This blog is a running update on our fall program and a look inside the ins and outs of what we do with our teams. Colorado Rogue Baseball Club is a player development focused program, which provides our players with game reps and next level exposure opportunities on the weekends, and supplements those games with high level, position specific practices during the week. We believe in doing the majority of our coaching during practices, and using the games to let players show their skills, and learn from their successes and failures in order to continue to drive development process forward. This is especially true in the fall as we devote our coaching resources to accurately recording important game data to use in future practice sessions. For the fall of 2021, we have two teams which we have labeled Upperclass (primarily 2022 and 2023 graduates), and Underclass (2024 and 2025 grads). Below is a daily rundown of what is going on in our program.
2021 Post-Fall Reports
November 15th, 2021: Ryan Serena – Program Director/Upperclass Head Coach/Infield Coordinator
The most important piece of the fall is using the games we play and the training sessions we have to learn as much about our players as possible, so that we can continue to help them improve their game over the long term. At the end of each fall, we prepare a detailed report for each player, in order to share with him the valuable information that we took throughout the fall season, and help show him where he improved where he needs to continue to place his focus. Below is a quick breakdown of that report by section, outlining some of the keys in each area of the game.
The first thing we share with our players in this report is their practice attendance throughout the fall season. This is very important to us and we track it diligently throughout the fall. A player cannot get better in any area of the game without actually showing up and putting in the work, so we want to see how well each guy follows through on the training side of things. You’ll see that in addition to the individual player’s attendance, we have included their specific team’s numbers as well as our program as a whole.
The next piece we share with our guys is a look at their playing time, with breakdowns of their total innings played, at bats, and position specific insights. At the beginning of the fall, each player gave us percentage targets on how much they wanted to play each position. We were able to use these throughout the fall season to guide playing time and make sure we got our guys time at the positions they felt like they needed to play as best we could. This approach keeps us as coaches accountable, and gives our players piece of mind that we were working to get them time at their spots.
Next we go to the hitting report, which gives our players a good look at how they performed in games, as well as in the training setting during the week. The left side of the report breaks down a lot of the advanced information that we kept during games, including all of the major statistics, in game performance in different counts, on different pitch types, and breakdowns of their batted balls. The right side of the reports breaks down information from practice sessions on HitTrax, including Exit Velocity and Launch Angle information. At the bottom of this page, hitting coordinator Jordan Serena distills the most important information into paragraph form, as well as adding in general observations and notes so that the player has a foundation for further growth and development.
Next in the report is the pitching section, in which our pitching coaches break down a ton of in game information. This information includes strike percentages with specific pitches and in specific counts, fastball velocities and changes over the course of the fall, and pitch specific information including usage and results on each individual pitch type. This takes all of the information we track during a game and distills it into a digestible look at how our guys perform in each area, with additional notes to help lay a focus foundation for making improvements going forward.
The defensive portion of the report gives our players a good look at their fielding statistics from fall games, as well as a running log of notes from the coaching staff during those games. In addition to evaluating performance based on the assists, putouts and errors throughout the fall, the log gives more detail into pieces of a certain play that have gone well or not well, and allows the player to take a deeper evaluation into some of the finer points of his defensive play. In addition to standard fielding percentage, a “defensive percentage” is included as well, which factors in mental mistakes and gameability nuances, all of which are noted in the log. The bottom of the report has an additional notes section with observations from practice setting and specifics for the player to work on going forward.
As you can tell, the work involved in putting together this report is substantial for our coaching staff, both in keeping the information during the fall season, and compiling it into something meaningful for our players after we finish. That said, the time and effort is worth it, as we believe it it is so important for us to share the information we kept with our players and continue to help them progress with accurate insights! The fall season is perfect for this approach and we continue to improve upon our processes every single year.
