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May 20, 2013 5:00 am

Prospectus Q&A: The College of Coaches on Catcher Framing

0

Ben Lindbergh

Catching instructors and coordinators comment on the importance of receiving skills.

While working on a feature on catcher framing for Grantland, I spoke to many catching instructors and coordinators about what makes a good receiver, what receiving skills are worth, and to what extent they can be improved. Many of their most interesting insights didn't make it into that story, so I've collected them here.

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November 28, 2012 5:00 am

Sobsequy: How to Think Like a Major-League Manager

7

Adam Sobsey

You might recognize the way winning managers think: it's the way we think sometimes, too.

I’ve got a power pitcher who can’t throw enough strikes because his mechanics are unrepeatable and I doubt he’ll ever be able to fix them. I have a DH with prodigious power but chronic and severe plantar fasciitis, so I can’t really use him in the outfield at all, which I had planned to do a few dozen times because I’ve got two guys out there who can’t hit righties. Now I’ve got to hope that they manage to hit them anyway, and also that they don’t break down under a 150-plus-game load since I can’t use my DH to spell them.

We’ve got what appears to be a viable second baseman just up from Triple-A, but you never know how kids will adapt and adjust up here. My solid no. 2 gap hitter has a great compact swing, never gets hurt, and shows up to play every day—but doesn’t get on base enough to take advantage of his speed (and isn’t a good bunter). My no. 1 starter is a superb control artist who’s finicky and will get surly if left alone during practice, which affects his performance. The season gets underway in three days and I still don’t know whether my slow-starting center- and left fielders will be ready for big-league action. They’re just skipping to their lou through spring training. The front office is supposed to be acquiring a lefty groundball specialist for me to use situationally, but I haven’t heard from the GM whether that deal has been green-lighted by ownership, and in any case we’re not even sure if his current club even wants to deal him.

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A testament to the importance of professional coaching from a player who's experienced it first hand.

Most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.

C.J. Nitkowski has played baseball professionally for 19 years. A former no. 1 (ninth overall) draft pick out of St. John's University (NY) in 1994, he spent parts of 10 seasons in the major leagues with eight different clubs. In 2012 he played in the New York Mets’ minor-league system, where he was attempting to make a comeback as a left-handed sidearm pitcher. C.J. has also played in Japan and South Korea. He has been running his own website, CJBaseball.com, since 1997, and you can follow him on Twitter @CJNitkowskiRecently he played the role of Dutch Leonard in the movie 42, a major motion picture starring Harrison Ford and depicting Jackie Robinson's rookie season. The film is set to be released April 13th, 2013.

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Ben and Sam answer listener emails about the importance of coaches, defensive stats, and how we know whether pitchers should gain or lose weight, with guest appearances by Colin Wyers and Doug Thorburn.

Ben and Sam answer listener emails about the importance of coaches, defensive stats, and how we know whether pitchers should gain or lose weight, with guest appearances by Colin Wyers and Doug Thorburn.

Episode 78: "Quantifying Coaches/Why Some Fielders Look Better Than They Are/How Do We Know What Pitchers Should Weigh?"

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An expert on biomechanics and a team source talk about their approaches to evaluating and managing pitcher workloads.

For today's article on impervious and not-so-impervious pitchers, I got my David Laurila on, speaking to Glenn Fleisig of the American Sports Medicine Institute—whose name is almost always followed by the phrase, "the world's foremost authority on biomechanics"—and to a scouting executive from a major-league club (affectionately and frequently referred to in the article as "the executive"). Both had a lot to say, and not everything they said fit into the article. One of the things I failed to fit in was their extended perspectives on pitcher workloads and the efficacy of innings limits, so I'm rectifying that by posting both takes here. Dr. Fleisig comes first, followed by the team official.

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Why the next big step for baseball teams might not be learning something new, but making better use of the information they already have.

“The management and analysis of data, whether it be scouting reports, statistics, medical information or video, is a critical component of our operation. We look forward to developing a customized program that utilizes the most advanced and efficient technology available in the marketplace today to facilitate quicker, easier and more accurate access to all the sources of information we use to make baseball decisions.”—Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, January 2012

“[Statistical analysis] helps but doesn’t tell the whole story of the game. There is a lot of gut feeling you got to make. If you have a stat and see a flashing number and you see that this guy is doing very good against this other guy, you can use that in a game during a key situation. Yes. But we cannot just depend on stats alone. You got to depend on many other things… I don’t like to become a fantasy manager. The goal for a good manager is to have players who are able to manage themselves on the field.”—Unsuccessful Cubs managerial candidate Sandy Alomar Jr., November 2011

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October 28, 2010 8:00 am

Overthinking It: Ex-Pitching Coach Managers

9

Ben Lindbergh

Few pitching coaches ever get the opportunity to become major-league skippers.

