of $858,600.

    To entice him to forego his commitment to Pepperdine University, Hunt said the Padres are set to offer him above slot value. He plans to sign his deal on Sunday.

    Hunt, a Costa Mesa resident, grew up playing with a pair of Huntington Beach Oilers who were also part of the 2017 draft class – Nick Pratto (14th to the Kansas City Royals) and Hagen Danner (61st to the Toronto Blue Jays).

    Things have come full circle for former Mater Dei catcher Blake Hunt, who donned a Padres uniform during his Little League days. He also played Fountain Valley Pony League locally. (Chan Hunt)

    “I played travel ball with Blake since the age of 9 or 10,” Pratto said. “He has made some amazing strides in his game. He made a complete swing change, and he really focused on his defense and became the player he is all on his own.

    “On top of all the talent, though, he has been a great friend and teammate over the years.”

    Hunt has had access to premium mentors. He has learned under former major-leaguer Brent Mayne as a catching instructor.

    For the last five years, he has worked with Adam Kennedy, who was the Anaheim Angels’ second baseman when they won the World Series in 2002.

    “His talent level is through the roof,” Kennedy said of Hunt. “Size, speed, and strength. The work that he has put in over his high school career when I’ve been around, the extra work with his trainers to get stronger and faster, and to use all of those abilities and not just sit on them.

    “He has really maximized them up to this point, with room for growth, which is really something good for the Padres to look forward to, and him, as well.”

    Growing up a San Francisco Giants fan, Hunt naturally idolizes Buster Posey. There are few in the same league as the Giants catcher, as he won a World Series title as a rookie and three by the end of his fifth full season.

    Hunt is headed to the right division if he is seeking an up-close-and-personal meeting at home plate with his favorite player.

    Catchers as offensively-gifted as Posey are sometimes asked to play other positions to preserve their bodies, and their bats, for the long haul. Their game-calling skills are sometimes missed in that instance. There lies the value that scouts, and Hunt, believe that he brings to the Padres.

    “I think they’re getting a pretty good defensive catcher if we’re talking about the physical side of things,” Hunt said. “I think I play with a steady confidence. I’m in control of the field, and that is what a catcher should be – be able to control everything that is going on and direct the defense.

    “Offensively, I think I’m a pretty raw hitter, but I have some potential there, and I think I have some raw power that I can bring to the table.”

    Hunt is a 6 feet 4, 205-pound right-handed hitter. He posted a .394 batting average, leading the Monarchs in several categories with nine doubles, six home runs, and 28 RBI as a senior this season.

    The Padres have a history with Trinity League catchers. Their current starter at the position, Austin Hedges, is a JSerra alumnus.


    Putting the future in focus: The blueprint for baseball in 20 years

    Twenty years ago, interleague play began. There have been many changes since then -- instant replay, two wild-card teams per league, divisional realignment, the All-Star Game determining home-field advantage in the World Series, the steroid era, four fingers for an intentional walk and alterations to sliding rules to protect catchers and middle infielders. The changes have come swiftly, and soon will come even more swiftly, which makes us wonder: What will the game look like in 20 years?

    Thankfully, it will look, feel and sound much like the game that has been played for the past 125 years, with nine innings, three outs, four balls and three strikes, 60 feet, 6 inches between the mound and home plate and 90 feet around each side of the diamond. Baseball is too good, too rich in history and tradition to make modifications that would deeply affect the fabric of a game that's so special for so many. But it will be different, and to speculate just how different, we asked 12 people in baseball, including managers, general managers, players and umpires, and this is their collaborative projection/guess on what the game will look like, not should look like, in 2037. The massive changes ahead are rooted in three principles: speed up the game, make the game safer and keep it wildly profitable.


    Pace of play is currently No. 1 on commissioner Rob Manfred's list of improvements, and it will remain a huge topic over the next 20 years. In 2037, there will be a pitch clock -- 20 seconds between pitches, if a pitcher goes past that, a ball will be assessed -- so we won't have to endure anything like Pedro Baez's torturous relief appearances, Josh Beckett taking 53 seconds between pitches or first baseman Mark Grace screaming at pitcher Steve Trachsel, "Throw the f---ing ball, it's hot out here!'' -- and they were teammates.

    There is little doubt that a pitch clock will be added to the game within the next 20 years. Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

    There will be a limit on trips to the mound during a game by a pitching coach, catcher or infielder -- call them timeouts: five per game, more will result in the ejection of the player or coach. Hitters will not be allowed to step out of the box after a pitch, the penalty being a strike added to the count. And the tradition of throwing the ball around the horn after an out will be eliminated. The catcher will just throw the ball to the pitcher.

    There will be no ties in baseball, but the 12th inning will begin with a runner on second base. If the score is still tied after 12 innings, the 13th inning will begin with a runner on third base. This surely will end the wonderful craziness of teams playing 20 innings, but the days of a five-hour game that finishes at 2:45 a.m., essentially will be over, bullpens will be saved from overwork, deadlines will be met and everyone involved will get more sleep. And to help prevent rain delays, every ballpark built starting in 2030 will be required to have a retractable roof. Meanwhile, in-ground tarpaulin technology will be developed by 2037 to cover a field more efficiently and eliminate having a tarp in play.

    Expect to see sabermetric coaches in every dugout assisting the manager in the future. Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

    The role of the manager will not be eliminated, as some in the sabermetric community have suggested, because there will be a great deal of in-game strategy, especially with the new rule on extra innings. But there will be a sabermetric coach in uniform on the bench with a laptop or some sort of device to help assist the manager. This is happening all the time now, a team of stat guys providing data to the manager, just not in the dugout during the game. In 20 years, we'll be measuring variables that'll make exit velocity and spin rate look like fifth-grade math, but the human element will make a comeback as the game recognizes that Bruce Bochy is a better judge of talent than a scientist who says Tony Gwynn wasn't great, he was lucky, because his exit velocity wasn't particularly high.

    The sabermetric revolution has birthed an era of radical shifting -- three players on one side of the infield, a second baseman playing shallow right field. Shifting will remain legal, and we will not have four-man outfields because the irritating all-or-nothing approach in the game -- a home run or a strikeout, and not much in between -- will eventually self-correct as hitters finally adjust and learn to use the whole field.

    It will all be about safety moving forward. And it will start with the fans. Protective netting in 2037 will run from foul pole to foul pole, as it does at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, providing great relief that no fan, including the one with his face buried in his cell phone, will get hit in the head by a baseball traveling at more than 100 mph.

    Pitchers will be forced to wear protective helmets as players continue to get bigger and stronger. Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

    It is a miracle that no pitcher has ever been killed by a line drive, but with the size and strength of today's hitters, a fatality seems inevitable, and it's frightening to think that 20 years from now, 20 players will be as big as Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. So, pitchers will be required to wear helmets or specially designed caps with protective liners in them. In an attempt to better protect hitters, perhaps as early as next season, all baseballs will have a tackier feel, allowing the pitcher a better grip. Also in the next year, a pine tar rag will be placed on the mound to help ensure that a batter doesn't get injured because the ball slipped out of the pitcher's hand. If a pitcher does use an illegal substance, that violation can be enforced correctly by the umpires.

    In 20 years, all players will be monitored to an intense degree. Heart rate and brain function will be watched in several ways, including through the bloodstream, and will detect when the stress level, among other levels, is too high. The monitors will determine when a player reaches failure capacity, which could reduce the risk of injury and alert a performance risk. It's a paradox: Players are bigger, stronger and fitter today, but they get hurt more often. There will be far more healthy players and less use for the disabled list in 2037.

    There will be a greater effort to outlaw takeout slides at second base, further eliminating the artistry of our best middle infielders, and rewarding those middle infielders with poor footwork and poor decision-making around the bag. Penalties will increase -- a 20-game suspension, at least -- for pitchers that gratuitously hit a batter with a 98 mph fastball because that pitcher -- the latest being the Giants' Hunter Strickland hitting Bryce Harper -- simply wasn't good enough to get him out. But baseball is filled with remorseless, vengeful players; retaliation is never going away; it will always be a hard game played by hard men. Human emotion is a difficult variable to control or eliminate.

    Umpires, like Joe West, will still be around for managers, like Joe Maddon, to fight with in 20 years. Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports

    Most of these changes will require even greater involvement from our umpires. There will still be four umpires on the field as opposed to sensors on player's uniforms and on each base to electronically determine out or safe calls. Instead of having a laser system at home plate to call balls and strikes because such a system can't always account for the shifting size of a player's strike zone or the element of a crouch, the home plate umpire will be standing behind the pitcher's mound. Many in the game will acknowledge that is the best vantage point to call balls and strikes, especially the horizontal strike zone -- inside and outside. For the vertical ball/strike call (high or low) advanced technology will provide an augmented reality for umpires, it will help them better see what they see. The home plate umpire will touch a receiver on his belt and receive a signal, such as a buzz, to help him better call a pitch.

    The rosters will be expanded from 25 to 27, with a taxi squad to protect pitchers from overwork. Two-way players will be common; every team will have a couple who will DH on days that they don't pitch, improving roster flexibility. The DH will be universal, ending what will be a half century of absurdity of having different rules in each league.

    But as much as the game will try to become safer, the players will still be asked to play 162 games a year, not 154, not 140. That's because MLB always protects its statistics, but mostly it's because owners won't be willing to forfeit roughly $2 million to $3 million per home date. There will be no American League and National League, it will all be under one MLB. There will be no Oakland Athletics or Tampa Bay Rays. The game will not expand to Mexico or Japan or Las Vegas. Instead, it will contract from 30 to 28 teams. That will make scheduling easier and more equitable: All teams will play each other six times, 27 times six equals 162. The top 10 teams in the game will make the playoffs.

    Like any $10 billion industry, it will all be about revenue. That's why, long before 2037, all that space on a player's uniform will be used for free marketing and advertising purposes, à la NASCAR. Indeed, put AT&T on Kris Bryant's helmet and see how many phones you sell the next day. We're already there with special uniforms used on holidays, etc.; it will only be expanded to the point that players will become walking billboards. And all teams will have lucrative naming rights for ballparks, including Fenway and Wrigley.

    Soon there won't be any blank space on jerseys, as the opportunity to bring in more ad revenue will be too great to stop. Patrick McDermott/USA TODAY Sports

    As revenues continue to skyrocket, so will player salaries. Harper might become the first $400 million player, unless it's $500 million, after the 2018 season. Then Mike Trout will bury that once he becomes a free agent after the 2020 season. By 2037, a dozen players will be awarded contracts in excess of half a billion dollars. But ticket prices also will rise to a level that will make it even less affordable than today to attend a game.

    With all that money to be made, players will find a way to get the most they can, even if it means using performance enhancing drugs. As long as the carrot is there, as long as there is motivation and there are wildly competitive players, there will be those players that will try to beat the system, as there is, for example, with insider trading. There will always be new designer steroids, and there will always be more chemists trying to make them undetectable.

