The third piece of our fall program revolves around our game schedule, which we work to deliberately build in order to maximize our training and give our guys opportunities to take their skills to the field and compete. Our common metaphor is academic in nature, with training and practice being the classwork and homework, and the games being the test. Our fall games provide players the chance to cut it loose on the field knowing that they have put in the work during the week, and give us as coaches the opportunities to evaluate our guys and provide them with valuable feedback that will influence their practice in the next week. We’ll take a look at our fall games in three parts; schedule, game-day lineups and rotations, and video and statistical focuses.
Our fall schedule is built to both give our guys ample game time opportunities, as well as catering to our training schedule and the busy fall life of a high school student. Typically we play somewhere in the 25 game range in the fall, which puts most guys at about 75 games for the calendar year after 20 high school games in the spring and 30-35 tournament games with us in the summer. We feel that this is a good number and provides a balanced schedule that allows for training, playing, time for social and family life, and the sometimes undervalued concept of rest. While we have played in a league in the past and it was valuable for us when our team was younger, we have worked into a tournament heavy format with our upperclassmen, supplemented by a couple of doubleheaders against some other teams from our area.
In addition to our scheduled weekends, we deliberately build in a couple of weekends off, allowing our guys to seek out other opportunities such as camps/showcases or school visits, or just take a weekend away from baseball to do something else. The split between the two options is about 50/50 with our current group, who do a great job of understanding their own personal priorities. It is important for us as coaches to remember that these guys are teenagers and having some time away from the game will allow them to be more well rounded, enjoy being a high school student and ultimately keep them fresh and motivated on the baseball side.
Below is our 2017 Fall Schedule provided as a reference. While this schedule is what we are doing this fall, we will always evaluate what is best for our current group of guys from year to year and adjust accordingly.
Day Date Opponent Site
Sat-Sun 8/19-8/20 PBR Tournament Denver, CO
Fri-Sun 8/25-8/27 UNC Tournament Greeley, CO
Fri-Mon 9/1-9/4 Slammers Tournament Denver, CO
Sat-Sun 9/9-9/10 Off Weekend
Fri-Sun 9/15-9/17 ABA Fall Tourney Albuquerque, NM
Sat-Sun 9/23-9/24 Off Weekend
Fri-Sun 9/29-10/1 Perfect Game Tourney Emerson, GA
Sat 10/7 D-Backs Scout Team 18 Peak to Peak HS
Sat. 10/14 Gameday Baseball Double Angel
Sun. 10/15 Players vs. Coaches Chaparral HS
The PBR tournament allows our guys to play local competition and is covered well by the Prep Baseball Report staff. The UNC tournament in Greeley is one of our favorites of the year and is organized by Triple Crown sports in conjunction with the baseball staff at the University of Northern Colorado. Slammers partners with Perfect Game and puts on a very good Labor Day tournament that is well scouted. The ABA fall tournament is Albuquerque is one that I have attended with our guys as well as a player and college coach. This gets us in front of some of the southern schools and gives our guys a chance to play against some different competition. The Perfect Game WWBA National Qualifier in Georgia is a really good experience for our guys and playing at the Lakepoint Complex is memorable against the very stiff competition in the southeast. We finish with a couple of double header weekends against local teams and have incorporated a players vs. coaches game which is a fun way to finish out the fall.
In addition to the schedule above, the fall provides our guys additional opportunities to showcase their skills on a more individual basis including events with Prep Baseball Report and Mountain West Baseball.
We teamed up with Prep Baseball Report to provide a scout day specifically for Rogue players as well as individual trainees from the facility. This gives our guys an opportunity to be evaluated and measured by the staff of PBR and to have a profile on the PBR website for a discounted rate. This can be very beneficial, as many college coaches use PBR as a resource in their recruiting.
Mountain West Baseball is an organization out of Utah that has secured team spots in the prestigious Arizona Fall Classic which attracts hundreds of coaches and scouts to Peoria each fall. Our players have been given an opportunity to participate in that tournament through a tryout with Mountain West and this year four of our seniors and three of our juniors will be attending the fall classic. While this is not a part of our team schedule, this is a highlight of the fall for our guys and allows them to play in front of a ton of coaches as well as against very good competition.
Game-day Lineups and Rotations
Our approach to how we structure our fall from a gameplay standpoint is rooted in our belief in providing our players with ample opportunities to get at bats, innings on the mound and time at the positions in which they need to be playing.
On the hitting side, we set a lineup on the first day of the fall and we roll that lineup in order for all of our games. The guy that ended a game on deck will lead off the next game, as the guy who made the last out moves down to the bottom of the order. When a player misses a game or two, he is just slotted right back into where he was before. This method keeps the number of at bats just about equal for all of our guys, as well as getting them time at different spots in the batting order on a game by game basis.
