What Makes Pitchers Great

Mariano Rivera

 What made Mariano Rivera great? Major League Baseball teams have an abundance of pitchers that throw 95 to 100 mph. What separated him was his command, movement and mental toughness in game situations.

Rivera had great command of a rising fastball when he first came to the big leagues and later developed the pitch he is known for—the cut fast ball—when hitters starting laying off the riser because it was rising out off the strike zone. The brilliance of Rivera and Greg Maddux, for example, is that they knew when the ball left their hand exactly how much the ball would break. This ability is obviously superior command and makes pitching to hitters' weaknesses easier. Most pitchers HOPE that happens, Rivera and Maddux almost always knew.

Movement takes hitters down a lot easier than speed. Listening to most big league hitters, they can catch up to any pitcher's fastball. But they hate to see late action, such as a jump or hop in the ball that makes it rise, diving sinkers, Rivera's late-breaking cutter or Maddux's comeback fastball. The hitters are at pitchers' mercy when they throw those types of pitches and they know that!

Lastly, maintaining poise and mental toughness in crucial situations. All the great pitchers have those attributes, but we have seen pitchers with better stuff than Rivera and Maddux fail because they can't handle the in-game pressure or their mechanics are not game sound, which means they rely on power without technique.

Rivera and Maddux had great and simple mechanics which allowed them to repeat their deliveries and concentrate on getting hitters out without worrying about mechanics.


A Shift to Public Speaking, Part 2

Yesterday we posted that we are moving in a new direction to public speaking. Two questions you might be asking are: "Why?" and "Why hire us?" The answers are interrelated. Though I'm not an ex-president, a hero, a religious cult figure, a sports icon, or a self-promoting windbag, we have a message that we want to share. And we will do it without trying to peddle or hawk a book or publication. Our mission is to promote the concepts and values learned in sports participation and apply them to everyday life, whether it would be in the workplace, home or in athletics. My credentials are 56 years of playing, refereeing, and coaching sports while teaching and being an athletic administrator, including a position as superintendent of recreation for a Chicago suburb. You never see it all but I've seen a lot from many different positions. I will bring that experience to the speaker table.

My speaking style is Direct, No-nonsense and Articulate, always DNA! I will be honest, maybe uncomfortably so, but the truth should be invigorating and enlightening in any environment. My delivery of material could be motivating and/or inspiring to individuals and organizations,l but that's not the intent. Our content, based on lessons learned from our athletic experience, will revolve around our Down to Earth platform, interchangeable for businesses or athletics. E is striving for Excellence, A is Adjusting to achieve positive R Results while being T True to your team, organization, and yourself while being H Honest and Humble in situations where it's easy to brag.

I've seen so many businesses that - to use sports terms - lack teamwork and sportsmanship. Given that there is so much competition in business, I always believed it would be more efficient that people work together to increase productivity rather than to be so cutthroat. Learning how to incorporates these sports concepts and values will help. And since a good portion of the working public have children, maybe they also will listen to our message of supporting and not interfering when their kids start to participate in after-school activities.

We need the public's help to get the word out about our speaker capabilities. Without being pompous or self-congratulatory, DNA Sports has always been about 'excellence without ego.' I've always gone by the credo of my parents and I've tried to pass it on to all my players and coaches I've been associated with; " Whatever you choose to do, do the best you can. We will be there for you and always be proud of you." Pretty simple and sweet message! Hopefully we can pass our best along.

To book a speaking engagement or to get more information, please contact us.

Thanks,

Dave

A Shift to Public/Motivational Speaking for Dave Rosene of DNA Sports

A Note from Coach Rosene:

In 2009 Andy Pohl and I founded DNA Sports with the vision of creating a full service sports instructional business with cutting-edge material on our website. Our mission was to point youth coaches in the right direction with the best methods of teaching and organizing programs that would benefit and develop youth athletes. Our content was based on a combined 50 years of coaching, training, and teaching experience on youth levels ages 4-22. Based on consumer feedback, DNA Sports and dnasportsonline.com has been a success from a research source standpoint, but we have struggled financially. DNA produced a multitude of videos and offered related subject articles free to all with the hope that the public would follow up by signing up for clinics, on site seminars, webinars, paying for video analysis of athletes' techniques, and buying our recruiting package for prospective college athletes, priced very reasonably. But after six years, we have realized that youth coaches, with some exceptions, like to stick to what they know or what they've been taught, even if those methods have been proven to be not as efficient as updated teachings. We have also run into a lot of coaches that just don't know the fundamentals or absolutes of sports that have never changed. Some youth coaches also try to correlate MLB players to youth players and tell the players to watch and try to emulate what they see the player do, which is totally off-base. For example, in baseball we see players hitting with high hands and when we asked them why they were doing that they said they picked it up while watching several pro players. Our response is always that those are grown men you're watching and you can hardly keep the bat lifted up before you swing. 