    There are sobering thoughts about the future. The amateur draft doesn't work and needs a total overhaul. Escalating salaries and the thorny issue of dividing owner revenues will force the first work stoppage -- it will be nasty -- in the game since the 1990s.

    Change is inevitable and change is often good, but with change comes concern. We worry that the game is changing too much, too quickly. Baseball has always provided a way for us to relax. Baseball provides a space to spend more time with friends and family at a game. Yet as we move forward, we want fewer games, fewer teams, fewer innings, fewer pitches, fewer pitchers, fewer three-hour games and less human involvement. That could mean fewer human beings attending games and fewer being interested in baseball.

    The game always will be great. But as we move toward 2037, let's hope less is indeed more.

    Elite Client Matt Chapman get the call!


    On 6/14 at 4:31pm Elite's MLB hitting consultant Joe DeMarco missed a call, after checking his phone he realized the call was from Chappy.  As the return call followed a proud moment occurred  for the 41 year old DeMarco, for the 2nd time in his career a home grown player was promoted to the Big Leagues. Chapman joins the Padres Austin Hedges as MLB clients that use the consulting services for professional hitters.  "Good news Joe" was how the conversation began and he knew it was time for Chappy to get the call to join the big club in Oakland.  The advice from the mentor was simple, "just do what you do and enjoy the moment."  Matt grew up in orange county attending El Toro before playing for the Titans at Cal State Fullerton, he was a 1st round pick by the A's in 2014.

    2017 MLB Draft Slots And Bonus Pools


    April 15, 2017 By J.J. Cooper 

    SEE ALSO: MLB Draft Order

    SEE ALSO: Complete 2017 Draft Coverage

    The Twins will have the first pick in the 2017 draft and the largest bonus pool, giving them a financial advantage over every other team. But that advantage is significantly less than it has been in past years.

    After Major League Baseball decided to compress the difference between slots at the top of the draft in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Twins’ top draft slot is set at $7,770,700, according to the final official slots that were recently sent to all 30 major league teams.

    The Twins’ allotment is roughly $1.25 million less than what the Phillies were slotted for the top pick in last year’s draft. The Reds’ second pick ($7,193,200) is a $569,700 reduction from last year. But at the Padres’ third pick, the slot allotment is actually $157,000 higher than last year’s. Every pick from third to 60th is actually a higher allotment than last year before it switches over again, with lower slots throughout the rest of the top 10 rounds.

    This adjustment will change the incentives and the bargaining power at the top of the draft. The Astros worked a deal with Carlos Correa at the top of the 2012 draft (the first under the new slotting rules) and used the savings on his deal to land Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz to slot-busting deals later on in the draft. In the five drafts held under the current rules, only once has the top pick in the draft received the largest bonus (Dansby Swanson in 2015).



    And no player has come close to receiving the full value of the first pick in those five years. The signing bonus record under the current system is the $6,708,400 Kris Bryant received as the second pick in the 2013 draft. Carlos Rodon (third pick, 2014) is the only other player to receive more than $6.5 million under the current rules, even though the slot for the top spot has been at $7.2 million or more in each of the past five drafts.

    Teams are assuredly delving deep into game theory to figure out what is the best approach to using the new slots, but there are some obvious adjustments to come. For one, the teams picking at the top have much less leverage than they had under the slots of previous years. Last year, the team picking at the top had a nearly $2 million advantage over the team picking second in last year’s draft and a massive $4.3 million advantage over the team picking fourth.

    That massive difference meant a player who was in the mix to go 1-1 in recent years knew that if he turned down the offer at No. 1 and fell just a few spots to fourth or fifth, he was assured of getting significantly less money, even if the team picking No. 1 offered him a deal well below slot. Since these rules began in 2012, no player taken after the third pick has landed a deal of $5 million or more–Riley Pint’s $4.8 million bonus as the fourth pick in 2016 and Kohl Stewart’s $4.544 million as the fourth pick in 2013 are the only players taken fourth or later to land a bonus larger than $4.5 million.

    But in the top three picks, 12 of the 14 players who have signed from 2012 to 2016 have landed bonuses of $4.8 million or more. So under the slots until this year, there was a massive incentive to work out a deal in the top three picks.

    This year, there’s much less danger financially for a player who slides from the top pick to even sixth or seventh. Last year, the Brewers had only $4,382,200 slotted for the fifth pick. This year, the Diamondbacks could offer $5 million to a player they pick at pick seven without going above their slot. 

    The Twins have the largest total allotment with $14,156,800 but the Reds aren’t far behind at $13,658,400. The Cardinals have the smallest allotment ($2,176,000) after they forfeited their first pick to sign free agent Dexter Fowler and then were ordered to send their second-round pick (pick 56) and their supplemental second round pick (pick 75) to the Astros as penalty for former scouting director Chris Correa’s hacking into the Astros’ database. St. Louis’ first pick is not until pick 94.

    TeamBonus Pool







    Pirates10 ,135,900





    Phillies8 ,729,100

    Blue Jays8,231,000



    White Sox7,921,400

    Rangers7 ,626,600









    Red Sox5,667,100





    In the chart below, DIFF. compares this year’s pick value to last year’s. PCT DIFF stands for percentage of the previous pick’s amount. In other words, the No. 2 pick value is 92.6 percent of the No. 1 pick value.
































    Supplemental first round







    Second Round
































    Supplemental Second Round









    Third Round































    Fourth Round































    Fifth Round































    Sixth Round































    Seventh Round































    Eighth Round































    Ninth Round































    10th Round































    #2017 MLB Draft #2017 MLB Draft Slots


    Motus Global Is Gold Standard In Biomechanics Analysis

    Long gone are the days of an athlete’s offseason consisting of occasional weight room workouts, light conditioning and plenty of time on the couch. Today’s players have an insatiable appetite to get ahead of the competition, and at the most basic level that means getting the most out of your ability while keeping yourself healthy – especially with pitchers.

    That involves integrating personal, mental, fundamental and physical programs to develop the ideal performance model to optimize players’ workouts and manage their workloads. And Motus Global, a company that has been around for just seven years, has quickly established itself as a leader in the area, with more than 20 major league teams and two dozen college baseball programs on its list of clients.

    “At the highest level, we’re using the gold standard motion capture to benchmark biomechanics,” said Ben Hansen, Motus vice president and chief technology officer.

    Motus uses biomechanics to analyze and maximize performance and prevent injuries. The company is growing quickly and adding talent to its roster, including vice president of product development Carlo Alvarez.

    For Alvarez, who has extensive experience at the high school level, college level (with Notre Dame and Cincinnati), and professional level (with the Indians, Reds and Pirates) overseeing performance development, the chance to bring high-level performance data to players at all levels drew him to Motus.

    “The exciting thing about joining Motus Global is the opportunity to work with a forward thinking team that has taken the time and resources to validate their ideas on motion analysis, stress and workload. From a product perspective, we see value in 3D motion capture data and how we are able to share that information using our single and multi-sensor wearables. Bringing human movement data and technology together allows us to empower coaches and athletes as they strive to maximize their performance on the field,” said Alvarez.

    Staying on the cutting edge means reaching down all the way to youth baseball, with designs on creating clean movement patterns from a young age and ultimately preventing injury in the future. Motus has partnered with Baseball Factory, one of the top developmental youth and high school player programs in the country, to reach young players.

    “Our partnership with Baseball Factory allows us to support coaches, players and parents through player development education and programming. How you prepare, how you perform and how you recover are all important to us. We plan to continue to integrate into an athlete’s lifestyle and build products and programs that fit seamlessly into an athlete’s training and game time experiences,” said Alvarez

    Motus Global began with one mission

    While the future of Motus Global is at the forefront, the idea that gave birth to the company and drove its growth in a short amount of time is just as important. In 2010, Motus Global was founded in a mobile motion capture biomechanics lab with one mission. “The goal was to bring biomechanics to the masses,” Hansen said. “We know human movement and motion capture, so we asked ourselves, how do we take that to the living room and field of the everyday athlete, every worker in an office and every person in a PT clinic during rehab? How do we bring biomechanics to that point?

    “Our first step was to establish models of elite movements. What do proper movements in any sport look like?”

    To do that, Motus needed to collect data from elite athletes. While the main focus was on pitchers and batters in baseball, the company collected data on athletes in various sports after partnering with IMG Academy and the American Sports Medicine Institute.

    The partnership with IMG Academy gave Motus a 400-square-foot lab on campus to work with top-tier high school athletes, along with college and professionals that use the facilities to train in the off-season.

    “When we formed a partnership with IMG and with ASMI, we started collecting data on elite athletes in all kind of sports motions: quarterback passing, golf swings, tennis swings, and our most heavily rooted focus was baseball pitching and baseball batting,”

    For many years, baseball teams have looked for ways to both predict and prevent injuries, particularly with pitchers. Motus began by heading out to see major league teams in the spring of 2012, measuring biomechanics of elite pitchers in the major and minor leagues.

    Taking the information to the field

    The biomechanics lab can extract hundreds of measurements during a pitcher’s delivery. Some are straightforward, such as stride length, but it’s the complex measurement of torque on the elbow that factors into the strain on the ulnar collateral ligament that has been the topic of great discussion with pitching injuries.

    Motus hopes to play a prominent role in cutting down UCL injuries. In order to do so, Motus had to help players make use of all this data, leading to the motusTHROW wearable technology.

    “Our next step was to take this valuable information we are getting in the lab, and bring it to the field,” Hansen said. “In order to bring accurate biomechanics to the masses, we evaluated a variety of wearable technologies. Our vision was to get these wearable sensors, see what we can do with them, evolve them and push the envelope.

    So in 2014 Motus launched a beta program with nine major league teams.

    “It went really well and was a great test of the market for us. We actually hand-soldered them in our office in New York,” Hansen said. “The beta versions could store 12 throws and measured one thing – valgus torque on the elbow. Teams loved it.”

    Teams loved it so much that Motus Global decided to manufacture an improved version of it at scale.

    The first wearable sensor Motus developed has now been surpassed, with further technological advances now providing Motus the ability to measure the physics of all kinds of human movements.

    “We are now on our third generation sensor technology that allows us to measure about 90-percent of what we can measure in our lab,” Hansen said. “We do so by networking batches of sensors together on the body, not just the forearm and the elbow. We then take these analytics and workload insights and bring them to the lives of athletes to help them prescribe training load in a smart and effective manner.”

    Motus has quickly become a world leader in advanced biomechanical analysis of many types, with innovative wearable technology with 3D performance analysis. The goal is to keep pushing the envelope.

    Forget velocity, the curveball's resurgence is changing modern pitching


    Tuesday May 23rd, 2017

    Terrifyingly beautiful, like summer thunderstorms and whitewater rapids, the curveball of Astros pitcher Lance McCullers can be found at the intersection of violence and wonder. It is a demon he unleashes on hitters, especially with two strikes, when he throws it 68% of the time.

    He takes the nail of his right index finger and places it into the seam of the baseball where it curves around the MLB logo. He places his middle finger directly over the long seam. He places his thumb on the bottom of the ball, over another seam.

