Category Archives: Individual Development

How Russell Martin Calls Games

This quick feature on Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin gave us some insight into how he calls games. J.A. Happ had struggled in an outing against the Angels and had to face them again less than a month later. Happ was much better the second time around, so many assumed adjustments were made. Martin said he couldn’t remember much about that first Happ outing against the Angels and continued:

“That’s pretty much how baseball is,” Martin shrugged, when asked about his head-scratching Happ-nesia.

“It’s really not that complicated. You go out there and he’s going to pitch to his strengths and do what he’s comfortable with and what works for him, and that’s it. You know a well-located pitch is going to be tough for anybody to hit, whether you’re an MVP or a September call-up.”

“Just because you have a bad start against somebody the last time has no bearing on the result of what the next game’s going to be,” Martin said. “Different ballpark, different conditions. One day is one day.

This is very much a process-over-results approach to calling games as a catcher. Martin continued in explaining his strategy:

“Obviously there are times where you look at a sample and then you say, ‘Okay this guy is 15-for-20 off this guy with five home runs, you might want to be careful.’ But you can’t have a one-game impact. If he gets hit by one team you can’t be like, ‘We’re going to do things completely different here.’ (Happ’s) strength is his fastball and you kind of go off that.”

Martin argued that, yes, it’s important to know a hitter’s weaknesses but it’s more important to know his pitcher’s strengths. There is so much video available now, with opposing hitters studying the next starter, looking for tendencies in counts and situations, that a starter like Marco Estrada might actually benefit from having Dioner Navarro and Martin catching him at different times.

Martin also discussed how no two catchers are the same and what made former Blue Jay starter Mark Buehrle successful.

Kris Bryant’s Work Ethic

This short gamer from Carrie Muskat of MLB.com has some quality quotes from both Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward about each other. Both delivered in a Cubs victory over the Dodgers back in August and it sparked Heyward to speak about Bryant’s work ethic and approach to the game for such a young player. Bryant, 24, leads the National League in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) as of Sept. 7. He also talks about how the 26-year-old Heyward has inspired him as well.

“He doesn’t quit,” Heyward said of Bryant. “He doesn’t want to stop, and that’s special in the makeup of somebody young, and special in the makeup in a player in general. … You can talk about why he’s hitting the ball well, and he has a good approach. It’s that simple. He works his tail off every day to try and go out there and help us win. When you have that gift and that work ethic, a lot of good things can happen if you stay positive.”

“We all know what he can do at the plate,” Bryant said. “Everybody knows what he can do in the field. He’s a huge asset to this team. If it wasn’t for him getting it started there, we wouldn’t have won the game.

“It inspires me. It makes me want to be like him — always keeping your head up, always being a great teammate. I can’t say enough about him.”

Joey Votto (Hitting Clips)

I’ve recently added multiple clips of Joey Votto’s swing, which can all be found here. I’ll be slowly (but surely) adding much more hitting clips of numerous players in the near future. My goal is to make them easily accessible and convenient to watch, whether you’re on your computer, tablet, or cell phone.

The full catalog can be found here. Players are sorted by last name.

The Evolution of Justin Turner

This article from Andy McCullough on Justin Turner’s rise from journeyman to the Dodgers every-day third baseman is filled with great insights. From Turner’s time in college, the sports psychology classes that helped shape his pre-at-bat routine, to the adjustments he made to his swing.

On the diamond, Ravizza helped Turner build mechanisms to combat the havoc baseball can create. Turner developed a routine that acts as his anchor, absorbed relaxation techniques to calm himself during crises and learned breathing techniques to “really focus on taking one breath at a time, which related back to playing one pitch at a time,” Ravizza said.

“It’s a routine that allows him to give 100% of what he’s got to win the next pitch,” Ravizza added. “I really think that’s what he is about: Winning the next pitch.”

 

How Jose Altuve Became an Elite Hitter

Jose Altuve, all 5 feet, 6 inches of him, could very well be the American League MVP this season. The Astros’ second baseman is posting historically great numbers for a player at his position, especially from a power standpoint. Mike Petriello of MLB.com took a closer look at what Altuve has done differently this year. To put it simply, Altuve has cut down on the amount of pitches he chases out of the zone and has started putting the ball in the air more.

Three months later, that’s still true, but we’ve learned there’s more to it. Altuve has hit fewer grounders, dropping from 47 percent of his batted balls to 42 percent, a career low — and well below the 53 percent it was in 2012. But he’s also dropped his percentage of fly balls, down from 35 percent to 31 percent. Instead, Altuve has decided to just hit screaming liners — the kind of balls with the highest probability of becoming extra base hits.

The article lacks quotes from Altuve on any mechanical changes he’s made at the plate, but the proof is in the video. Check out his front foot/leg:

NEW – Mike Trout Hitting clips

I’ve recently added multiple clips of Mike Trout’s swing, which can all be found here. I’ll be slowly (but surely) adding much more hitting clips of numerous players in the near future. My goal is to make them easily accessible and convenient to watch, whether you’re on your computer, tablet, or cell phone. Stay tuned!

Some highlights from Trout’s clips:

— Trout creates a ton of backside torque. Watch his back shoulder and hip fire to the ball.

— I love this overhead view. A lot to see here, but what jumps out to me is the back leg movement and back foot displacement after contact.

— Back shoulder finish is interesting here. Tracing the barrel path is fun here, too.

Zach Britton Demonstrates his Sinker Grip

Zach Britton has been filthy this season. The Orioles’ closer hadn’t allowed a single earned run since April until Wednesday night. The streak spanned nearly four months. Over 43 appearances, the left-hander struck out 48 batters and allowed just 33 runners to reach base. Britton’s success isn’t surprising when you see his arsenal of pitches, especially his devastating sinker. He recently joined the MASN Orioles broadcast to discuss his sinker grip and how he attempts to get it to both dive away and cut in. Video is below.

Here’s Britton’s sinker in action:

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