The Blue Jays unquestionably chose wisely when they named Jay Jaffe GM, but the jury remains out on their signing of Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell to a three-year managerial contract. That’s not to say that Farrell doesn’t seem qualified; on the contrary, the newly minted manager’s resume makes for an impressive read. Farrell spent all or part of eight seasons pitching in the majors—giving him the apparently all-important cultural acclimation to major-league clubhouses that other first-time managers have lacked—before serving as the Indians’ player development director for five years, an experience which, at least in theory, should have imparted the rapport with rookies and appreciation for the bigger picture that some field generals lack.

More recently, he returned to the dugout, earning his first—but, his new employers hope, not his last—World Series ring in his inaugural season as Boston’s pitching coach. In three subsequent seasons spent in that capacity, he presided over the development of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, which made him an attractive candidate to oversee Toronto’s talented young rotation. In addition to his work experience, Farrell is well regarded on a personal level throughout the game, and considered media-savvy (a quality that should serve him well in the, um, bustling Canadian baseball media market), which earned him some serious buzz as a managerial candidate well before the Blue Jays’ extended hiring process got underway.

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An in-depth discussion about mechanics with the motion analysis coordinator and coach of the National Pitching Association.

Pitching is both an art and a science, and from youth leagues to the big leagues, so is the challenge of keeping pitchers healthy. The National Pitching Association (NPA) is on the cutting edge of research and instruction on all three fronts, and many of their concepts are shared in their forthcoming book, Arm Action, Arm Path, and the Perfect Pitch: a Science-Based Guide to Pitching Health and Performance. David talked to the NPA's motion analysis coordinator and coach, Doug Thorburn.

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January 9, 2008 12:00 am

Wait 'Til Next Year: Expanding the Base

0

Bryan Smith

College baseball's growth and popularity are trending upwards, but more needs to be done.

The talent level in college baseball is increasing, but yesterday, I promised a coach that I would not credit Moneyball for helping. I promised not to be that dense. But, if nothing else, Michael Lewis' book raised awareness of the uptick in attention that college baseball players have gained in the last decade. In my pre-2007 draft survey of scouting directors last season, 19 of the 28 scouting directors profiled had a history of drafting more college players in the first five rounds. Fourteen of them were pronounced histories-men with at least a 20 percent difference between drafting collegiate and prep players.

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September 24, 2004 12:00 am

Prospectus Q&A: Tom House, Part II

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Jonah Keri

Baseball Prospectus: You've worked with some interesting characters over the years. What lessons did you learn from Bobby Valentine when you worked with him in Texas? Tom House: He's a perfectionist. He helped me create a preparation base as a pitching coach. One time I'd planned the rotation out to a certain day. He'd say that's not enough, tell me out to this day; five presentations later he finally gave it his stamp of approval. It was never enough, he was never just satisfied with what he had. His search for perfection and a better way to do things are second to none. He made me a better pitching coach.

Baseball Prospectus: You've worked with some interesting characters over the years. What lessons did you learn from Bobby Valentine when you worked with him in Texas?

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September 21, 2004 12:00 am

Prospectus Q&A: Tom House, Part I

0

Jonah Keri

A former major league pitcher who gained a boost of fame by catching Hank Aaron's 715th home run ball, Tom House is now a performance analyst and co-owner of the National Pitching Association in San Diego. Under House's stewardship, NPA has produced graduates such as Barry Zito, Mark Prior and Cole Hamels. Its advisory board includes such luminaries as Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan, as well as medical experts such as Dr. Lewis Yocum and Dr. James Andrews. NPA counts about 125 graduates currently pitching in professional baseball, about three times that number in major U.S. colleges. House recently chatted with Baseball Prospectus about the huge advances in sports medicine and technology in the last two decades, the best pitching coaches in the game today, and more.

Baseball Prospectus: For those not familiar with the National Pitching Association, what does the organization do to help pitchers?

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