    Seams are held in triplicate. Seams beget grip. Grip begets force.

    “I just try to rip over it and throw it as hard as I can,” McCullers says. “It’s an aggression pitch for me. It’s called an off-speed pitch, but I don’t view it that way.”

    The middle finger applies tremendous pressure on its seam, the nail of the index finger applies only a bit of pressure, and the thumb, a lazy hitchhiker along for the ride, applies none. When the process works perfectly, it takes only the split second when the ball has just left McCullers’s hand—as his head snaps to the side, as the ball starts to spin at 2,850 revolutions per minute and as the fastest curveball in the majors among starters flies up to 88 miles per hour—for McCullers to know the poor batter is toast.


    “I feel it come off my hand and I know it’s most likely going to result in a punch-out,” he says. “A hitter knows off the hands when the ball hits his sweet spot and it’s going to be a homer. I have that feeling when it comes out of my hand. Like, This is a really quality pitch.”


    He smiles fiendishly.

    “And then I start fading toward the dugout sometimes,” he says.

    Even as the ball leaves his hand, even before it completes its 55-foot thrill ride, the last 10 of which are a stomach-turning, Coney Island drop, even before the doomed batter swings at where the demon used to be—McCullers knows how it will end.


    No pitch has ended more aspiring careers than the curve. As former Kentucky congressman Ben Chandler once said on behalf of the great diaspora who know the feeling too well, “I was planning to be a baseball player until I ran into something called a curveball.”

    No pitch causes major league hitters to freeze more often. No pitch has inspired more legends, myths, fear, grips, nicknames, and ooohs and aaahs. It is a wonder of physics, geometry and art, a beautiful, looping arc through space made possible by the interplay between gravity and the Magnus force—a result of the flow of air around the spinning sphere—that often leaves us, and the hitter, paralyzed in wonderment.

    This season marks the sesquicentennial anniversary of the first curveball (and its first controversy). So it’s fitting that McCullers and the red-hot Houston Astros are at the forefront of a revolution in pitching. Spin is in. Thanks partly to technology and the ubiquity of high velocity, the curveball is enjoying a very happy 150th birthday.



    The 30: Nationals lead latest NL power rankings, but some unlikely teams enter the top 10

    The Astros soared to the best start in franchise history (29–15) by throwing 14.1% curveballs, a regimen exceeded only by the White Sox (16.6) and the Red Sox (14.6) and Indians (14.2%). Houston ranks next to last in percentage of fastballs thrown (47.3). “I joke with the guys that the four-seam fastball is a dying pitch,” McCullers says.


    He’s only half-joking. Even though velocity keeps increasing (the average fastball velocity, now at 92.7 mph, is up for a seventh straight year), the number of fastballs keeps declining. Since 2002, when Pitch F/X technology began capturing pitch data, the percentage of fastballs has declined from 64.4% to 55.4%. Houston is one of four clubs to turn conventional pitching wisdom on its ear by throwing fastballs with a minority of its pitches.

    The Astros, who led the majors in curveball usage last year, have built a rotation around ace Dallas Keuchel, whose 79-mph slider acts like a short curveball, and curveball specialists McCullers, Charlie Morton, Mike Fiers and the injured Collin McHugh. Their success follows on the heels of a 2016 season in which major league pitchers threw about 9,000 more curveballs than in ’15, and the pennant-winning Indians relied heavily on curves in their postseason run.


    “It’s easier these days to find guys with good fastballs, because there are a lot of guys who throw in the mid-90s and high 90s,” says Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow. “But finding a guy who can actually spin a ball, it’s a skill teams are looking for more now because it’s a differentiating factor. If you can find a guy that can throw hard and spin a ball, that usually bodes well.”


    Said one NL general manager, “Three teams have become big, big believers in the combination of high fastballs and curveballs: the Astros, Dodgers and Rays. Those teams are heavy into analytics. The game is changing away from the sinker/cutter/slider guys.”

    In the early going, overall curveball usage is down slightly from last year (10.2% to 10.0), but the teams and individuals who buy into curveballs are putting a greater emphasis on the pitch. Among veteran pitchers throwing a career-high percentage of curveballs (which includes the knuckle curve) are Drew Pomeranz of Boston (45%), Alex Cobb of Tampa Bay (36%), José Quintana of the White Sox (32%), James Paxton of Seattle (20%), and Rick Porcello of Boston (19%).

    They have followed the recent lead of pitchers such as Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill of the Dodgers and McCullers, who have found success by throwing more breaking balls and fewer fastballs. There are also craftsmen with outlier curveballs like Gio Gonzalez of Washington, who throws a four-seam curveball his father showed him alongside their Hialeah house at age 13; and A.J. Griffin of Texas, who throws one of the slowest (68 mph) and biggest-dropping (nine inches) lollipops in the game. Confidence in curveballs has grown as technology began to measure the pitch’s spin rate, spin axis, velocity, horizontal and vertical break—and how much trouble hitters have hitting it.



    Is Jose Berrios ready to be the Minnesota Twins' ace?

    “The data is showing, if the curveball is your best pitch, use it more often,” says manager John Farrell of the curveball-mad Red Sox. “It used to be that if you threw less than 60% fastballs, you were not going to start. That’s gone out the window.”

    Says McCullers, “I don’t view my curveball as complementary stuff.  Whereas old school was more like, ‘No, establish the fastball, pound the heater and wait until they prove they can hit it.’ Well, what if I have two guys on and I’m trying to establish my heater, and he hits it out of the ballpark? You saw it in the postseason: Now it’s about pitchers challenging guys with their best pitch, and that means a lot of curveballs.”



    The legend of the first curveball starts like this: In the summer of 1863 a 14-year-old boy named William Arthur Cummings experienced a eureka moment one day while tossing clamshells along a Brooklyn beach with some buddies. “All of a sudden it came to me that it would be a good joke on the boys if I could make a baseball curve the same way,” Cummings later wrote.

    Four years of practice later, Cummings, then pitching for an amateur Brooklyn team as a 5' 9", 120-pound righthander, broke out his new pitch in a game against Harvard University on Oct. 7, 1867. Harvard won 18–6, but Cummings rejoiced in the success of his curveball, later writing, “I could scarcely keep from dancing with pure joy.”

    By then Cummings had earned the nickname “Candy,” a Civil War–era honorific that denoted the best at his craft. Cummings pitched 10 years before a sore arm sent him off to a career in painting and wallpapering.

    Other pitchers of that era, including Fred Goldsmith, also claimed to have thrown curveballs, but Cummings defended his legend as its inventor so often and so well that in 1939, 15 years after dying, he was enshrined in the Hall of Fame with a plaque that reads, “Invented curve as an amateur ace of Brooklyn Stars in 1867.” His enshrinement came five weeks after Goldsmith went to his grave clutching an 1870 newspaper clipping that he insisted proved he was the original curveball artist.

    From Candy to Sandy (Koufax) to the Dominican Dandy (Juan Marichal), the curveball gained mythic status, partly because it relied on folklore, not empirical evidence as with fastballs and their easily understood miles per hour.


    Dead Ball era ace Mordecai (Three Finger) Brown flummoxed hitters with a curveball that spun crazily out of a make-do grip: He had lost part of his right index finger in a threshing-machine accident, mangled his middle finger chasing a rabbit and had no use of his pinky. No less a hitter than Ty Cobb called Brown’s curveball the most devastating pitch he ever saw.


    Stan Musial had similarly high praise for the curveball of “Toothpick” Sam Jones, an intimidating 6' 4" righthander who pitched from different arm angles and snorted like a horse (because of a sinus condition). “Sam had the best curveball I ever saw,” said Musial, who batted .122 in 49 at bats against Jones.

    Other legendary curveballs belonged to Camilo Pascual, who earned Ted Williams’s praise as owning “the most feared curveball in the American League for 18 years”; Koufax, who generated outrageous spin by throwing his curve with four seams rather than the standard one or two; Bert Blyleven, who threw his curve with so much force that one of his catchers, Phil Roof, could hear Blyleven’s middle finger snap against his palm; and Dwight Gooden, who threw such a majestic curveball that Mets announcer Ralph Kiner, riffing on players’ slang term for the pitch, Uncle Charlie, upgraded it to a Lord Charles. A modern master, Adam Wainwright, adopted “UncleCharlie50” as his Twitter handle.

    The break of a well-thrown curveball holds illusory power. All pitches pass from a hitter’s central vision—two eyes tracking its path—to his peripheral vision as the ball gets closer to the plate. (Pitches move too fast and too near for central vision to track it all the way to the bat.) The curve moves the most just as it passes from a hitter’s central vision to his peripheral vision, which means the hitter swings at where he thinks the pitch is headed, not where it actually is.

    The derivation of Uncle Charlie is unclear, but more easily understood nicknames for the curve are “bender,” “hook,” “unfair one,” and “deuce” (in honor of the universal two-finger signal from the catcher). Less obvious are two nicknames derived from the Northern flicker (Colaptes auratus), a woodpecker with a curveball-like swooping path to its prey: yellowhammer (the bird’s nickname) and yakker (derived from yawker, another term for the bird).


    Legendary baseball announcer Vin Scully added to the curveball lexicon on March 9, 2008, when the Dodgers brought a 19-year-old minor league pitcher into a spring training game in Vero Beach, Fla. The pitcher caught Boston first baseman Sean Casey looking at such a rainbow of a pitch for strike three that Scully gushed, “Oh, what a curveball! Holy mackerel. He just broke off Public Enemy No. 1.” It was most viewers’ first introduction to the frightful plunge of the Clayton Kershaw curve, a classic 12-to-6.

    Kershaw is the current King of Curves. He throws his hook with a traditional grip, only with his middle finger along the outside of the long seam rather than directly on it. Kershaw has thrown 3,863 curveballs in his career and allowed only nine home runs on it, with a ridiculously low .127 batting average on the pitch.

    Oddly, there is almost nothing spectacular about the metrics of Kershaw’s curve. It spins (2,373 rpm) more slowly than the average curve (2,500), and also travels (73.3 mph) more slowly than average (77.8). The wizardry of Kershaw’s curve is in how much it resembles a fastball out of his hand. Kershaw throws each pitch from an identical release point, depriving hitters of an early “tell.”

    Kershaw also disables hitters’ second level of decoding: the reading of spin. Four-seam fastballs have true backspin; they rotate so fast over the poles of the baseball that no spin is discernible. The ball appears as a gray circle. Curveballs rotate in the opposite direction—they have topspin—but slow spin or a tilted-spin axis can reveal to the hitter streaks of red across the gray circle, a tip-off from the spinning seams that the pitch is a breaking ball.

    Kershaw spins his curveball at a similar rate to his fastball (2,326 rpm). Though they spin in opposite directions, because he throws both with a true overhand delivery, creating pole-to-pole rotation, the pitches first look exactly alike to a hitter: a gray circle. The four-seamer holds its plane while the Kershaw curve can drop nine inches.

