The Art & Science Of Calling Killer Pitches 0

By LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

OXFORD, Miss. — The art and science of pitch calling in games is fascinating to study with elite coaches.

Ole Miss Head Coach Mike Bianco, who led the Rebels to their first national championship in 2022, is one of the best in the business at calling pitches.

In this exclusive interview with Collegiate Baseball, Bianco shares what he does to call games for his pitchers that allow them to frustrate hitters.

During games, he is typically flanked by the starting pitcher for the next game and the analytics director with multiple pages of data on opposing hitters between the trio.

In addition two other coaches are close who set the infield and outfield defensive alignment. All of them work in unison when Ole Miss is on defense.

One of the key reasons Ole Miss won the College World Series last June was its pitching staff.

In six games, the Rebels led all teams with a 2.00 ERA and struck out 64 batters while only walking 14 batters over 54 innings.

The person calling all of those pitches was none other than Bianco.

A little background is in order first.

Bianco was a superb catcher during his playing days and was the starting catcher for LSU in 1988 and 1989 as he worked daily with unquestionably the best pitch caller in baseball history in Hall of Famer Skip Bertman. He led the Tigers to five national titles.

From 1993-97, Bianco coached pitchers at LSU (Bertman was the lead pitching coach) along with catchers and also was the third base coach. He coordinated and executed the daily practice schedule and helped with baserunning and recruiting.

Bianco learned every nuance of calling pitches from this giant in the coaching profession and what information and video was essential to gather to make informed calls on virtually any count for each batter.

In addition, Bianco learned how to train pitchers so they ultimately had command of several pitches and could perform in high pressure situations.

As a coach, Bianco has been part of four national championship teams (three at LSU in 1993, 1996 and 1997 and one at Ole Miss in 2022).

“I learned from arguably the best pitching coach and pitch caller in college baseball history in Coach Bertman,” said Bianco.

“He was a catcher in his playing days. When he got into coaching, he became a pitching coach.

“One of the crucial bits of advice he handed down was that if pitching is 70 to 80 percent of the game, why aren’t you involved with the pitch calling during games? That’s why he did it. He felt it was such an integral part of the game.

“It wasn’t just calling pitches. It was also working with the pitchers on a daily basis.

“If you work with the pitchers, some ask the question why it is necessary to call pitches for them. When I was catching for Coach Bertman over two years, there were some people in the 1990s who criticized coaches who called pitches because they felt pitchers didn’t learn how to call games and neither did the catchers.

“They felt that they eventually would have to do that when they got to pro ball.

“I don’t agree with that reasoning. What happened was that pitchers and catchers at LSU under Coach Bertman learned a system that showed you every nuance of developing pitchers in addition to showing them the numbers to look at and video of what opposing hitters were doing so you could exploit their weaknesses in different counts.”

To read more of this in-depth story, purchase the Oct. 1, 2022 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. Bianco delves into the different charts that are put together by Director of Analytics Chris Goudoras as every number is dissected. They show if a batter is susceptible to swinging at a 3-2 breaking ball and so on. Bianco also delves into how important the law of averages are with opposing hitters, why calling pitches is not simply trying to call a pitch the batter isn’t expecting and not flying by the seat of your pants.

He also explains the foundational principles of attacking hitters through video study and sophisticated analytics through many hours of research for each team they play. Bianco also explains that watching opposing pitchers on video who have similar body builds and throwing motions as Ole Miss pitchers is vital in seeing how hitters from opponents will react to different pitches. He also explains the shake off, pitching against the elite hitter who struggles, in-game corrections for pitchers, the 3-2 count, making adjustments, how pitchers are developed, plus much more.