Is Your Baseball Coach Keeping up with the Times?

Over thirty years ago, Ronald Reagan went to West Berlin and gave a very famous speech at the Brandenburg Gate.  It was about freedom and peace.  The Soviet Union was in decline and President Reagan famously said, “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall”.  It was the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union.  So, with that said, I say the following to all the coaches that continue to resist what technology is bringing to the game:

“Tear down this wall”

(Ronald Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate, West Berlin)

My intention with this article isn’t to disparage old school coaches.  As a matter fact, there are many coaches who have torn down the wall and incorporated new and old methods with great success.  It’s happening in major and minor league baseball, and at many of the colleges and high schools across the country.  Somewhere in their respective organizations, there are forward-thinking coaches, scouts and/or people in the front office who are making sure that old school ways are being challenged, improved and/or altogether tossed out for better methods.  But with any change, there are many who resist. But in this case,

“Resistance is Futile”

The following is a summary of what I believe to be the types of old school thinking that is holding back the next generation of talent and frankly coaches as well.  If you see signs of this, it’s up to you where you go from there, but at least you are more aware.  Here we go…

The information age has found its way into the game of baseball, and there is no shortage of data coming out of the game.  It can be complicated to understand at times but pushing back on it is NOT a good idea.  Taking advantage of it should be a prerequisite for every coach and aspiring athlete.  Here are some things I have heard from coaches which frankly drive me crazy.  These are direct quotes:

    • “Data is for nerds”
    • “I don’t need a camera to tell me the spin rate, I can see it with my eyes”
    • “All I need to hear is the crack of the bat”
    • “I know exactly how much the ball breaks by looking at it”
    • “Young athletes aren’t ready for this type of info”

There are many more, but these are classic.  Like always, the old ways are comfortable and the new is different and uncomfortable.  What I find most amusing about these comments is that the same coaches are probably telling their players that for them to improve they would need to leave their comfort zone.  Yet, they themselves (the coaches) don’t want to leave their own comfort zone.

Now some commentary on the comments:

    1. The first quote above, “Data is for nerds”, I won’t even comment on at length. Perhaps my engineering degree from 30 years ago makes me a bit of a nerd.  But data is not for nerds any longer.  Data is all around us and it’s changing our lives every day, and in every way.  Get on board.
    2. The second quote, “I don’t need a camera to tell me the spin rate, I can see it with my eyes”, is my favorite. It just shows a complete lack of understanding of “spin” and ball movement.  For a typical high school pitcher, the ball may be travelling 80 mph or more.  How the heck can the human eye tell the spin rate, let alone the “Useful” spin rate at that speed.  By the way, the total spin rate is completely irrelevant.  It’s the “Useful” spin rate that is informative and it actually needs to be calculated, not observed.
    3. The third quote, “All I need to hear is the crack of the bat”, is a good one!  I can tell you for a fact that the crack of the bat doesn’t tell you anything about the swing, the Attack Angle, the Launch Angle or what the outcome is going to be.  A hard hit ball can go straight into the ground.  A baseball swing is much more complicated.
    4. The fourth quote, “I know exactly how much the ball breaks”, is also a classic. A typical 4-seam may be differentiated from a 2-seam by just a few inches of movement, vertically and horizontally. Someone, please explain to me how a pitcher can throw a 4-seam pitch and 2-seam at the same exact time, so a coach can compare the two movements vis-à-vis each other simultaneously as the balls cross home plate.
    5. The last quote,“Young athletes aren’t ready for this type of info”, is #$?&#!?*.  It’s actually never too early to learn, especially by the time these young athletes are in high school.  The topics, when explained clearly and succinctly, are actually rather interesting to them.  They absorb it like a sponge.

Being around a state-of-the-art training facility every day has made me aware of many old school thinking ways and topics which I hear about all the time.  But, once again, my intention isn’t to disparage anyone, I am just suggesting that we tear down the walls… study, read and learn new methods.  I am not discounting experience.  I am a big believer in it and there is ton of experience out there.  But, there is also an enormous amount of new tech and new information out there.  Put it all together and watch magic happen.  Magic hardly ever happens in the comfort zone.

By Bahram Shirazi (BSEE, MBA, Co-owner RPP)

Sign-up for Future Blogs (3)