    2017 College World Series

    2017 College World Series: NCAA Division I Baseball Championship bracket announced

    Last Updated - May 30, 2017 14:26 EDT

    Contact | Archive | RSS


    INDIANAPOLIS – The field of 64 teams competing for the 2017 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship was announced today by the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee.

    The national top eight seeds are Oregon St. (49-4), North Carolina (47-12), Florida (42-16), LSU (43-17), Texas Tech (43-15), TCU (42-16), Louisville (47-10) and Stanford (40-14).  


    The Southeastern Conference (SEC) leads the way with eight teams selected. Both the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Big 12 Conference have seven participants in the field. The Big Ten Conference ties a conference record with five, while the Pac-12 Conference has four in the field. The American Athletic Conference (AAC) has three and the Big East Conference, Big West Conference, Conference USA, Missouri Valley Conference and Southland Conference all have two teams each.  

    Florida Gulf Coast and Davidson are each making their first appearances in the championship in 2017.  Holy Cross is in the tournament for the first time since 1978, while Yale earns its first bid since 1993 and West Virginia is in for the first time since 1996.

    Florida State now has the longest consecutive streak with its 40th straight appearance, with the Miami (Florida) streak of appearances ending at 44.  Other long consecutive streaks: Cal State Fullerton (26) and Rice (23).

    While 15 of the regional sites are scheduled to be played Friday through Monday, June 2-5, competition at the Stanford Regional will begin Thursday, June 1 and will conclude either Sunday or Monday, June 4 or 5. BYU, which won the automatic qualifier by capturing the West Coast Conference tournament championship, does not participate in any athletics competition on Sundays. Therefore, if the Cougars advance to the regional final, that game will take place June 5; otherwise that regional championship game is scheduled for Sunday, June 4.

    Selection of the eight super regional hosts will be announced on, Tuesday, June 6 at approximately 8 a.m. (ET). The 71st Men’s College World Series begins play Saturday, June 17, at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska.


    Southeastern8 (Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi St., Texas A&M, Vanderbilt)

    Atlantic Coast7 (Clemson, Florida St., Louisville, North Carolina, North Carolina St., Virginia, Wake Forest)

    Big 127 (Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia)

    Big Ten5 (Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska)

    Pacific-124 (Arizona, Oregon St., Stanford, UCLA)

    American Athletic3 (Houston, South Fla., UCF)

    Big East2 [St. John’s (NY), Xavier]

    Big West2 (Cal St. Fullerton, Long Beach St.)

    Conference USA2 (Rice, Southern Miss.)

    Missouri Valley2 (DBU, Missouri St.)

    Southland2 (Sam Houston St., Southeastern La.)

    America East1 (UMBC)

    Atlantic-101 (Davidson)

    Atlantic Sun1 (FGCU)

    Big South1 (Radford)

    Colonial1 (Delaware)

    Horizon1 (Ill.-Chicago)

    Ivy1 (Yale)

    Metro Atlantic1 (Marist)

    Mid-American1 (Ohio)

    Mid-Eastern1 (Bethune-Cookman)

    Mountain West1 (San Diego St.)

    Northeast1 (Central Conn. St.)

    Ohio Valley1 (Tennessee Tech)

    Patriot1 (Holy Cross)

    Southern1 (UNCG)

    Southwestern1 (Texas Southern)

    Summit1 (Oral Roberts)

    Sun Belt1 (South Ala.)

    West Coast1 (BYU)

    Western Athletic1 (Sacramento St.)

    2017 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship (all times Eastern)

    Baton Rouge Regional hosted by LSU

    #1 *LSU (43-17) vs. #4 Texas Southern (20-32), 3:30 p.m., SECN

    #2 Southeastern La. (36-20) vs. #3 Rice (31-29), 8 p.m., ESPN3

    Chapel Hill Regional hosted by North Carolina

    #1 *North Carolina (47-12) vs. #4 Davidson (32-24), 6 p.m., ESPN3

    #2 FGCU (42-18) vs. #3 Michigan (42-15), 1 p.m., ESPN3

    Clemson Regional hosted by Clemson

    #1 *Clemson (39-19) vs. #4 UNCG (35-22), 7 p.m., ESPN3

    #2 Vanderbilt (33-22-1) vs. #3 St. John’s (NY) (42-11), Noon, SECN

    Corvallis Regional hosted by Oregon St.

    #1 *Oregon St. (49-4) vs. #4 Holy Cross (23-27), 11 p.m., ESPNU

    #2 Nebraska (35-20-1) vs. #3 Yale (32-16), 4 p.m., ESPN3

    Fayetteville Regional hosted by Arkansas

    #1 *Arkansas (42-17) vs. #4 Oral Roberts (42-14), 8 p.m., ESPN3

    #2 Missouri St. (40-17) vs. #3 Oklahoma St. (30-25), 3 p.m., ESPN3

    Fort Worth Regional hosted by TCU

    #1 *TCU (42-16) vs. #4 Central Conn. St. (36-20), 9 p.m., ESPN3

    #2 Virginia (42-14) vs. #3 DBU (40-19), 4 p.m., ESPNU

    Gainesville Regional hosted by Florida

    #1 *Florida (42-16) vs. #4 Marist (32-21), 7 p.m., SECN

    #2 South Fla. (41-17) vs. #3 Bethune-Cookman (33-23), 1 p.m., ESPN3

    Hattiesburg Regional hosted by Southern Miss.

    #1 *Southern Miss. (48-14) vs. #4 Ill.-Chicago (39-15), TBA, ESPN3

    #2 Mississippi St. (36-24) vs. #3 South Ala. (39-19), TBA, ESPN3

    Houston Regional hosted by Houston

    #1 *Houston (40-19) vs. #4 Iowa (38-20), 8 p.m., ESPNU

    #2 Baylor (34-21) vs. #3 Texas A&M (36-21), 3 p.m., ESPN2

    Lexington Regional hosted by Kentucky

    #1 *Kentucky (39-20) vs. #4 Ohio (31-26), Noon, ESPNU

    #2 Indiana (33-22-2) vs. #3 North Carolina St. (34-23), 7 p.m., ESPN3

    Long Beach Regional hosted by Long Beach St.

    #1 *Long Beach St. (37-17-1) vs. #4 San Diego St. (41-19), 11 p.m., ESPN2

    #2 Texas (37-22) vs. #3 UCLA (30-25), 7 p.m., ESPN2

    Louisville Regional hosted by Louisville

    #1 *Louisville (47-10) vs. #4 Radford (27-30), 6 p.m., ESPN3

    #2 Oklahoma (34-22) vs. #3 Xavier (32-25), 2 p.m., ESPN3

    Lubbock Regional hosted by Texas Tech

    #1 *Texas Tech (43-15) vs. #4 Delaware (34-21), 3 p.m., ESPN3

    #2 Arizona (37-19) vs. #3 Sam Houston St. (40-20), 7 p.m., ESPN3

    Stanford Regional hosted by Stanford

    #1 *Stanford (40-14) vs. #4 Sacramento St. (32-27), 9 p.m., ESPN3

    #2 Cal St. Fullerton (34-21) vs. #3 BYU (37-19), 4 p.m., ESPN3

    Tallahassee Regional hosted by Florida St.

    #1 *Florida St. (39-20) vs. #4 Tennessee Tech (40-19), 6 p.m., ESPN3

    #2 UCF (40-20) vs. #3 Auburn (35-24), Noon, ESPN2

    Winston-Salem Regional hosted by Wake Forest

    #1 *Wake Forest (39-18) vs. #4 UMBC (23-23), 7 p.m., ESPN3

    #2 West Virginia (34-24) vs. #3 Maryland (37-21), 2 p.m., ESPN3


    Padres Future Comes Into Focus In Majors

    May 23, 2017 By Kyle Glaser 



    Manuel Margot, center, and Hunter Renfroe, right, celebrate a recent win with Travis Jankowski (Photo by Andy Hayt/San Diego Padres/Getty Images)

    NEW YORK—In the midst of an increasingly lost season, the Padres’ future is beginning to coalesce at the major league level.

    The Padres promoted No. 11 prospect Carlos Asuaje from Triple-A El Paso on Tuesday, and manager Andy Green said No. 9 prospect Dinelson Lamet will make his first career start on Thursday against the Mets.

    With Manuel Margot in center field and Hunter Renfroe in right, four of the Padres’ top 11 prospects entering this season are now on the big league roster with the moves.

    “It’s good to see young guys that you’ve played with before and come up with make it to the big leagues,” Renfroe said. “Obviously it’s a thrill to be here yourself. It’s a thrill to be playing with this many guys and to be in the same clubhouse as the guys you came up with. It’s fun.”

    The present is unpleasant for the Padres. The own baseball’s worst record at 16-30 as well as an MLB-worst minus-85 run differential, a performance in line for a team that was widely expected to be the majors’ worst this season.

    But there have been signs of promise. Margot leads all major league rookies in hits and has played a solid center field. Renfroe has rebounded from a brutal April to post an .832 OPS since May 2. Austin Hedges, a four-time Padres top 10 prospect now in his first full season, leads National League catchers with eight home runs.

    And now with Asuaje and Lamet coming up, the first wave of Padres prospects is getting settled in the big leagues.

    “The teams that get young talent at the major league level, there are growing pains. There are learning curves,” Green said. “Right now there is a learning curve (but) I like the intensity with which they’ve been attacking games here recently. I think they’ve been doing some really good things.”

    Lamet is particularly notable as the Padres’ top pitching prospect above high Class A. The 24-year-old righthander went 3-2, 3.23 with 50 strikeouts in 39 innings at Triple-A El Paso this year and marks the beginning of what the Padres hope will be a steady rise of live-armed pitchers through the organization.

    “It’s good stuff, it’s a live arm, it’s the kind of stuff that can shut an offense down,” Green said. “He’s a guy that’s had quality outing after quality outing at Triple-A with a ton of punchouts. We feel really good about how he’s throwing the ball and we felt like it was the right opportunity to give him a chance.”

    The Padres will, in all likelihood, take their lumps this season. But the steady drip of top prospects being added to the big league roster provides a glimpse of hope for the future.

    “It’s really great because now they’re realizing their dream the way I have,” Margot said through a translator. “They’re young guys but they deserve to be here. We all worked hard through the minor leagues together and to have everyone here is great.”



    Boys of Summer Seasonal Package

    Starting May 29th and running through July 31st, Elite Baseball is running a ten week, eight session seasonal package.  During those eight sessions, you can have the option of hitting or pitching at our Santa Ana facility or the cages at UCI.    If you are not currently signed up for any hitting or pitching lessons, this is a great package to work on your development for the summer.  The Boys of Summer package is one payment of $295 which is $37 a lesson.

    Our hitting sessions are run by professional instructors, and include video feedback with every session.  Hitting will take place at the Anteater Ballpark batting cages at UCI or at our Santa Ana facility.

    Our pitching sessions will take place at our Santa Ana facility, and  will include velocity and command throwing metrics, video feedback, and Motus Global pitching sleeve technology. 