Using The Machine to Create Game-like Ground Balls in Practice
October 12th, 2021: Ryan Serena – Program Director/Upperclass Head Coach/Infield Coordinator
This fall, we have relied heavily on our Atec M3X 3 wheel machine for our infield work, and we have been really pleased with the results. Traditionally, ground balls during infield practice consist of coaches with fungoes, hitting ground balls that are somewhat predictable, with contact that is somewhere around average speed. What we see in games is that the variety in the types of ground balls that our guys see is much wider than what the fungo usually provides in practice, and this is where the machine comes in huge. Here are some ways that the machine helps us maximize out limited time on the practice field each week with our infielders
- Rep Economy
One of the big keys lies in the logistics of getting ground balls at practice. We get about 90 minutes (often less) with our guys on the infield each week, so maximizing that time is of the highest priority. The machine allows us at minimum to get two ground balls headed towards infielders in the time it takes to get one ground ball out there with a fungo. This allows us to have just one coach manning the machine, while others can spend time out in the infield with our guys. The machine also allows us to go rapid fire if we so choose, forcing guys to think and work quickly. This isn’t really possible when using the fungo, due to limitations on the coach swinging it.
2. Influencing Ground Ball Speed
Hitting hard or soft ground balls with a fungo is difficult, and once again when we are limited on time, every rep is important. Being able to produce hard or soft ground balls and change that setting easily is one of the major positives about using the machine.
3. Influencing Ground Ball Height
A major key to understanding what a ground ball is going to do when it gets to an infielder is reading the height and trajectory of the ball off the bat. The ability to read the height of the machine allows the fielder to see different heights of batted balls and react accordingly. When we pair this with different speeds and the spins, we are able to provide out guys with all kinds of different looks, which forces them to use different skill sets when fielding.
4. Influencing Ground Ball Spin
What we found with the fungo is that a lot of times we were hitting nice backspin ground balls that nestle softly into our infielders gloves. The reality is that these are not the ground balls that tend to give guys fits in the game. The ability to use the machine to create tough topspin balls has really challenged our infielders and forced them to better read tough hops. Backspin round balls tend to settle or skip, so their movement off the ground and back down to the ground is not as aggressive. Top spin ground balls tend to kick up/forward, and dive back down more aggressively. The more aggressive the hop, then more important it is for our guys to be on time and in the right position. Replicating this in practice reenforces these things and makes tough ground balls more familiar in the game! In the video below, you can see topspin groundballs in the first half, the quick adjustment made to the machine and backspin groundballs in the second half.
5. Ground Ball Accuracy
The last (but not least) piece that the machine provides us is the ability to put the ground ball right where we want to. This comes in huge when we are working on specific directions of ground balls like backhands and forehands, or specific types of plays like a flippable double play ball or a 6-5 play in the 5/6 hole. We have also used it frequently to try to expand our guys’ range by shooting balls that may be just out of their typical reach. Simply swiveling the machine and putting the ball very close to a desired spot on the field has a ton of benefits.
Designing Hitting Practices from Game Performance
October 8th, 2021: Jordan Serena – Hitting Coordinator
Our in-game hitting and pitching sheets provide us with invaluable insights that otherwise are typically only observed through the subjective lens of the coaching staff. This gives us the opportunity to work with players on their skills using the frame of their actual choices and performance in the game. The easiest place to check performance is the conventional stats that show like this on our team page.
We sort by OPS (On-Base + Slugging) which, of the conventional stats, we believe to be the best descriptor of our offensive goals; getting on base and getting more bases when you hit it. AVG can be a trap for players to look at, AVG does not take in to account the true value of the at bats hitters are taking and merely shows how many times you avoid getting out when you hit. This creates an issue in training players because if a hitter’s mind is centered around avoiding making outs instead of what choices he can make to increase his chances of more bases, there is a conflict between the goals of the practice environment and the goals of the hitter. Talking about OPS includes walks and HBP’s and rewards players for hitting the ball harder (more bases). With AVG, a HR and a 1B are worth the same. For OPS, they certainly are not, as it is in the game.
