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High school Baseball Offense vs. MLB Baseball Offense: THE MLB WAY IS NOT THE ONLY WAY


The game of MLB baseball exists as it does in its current form because data analysts have crunched numbers and worked formulas to come up with the most efficient and measurable ways to predict that a team will win a game. The methodology they have come up with produces results, but it is not the ONLY way to arrive at victory, it is SIMPLY THE MOST EFFICENT AND MEASUREABLE WAY for MLB caliber hitters to win games. This new “School” approach works in MLB, but it does NOT mean the new school way is necessarily the best for amateur baseball and it also does not mean the “old school” way is somehow only for old curmudgeons either.


Through the MLB process of data analysis, performance predictions are made utilizing a combination of measurable statistics to streamline player training and development. The goal of player development is to train players to physically move in ways which will produce the predicted numbers. This has reshaped the appearance of the game. (I.E. – swing planes, Fastball velos, spin rates, etc….) Entire farm systems are trained to help produce the desired numbers and body movements that can produce the numbers. The best of the best in the farm systems eventually ascend to the MLB.


The entire developmental system is driven by provable data and the players who are the best at producing the provable numbers make the most money. In today’s MLB, If a player wishes to get paid for playing baseball, they need to be able to play the style the game the analytics tell them they have to play or they are out of a job.


Unfortunately, there is a trickle down effect which has led to amateur players and coaches to try to mimic the playing style of major league players and teams in hopes of producing the same results as these major league teams. This is often a fruitless offensive endeavor due to discrepancies in talent and physical capabilities of the maturing amateur player.

The MLB way to offensively arrive at wins is to score more runs than the other team by emphasizing OPS and WOBA while de-vilifying the strikeout. As a result, HR numbers are up and strikeouts have soared to historic levels. Details on WOBA and how the analytics movement has revolutionized the MLB can be found at these links:




To score runs and arrive at the highest WOBA or OPS possible, it has been concluded that players should try to hit the ball over the fielders by generating a slight upper cut swing which can result in a ball launched at an optimal angle of 26 – 30 degrees. This swing will produce the launch angle result desired, but this swing will also produce many swings and misses as well as fly outs. A description can be found here.



To see the ball flight result of exit velocity and launch angle visit the statcast link below. Keep in mind, per "Rapsodo" research data, the average exit velo in live BP is 79mph for an 18 year old player and 80mph for college players. Check and see where an 80mph exit velo with 26-30 degree launch angle has the ball land.


Statcast Exit Velocity & Launch Angle Breakdown | baseballsavant.com (mlb.com) - EXPLORE ANY LAUNCH ANGLE AND EXIT VELOCITY COMBO POSSIBLE


GRAPHIC DEPICTING THE RESULTS OF AVERAGE COLLEGE EXIT VELO VS DIFFERING LAUNCH ANGLES.


THE MLB way of arriving at wins MAY NOT THE BEST WAY TO ARRIVE AT SCORING MORE RUNS THAN THE OTHER TEAM at the amateur level due to inability to generate the same exit velocity as major league hitters!


Over the past 13 full seasons, I have been fortunate enough to assist or head coach teams that have won 5 baseball state championships as well as 2 teams that have finished runner up and 2 others that finished in the final 4. Our hitting approach was glaringly different from anything an MLB team is doing right now yet we were still fortunate enough to have great success. (and we face some of the nations top HS competition) We are NOT ignoring the analytics or have a problem with the MLB approach, quite the oppositive actually, rather we have invested in understanding how to create the numbers the MLB players produce and we have realized that the offensive numbers are largely dependent upon generating bat speed that fully matured adults can produce whereas maturing high school athletes may not be capable of producing….YET…..


We tell our players all the time: “We play high school baseball, not major league baseball”….the games are completely different.


Inefficiencies such as the quality of bullpen depth, ability of players to perform defensively as well as MLB players, strikezone command of HS pitchers, ability to manage emotions as well as a major leaguer all differentiate the High School Game from the MLB game.

I THINK EVERYONE WOULD AGREE THAT HITTING HOMERUNS IS GOOD…..but not everyone in HS can do it!


Our hitters are taught to maximize their extra base potential specifically in 0 strike counts and many times in 1 strike counts. We do this by teaching players which pitches they are capable of driving and which they are not. After evaluating bat speed and attack angle, we help players develop a swing that will produce extra base hits at their ability level and we help hitters understand which pitches and locations they should be “hunting”. Players are taught how to adjust their attack angle to help produce hits for them and we value and preach the discipline necessary to employ this approach.


