Spent Saturday afternoon/evening with 3 screens going, watching video streams of Perspective Student Athletes. Annoyed because the positioning of the camera was in a bad spot, I found my mind wandering. Utah has some nice rock formations, the sunset in Arizona today is beautiful, wait, snap out of it, I'm supposed to be paying attention to these games.
So rather than complain that the cameras are set in bad positions, or bemoaning the fact that trying to see an outfielder make a play, is about as easy as seeing an ant on the ground from 30,000 feet. I decided to see how many teams automatically wave an O-2 pitch.
I won't keep you in suspense. 100% OF THEM, 100% OF THE TIME! Sorry, I didn't mean to shout. But for three hours, watching games from Georgia to Arizona, I tracked 0-2 travelball counts. While this is a very limited, and unscientific experiment, I was amazed that 100% of the time in 0-2 counts automatic wave pitches were called. Now, going into this little experiment I anticipated the numbers would be high, but never did I expect it to be 100%.
A few years back when I was coaching at Delta College in Stockton, our dugout was positioned where spectators could stand right next to us. I can recall a few times where the pitcher I was working with threw an 0-2, missed her spot resulting in a hit, and the travelball coaches standing next to us would mumble to each other, loud enough for all to hear; "that was 0-2, that pitch was too close." Hmmm, that pitcher went on to lead the state in wins that year, we also won our conference, and the percentage of hits to punch outs, or weak groundouts in 0-2 counts far outweighed the occasional hit.
Making an 0-2 wave automatic vs situational does two things from my perspective. The first one is it exposes the pitch callers level of understanding of the game. Everyone else is doing it, so I therefore I should too? Bad reasoning. I apologize in advance if I offended anyone here, but finding another logical conclusion evades me. What was even more amazing was the percentage of location of the 0-2 wave. Over 90% of the time the waved pitch was knee to belt high, 4 to 5 balls off the dish or greater in the outside batters box. Less than 10% of the time were they above or below the zone. Again, I understand, the we all do it reasoning here, however there seems to be a universal pitch caller paranoia occurring. Why aren't travel teams working with their pitchers to miss above or below the zone. I'm sure there are many reasons, but none are doing anything to build the confidence of your pitchers ability to attack the edges of the zone, let alone make them or your team more competitive. Keep in mind, we're watching these games from a recruiting perspective, and would hope at this level of play these pitchers would have the ability to miss on both sides of the dish, as well as above and below.
The second, and maybe even more important observation is for the offensive minded coach, because now, going 0-2 really isn't an AB killer. Hitters now know that even though they're in a hole 0-2 they'll get a reprieve pitch. They'll get another chance to see an additional pitch out of the pitchers hand, with the high likelihood of getting right back into the count with a 2-2 pitch.
I'm remiss in not surveying on how many 0-2's went to 2-2, or even 3-2, but it will be something I will look into for future posts.
If you think about the game this makes no sense in most situations! 0-2 counts instead of putting hitters on tilt, are becoming like 3-0 counts at the younger levels of play, an automatic take. Why? Simply because we're not attacking the zone.
Pitch callers, count leverage matters, getting bats started matters, setting up hitters matters and most importantly keeping hitters of balance matters.
At Bases Academy we encourage and work with our coaches on attacking the zone in 0-2 counts, we also spend time discussing where a situational wave makes the most sense. The beauty of our game is that it isn't a one size fits all sport. Working with your pitchers and catchers to understand your pitch calling philosophy will go a long way towards your pitchers future success.
Coach Monroe is owner of Bases Academy and an active D1 college coach.