Getting down to individual performance with our sheet lays out all situations hitters are put in and allows practice planning for individuals to become easier. The trick is turning an endless source of information into 1 or 2 key points hitters can concentrate on over a session.
The hitter above has had a solid fall, though has some things he can improve upon. The first place we compare is between strikes and balls in play. For this hitter, when he puts it in play, it is usually hit hard (EV scale 1-5, 3 is avg). It is safe to give him the goal of cutting down on his swings and misses. This also goes along with what the data is showing for his outs. A 20% K-rate is somewhat high for HS players, so more contact in all counts would help there as well. Looking at his hits, they somewhat match his balls in play so nit-picking the type of contact for this player is not necessary.
Another chart on our sheet shows how pitch velocity is affecting our hitters’ at bats. This hitter puts the ball in play more when facing faster pitches, yet these balls in play most often occur on the ground. We can reasonably assume he sees and decides better on faster pitching but may be consistently late once the FB gets into the 80-84 range. We would set up a section of time in practice for higher velocity pitches to happen, whether that’s on the machine or some sort of other constraint forcing the hitter to be on time for a faster pitch.
As always with data, we are functioning from an understanding of correlation, not causation. It is easy to make broad assumptions that we think to be true but aren’t. Our sheet helps us make sure we are not teaching things that do not show to be true and concentrating on aspects of hitting that correlate highly with success now and in the future.
Using In-Game Pitching Information to Guide Midweek Bullpens
September 23, 2021: Dillon Moritz & Ryan Christian – Upperclass and Underclass Pitching Coaches
During fall games, we work to track as much useful information as possible on our pitchers, in order to better serve them during as we train the week. Each week, our guys get a bullpen session, which is guided by the insights we gained from charting their outing on the weekend. Here in week 6 of the fall, this is an example of the brief layout of our pens, individualized for each one of our pitchers.
Underclass Team – Ryan Christian: Pitching Coach
Q: glove side release work, slider missed up and arm side. Wonder if getting the slider release point will help with FB. Fastball was up or up armside or low glove side.
Preston: velo strikes, CH work, didn’t throw it much, didn’t really have to.
Wade: velo strikes and glove side work on off speed. Tends to pull violently when throwing OS and gets on the side of it
Noah: core rotation, FB misses up, just struggles to get over the top.
Ethan: rhythm work, very stiff and robotic and couldn’t throw strikes because of that
Davis: nothing abnormal, velo strikes and CH work
Bryce: velo strikes!!! Sat 65-67 with minimal effort. Rhythm work on CB, muscles up on them and misses arm side and up
Alex: didn’t get a chance to throw this weekend, still needs work on releasing his scap naturally and needs to get the velo up. Both me and Logan saw that when he is throwing harder he is throwing more strikes.
Aiden: Still ramping back up to game speed, as long as arm feels good try and push the volume up a bit
Upperclass Team – Dillon Moritz: Pitching Coach
Upperclass will use 3 plate drill side to side and forward and back to work on individual weaknesses. (Example: misses DD on breaking ball 50% we will scoot catcher back to the furthest plate for breaking balls.) Also going to get the twine set up for bottom of the zone. lots of D-DD misses all around. seeing where the bottom of the zone is will help.
Managing Playing Time During the Fall Season
September 15, 2021: Ryan Serena – Program Director/Upperclass Head Coach/Infield Coordinator
One of our biggest goals during the fall is to manage our players’ playing time in a way that gives them the reps they feel they need to get prepared for the offseason, and ultimately the spring season. It is important to us that we have an understanding of what positions our players want to play, because each one has a different situation in their high school program, or may be better suited in different spots as they look to move on to the college level. Some guys who we may see as being best suited for a certain position within our team, may actually need to make strides at a different spot in order to be in the lineup at their school during the spring season, or need to develop skills though experience at a position that may better suit them long term. While we ALWAYS relay to our guys the importance of playing winning baseball, ultimately the fall season is not about us trying to win every game at the expense of the needs of our players. This is why we work to manage playing time as best we can, based on the individual needs of our guys.
