Scout’s Take: Is Baseball Going Over the Foul Lines?

Sources tell me that the Atlanta Braves’ player development system may be moving away from small ball, (bunting, stealing and situational hitting) as part of their make-up as a team. My source from the Braves organization was told that a person high up in player development was quoted as saying: “Players are not going to get to the big leagues by bunting.” Long time managers and coaches, who do not go along with teaching the launch angle and power type approach to hitting where strikeouts are okay, are being let go. This year was the first time in baseball history that there were more strikeouts than hits in the major leagues! Yikes! The Braves now seem to want to go Yankee style. Problem is that they signed many players over the past 3-4 years that are not power hitters, aka Judge, Stanton, Harper etc. Instead they went for pitching depth first (Nothing wrong with that) and everyday players that can hit in the clutch and play good defense.

But hold on a minute. The “monkey see, monkey do” approach this season may slowly begin to take effect as organizations look at how the Red Sox are winning. The use of fundamentals (other than just playing for the 3 run HR) such as stealing bases, hitting to all fields and better at-bats with runners on base while pushing their starting pitchers to go longer into games, especially in the regular season, has made them more effective in the post season. Will other teams see their success with this approach and begin to copy?

That being pointed out, I want to talk about my beliefs that scientists and mathematicians will get you to the moon but it takes seasoned veteran baseball people to get you to the World Series. You can read a book on how to ride a bike but you need to actually get on it and practice, fall off, get back on and learn how to ride it.

With hitting today, players get in the cage for batting practice and play “Home Run Derby” while a coach throws softly from 40 feet away. I would like to see pitchers work on their mechanics and stuff while throwing BP. Like it used to be done so batters can recognize breaking balls. Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson and Tom Seaver threw BP. It didn’t hurt them. I watch and grind my teeth when I see an old coach throw meatballs during BP as a string of pitchers throw to each other in the outfield or do sides in the bullpen. AHHHH! When did we start thinking that those arms were too delicate to throw a little bit of BP? Help me out here.

You know how you get better at hitting? You learn to hit the pitches you have the most trouble with.
The other day I was talking to a major league scout, who has over 40 years in the business, and he pointed out those things to me.

There are other ways that hitters can improve on recognizing those breaking balls as well as how pitchers can benefit from throwing BP. Today it is the breaking ball that hitters have the most trouble with. How do you learn to recognize those pitches better? You need to see more of them. Hitters get to bat an average of 4 times in a game so why not work on it in BP? That would require a BP pitcher who can throw breaking balls from 60’ 6” at a level that a hitter will see in a game. The scout told me that Barry Bonds insisted that BP pitchers threw from the mound and that they throw breaking balls as well as straight stuff. Duh….. a pitcher on the staff can do that. How about standing in the box when one of your real pitchers is throwing his side sessions? This will also benefit the pitcher as he can work off the batter to simulate a real game at bat.

I’ve been told so many things that make me wonder why baseball has abandoned the simple, basic things that developed good athletes into big league players. Like the importance of playing “pepper” to develop better contact. Contact is paramount in hitting a ball. Most of these guys think “pepper” is something you put on potatoes.

As long as they continue to develop players the way they do now, we will see them play a game where the HR is paramount and strikeouts are no big deal. It won’t hurt the teams because everyone is doing the same thing and therefore the playing field will be level. Just one problem, the fans. They will be seeing a narrow, limited product on the field. But alas, it allows them time to go to the concession stands or restaurants at these new state of the art ballparks with no fear of missing too much. After all, HRs don’t happen that often.

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