Optimizing For Player Development in Fall Games

August 22nd, 2022: Ryan Serena – Program Director

In our program at Colorado Rogue, our first priority is Player Development, and the fall provides an ideal time to use games to optimize for this. This means that as we approach every decision that arises in games, the development of the player(s) involved is at the forefront of our minds. The way we structure various aspects of the fall season are a reflection of this focus, and with games beginning for us this weekend, now is a great time to outline our approach.

One common misconception is that winning is not an important thing during the fall. Often times the words “Development” and “Win” stick in people’s minds as contrasting terms. THIS HOWEVER IS NOT THE CASE!! The better players get, the better chance they have of making positive contributions, and the better chance the team has of winning the game! Put very simply by legendary manger Joe Riggins….

At the higher levels, the players and teams that can do these three things most effectively are the ones that have success and win! Obviously, there is a WHOLE lot more that goes into doing these three fundamentals, which again, you will learn more about throughout this blog. When it comes to our approach in the fall season, we put it this way “The goal is ALWAYS to play to win the game, however we will NOT win at all costs”. With the fall season being such a key time for player development, there are things we do to provide the best environment possible for that to happen that may not always optimize for winning, which most often are different than what some people are used to. Some examples include…

Lineup & Positions
– Optimized for Winning = Hitting better players at the top of the lineup every game, and playing players at their best defensive spots always.
– Optimized for Player Development = Creating a rolling lineup where each guy gets similar numbers of at bats throughout the fall, and put in various spots and offensive situations in order to facilitate growth. Players getting an opportunity to play multiple positions in order to develop competency and versatility.

– Optimized for Winning = Pitchers throw as long as they can as long as they are still effective in order to give us best chance to win
– Optimized for Player Development = Pitchers remain on a certain pitch/inning count in order to maintain arm health and provide adequate innings to entire pitching staff.

Situational Baseball
– Optimized for Winning = Playing to the situation in order to give best chance to score runs (ex: sacrifice bunt with men on 1st and 2nd, nobody out)
– Optimized for Player Development = Allowing players to use these situations as opportunities to develop skills that will scale (ex: driving the ball in the gap and scoring those two runners)

These are just a few examples of how Optimizing for Winning and PD can be in contrast, and how we choose the later during the fall season. During the summer season, we optimize much more for winning (still not at all costs), however we believe that the fall is best suited for optimizing for Player Development as much as possible, for the sake of our players and their long term growth. Winning a game is a short term benefit, whereas creating systems for growth shows itself in the long term. During the fall, we often sacrifice the former if it interferes with the latter. Remember….