    Email us at for more info: Sign up for the Boys of Summer package click here 

    With access to advanced metrics, hitters are digging in to go deep

    Steve Gardner , USA TODAY Sports Published 1:24 p.m. ET March 23, 2017 | Updated 2:55 p.m. ET April 2, 2017


    (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)


    The statistical revolution in Major League Baseball has yielded some significant breakthroughs in run prevention, most recently in the areas of defensive shifting and pitch framing.

    But no matter how the numbers are crunched, there’s no defense against a ball that leaves the field of play.

    As recently as 2014, scoring dropped to its lowest level in 33 years. But as pitchers have continued to throw harder and become more dominant, hitters have figured out the home run might be the one weapon they have that can help even the playing field.

    The last two seasons have seen scoring turn upward, and in 2016, the rate of 1.16 home runs per game was the second highest in baseball history (incrementally behind the 1.17 per game in 2000).

    Former manager Earl Weaver’s mantra of “pitching, defense and three-run homers” has never been a more effective strategy for winning games.

    Alongside the advancement of defensive statistics, hitters are using advanced statistics to maximize their ability to go deep. And if need be, they’re changing their approaches at the plate to do so.

    “The whole goal is to hit the ball hard,” says Baltimore Orioles DH Mark Trumbo, who led the majors last season with 47 home runs.

    “The defenses have changed … You want to hit it hard, but you also want to hit it high, too. I’m not saying sky-high pop-ups, but hitting the ball on the ground with the way teams are scouting players, it’s not terribly desirable.”

    With Trumbo leading the way, the Orioles led the majors in home runs. Their total of 253 was 28 more than the second-place Seattle Mariners.

    The surge in home runs has been a direct result of hitters no longer worrying as much about how many times they strike out. Even with two strikes, they’re taking their hacks. The Orioles’ Chris Davis tied for 11th place with 38 homers while at the same time leading the majors with 219 strikeouts.

    But when they do make contact, as Trumbo says, elevation is essential.

    Trumbo, Davis and Manny Machado combined for 122 home runs, more than any trio on any other team. And all three players had fly-ball rates of more than 42%, which put them among the top 25 in the majors.

    FLY BALL PERCENTAGE: 2016 MLB leaders (via Fangraphs)

    “There’s just a lot of good things that can happen when you hit it hard and you hit it in the air,” Trumbo says. “I think that’s something if you watch Manny, you watch (Josh) Donaldson, (Edwin) Encarnacion, all these guys that are doing a lot of damage, I doubt too many of them are hitting too many ground balls.”

    Sure enough, Encarnacion (42 homers, .528 slugging percentage) and Donaldson (37, .549) both had fly-ball rates of 41%, safely putting them inside the top 40 of 146 qualified hitters.

    “They have a nice ability to square balls up, find gaps and hit it over guys’ heads. At the end of the day, guys are doing a lot of damage, and that’s how they’re doing it,” Trumbo says.

    It’s all about physics

    All it takes is one listen to New York Yankees broadcaster John Sterling’s signature call to know what it takes to hit a home run. It is high … It is far … It is ... gone!

    Using high-definition cameras in every ballpark that record the movement of not only the ball but every player, MLB’s Statcast technology can now tell us how high and how hard a ball needs to be hit before it’s gone.

    Home runs are a product of two factors Statcast measures that are publicly available: Exit velocity and launch angle.

    Simply put, a ball has the best chance to become a homer if it’s hit at a certain minimum speed and at the optimal angle in the air. From there, it’s all physics.

    “I want to get the ball elevated, off the ground and try to hit gaps,” says Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy.

    In 2015, the first season Statcast results were collected from every major league game, the numbers confirmed some things most observers already knew: Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton hit the ball harder than anyone else in the game.

    The single hardest-hit ball in each of Statcast's two seasons of existence have come off the bat of Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton: 120.3 mph in 2015 and 123.9 in 2016. (Photo: Jesse Johnson, USA TODAY Sports)

    His average exit velocity (the speed of the ball off the bat) was 98.6 mph, nearly 4 mph greater than No. 2 Miguel Sano. Not surprisingly, Stanton’s average home run distance of 425 feet also ranked first.

    But now that Statcast is able to measure the second component, launch angle, we get a better idea of what it takes to maximize — as Trumbo says — the “damage.”

    Players are taking notice.

    “I won’t look at it for every ball I hit. But let’s say I’m going through a little bit of a slow time where my batting average or my numbers aren’t equaling what I’m doing, I’ll take a peek at that and just see if those are consistent,” Detroit Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez says. “If I see my launch angles are off, then it’s like, OK, there is something wrong.”

    Last season, Tom Tango, Senior Data Architect at MLB Advanced Media, came up with a new way to combine both elements.

    The stat — called “Barrels” to represent hitting the ball on the sweet spot, or barrel, of the bat — identifies balls hit with the optimal exit velocity (EV) and launch angle (LA) to produce a home run.

    Those numbers are an EV of 98 mph or greater and an LA of 26-30 degrees.

    One of the true measures of any stat is how well it explains what we see or think we see with our own eyes. In this case, the 2016 league leaders in Barrels reads like a who’s who of top sluggers.

    Barrels leaders, 2016

    1. Miguel Cabrera 72
    2. Nelson Cruz 68
    3. Mark Trumbo 67
    4. Khris Davis 65
    5. David Ortiz 62
    T6. Mike Trout 57
    T6. Evan Longoria 57
    8. Chris Carter 56
    9. Freddie Freeman 54
    T10. Chris Davis 53
    T10. Kris Bryant 53
    12. Edwin Encarnacion 52
    13. Josh Donaldson 51
    14. Matt Kemp 50
    T15. Mike Napoli
    T15. Justin Upton 48


    Obviously, not all of those barreled balls went for home runs. The metric doesn’t take into account, for instance, the direction the ball is hit, the impact of the weather, great defensive plays and other factors.

    However, according to, “During the 2016 regular season, balls assigned the Barreled classification had a batting average of .822 and a 2.386 slugging percentage.”

    That’s doing some serious damage.

    Taking the next step

    With a deeper understanding of the physics of hitting, some players are using the numbers to take their games to the next level.

    “When I was in New York, they were really big on exit velocity,” Murphy recalls. By working with hitting coach Kevin Long, teammate Lucas Duda was able to go from a 15-homer homer hitter in 2013 to 30 homers the following year.

    Murphy had been an excellent contact hitter throughout his major league career, but late in the 2015 season the work he was doing with Long began to yield dramatic results.

    After hitting 14 home runs in the regular season, Murphy exploded in the playoffs, hitting .421 with seven homers and being named the Most Valuable Player in the National League Championship Series as the Mets advanced to the World Series.

    He says it all comes down to one simple concept: “The harder you hit the ball, hopefully the more opportunity you have to create your own holes.”

    Murphy’s another graduate of baseball’s school of flight. His fly-ball rate has gone from 29% to 36% to a career-high 42% over the past three seasons.

    “For me, if I hit the ball really hard and the first thing it does is hit the ground, it’s going to eliminate some of that velocity, thus making it easier for the fielders to catch it,” Murphy says.

    His slugging percentage the past three seasons shows he’s succeeding: .403, then .449 and finally .595 last season, second in the majors behind only David Ortiz.

    “We’re trying to hit it as hard as we can and get it elevated over the infielders, and hopefully we can get it over the outfielders, too,” he says. “The numbers are bearing out what we’ve all been trying to do since we were kids, which is hit the ball as hard as we can.”


    Finding a security blanket

    Martinez had his own career transformation in 2014 after he was released by the Houston Astros. Needing to do something different to return to the majors, he completely overhauled his swing and caught the eye of the Detroit Tigers.

    He earned a promotion, continued to rake and never relinquished his starting job in the outfield thanks to his newfound power.

    Martinez hit 23 home runs in 123 games that season, then followed it up with a 38-homer, 102-RBI breakout in 2015.

    Although the stat hadn’t been created yet, Martinez barreled the ball more than any other player that season. His 76 were four more than runner-up Mike Trout.

    For him, the advanced stats can serve as a type of security blanket.

    “There was a point last year when I was hitting like .250, but I looked at my launch angles and my exit velo and it was good. It was fine. It was right where it normally is,” he says. “So it’s almost a sense of not to panic. It’s more of a comfort, the hits will come. Everything is in the right spot right now.”

    Injuries limited Martinez to 120 games and 22 home runs last year, but he posted the same .535 slugging percentage he had in his breakout 2015 season. Similarly, his total number of Barrels was down, but when averaged per plate appearance he was still among the top 15 in the majors.

    There is a danger in getting too reliant on the numbers, however.

    “It’s probably more useful in finding players that might help you than using it as a teaching tool,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus says. “You can’t go to a player and say, ‘Hey, your launch angle is a little bit high. Can you see if you get on top of the ball a little more?’ That’s not how hitting works.”

    But it does help if the stats add to an overall understanding of the game. Some major league teams prefer that their scouts not look at Statcast information and other advanced metrics because it could affect their evaluation of a player.

    The idea is to keep scouting separate from analytics until it’s time to weigh them all together. Other organizations want their scouts to have as much information as possible to make their evaluations.

    Again, it’s the best of both worlds when the numbers and the eye test say the same things.

    In addition to Martinez, the Tigers had two other hitters in the top 15 last season in Barrels per plate appearance. Being familiar with advanced metrics, one reporter asked Ausmus if that fact surprised him.

    “We’ve got one of the best hitters in the history of the game,” Ausmus responded in reference to perennial All-Star Miguel Cabrera.

    He thought for a brief moment.

    “I’d guess J.D. is one of ’em.”

    “(Justin) Upton is probably up there in exit velocity; launch angle I’m not so sure. Nick (Castellanos) maybe?”

    Sure enough, Cabrera was second overall — hitting the ball on the barrel in 10.6% of his plate appearances. Castellanos was 12th at 8.3% and Martinez 14th at 8.1%.

    “It’s great to throw out numbers and act like they’re important,” Ausmus says. “There’s gotta be a way to use them. Those numbers are more useful in putting a team together as opposed to coaching a player.”

    Fantasy implications

    Ah yes, putting a team together. Although their rosters change some from year to year, major league teams have a core group of players they have to build around.

    Fantasy owners, on the other hand, have much more freedom to pick and choose which players they want on their rosters.

    Could some of these Statcast numbers and advanced metrics help uncover hidden value? It’s possible.

    Last season’s leader in Barrels per plate appearance was Oakland Athletics outfielder Khris Davis, who finished just ahead of Cabrera, at 10.7%.