Whereas a desired launch angle in MLB may be 26-30 degrees, some of our players are currently unable to generate the type of bat speed that would allow a 30 degree hit to go over an outfielders head (see statcast graphic earlier in the post). Frequently, we find ourselves teaching players to strive for a 16 – 18 degree angle as this will produce “gappers”. On a major league field, these gappers can produce triples as evidenced by our teams 5 triples in our most recent state championship series played at Truist Park in Atlanta (home of the Atlanta Braves). Eventually, as our hitters mature and maximize their adult strength, they will likely be able to produce enough bat speed at 30 degrees to hit the ball over the outfielders but rather than having them be an unproductive high school player who has a beautiful “major league swing”, we’d rather create productive high school player who possess the knowledge of how to adjust their swing to create more attack angle when their strength allows.


Lastly, concepts we utilize that differentiate our attack from an MLB attack are as follows:


Utilizing something we like to call FFS (Fatigue, Frustration, Stress) helps us arrive at wins. The FFS approach gives our team a variety of options to attack the opposition to hopefully arrive at a victorious outcome. Rather than focusing on OPS or WOBA, we find that OBPE (on base % + Errors) is a better stat at the amateur level to predict offensive success.


Let’s take a look at a few points that form the basis for FFS approach that help us generate a high OBPE:


1. As a pitcher fatigues the pitcher becomes less effective. There is an actual analytic to predict the fatigue of a pitcher based on pitch count and rest time. It is call Fatigue Units and it can be read about here: An Introduction to Fatigue Units: A New Method for Evaluating Workloads | RotoGraphs Fantasy Baseball (fangraphs.com)

- This is where fatigue comes in to play at the High School level. HS bullpen quality and depth are nowhere close to MLB caliber bullpens thus the reason why an all or nothing HR approach is not necessary at the HS level. Creating traffic on the bases through disciplined hitting approach and valuing and celebrating BB and HBP elevate a teams OBPE.


2. As a pitcher fatigues, muscles function at a sub optimal level endangering the pitcher placing the pitcher at a higher risk on injury. This point is discussed in depth here: Manifestations of muscle fatigue in baseball pitchers: a systematic review - PMC (nih.gov)

- This is the reason why program such as PitchKount exist in high school baseball thus guaranteeing that pitching changes will be made at certain pitch intervals. This also calls for the need of a relentless approach rooted around a solid plan for attack that does not vilify selective aggressiveness due to the decrease in performance as a game wears on.


3. Frustration and anxiety are real and they have true impacts on performance. See more on this here: Anxiety and Attention Shifting in Professional Baseball Players - PMC (nih.gov) and here: Capacity: Physical and Neurological (usabdevelops.com) – USA Baseball

- If our team can be just “pesky” enough we can win this battle more times than not and this is the reason why an offense rooted in creating “traffic” on the bases in important as well as the importance of a RELENTLESS 2 STRIKE APPROACH. Also, creating speed pressure by hustling down the 1st base line can help to influence OBPE as well as being intentional about taking quality lead offs and knowing when stolen base opportunities exist.


In conclusion, many of the things that we implement to win are not utilized in the MLB for 3 reasons:


1. MLB hitters are the best people on the planet at hitting Homeruns and homeurns are proven to be the most efficient way to win offensively.


2. The skill level of MLB defenses, pitchers, and MLB bullpen depth make a method based on OBPE arguably less impactful at the MLB level than it is at the HS level.


3. Frustration and anxiety at the MLB level are not measurable….YET….


This final point is one that may change in the future and could revolutionize the game and revolutionize MLB pay structures.


Pretend that there was a measurement for pitcher pulse rate (we’ll call it PPR) and pitcher respiration rate (PRR). What if a certain hitter that is judged as average by current day MLB WOBA or OPS standards actually excels in consistently raising a pitchers PPR and PRR just by being a tough out and by being pesky? What if we could measure a pitchers effectiveness once his pulse and respiration rates were raised? There is definitely a possibility that we would find that a pesky “toughout” hitter raises PPR and PRR and by raising these rates, diminishes a pitchers performance.


Also, current stats only tell a story of player performance without context to what is happening in live time with the hitter. New “machine learning” has found value in evaluating offensive numbers in context. Learning context of offensive players actually rewards “clutch” players. High School coaches still utilize observations of "clutch" players and HS coaches are still allowed to trust instinct to make lineups whereas the practice of trusting instinct at the MLB level has seemed to become largely frowned upon due to lack of evidence to support "instinct". This may be about to change:


What may actually come be a result of this machine learning is the understanding of value of “team” at bats, or how the peskiness of an earlier at bat may actually create a big hit for a player later in the order.


If a player who raises pitcher PPR/PRR while putting up team at bats that actually make his teammates more effective can be identified, you may have found yourself a new “undervalued” player.


So keep in mind, this style of pesky baseball is no longer utilized in MLB not because its not effective, rather because an efficient and effective way that is MEASURABLE has been discovered.


OTHER INTERESTING LINKS:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

About the author: Coach Turco is a 7 time state champion hitting coach (5 baseball; 2 softball) who head coaches a nationally recognized high school program in Marietta, Ga. Coach Turco publishes the blog “Championship Hitting” and posts work samples on twitter @championhitter

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