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The Danger of Being Predictable

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

English: A tee ball coach setting the lineup a...

Photo taken by Vinnie Ahuja (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the weekend I saw a very well-played high school playoff game. It was a one-run contest throughout. But in the end, when the losing team needed to score, their coach’s predictability killed them.

This is one of those coaches who believes you always sac bunt a runner from first to second with no outs.  He’d done it two or three times already in that game.  In the top of the seventh the defense was ready and ended up getting the out at second.  So for his trouble the coach gave up an out without gaining anything in return.

In pretty much anything in life, if you know what’s coming, you can better prepare for it. People in coastal areas, for instance, pay close attention to hurricane warnings and board up their windows when one is coming.

People in snowy areas heed winter storm warnings (usually) and try to avoid being on the roads if they don’t have to. Businesses close early too.

So it goes for softball.  Take the change-up, for example, the whole point of the change-up is the element of surprise.  That’s its greatest strength because, theoretically, it’s easy to hit if you know it’s coming.

If a pitcher always throws a change-up with an 0-2 count it shouldn’t take hitters long to start sitting on it. Heck, my oldest daughter Stefanie figured that out for herself at the age of 14 when facing a pitcher her teammates couldn’t hit.  She saw that 0-2 change-up get a few of them, so she just conceded the first couple of BBs and waited on the change.

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Reviewing Moneyball the Movie

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

moneyball movieOver the weekend I had the opportunity to see the movie Moneyball starring Brad Pitt as Oakland As GM Billy Beane. If you’re not familiar with the original book — which is a great read by the way — it chronicles the story of how Beane changed the game of baseball by focusing on a few key statistics rather than the conventional wisdom of the time, which was (and still is in some cases) whether a player “looks” like a ballplayer.

Of course, Beane didn’t do it alone. He was assisted greatly by Paul DePodesta, a young Harvard graduate (here played by Jonah Hill and using the pseduonym Peter Brand) with a fondness for Bill James’ Baseball Abstract, computers and a love of stats.

You can read about the values of the movie from countless professional movie reviewers. What I found interesting was Beane’s reasons for taking such an interest in this radical approach, and the differences between his public and private faces while doing it. Those are things I think most of us can relate to.

Essentially, Billy Beane is in a tough spot. His team’s three biggest stars leave the team for more money after taking the As to the playoffs. He asks his owner for more money to replace them, but is told the budget is the budget. That means he has to find another solution to his dilemma if the As are going to compete the next year.

The answer turns out to be using statistics to find under-valued players — good ballplayers the rest of baseball is ignoring. As Brand explains it, the single most important stat is on base percentage (OBP). You have to get on base to score, so the more players are on base the more likely the team is to score. Yet many of these players get on base by walking, which isn’t very highly valued by the baseball establishment.

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Softball Coaching Tips for Fall – Games or Practice?

Guest post by Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

softball-huddleIt’s a common dilemma many coaches face at this time of year. With school in session and limited time with your team, do you spend the time you have on practicing, or do you try to get in as many games as you can — especially if you live in a cold weather area?

There are certainly arguments to be made for both. Games are nice, of course. Parents like them, players like them, and they do give you an opportunity to see what your team can do in game situations.

On the other hand, playing games without adequate time to practice can be a recipe for disaster. Odds are between school and school activities, not to mention practices for other sports that are in-season, your players don’t have a whole lot of time to throw, catch, hit, etc. during the week. So what you may find is your team gets progressively worse as the fall season rolls along.

I know that was my experience a few years ago. Some teams (including ours) put together somewhat of a fall league. Each Sunday we’d play double header against one of the other teams.

The first week, which was about three or four weeks after the previous summer season, we’d play pretty well. The next week would be a little weaker but still not bad. But by the time the six-week session was over, we’d usually look like all of our players had been dropped off by a UFO from a planet where they had never seen a softball game.

Part of the decision, of course, depends on whether your team has played together for a while or is brand new together. The more time you already have together the more you can get away with playing more games.

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