    Barrels/PA leaders, 2016

    1. Khris Davis            10.7%
    2. Miguel Cabrera        10.6%
    3. Gary Sanchez        10.5%
    4. Nelson Cruz        10.2%
    5. Mark Trumbo        10.0%
    6. David Ortiz            9.9%
    7. Byung Ho Park        9.4%
    8. Giancarlo Stanton        9.1%
    9. Ryan Howard        9.1%
    10. Chris Carter        8.7%
    11. Mike Trout        8.4%
    12. Nick Castellanos        8.3%
    13. Evan Longoria        8.3%
    14. J.D. Martinez        8.1%
    15. Trevor Story        8.0%
    16. Pedro Alvarez        8.0%
    17. Chris Davis        8.0%
    18. Rickie Weeks Jr.        7.8%
    19. Tommy Joseph        7.8%
    20. Freddie Freeman        7.8%


    Davis also ranked fourth in Exit Velocity on line drives and fly balls, an important element in finding gaps in the outfield. And according to Fangraphs, his 39.1% rate of hard-hit balls ranked 18th.

    HARD HIT PERCENTAGE: 2016 MLB leaders (via Fangraphs)

    Wondering if Gary Sanchez and Trevor Story were flukes in their abbreviated rookie seasons?

    Statcast says they hit the ball squarely on a consistent basis. Sanchez was especially good at generating a high exit velocity with his 97.8-mph average on line drives and fly balls, just behind the A’s Davis and tied with the Blue Jays’ Donaldson for fifth place.

    Story’s 95.1-mph EV wasn’t among the league leaders, but his 47.1% fly-ball rate was one of the highest in baseball. And his hard-hit percentage (44.9%) was right behind Ortiz’s MLB-best 45.9%.


    Another interesting name on the list is the Philadelphia Phillies’ Tommy Joseph, who will take over the job at first base full-time this season following the departure of Ryan Howard. He also had an elevated 45.1% fly-ball rate.

    And finally, Statcast mighty have uncovered a potential deep sleeper: Byung Ho Park of the Minnesota Twins. Although a hand injury limited him to 62 games and he hit only .191, Park did make remarkably solid contact when he did connect.

    In addition to ranking seventh in Barrels per plate appearance, he placed in the top 10 in exit velocity (97.2 mph) on line drives and fly balls.

    For all the excitement this spring over Eric Thames’ 47 and 40 home runs in Korea the past two seasons, it’s easy to forget Park hit 53 there in 2015 and 52 in 2014.

    Plus, Park is healthy and raking this spring, while Thames has been merely ordinary.

    While it’s possible to draw any number of conclusions from the information available today, it’s important to remember the numbers are much better at telling us what already has happened — and not always so helpful in telling us what’s going to happen.

    Hitters, as well as pitchers, are always making adjustments.

    “The cool part of the game is no one’s just accepting something anymore just because someone says it. There’s ways to make it valid, and there’s numbers out there to show it,” says Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock.

    “You can do your own homework now. You can make your own decisions based on what the stats are giving you and the numbers they’ve crunched. That part I really do enjoy — you’re your own coach now because of what’s out there.”

    4 career lessons Bill Belichick wants millennials to know (including his own kids)

    Suzy Welch

     Thursday, 13 Apr 2017 | 6:01 AM ET

    EXCLUSIVE: Bill Belichick on leadership, winning, and Tom Brady not being a 'great natural athlete'  



    Few careers are as storied as Bill Belichick's 42-year run.

    He started studying football footage and going on scouting trips at the age of 7 with his father, Steve, an assistant coach at Annapolis. He landed his first NFL coaching gig at 21.

    Since then, across seven professional teams and five Super Bowl victories, the New England Patriots head coach has gone through every career rite of passage imaginable — from being fired (in Cleveland) to being hailed as a hero (pretty much everywhere else).

    And while his story is hardly typical, its many twists and turns have left Belichick with strong views about how to create a successful professional journey — no matter your playing field.

    In a recent interview with CNBC at his favorite lunch (and dinner) joint, Mission BBQ, Belichick offered four of his top career lessons for today's young people.

    Patrick Smith | Getty Images

    1. Make sure your career is motivated by one thing and one thing only: Love

    "If there is something that's your passion when you're young, do it. Let everything else take care of itself," he says. "Don't pick a career for money, or some other reason. Do what you love, because it will never feel like work."

    Incidentally, all three of Belichick's millennial children, aged 25 through 31, are pursuing careers in coaching. Sons Stephen and Brian, are with the Pats, and his daughter, Amanda, is the women's lacrosse coach at Holy Cross.

    Watch the full interview: Bill Belichick on leadership, winning, and Tom Brady not being a 'great natural athlete'

    Belichick was noticeably unenthused when asked what he would have done for a career if football hadn't been an option. Business, he finally replied, without much conviction.

    But a bit later, speaking about the path he did take, his intensity revived. "What I love about football is the game," he says, "the speed, the contact, the strategy. That's all combined. It's a brilliant game."

    Elsa | Getty Images

    2. Recognize that a talent deficit can be overcome with hard work and self-awareness

    OK, so you chase your dream career and find out that, well, you're good, but not especially great, at it. Take heart, says Belichick, from the example of Tom Brady, who, to put it plainly, "is not a great natural athlete ... not even close."

    "But nobody's worked harder than Tom," Belichick says. "He's trained hard. He's worked hard on his throwing mechanics, on his mental understanding of the game. He's earned everything he's achieved."

    Success, in other words, even becoming an all-time great like Brady, "is not all about talent," says Belichick. "It's about dependability, consistency, being coachable, and understanding what you need to do to improve."

    See also: Bill Belichick plays word-association game with 'Deflategate,' 'Aaron Hernandez' and 'the media'

    He does add one caveat: If you happen to have a talent deficit, you can never let up in your quest to overcome it. Even with five Super Bowl rings, "Tom still continues to work hard to improve on a regular basis," Belichick says. "That's part of his self-awareness."

    Jeff Zelevansky | Getty Images

    3. Have the courage to fight for your crazy-great ideas

    Belichick will tell you that one of the defining moments of his career came when he was just 24 and an assistant coach for the 1-4 Detroit Lions. After studying and visualizing a particular formation over and over again, he was convinced it was unstoppable against the team's next opponent, the 4-1 New England Patriots.

    There was only one problem: It was an unconventional play, to put it mildly, and he worried that a new coach suggesting a new idea was destined for skepticism, if not worse.

    Long story short, Belichick meticulously made the case for the formation to the Lions' head coach — and the team went on to defeat the Pats by three touchdowns in a huge upset.

    See also: Bill Belichick reveals his 5 rules of exceptional leadership

    The lesson, Belichick says, is to get out there with your big ideas. Don't talk yourself out of them, or self-edit, or wait for another day, "just because somebody else hasn't done it, or just because it's not normal.

    "If you believe in it, don't be afraid to use it."

    Adam Glanzman | Getty Images

    4. Put away your social media, and put your energy into building real relationships

    He calls them "SnapFace" and "ChatRun" and "InstaBook" maybe as a joke, maybe not. Either way, you can be certain Belichick hates social media, and he says it's for a simple reason.

    Success, he believes, comes from relationships with people you know personally, not from strangers who "like" you online. In fact, he traces his own career achievements to the many coaches, football analysts, players, and others in his sport that he took the time to know authentically.

    Belichick is famous for having an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of football, and is said to know the game's X's and O's better than any coach who's ever lived. So it's a bit unexpected to hear him talk so ardently about the primacy of relationships.

    "In the end, success is more about who you know than what you know," he says. "Because everyone teaches you something. You listen to everyone, and bit by bit, you figure things out."

    Again, a caveat: Make sure, Belichick says, you're not just connecting with the people you think might help you, like the "top people and bosses." Rather, he says, "the people who are your peers, or, a lot of the time, the people who are under you, are really, I'd say, the more important relationships."

    As for his own career, the 64-year-old Belichick says he has no plans to retire anytime soon. Mention the word "legacy," and you get a look that suggests there are many more seasons ahead.

    "That's for another time," he says. "We're on to 2017."

    More from Suzy Welch

    ABCA Anaheim 2017 Recap

    There are two heavens on earth. One is in a ball field with corn stalks for the outfield fence on a little farm in Iowa. The other is the non-stop baseball event known as the ABCA Convention. Featuring unbelievable speakers and every product known to the sport it was four days of learning about every part of the game and seeing the newest tech and apparel out there. Upon leaving the conference it took a couple weeks to absorb all of the information and realize that no one knows everything, but there's a lot of coaches that know something about the game. If you're a player, parent or coach, you succeed in this game by continuing to learn and be a student of the game on and off the field. Below is the list of speakers that we were fortunate enough to hear speak, as well as some photos of the event.


    The 2017 ABCA Convention in Anaheim was a resounding success. The 73rd annual meeting included 25 clinics listed below as well as the two special presentations by Diamond Kinetics and Turface Athletics. The ABCA clinics are presented by ATEC.

    The videos from the 2017 clinics are available at

    2017 ABCA Convention Clinic Speakers - Anaheim

    Friday, Jan. 6, 2017  

    Gary Gilmore, national champ Coastal CarolinaLiving the Dream

    Casey Dunn, SamfordProgression Drills for Power: Building an Aggressive Approach

    Marty Lees, Washington StateDouble Plays, Feeds & Turns

    Wes Johnson, ArkansasBuilding the Foundation of Your Pitching Staff

    Glenn Cecchini, Barbe High School (LA)Building Champions in Life Through Baseball

    Jay Johnson, ArizonaDeveloping a Complete Offense and Hitting Approach

    Tanner Swanson, WashingtonMindful Drill Progressions for Effective Catcher Skill Development

    Mike Barwis, New York MetsA Holistic Approach to Baseball Strength & Conditioning

    Andy Green, San Diego PadresManaging Baseball

    Jerry Weinstein, Wareham GatemenA System for Controlling the Running Game

    Mervyl Melendez, Florida InternationalBuilding a Successful Baseball Program

    Jake Boss, Michigan StateWinning With Consistent Outfield Play

    Motion Technology Session with Diamond Kinetics 

    Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017  

    Jim Schlossnagle, TCUBuilding a Winning Program

    Todd Gongwer, Author/CoachThe Pursuit of your BEST in Leadership

    Steve Springer, Quality At BatsHow to Get Your Players to Compete with Confidence When They're Not Getting Hits

    Mike Roberts, Chicago Cubs/Cotuit KettleersSprinting and Base Stealing: Turning the Diamond into a Track and Rhythmic Footwork into Stolen Bases

    Scott Manahan, Bishop Watterson H.S. (OH)Indoor Preparation for the High School Season

    Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt
    Paul Mainieri, LSU
    John Savage, UCLAChampionship Coaching Panel

    Dan Sheaffer, Princeton RaysThe Art of First Base Play

    Nate Trosky, Trosky BaseballMaking Plays!

    Dennis Rogers, Riverside City College
    Eddie Cornejo, UC Santa Barbara
    Rolando Garza, Pepperdine
    Youngjin Yoon, Lotte Giants (Korea)Teaching/Coaching Dynamics and Specific Skill Set Development

    Groundskeeper Session with Turface Athletics featuring Greg Elliott (San Francisco Giants)

    Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017  

    Greg Moore, Cal State NorthridgePitching Mechanic-Less

    Rusty Stroupe, Gardner-WebbCharacter and Ethics in the Sport of Baseball

    Mike Curran, Esperanza High School (CA)Offensive Baseball – Stealing Runs

    Matt Husted, Wheaton College (IL)

    It's Your Arm!