To make this happen, I asked our players to give us a breakdown of how they ideally would like to see their playing time distributed between all of the positions they play. Some guys were able to easily give me this breakdown, and some looked for guidance on where we think they should spend the most time. Together we were able to build a playing time plan, which gives us a template to work off of as we move through the fall. This is put into our playing time sheet as their TARGET INNINGS, shown in the table above.
From there, we meticulosity keep track of all of the innings played throughout the fall season, so that we have an accurate look at where each guy is getting his playing time. It is very easy to lose track and think that you are getting guys in certain spots based on your eyes, so we make sure to get this exactly right! The actual inning input portion of this sheet is shown in the first section of this blog all the way down at the bottom, but the percentage breakdown in the table above is ultimately what we want to use.
From there, we simply subtract each player’s target Innings from their actual innings played, and get a look on where they are currently at in relation to where they want to be. This table (as well as the others) is conditionally formatted in order to make it easy to see where we need to make adjustments, with Red (negative) meaning they are currently below, and Green meaning they are above their target. As you can see in the table above, Player 7 and Player 10 each need to get some more innings at 3rd Base, while Player 1 has played a bunch at Shortstop and we can spread his innings out a little bit to other positions.
This will not work out perfectly for each player at the end of the fall, however it does give us as coaches a guide to work from, in order to provide our players the best fall game experience possible. Additionally, it holds us accountable for having a process when laying out playing time, and helps us accomplish what is ultimately the most important thing, which is doing right by our players.
Behind the Scenes: In-Game Hitting Data Input
September 6, 2021: Ryan Serena – Program Director/Upperclass Head Coach/Infield Coordinator
On this Labor Day holiday, wanted to share some of the behind the scenes grunt work that our coaching staff does to help guide our players’ development throughout the course of the fall. Today the hitting side is the focus, with a quick look at how we input data into our system in order to track our players plate appearances during games. There is no better time than in the game to learn about how a player performs, and making sure we are tracking relevant information in game allows us to have a better understanding of each player individually, as well as our team as a whole. This piece is simply showing the behind the data input side of things, with a future post coming from hitting coordinator Jordan Serena detailing the in depth insights that these inputs provide him when designing practice plans for our hitters.
This data is tracked during games on a printed chart that both head coaches keep while we are on offense. During the fall, this is the priority for our head coach, so assistant coaches or even sometimes players are responsible for coaching the bases during the game. This chart includes the date, the count, the pitch type, the pitch velocity (taken by a player behind the plate and relayed to the coach in the dugout), the result of the pitch, the pitch detail, whether the pitch was chased out of the zone, and the contact quality. You can see the chart below and the key on the right side detailing what specific things go into each column that we track.
From there the information kept during the game is input into our hitting spreadsheets in Google Drive, so that we can take the information and use it to guide our players training and share with them relevant information about their performance from week to week. Our head coaches are responsible for both the in game charting of the hitters, as well as the data input, so that our hitting coordinator(s) can spend their time evaluating the insights and creating practice plans that optimize this information. Below is a look at how the data gets input, and a quick glance at the information that it spits out.
September 2nd 2021: Dillon Moritz – Pitching Coordinator/Upperclass Pitching Coach
This week for bullpens we wanted to focus on intent/velocity, so we played a competition called Velo Strikes. We pick out a velocity target that pushes each guy to throw hard, based on their velo collected in games/bullpens. They get 1 point for throwing strikes over that velocity. Additionally I wanted to show them velocities from teams in the past to give them an idea of how they compare to varsity level pitchers, as well as last Spring’s peak FB avgerages based on age. We have a young team this fall, so we want them to know there is time to develop into a varsity caliber arm.
We believe players knowing where they stand based on data collected is crucial in the development process! Here are a couple of guys at different ages that PR’d in yesterday’s bullpens, senior Luke Tenney and freshman Connor Larkin!