Defensively, we do our best to get guys sufficient work at all of the positions they may play. For some guys who play single positions such as catcher or 1st base, they will get their innings there with an understanding that may sit a little bit more than guys who are more versatile and need time at various positions. Even at the upper levels of high school baseball, we encourage players to have some versatility to their game and be open to playing in some different spots during the fall. We are firm believers that if a coach can put you anywhere on the field, your chances of playing will increase exponentially. To keep this in order, we lay out each game prior to with the template below. This makes it easy for guys to understand what they’ll be doing that game. In addition, we keep a detailed log of the amount of innings that each guy plays at each position, so that we can structure lineups properly as we go through the fall, as well as make some notes of games they may have missed.
On the pitching side, innings are laid out on the lineup template as well. Innings are thrown based on a number of factors including pitcher’s workload throughout the year, other positions they may play, the pitching role they most often find themselves in (starter, reliever, closer). Effectiveness is a factor as well, and the guys that prove to be more effective generally get a few more innings. We are very cognizant of pitch counts and make sure not to extend guys past a point we believe is safe for them. Despite pleas from our guys who wish to stay out there and continue to compete, we stick to this plan each weekend.
Video and Statistical Focuses
As mentioned earlier, the weekend is an opportunity for us as coaches to continue with the development process by getting game video as well as keeping a detailed set of statistics that we use with our players.
On the video side, hitting and pitching are the main focuses and we try to get a handful of swings and pitches that we can reference going forward. We put our iPad on a tripod and we’ll have the player who was the last out of the previous inning run the video. We keep all swings including balls in play, foul balls and swings and misses, and upload them into our Hudl Technique account, which is shared to all of the guys’ individual accounts. They have these videos forever, and many guys refer to them daily while others quickly peek at them and move on. As coaches we will make some notes on guys’ swings and build our training around them. Pitching wise the process is the same, and we will make sure to get video of the pitcher from straight across on the arm side. These videos are also used for player’s reference and the next week’s training. Defensively we will get video if the need arises, but obviously it’s a little tougher to predict each guy’s reps in the field so our focuses defensively are left to the naked eye.
On the statistics side, we have a healthy mix of process and result based stats in each phase that we focus on during games.
At the plate, I keep a running notecard of the results of our guys’ plate appearances. On my notecard, I circle the result if the player notched a quality plate appearance or QPA, and can easily tally these up for our reference throughout the game. I put Qs on our lineup card so that guys can see how many they have that day, and their in game goal is to have a QPA each time. In our program, a quality plate appearance is defined as one of the following: Hit, walk, hit by pitch, moved runner, hard hit ball, 8+ pitch at bat, sacrifice. In addition, I keep a number of approach stats that track a few of our points of emphasis. With these we are able to really lock in the foundation of our players at bats. These stats include hitters count fastball swings and takes, hitters count chases, positive and negative results in hitters counts, and wins and losses on fastballs with 2 strikes. We have found that having hard proof that identifies our guys’ approaches has been invaluable, and after a weekend I will match up our approach and result stats and we find that there is a strong correlation between guys’ approaches and their production. In my opinion, these numbers go much further with the players than my subjective opinions on their approaches and results.
On the mound, coach Moritz keeps stats in the same manner, with a mix of process based stats and traditional pitcher numbers. He places a big emphasis on 1st pitch strikes, less than 4 pitch hitters, and less than 12 pitch innings, and these are guidelines for our guys. In addition, he will keep the traditional numbers including earned runs, strikeouts, walks as well as leadoff and two out walks. Finally pitch counts and innings are factored in and each player’s numbers are molded into the “DMO Index” after the weekend giving a good number showing their efficiency.
Defensively, the main focus for Logan is players making routine plays, as well as tracking pre-pitch movement from our guys. Routine plays that are made and missed are tracked from infielders and outfielders, and catcher’s blocks and throws are also tracked. Pre-pitch, the emphasis is that all of our guys are on time for the ball in the strike zone, so we keep an eye and make sure that our guys are on time on two feet. Any poor “prep steps” are noted and shared with our guys later.
Jordan has taken on the role of making sure our guys are running hard, and tracking times from home to first and making sure guys are getting on and off the field are his main points of emphasis. 5 seconds is the benchmark that we want our guys to be under on both a balls in the infield and the outfield. On and off the field, we are looking to get there in 20 seconds in order to keep pushing the pace.
For us as coaches, the process-based stats give us feedback that can be presented to the players mid-game, while keeping track of the results allows for analysis after the weekend. As I mentioned earlier, it is very interesting for us to match up our process focuses and see the correlations of guys who are producing good results. We can use this info to help guide what we coach and emphasize in the future.
Part 4 – Helping Players Play at the Next Level