    As we are in the middle of the off-season I wanted to share some insight from Driveline Baseball on rest and suggestions for year round baseball activity. Since we live in a place that gives us access to 365 days of throwing outside it can be a huge advantage if you have a throwing plan, but can also lead to arm stress and potential injury. Driveline, who partners with Jaeger Sports, does not suggest to continue to throw year-round off of a mound and just started max-intent pull-downs with their professional clients this week. It is important to have a schedule on when to rest and when to throw and as Alan Jaeger says, "Listen to your arm."

    I highly suggest that pitchers who threw a lot in the fall should take a few weeks to recover and stay off of a mound. However, that leaves plenty of time for Plyocare balls, Jaeger bands, and other drills and workouts to prepare for the spring. Elite's Off-Season Training Program Phase II will offer an On-Ramp throwing program in January to help pitchers get their arms in shape after resting and educate on the best practices to keep the arm healthy during the season. We know that overuse of young pitchers contributes to injury, so make sure that you are monitoring your own throwing on and off the mound throughout the year.

    After all, it's your arm!

    Below is an excerpt from Driveline's, "Hacking the Kinetic Chain":

    Yearly Suggestions: The 10,000 Foot View
    A yearly outlook on training may be a grander scale than you are used to. As you climb the ladder of baseball, it becomes more and more important to see the road far ahead of you. There’s generally no problem with a short-term outlook when you’re throwing 75 MPH and you’re on the bench in high school, but professional pitchers who have a more stable level of ability must start thinking about the next off-season’s training plan well before it arrives. Much of this is centered around rest or time away from training.
    Rest is an interesting subject that has incredible complexity to it. Many leading medical organizations and baseball training industry figure heads have blanket recommendations for how much time to spend away from throwing a baseball, yet few – if any – of these recommendations are based on actual physiological research; rather, the research is culled from longitudinal surveys with little control for external variables. The rest guidelines are not based on data collected about anatomical variations, training loads, or physical adaptations, but rather well-intentioned but naïve assumptions about stress.
    Make no mistake – the professional pitcher who starts in February and pitches 200+ innings through October needs significant time away from throwing a baseball. He is near the top of his game, has little to gain by adding increased stress, and likely needs to attenuate considerable accumulated central nervous system fatigue. However, giving the same recommendation to an uncommitted high school pitcher entering his senior year is ridiculous – he probably only threw 40-60 innings, he does not throw nearly as hard, he has a lot to lose if he steps away from throwing for 2-3 months, and he is nearing the end of his career without drastic change. This is often referred to as a “risk-reward” tradeoff, but even this particular negative label is overly simplified.

    Driveline Baseball’s Year-Round Suggestions
    We adhere to very few hard and fast rules, but there is one major thing that should be avoided – pitching year-round, whether it is competitive or just throwing bullpens throughout the entire off-season. Pitchers who live in warm weather climates will often be pressured to throw for the high school, summer team, fall ball, winter showcases, and then prep for the next year’s high school season while toeing the mound the entire time. Too much stress accumulates on this schedule while throwing off of a slope. Research is mixed on whether or not a sloped surface adds additional stress to the soft tissue of the arm. We believe it does and the fact of the matter is that gains are hard to come by if you can’t take extended time away from competition. Without the opportunity to ignore pitchability and required to focus on the skill of pitching, getting better as a pure thrower and building physical ability becomes nearly impossible.
    Placing additional focus on recovery protocols is extremely important as you become a better pitcher. As you build velocity, you require higher amounts of training to produce supercompensation so you can throw harder, throw more strikes, and increase your breaking ball spin rates. However, this higher amount of stress then also demands that recovery protocols become more and more relevant. It is very common to see a pitcher who has never had arm pain start to build velocity and assume that what he did in the past will continue to keep him healthy. What professional pitchers eventually learn is that higher output training, while exciting, isn’t the end-all be-all of training. A lot of the work is “boring” active and passive recovery to ensure that every time the pitcher toes the rubber, he has close to 100% of his best stuff – and that when he is ready to train hard, that he can do so free from injury for months on end.
    As Mark Twight, owner of Gym Jones and famous for training the athletes from “300” and “300: Rise of an Empire”, has said himself: “Recovery is more than 50% of the process.”

    Hedges emerges as Padres' catcher

    By Bill Center / San Diego Padres |

    Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

    The Padres' future at catching became much clearer last week.

    Austin Hedges is the man.

    Not only did the Padres trade last year's starter, Derek Norris, to the Washington Nationals for prized Minor League pitching prospect Pedro Avila, they non-tendered reserve catcher Hector Sanchez.

    The 24-year-old Hedges is the Padres' catcher, although he has yet to prove he can hit Major League pitching. And the No. 2 is Christian Bethancourt, whom the Padres are grooming to be a hybrid catcher-pitcher-outfielder.

    They could add another backup catcher this offseason. That would allow them to make an even stronger commitment to developing Bethancourt for his unique role. The Padres could carry three -- or 2 1/3 - catchers in 2017.

    But it is clear that Hedges, who has coveted skills behind the plate, is the Padres' catcher moving forward.

    The presence of Hedges at Triple-A El Paso last season made catching one of the strongest positions in the Padres' system. But his promotion to the Major League job changes that part of the equation.

    Austin Allen is the only catcher ranked among the Padres' top 30 prospects and he will likely start this season at Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore. Rocky Gale is the only other catcher currently in the system with Major League experience -- and that is limited to 11 cameo appearances in 2015.

    So, Hedges is the man.

    When it comes to the handling of pitchers and the ability to throw out runners, there is no question that the Padres' second-round pick in the 2011 Draft can do the job. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Hedges has great defensive skills.

    That was very apparent in 2015 when then 22-year-old Hedges caught in about a third of the Padres games. Pitchers, notably Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy, raved about Hedges' skills behind the plate.

    Hedges threw out 16 runners on 49 stolen-base attempts. His catcher's earned run average of 3.85 was the third-best mark among Major League rookie catchers with 300 innings or more behind the plate. It was also the third-best mark ever by a Padres rookie catcher.

    But Hedges hit only .168 in 137 Major League at-bats in 2015 with three homers and 11 RBIs. Hedges hit only .125 in 24 late-season at-bats last year -- lowering his Major League average to .161 in 161 at-bats with the Padres.

    Defense is not an issue with Hedges and never has been. Even as a high school player in 2011 in San Juan Capistrano, some scouts said his defensive skills were close to being Major League ready. Hedges will do the job behind the plate.

    The question remains offense, although he hit .326 with 28 doubles, a triple, 23 homers and 97 RBIs in just 384 at-bats with Triple-A El Paso over the 2015-2016 seasons. He also had a .361 on-base percentage and a .583 slugging percentage for a .944 OPS as a Chihuahua.

    So Hedges will get a chance to show what he can do both offensively and defensively as a Padre in 2017 as a 24-year-old -- still the age when most players are reaching the Major Leagues.

    Behind the plate as a catcher, Hedges is superior to Norris. Offensively, well, Norris hit only .186 last season with 14 homers and 42 RBIs.

    However, catchers are more susceptible to injuries than many players. Hedges, for example, missed more than a month at El Paso last season after having surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone in his right hand.

    Bethancourt, 25, looked to be developing into a solid backup last year. But the Padres are now looking at the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder as a pitcher and outfielder as well as a catcher. Bethancourt has power. He hit six homers with 25 RBIs in just 193 at-bats last year. But his role for 2017 is undefined as the Padres investigate the "hybrid" possibilities.

    So the need for a third catcher is real. Right now, there isn't a third catcher on the 40-man roster.

    Prospects: The best catching prospect in the Padres system becomes the 22-year-old Allen, the Padres' fourth-round pick in the 2015 Draft out of Florida Tech. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound, left-handed hitter is ranked the Padres' 25th-best prospect by He hit .320 with 22 doubles, seven homers and 61 RBIs for Class A Fort Wayne in 2016 before finishing the season with Double-A San Antonio. He was a Midwest League regular-season and postseason All-Star. Could he jump Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore and start the season in San Antonio? Possibly, because there are not a lot of other options above him.

    Gale, 28, is the only other catcher with Major League experience in the Padres system and hit .278 at El Paso with Hedges last year as well as splitting time with Ryan Miller at San Antonio. A.J. Kennedy shared the catching duties at Lake Elsinore last season with Jose Ruiz, who has since transitioned into a pitcher.

    Deeper in the system are some interesting youngsters.

    Sixteen-year-old Venezuelan Alison Quintero was considered the No. 22 prospect in all of Latin America when he signed with the Padres last July. Another Venezuelan is 18-year-old Jose Lezama, who hit .259 with a .373 on-base percentage last summer for the Rookie-level Arizona Padres. Mexico native Bryant Aragon, 18, hit .243 while moving from the Dominican Republic to the Arizona League last summer. Chris Mattison, 22, hit only .162 for Class A Short-Season Tri-City last summer after being a 16th-round pick out of Florida's Southeastern University.

    Overview: Defensively, the Padres are set with Hedges behind the plate. Offense is still a big question, although the pressure to perform won't be great, as Padres catchers hit .198 in 2016 with a .253 on-base percentage and a .602 OPS. A third catcher could still be added to the mix, especially if Bethancourt is developed into a hybrid catcher-pitcher-outfielder.

    ABCA Barnstorming Event - Cal St Fullerton

    The last stop on the ABCA Barnstorming tour was at Cal St Fullerton this past Sunday and it was better than I expected and I went it looking to learn a lot. Held inside the hitting facility down the RF line we listened to seven speakers ranging from practice organization and having fun to simplifying drills and focusing on mental practice with your team. Overall it was a great day to learn more about the game and how to be a better coach. We'll be attending the 2017 ABCA Convention in Anaheim from January 5-8 to listen to clinicians and speakers all across the board in professional and amateur baseball. I wanted to recap and share some highlights from each speaker and post some photos of the notes they passed out and what I gathered from their talks. Below is a summary of the day: Rick Vanderhook | Cal St Fullerton Head Coach - Catch play is all about defense - it is the move overlooked part of practice. Warmup to throw, not throw to warmup. - Everything is routine oriented. Once players know where and what they do then they need to "DO what they are supposed to do" - Infields need to line themselves up. You won't be able to hear "left or right" in a big game. - Infield fungo should be 90 seconds each drill then switch. infielders need to learn to throw from different angles. - alignment and cuts is a relay race. outfielders need to take care of the ball. fullerton won 2 college world series because of dropped balls before a throw back into the cutoff man! - college freshman need two above average pitches for a strike - a fastball and a change up. - high school catcher's don't throw 1.7 to second base. mlb average last year was 1.92 for 2016. catchers need to throw a 2.0 to second and let pitchers handle keeping them close. Dan Keller | Lifeletics and Dugout Captain - When doing drills follow these steps: 1. Discuss 2. Give example 3. Repetition 4. competition 5. have fun - know why you coach or why you play. almost all players will not be in the mlb so they need to learn life skills. Scott Picker | Former Cypress College Head Coach - ask players for feedback. ask players to give a starting lineup offensively and defensively. - his personal philosophy is never play double play depth unless it ends an inning with risp. allow more range for middle iNF. Blake Hawksworth | Cal St Fullerton Assistant Coach - goal: 2 strikes out of first 3 pitches. - keep the routine. pace of catch play is deliberate. Don Sneddon | Santa Ana College Head Coach - simplify everything. players must trust the coach and trust the drill. - have a minimum play level. a standard of play. when it's early or the team is down they need to go up to that level. when there is too much adrenaline in a big game they need to go back down to that level. - find a way to get ready to play every day. physically and mentally. - know how to fail .body image is huge! control your body. - players must have confidence in 1&3, Bunt D, Alignment. Alan Jaeger | Jaeger Sports - breathing and moving creates energy. - impact the person, not just the athlete. - you become what you practice. practice to get into the zone. - the zone is: non future/past, pure immersion, empty and quiet, opposite of life - 2 parts to the mental game: 1. Game management 2. mental practice - identify your process and be great at it. everything else is secondary. everything else is drama. - drama is endless. the zone is confined and knowable. figure out what needs to happen to execute successfully. - if overthinking or stressing out - you are not in the zone. the zone does not allow drama. - athletes need to be able to default to their process to get into the zone.

