Monthly Archives: March 2014

Hoppe Explains His 55 1/3 Inning Streak

Hoppe Explains His 55 1/3 Inning Streak

Jason Hoppe Minnesota St Mankato ActionBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
© 2014 Collegiate Baseball

MANKATO, Minn. — One of the most remarkable records in NCAA history was set last year as RHP Jason Hoppe of Minnesota State threw 55 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings.

This had never been done on any level of NCAA baseball before.

Overall, Hoppe finished with an 8-1 record, 1.26 ERA and struck out 99 batters over 92 2/3 innings as a junior. Incredibly, he was not drafted last season by professional baseball despite these staggering numbers and is back for his senior year.

“During the streak, everything seemed to go my way,” said Hoppe.

“It seemed like every ground ball or fly ball that was hit to keep the streak alive, our fielders made plays. Line drives were hit right to our players. I was able to dance out of trouble and just kept pounding the strike zone. As I look back on the streak now, it was a pretty amazing accomplishment.”

Hoppe said that he not only faced a slew of great hitters in his conference but on the regional and national level as well through the playoffs.

His working velocity last year was 87-89 mph with his fastball. But he has worked hard at increasing his velocity and now throws at 90-91 mph. He topped out at 93 mph several times.

His repertoire of pitches includes a 4-seam fastball, 2-seam fastball, 12/6 curve and a nasty changeup which he throws for strikes 85 percent of the time.

“My best pitch is the changeup,” said Hoppe.

“And it has gotten a lot of outs and strikeouts for me over the years because I can throw it on any count. My coach at Sauk Rapids Rice High School (Sauk Rapids, MN) was Jeff Hille, and he taught me the pitch when I was a sophomore. It took me 1 ½ years to really master the pitch, and it wasn’t easy. But when I saw what the pitch did as you threw it with fastball arm speed, it was one I couldn’t ignore.

“When I am throwing it properly, I can throw it right down the middle of the plate belt high as the batter gets excited at a perceived fat pitch. Then at the last second, the ball drops down and to the right and is extremely difficult to hit. Plus, the batter sees fastball arm speed and is usually thrown off by this as his timing is upset.”

Hoppe said his changeup is 78-80 mph and acts like a screwball.

He explained how he grips his changeup.

To read more about Jason Hoppe of Minnesota State, purchase the March, 7, 2014 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.

Pitch Recognition Can Be Done By Hitters

Pitch Recognition Can Be Done By Hitters

Peter Fadde MugSome batters have the uncanny ability to recognize pitches, spitting on the slider off the corner and raking the fastball in the same hole. Others don’t have it and end up guessing or hacking.

Southeast Missouri State hitting coach Dillon Lawson decided that he wanted to improve all of his batters’ pitch recognition skill during fall 2013 practices in order to achieve the team’s goal of disciplined at bats and improved run production.  

 “I couldn’t find anything really solid on coaching pitch recognition,” Lawson says.

“Just painting numbers or dots on balls, that sort of thing. But as I searched around, I kept coming across Dr. Fadde’s research. So I e-mailed him, and he was very enthusiastic about helping us train pitch recognition.”

Dr. Peter Fadde, a professor at Southern Illinois University, has researched pitch recognition for over 15 years and published numerous studies in sports science journals along with making presentations at the American Baseball Coaches’ Association and MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conferences.

Dr. Fadde also patented computer technology for testing and training pitch recognition that has been licensed for commercial development by Axon Sports.

 “But the more I talk to coaches,” says Fadde, “The more it’s clear that we have to get pitch recognition training into the batting cage. So when coach Lawson described what he wanted to do, that sounded like just what’s needed.”

SEMO head coach Steve Bieser approved the project. “There’s nothing more important than seeing the ball,” says Bieser. “Right out of the pitcher’s hand. Reading fastball or breaking ball, making the swing adjustment, and not getting fooled.”

Lawson also received interest from pitching coach Lance Rhodes, whose pitchers would be needed for pitch recognition drills.

“It’s good for my guys, too,” says Rhodes. “The more feedback they get about what hitters see, the more they can work on their deception and delivery.”

The fall pitch recognition program had two goals. The first was to use sports science methods and second, to fit it into regular team practices without disrupting established routines or adding contact time.

Initially, Dr. Fadde tested batters’ pitch recognition skills by having players watch video clips of pitchers, from the batters’ view, that were cut to black shortly after the ball left the pitcher’s hand.

The method is used by sports scientists and called video-occlusion. Batters identified fastball, breaking ball or changeup.

“Testing the players does two things,” says Fadde.

“It gives us a baseline to see if they improve. It also lets players see the occlusion method as scientific, and that leads them to take pitch recognition drills more seriously later.”

Coach Lawson turned several traditional batting cage drills into pitch recognition drills. Instead of just hitting the ball off a tee, for instance, a coach or teammate stood behind a pitching screen and simulated throwing a fastball or curveball. The batter would call the pitch type out loud, visualize the trajectory of a fastball or curveball out of the pitcher’s hand to the tee location, and then put a good swing on the ball.

Two-ball side flip was adapted by having the batter hit the higher ball unless the coach or teammate flipping the baseballs called “change.” Then the batter had to adjust mid-swing to hit the lower ball. “Fastball/changeup at the bottom of the zone is something we have struggled with,” says Lawson.

“It’s not necessarily swing and miss but bad contact, rolling over the changeup. So I wanted to work on that specific recognition and swing adjustment.”

When the pitchers did bullpen work, the hitters joined them for a Stand-In Pitch Recognition drill where batters took their stance in the batter’s box but did not swing. Batters were asked to call out the type of pitch or ball/strike before the pitch hit the catcher’s mitt.  