Our biggest roadblock has been coaches' egoism and their resistance to change or listening to alternative methods. As teaching sports professionals, DNA does continual research and has results based on coaching youth, high school, and college on what is most successful with program building, teaching and coaching methods, and athlete communication. CHECK OUR CREDENTIALS! We also to do not recommend subscribing to teaching systems. We prefer coaches working with athletes' skill sets and adjusting their teaching methods to best develop the athletes, rather than young players trying to fit into philosophies that they can't understand because of their youth. But that usually doesn't happen, because very few coaches want to be more knowledgeable at voluntary activities. And that's where we have struggled with our progressive approach. 

We will continue to keep our website and Twitter account open, but due to lack of business we will not be adding new material. To try to subsidize our passion to develop coaches, programs and athletes, I will be available as a speaker. I would hate to categorize my style as motivational or inspirational. I would rather say that I can speak about any subject that relates to youth sports and its values and strengths. I will also say that I'm opinionated and passionate about what I believe in. In addition to a sports platform I have extensive experience with urban issues, diversity, leadership, and program building. Our primary focus is reaching out to businesses though we are not excluding schools, youth organizations, little leagues, or park districts. But businesses budget for outside speakers and that is what we are striving for. A particular slant that is of great interest to me is how sports values and concepts relates to and can increase business productivity. But many businesses might want just hear about sports at the grass roots level since most have children or other subject matter. We can handle it all. And both Andy Pohl and Tim Will are available to speak too. But this is what I'll be doing full time along with continuing to coach baseball and basketball at the high school level. 

We believe in DNA. If business increases to a point where we can publish new material we will do so. Thanks to everyone who have used DNA Sports and dnasportsonline.com as a go-to source for coaching and training information. Our intentions have always been to provide excellence without ego, to help children achieve their dreams and goals. In my next post, coming in the next day or two, I will detail the foundation of my speaking program. Andy Pohl and Tim Will will book all of my speaking engagements. Speeches will be 45 to 90 minutes and the cost will be negotiated at the time of the booking.

All the best and looking forward to talking to you,

Dave Rosene

For more information on getting Coach Rosene to speak to your organization, please visit our Speaking Engagements page or contact us today.

You did what this summer?!?!

I was out walking the neighborhood with my daughter recently and ran into one of my high school pitchers, a rising junior, who proceeded to tell me about his summer. He indicated that he just got back from a showcase tournament in New York, and prior to that he was pitching in a tournament in New Mexico. In the world of travel athletics, such statements are so common that most of us fail to evaluate and synthesize the information given to us. 

That said, allow me to repeat this story in my own words: A 16 year old student-athlete, who is a marginal Division III prospect, traveled around the country this summer to play baseball.  

And…..how is this logical? With the exception of the tournament organizers and the airline and hotel industries, who else truly benefited from this experience?  You decide.

World Gone Mad

I recently received a frantic email from a parent of a seven-year-old child, seeking to schedule a 60-minute private lesson to prepare his son for his travel team tryout this weekend. Here was my response:

Dear Mr. ________,

From a philosophical standpoint, I will need to decline your offer to work with your son. I believe that 7 years old is way too young to be taking a private lesson, and certainly way too young to be exposed to a tryout format of any kind. We at DNA have maintained a strong stance for several years now that travel sports for prepubescents is not developmentally appropriate and hence not healthy for kids. We also have an enormous amount of research and data that substantiates our belief.  It's the world we live in - I know - the perceived benefits of accelerating our student-athletes through travel sports and tryouts at the earliest of ages - but we will continue to hold firm to our philosophical opposition to what appears to be the norm.

That said, I would be more than willing to work with your son for 20-30 minutes at some point this fall or spring with you present, and provide you a few pointers and drills that may be FUN for the two of you to engage in together. But to do a private lesson prior to a tryout at the tender age of 7 - this is not something me or anyone else at DNA is comfortable with.