    The last stop on the ABCA Barnstorming tour was at Cal St Fullerton this past Sunday and it was better than I expected and I went it looking to learn a lot. Held inside the hitting facility down the RF line we listened to seven speakers ranging from practice organization and having fun to simplifying drills and focusing on mental practice with your team. Overall it was a great day to learn more about the game and how to be a better coach. We'll be attending the 2017 ABCA Convention in Anaheim from January 5-8 to listen to clinicians and speakers all across the board in professional and amateur baseball.

    I wanted to recap and share some highlights from each speaker and post some photos of the notes they passed out and what I gathered from their talks. Below is a summary of the day:

    Rick Vanderhook | Cal St Fullerton Head Coach

    - Catch play is all about defense - it is the move overlooked part of practice. Warmup to throw, not throw to warmup.

    - Everything is routine oriented. Once players know where and what they do then they need to "DO what they are supposed to do"

    - Infields need to line themselves up. You won't be able to hear "left or right" in a big game.

    - Infield fungo should be 90 seconds each drill then switch. infielders need to learn to throw from different angles.

    - alignment and cuts is a relay race. outfielders need to take care of the ball. fullerton won 2 college world series because of dropped balls before a throw back into the cutoff man!

    - college freshman need two above average pitches for a strike - a fastball and a change up.

    - high school catcher's don't throw 1.7 to second base. mlb average last year was 1.92 for 2016. catchers need to throw a 2.0 to second and let pitchers handle keeping them close.

    Dan Keller | Lifeletics and Dugout Captain

    - When doing drills follow these steps: 1. Discuss 2. Give example 3. Repetition 4. competition 5. have fun

    - know why you coach or why you play. almost all players will not be in the mlb so they need to learn life skills.

    Scott Picker | Former Cypress College Head Coach

    - ask players for feedback. ask players to give a starting lineup offensively and defensively.

    - his personal philosophy is never play double play depth unless it ends an inning with risp. allow more range for middle iNF.

    Blake Hawksworth | Cal St Fullerton Assistant Coach

    - goal: 2 strikes out of first 3 pitches.

    - keep the routine. pace of catch play is deliberate.

    Don Sneddon | Santa Ana College Head Coach

    - simplify everything. players must trust the coach and trust the drill.

    - have a minimum play level. a standard of play. when it's early or the team is down they need to go up to that level. when there is too much adrenaline in a big game they need to go back down to that level.

    - find a way to get ready to play every day. physically and mentally.

    - know how to fail .body image is huge! control your body.

    - players must have confidence in 1&3, Bunt D, Alignment.

    Alan Jaeger | Jaeger Sports

    - breathing and moving creates energy.

    - impact the person, not just the athlete.

    - you become what you practice. practice to get into the zone.

    - the zone is: non future/past, pure immersion, empty and quiet, opposite of life

    - 2 parts to the mental game: 1. Game management 2. mental practice

    - identify your process and be great at it. everything else is secondary. everything else is drama.

    - drama is endless. the zone is confined and knowable. figure out what needs to happen to execute successfully.

    - if overthinking or stressing out - you are not in the zone. the zone does not allow drama.

    - athletes need to be able to default to their process to get into the zone.


    - Coach Reinsel

    Cubs End 108-Year Wait for World Series Title, After a Little More Torment

    CLEVELAND — If you are going to endure years — no, generations — of futility and heartbreak, when you do finally win a World Series championship, it may as well be a memorable one.

    The Chicago Cubs did just that, shattering their 108-year championship drought in epic fashion: with an 8-7, 10-inning victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 7, which began on Wednesday night, carried into Thursday morning and seemed to end all too soon.

    When the Indians rallied with three runs in the eighth inning — including a two-out, two-strike, two-run thunderbolt of a home run by Rajai Davis off closer Aroldis Chapman — the Cubs found a way to beat back the ghosts of playoffs past.

    After a brief rain delay following the ninth inning, they pushed two runs across in the 10th inning on a double by Ben Zobrist, the Series’s most valuable player, and a single by Miguel Montero.

    The Cubs then had to hold their breath in the bottom of the inning when Davis hit a run-scoring single to pull the Indians to a run behind. But reliever Mike Montgomery replaced Carl Edwards and got Michael Martinez to hit a slow roller into the infield. Third baseman Kris Bryant scooped it up and threw across to first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

    As the ball made its flight across the diamond, the stadium went silent for one of only a few times all night — and only until it settled into Rizzo’s glove. Then the huge contingent of Cubs fans erupted, and the players raced to the middle of the infield to celebrate.

    “We’re world champions,” Rizzo said in the alcohol-soaked visitors’ clubhouse after he had taken a break from embracing the actor Bill Murray. “The Chicago Cubs are world champions. Let that sink in.”

    Thousands of fans lingered for nearly an hour after the game, moving into the field level of the stadium, waving the ubiquitous W flags, singing the victory anthem “Go Cubs Go” and roaring when Rizzo held up the ball he had caught for the final out.

    One fan held a sign: “Now I can die in peace.”

    That sleep will no longer be tortured by old memories — of collapses in 1969, 1984 and 2003, and talk of curses of black cats, billy goats and Steve Bartman, the fan who infamously interfered with a foul ball in the playoffs.

    “If you want to believe in that kind of stuff, it’s going to hold you back for a long time,” Cubs Manager Joe Maddon said. “I love tradition. I think tradition is worth time mentally, and tradition is worth being upheld. But curses and superstitions are not.”

    On Wednesday night, the Cubs did not so much beat the Indians as survive them.

    The heart-stopping end to the series — and the 108-year wait — carried with it an additional historical perk. The Cubs became the first team to rally from a three-games-to-one Series deficit since Kansas City did so in 1985 and the first to do it on the road since Pittsburgh in 1979.

    Meanwhile, in this matchup of long-suffering franchises, the Indians’ suffering will carry on longer. They have not won since 1948 — and the excruciating way in which they suffered the defeat, with three consecutive losses — will take its place atop a list that until now was topped by the 1997 World Series, in which the Indians lost a ninth-inning lead, and eventually the Series, to Florida.

    When the Indians retreated to their clubhouse during the rain delay, lockers were covered in plastic and Champagne was made ready.

    “It’s going to hurt,” said Indians Manager Terry Francona, who called it an incredible game. “It hurts because we care, but they need to walk with their head held high because they left nothing on the field. And that’s all the things we ever ask them to do. They tried until there was nothing left.”

    The Indians had overcome all season — the 24th-highest payroll in baseball was dented by injuries to outfielder Michael Brantley and pitchers Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco and the loss of two players to drug suspensions — and they fought uphill all night, never taking the lead on Wednesday.

    To win, the Cubs beat two of the most dominant pitchers in this postseason — the Indians’ ace, Corey Kluber, and their versatile reliever Andrew Miller — who gave up more runs on Wednesday than they had allowed in the entire postseason. They then had to bounce back after Davis’s home run.

    The roller coaster of a game took place in an unusually neutral environment, with so many of the Cubs’ passionate and well-heeled fans finding their way into the stadium. The crowd of 38,104 was evenly split, and the two groups of fans spent the evening alternating full-throated roars, robbing the environment of any lulls. Not even the 17-minute rain delay affected their spirits.

    They were the latest to witness the Cubs, who won 103 games in the regular season — the most in baseball — showing their mettle during the playoffs.

    They rallied from four runs down in the ninth inning to eliminate San Francisco, which had won 10 consecutive elimination games. After being shut out for 21 consecutive innings by Los Angeles in the National League Championship Series, they rebounded to win three in a row — beating Clayton Kershaw in the clincher.

    When the Cubs went to Wrigley Field on Sunday knowing they would have to win three in a row, Rizzo lightened the mood. He arranged for the “Rocky” movies to be played on all of the televisions in the clubhouse and then shadowboxed around the room while half dressed.

    Rizzo’s message: The Series was going the distance.

    “It was like a heavyweight fight, man,” Zobrist said. “Just blow for blow, everybody playing their heart out. The Indians never gave up, either, and I can’t believe we’re finally standing, after 108 years, finally able to hoist the trophy.”

    When the rain delay took effect after the ninth inning, Jason Heyward convened a player meeting in the weight room. He reminded everyone to forget about what had transpired and said that they would find a way to win.

    “Everyone was fired up, and I didn’t expect that,” Montgomery said. “I expected everyone to be frustrated, down on themselves, down on the team. We just blew a three-run lead in the eighth inning with two outs. The next thing I know, everyone’s like, ‘We got this.’”

    When the tarp was removed from the field, Kyle Schwarber began the 10th with a single to right off reliever Bryan Shaw, and Albert Almora pinch-ran for him. Bryant, who had homered in the previous two games, drove a ball deep to center that Davis caught on the warning track. It was far enough to allow Almora to tag up and take second. Shaw then walked Rizzo intentionally.

    Zobrist sliced a two-strike pitch for a double into the left-field corner, scoring Almora and sending Rizzo to third, and the usually composed Zobrist pumped his fists wildly and screamed as he arrived at second base ahead of the throw.

    After Addison Russell was intentionally walked, Montero followed with a single that brought home Rizzo. The runs took Chapman — who had gotten the final eight outs and thrown 42 pitches on Sunday to keep the Cubs alive — off the hook.

    When he replaced Jon Lester in the eighth, with a runner at first and two outs, it was quickly apparent that he was spent. He allowed a run-scoring double to Brandon Guyer before Davis hit his two-run homer. The lead that the Cubs had built largely on the legs of home runs by Dexter Fowler, Baez and David Ross — the 39-year-old catcher who had said he would retire after the game — was gone.

    The drama, however, was not.

    By BILLY WITZNOV. 3, 2016