 “Calling out the pitch before it hits the catcher’s mitt forces the batter to focus on the release point and pick up cues, like skinny wrist for breaking ball,” says Fadde.

“Players sometimes say, ‘we’ve been standing in for years.’ But they weren’t calling pitches right out of the pitcher’s hand. That makes this stand-in drill a version of the video-occlusion method.”

 “It takes some coaxing to get guys calling out loud,” says Lawson. “We had to remind them, ‘Loud and early’ quite a bit at first.”

Pitching coach Lance Rhodes adds, “I wanted them calling it loud so my guys could hear. When batters are calling your changeup every time, that gets a pitcher’s attention.”

Lawson and Rhodes developed a rotation of pitchers and batters working from two bullpen mounds to incorporate the Stand-In drill into team practice sessions one or two times a week throughout fall practice.

After the drill was established, Lawson introduced a sawed off ghost bat.

“The hitters still needed to call out the pitch,” says Lawson, “But now they could also swing and get their timing. Putting together what you see and where it will be.”

In addition to on-field drills, batters used a prototype of the Axon Sports laptop computer program to practice recognizing pitches from three different video pitchers. The players came to the baseball office on their own time to work on pitch type, location, and zone hitting drills, earning higher levels like a video game.

“Some guys really took to the computer drills,” says Lawson. “The best part was being able to talk about reading the pitchers because I did all the computer drills, too. Like picking up that the lefty muscles up on his slider and fastball, compared to the changeup. That’s language we can use.”

Dr. Fadde plans to conduct more video tests to compare SEMO batters’ pitch recognition to players on other teams. The ultimate test, though, will be how well the team achieves the coaches’ offensive goals in the coming season.

“We already got some confirmation on our pro day,” says Lawson. “Several scouts commented to Coach Bieser and me that our hitters weren’t striking out much and didn’t seem to chase breaking balls out of the zone.” 

For more information on pitch recognition research, see Dr. Fadde’s website www.peterfadde.com 

For more on the SEMO project, e-mail Dr. Fadde at fadde@siu.edu or coach Dillon Lawson at adlawson@semo.edu

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Pitchers Can Learn From Fighter Pilot Training

Pitchers Can Learn From Fighter Pilot Training

Matt Manship Jet Photo CockpitBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
© 2014 Collegiate Baseball

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — In the military, one mistake can get you killed. But in baseball, a .400 hitter who fails six out of every 10 at-bats is exceptional. If a pitcher throws 65 percent of his pitches for strikes, he has good command. Yet he misses his target 35 percent of the time.

Lt. Matt Manship, a skilled naval aviator who flies F/A-18F Super Hornets for the VFA-213 Blacklions, has just been deployed to the Middle East. A former righthanded pitcher at Stanford during the 2003-2006 seasons, he graduated with a degree in economics and then worked as a financial analyst intern at Maxim Integrated Products for four months before becoming a Project Manager at Cisco Systems for nearly two years.

In July of 2008, he embarked on a totally different line of work as he applied to the Navy to attend Officer Candidate School.

He ultimately graduated No. 1 in his class and became a precision combat pilot who has the skill set to land jets on aircraft carriers in total darkness.

At top speed, the jets he flies can reach 1,190 mph. He also must be able to maneuver the aircraft in an instant in any direction and be able to press numerous buttons or switches by reaction. If he thinks too much in combat, he could die.

In this special interview with Collegiate Baseball, Manship explains the similarities between pitching and being a combat fighter pilot and also gives techniques that may translate well from being a pilot to the pitching mound.

He was asked to explain the similarities and differences between being a Naval aviator and pitcher.

“The atmosphere is similar with a fighter squadron and in a baseball locker room.

“There is a reason why people use the term ‘Jet Jock’ because it’s very similar to playing sports. The type of individuals who are in the squadron are very close to you just like on a team.”

Manship said that the No. 1 area that translates well from fighter pilots to pitchers is discipline.

“I got a healthy dose of discipline at Stanford in the way the coaching staff prepared players for games. Here is a little taste of what players were required to do. I am not aware of any coach in baseball other than Mark Marquess at Stanford who dictates how he wants the players to stand during the National Anthem. He actually mandated that we stay completely still.

“This is something that people in the military do as well. They turn, face the flag, and in our case, salute while remaining perfectly still.

“You noticed players on other baseball teams during the National Anthem shifting their weight or looking around. But I like the way we did it at Stanford.”

Discipline Vital At Stanford
Manship said once Stanford players were on the playing field, there was no walking allowed.

“Coach Marquess called it ‘striding’ which is taking about 10 to 20 percent off a full sprint. That’s the only way he allowed players to move around the field.

“Even when I got to the minor leagues after graduating from Stanford, I was so conditioned with that discipline that I would be running around, and my coaches would have to stop me and ask me to slow down. They would warn me that it is a long season in pro ball, and you must learn to take it easier.

“But I always responded that this is how I was conditioned.

“Coach Marquess was one of the greatest motivators I have ever come across in my life. And I owe some of the discipline I have today to him. Those are just two of the many examples I could give.”

Manship, who was drafted by the A’s in the 29th round in June of 2006, said that his pitching coach at Stanford, Tom Kunis, was also a strict disciplinarian.

“A quote that sticks with me today that Coach Kunis said was ‘Discipline is doing something you don’t want to do at a time when you don’t want to do it but still do it well.’ ”

Manship said that establishing a routine is crucial in being a pitcher or combat pilot.

To read more of the story on Matt Manship, purchase the March 7, 2014 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.