I hope you understand our position on this.

Thanks,

Andy Pohl
DNA Sports

The Beauty of the On-Base Percentage

At some point in our time around the game of baseball, all of us have heard a coach use the phrase “the best hitters in baseball make outs 70% of the time.” This is actually incorrect. They are obviously referring to the notion that the best hitters in baseball usually hit around .300, and that is indeed accurate. They do. However, they most certainly do not make outs 70% of the time.

Take for example Andrew McCutchen in 2014. Accounting for all his plate appearances, it would be far more accurate to say that he made an out about 59% of the time (we are not including the number of times he reached on an error for our purposes here).

Want a more extreme example? Barry Bonds in his 2004 season actually only made an out 39.1% of the time!

This notion may be surprising, and we must clarify that we are by no means saying McCutchen hit .410 this year or that Bonds hit .609 in 2004. This actually reinforces the idea we were presenting in our previous article about how the batting average is a misleading statistic.

What we are trying to present however, is a more accurate measurement of just how often players get on base, as well as how often they don’t make outs.

So as we begin discussing the On Base Percentage statistic, keep in mind its actual calculation:

OBP=(Hits+Walks+Hit by Pitches)/(At-Bats+HBP+Walks+Sacrifice Flies)

Simply put, the OBP stat tells us exactly what you probably think it tells us: the rate of how often a hitter actually reaches base. The reason this is important is statistically very simple: base-runners correlate to runs, and runs correlate to wins.

I’m sure every single coach out there can reassure our belief that you do not win games by hitting six or seven solo home runs. On the contrary, you get runners on base to create run scoring opportunities, and then mix in extra base power and speed to your offensive game. That is the very definition of a dynamic offense. Take the ten teams who made the playoffs in 2014: 7 of them were ranked in the top 10 in On Base Percentage, a trend you will find no matter what year you look up.

Many baseball minds who love the OBP statistic love the base on balls. We would like to clarify that we are not discussing a hitter’s ability to take a walk, so much as we are discussing his ability to get on base. There is indeed a slight difference.

If you look into the calculation of the metric, you immediately realize that walks and hits are the two inputs that a hitter is most in control of, as you never want to rely on a player being a valuable offensive weapon because of his ability to get hit by a pitch.

At the end of the day, we advocate that there be separation between the batting average and the OBP. In other words, we never want to undermine a player’s ability to make hard contact and get hits, but we understand walks are most certainly important as well as very projectable (it’s rare to find a hitter whose eye at the plate just disappears).

Beyond just getting on base, walks imply a very patient hitter, which also hints to the fact that the player is swinging at hittable pitches and not pitcher’s pitches. We will look into the importance of this when we discuss the Slugging Percentage statistic.

No matter who you are coaching, your message to your hitters should always be the same at its core: get on base. Some players will have a gifted ability to make hard contact on every swing and hit .325, so they won’t have to walk much to achieve a respectable OBP. Other’s may only hit .260, but still possess an elite OBP (around .400 at the Major League level) because of their keen eye at the plate.

As a coach, you should mainly be concerned with whether or not your hitter is avoiding making outs frequently, and not so much the process of how he does so. A walk isn’t necessarily as good as a hit, but a base runner is a base runner. You can’t score a run if you don’t get on base, and you don’t win games if you don’t score runs.

On that merit alone, the OBP is absolutely one of the most important (yet simple!) offensive measurements in the game today.

The Flaws of the Batting Average Statistic

The batting average has been around baseball forever, and it is a stat that we are all familiar with. Its computation is basic and easy to understand: (Total # of Hits) / (Total # of at Bats). We generally agree that a “good” batting average is somewhere around the .300 range, albeit that can depend on the strength of the competition.

However, as popular as the statistic is, it has very major flaws that I feel most coaches are already beginning to figure out, especially those around the game on an everyday basis.

How many times during a game have we noticed a player hit four rocket line drives, but all right at a defender? Is this player a poor hitter for doing so? Well, his batting average would be .000, but we all know that benching him the next game for this reason would be an atrocious decision.

On the flip side, how many times do we see a player hit a blooper into the outfield and a soft groundball, and end the day 2-3. In your eyes, is the player who hit .667 a better hitter than the one who hit .000 for the day?