Baserunning Practice – Rhythm Steal Breaks
August 31st 2021: Ryan Serena – Program Director/Upperclass Head Coach/Infield Coordinator
As we are now in week three of the fall, we wanted to start sharing more of the specifics of our practices as to give insight into the high level of training we provide our guys during the week in the fall season. Each week, Tuesday is the defensive day for the Upperclass team, and the first two weeks were spent really diving into the core principles of defensive play for both infielders and outfielders. For week three, we wanted to supplement that work with a piece of the game that often goes under-coached, and that is baserunning. We had a lot of success during our practice sessions this summer incorporating live reads off the bat (using our 3 wheel Atec machine) and repping out a myriad of situations that our guys may face on the bases in a game, as well as really dialing in on reading dirt balls and taking traditional steal breaks.
For the fall, we wanted to add another layer, and we are fortunate that our catching coordinator Zac Stout is also an accomplished student and teacher of baserunning, namely rhythm stealing. Zac incorporated this approach with the 2018 Mountain Vista HS squad that dominated 5A baseball and won the state title, an approach that really created another valuable weapon for a team that was already loaded. The rhythm approach allows baserunners to read the (often very predictable) timing of pitchers and use that knowledge to their advantage by creating a jump to 2nd base while moving, rather than starting stagnant and having to create a break from that stopped position. Baserunners often report how much easier it is to steal 3rd than it is to steal 2nd, despite the catcher’s throw being 37 feet shorter, because often times the middle infielders allow them to move into their break. This approach is a modified version of that and as you can see in the video below, Zac did a great job of setting up and allowing our baserunners to test out this approach.
Fall Roster and Playing Time Philosophy
August 2nd 2021: Ryan Serena – Program Director/Upperclass Head Coach/Infield Coordinator
A common piece of feedback we hear from many parents and players is the desire to have roster sizes as small as possible (in the 10-12 player range). While this makes sense for being able to have players on the field as much as possible, there a few reasons we shoot for 15 players when forming our teams. A couple of the most important reasons are protecting arms, as well as ensuring that we have enough guys to play each week. When teams are made up of primarily two way guys as ours usually are, we try to give ourselves a numbers cushion in order to allow players that pitch to spend some time on the bench or at the DH/EH slot, so that we are not overusing them between playing a position and pitching. In addition, the possibility of injury/illness and other life happenings makes 15 our target number, so that even if we are missing a couple of guys, we still have some flexibility. Early on we attempted having as few guys as possible in the fall, and many weekends ended up being a scramble to make sure we put a team on the field. We have come to find that between the game-like practice reps we get each week and the reps they are getting in games on the weekend, the workload is pretty sufficient.
Another piece of our fall that is important is how we structure our lineups and playing time. For the fall, we are firm believers that it is the ideal time for guys to get as many at bats and defensive innings in the field as we can, so we set a rolling lineup to make sure the guys are getting AB’s at a similar clip. The guys that are there all of the time are obviously going to get more AB’s then guys who may miss games, as we just keep players slotted into their lineup spot and don’t attempt to get them extra AB’s just because they were gone. Defensive innings don’t end up being perfectly even either, especially if guys pitch more innings and play positions like SS, C and 3B where the throws are more intense, however the goal is to try and get everybody on the field as much as we can. This is especially important when guys get to the upperclass level and may be playing in front of some coaches, as it gives them reassurance that they’ll get an opportunity to play each day. Here’s what last fall looked like for the upperclass team numbers wise…
You can see, that the guys that were there all of the time averaged about 50 PA’s and 110 innings played, even with 15 players on the roster, (plus a couple of fill ins due to missing players, and one PO) which guys felt pretty good about heading into the winter. The way we approach it is very much trying to create an environment where guys can train during the week and know that they are going too get their 8-12 AB’s on the weekend to see how it shakes out.
We feel like the “win my job, and help my team win the game” focus during the spring and summer leads into more of a “get my work in and continue competing” mindset in the fall, which sets the guys up for a winter where they can really attack their weaknesses and prepare to do it all again next year.