The answer is absolutely not.

The first problem that we must expose about the batting average is that it can be very deceiving about a player's hitting performance, especially in a small sample. The reality is 4, 5, or even 25 at bats is hardly a large enough sample to get a good idea on where a player’s batting average will consistently rest.

In short samples, we rely on our eyes; if a hitter is killing the ball and making outs, we know that some of those batted balls will eventually start falling. We will discuss the BABIP statistic in a later article, but harder hit balls get through defenses quicker. On the flip side, those bloopers and soft ground balls are much easier to field, and over a larger sample will likely turn into outs as opposed to hits. At the end of the day, while the batting average statistic can give you some idea of a player's hitting ability, it can most certainly be deceiving. 

Luckily for us, there are much better metrics out there that we as coaches should look much more closely at. An additional flaw that we would like to point out is that the batting average assumes every hit is the same. This is actually a major problem, because we all know a double is more valuable than a single, and a homerun is more valuable than a double.

Unfortunately, the batting average does not account for this, and takes on the “a hit is a hit” philosophy. However, every coach most certainly understands that a 400 foot homerun is very different from a groundball through the 5.5 hole.

As we introduce the On-Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage statistics, we will attempt to show you much more useful (and simple) metrics in assessing a player’s on field performance. 

 

Traits of a Model Youth Sports Parent

During my many years in youth team sports I've come across a majority of parents who care only about their children and have no interest in a team concept approach to coaching. It is always a derivative of "I only care my child's progress."

But what constitutes a model parent, who cares about the program rather than an individual.

Without naming generic traits, I will talk about my dad. My dad had the most positive attitude of any parent whose kids played sports. His first piece of advice when I decided to play little league baseball was always try your hardest and respect your coaches.

He supported me and every member of whatever team I played on. He never spoke disparagingly of coaches and taught all of us to compete and respect opponents. He always said I had to earn playing time and never interfered with the process, because it was about me and not him.

And he never once cared about whether we won or lost. It was about what I learned, always! He believed that skill development and maturity were the most aspects of my sport education.

Correct life lessons. Thanks Dad!


 

Learning the Correct Hitting Approach from Big Leaguers

I watch a lot of MLB games and really, you can't apply what they do to youth baseball players. They are so physically gifted that they can do things that youth and high school players can't do and probably never will be able to do.

However we as coaches can teach the best players in the big league's mental approach to hitting because every age hitter can do that.

I've watched so many MLB games in my life and I finally realized the best players really don't want to swing at pitches early in the count unless it is in their preferred zone, which means there is a lot of swinging with 2 strikes. Then the foul balls begin and good hitters eventually get a pitch they can handle and hit it square. It takes a lot of discipline and confidence to take that approach, which all great hitters have.

MLB rookies, below average hitters and high school and youth players take the opposite approach for the most part. They are swinging early in the count and when they down in the count are mentally beaten because they expand their strike zone and swing at any pitch close. Smart and good pitchers will never throw strikes to players in this category, and their lack of discipline and fear leads to a lot of outs.

It is up to coaches to make hitters be patient and believe in themselves so they will still hit when behind in the count and not worry or internalize about what might happen. Take pitches confidently, understand hitting situations and visualize success.


 

Three Mental and Physical Absolutes of Pitching

Last week in a radio segment Don Cooper, the pitching coach of the Chicago White Sox, talked about three keys of physical pitching fundamentals: Stay tall, stay back, and stay closed. Those who have pitched and coached have heard those terms preached and used infinitely.

We want to add three absolutes that combine the physical and mental sides of pitching:

  1. Get ahead
  2. Get them down
  3. Get them out

As coaches we want pitchers to get ahead in the count by using their best controlled pitch, which takes skill, confidence, and great mechanics. We want them to continue to attack the strike zone to put hitters in a mental and tangible hole. Then pitchers need an out pitch and the ability and confidence to throw pitches that look like strikes out of their hand but end up being balls.

Young hitters invariably will panic and swing at bad pitches just like big leaguers do. It takes a great understanding of hitters and pitching to throw balls when pitchers have been programmed to throw strikes in their entire baseball lives.

The most successful pitchers understand that good hitters hit strikes hard, so whenever possible make them swing at balls. When pitchers get ahead and get hitters down in the count, they can accomplish this.