The following is an excerpt from 101 Ways to Become a 1-Pitch Warrior: Equipped for Excellence. Set to be released later this year. Aside from coaching baseball, speaking, writing books, and consulting with baseball/softball teams my real job is a high school math teacher. I have always been very interested in the numbers behind baseball. If you have read my other articles about QABs (Quality At-Bats), B.A.S.E.2., Quality Innings, A3P (After Three Pitches), and TPI (Team Process Index) you probably have realized that my fascination lies within trying to measure the process for teams and to create systems that lead to winning ways by knowing what we must to do give ourselves the best chance on any given night. S.T.R.1.K.E. is the next installment of Process Based Measurement within the 1-Pitch Warrior System.
S.T.R.1.K.E. is to a pitcher/defense what B.A.S.E.2. is to our offense. Again, we have talked about the significant impact the B.A.S.E.2. System can have on the out come of the game if you get 3 of the 5 criterions. What we wanted to do was develop something that was similar to that B.A.S.E.2. but for the other aspects of the game. Even though I love B.A.S.E.2. it is one sided. All offense and we know that it takes more that just a great offense to win games. What we (Coach Jon Fitzpatrick and I) came up with was a scoring system that is easy to remember for both coaches and players for our defense and pitchers. Here is what the S.T.R.1.K.E. System stands for and how the scoring system works:
S = Shutdown Inning (+2)
T = Thirteen Pitches or Less (+1)
R = Retire First Batter of Inning (+1)
1 = 1, 2, 3 Inning (+1)
K = Strikeouts (+1 for each)
E = End the Inning (+1)
This is an actual scoring system instead of just a check off list like B.A.S.E.2. Definitely a little more work for a coach but well worth the feedback it provides to your team and starting pitcher. Just to note this is something that you could do with all pitchers during the game but what we have found is it is best for the starter to determine if the pitcher had a Quality Start.
Let me explain why we decided on the six factors that make up STR1KE and why we awarded the point values that we did. Before I get into each category individually let me say that these were chosen because we felt by doing these things defensively we would greatly increase our chances of winning. We wanted to keep the list short. I have read things that some pitching coaches are trying to do and the list goes on and on. I cannot remember more than a hand full of things and I am certain most players can’t either. If we can consistently have Shutdown Innings, Quality Innings, Retire the First Batter, have 1,2,3 Innings, Strike a few batters out, and End the Inning once we get two outs our starter will be giving us a great chance to win the game. In short the process will dictate the outcome. Commit to doing these things well and improve your chances of a solid outcome.
As you have learned with B.A.S.E.2. Answering Back is a part of the game that can increase your chances of winning. Offensively we are tying to counter when the other team scores in any half inning we want to score immediately in the next half. The reason we wanted to include the Shutdown Inning was we are trying to prevent that from happen to us defensively. If we score then we want our pitcher and defense to put up a zero after we have scored. Essentially trying to negate the other teams ability to collect the “A” in B.A.S.E.2. Because the chance to shut the other team down does not happen every inning we felt it was important enough to award it two points. For example if we score the games first runs in the bottom of the third inning then our defense/pitcher would have the chance to record a Shutdown Inning in the top half fourth inning. If we do put up a zero then two points would have been earned in that inning and any subsequent inning where this occurs. The biggest difference between B.A.S.E.2. and S.T.R.1.K.E. is that B.A.S.E.2. is a one and done where the criterion of S.T.R.1.K.E. can be earned multiple times throughout the game and is a continual scoring system rather than a check system. Aside from the Shutdown Inning pitchers would have the ability to earn points in each category of S.T.R.1.K.E. every inning.
Thirteen Pitches or Less
We want to work short innings, keeping pitch count low for the inning and down for the game. Every time a pitcher records thirteen pitches or less they receive one point. Longevity is much more likely for a starter if we can keep pitch count down.
Retire First Batter of Inning
The data I have found for MLB states that if the leadoff batter gets on he scores over 37% of the time. I am sure this number increases as the level of baseball/softball played moves from college to high school or even younger. So to try to avoid this issue we want to make sure we give credit to our pitchers when they do retire the lead off hitter of an inning. Again, one point for each time they record the out of the first batter.
1, 2, 3 Inning
Any time the pitcher records a 1, 2, 3 Inning we give them a point. This is in addition to having a Thirteen Pitch Inning because a Thirteen Pitch Inning might have more than three batters. Could be four or five. Also a pitcher might record a 1, 2, 3 Inning and throw more than thirteen pitches. What we did was split apart what I previously called a Quality Inning and awarded a point for both (Thirteen or Less or a 1, 2, 3 inning) since they are not mutually exclusive.
I have made a big point about not telling our pitchers to try to rack up strikeouts. But we felt it must be approached as a part of S.T.R.1.K.E. because the fact is that baseball/softball are much easier when your defense does not have to make plays. Every K recorded is an easy out and also worth one point within the S.T.R.1.K.E. System.
End the Inning
We added this because the most frustrating thing for coaches is to see the pitcher cruise through the first two batters and then lose focus and walk the third hitter. We want to keep our focus and have players not let up once two outs have been recorded. The strategy here is to create an inverse defensive philosophy to B.A.S.E.2. We are trying to score with two outs when hitting and we are trying to defend it from happening against us when pitching because of the significant impact it can have on the game. So defensively our pitchers get a point if they retire the very next batter once the second out is recorded. They do not get a point even if no one scores with two outs. Example of not earning a point would be the pitcher strikes out a hitter for the second out and then gives up a hit and a walk then the last out is recorded by a force out at second base and no one scores. We want to end the inning as soon as possible meaning the very next hitter.
All things considered the maximum a pitcher could score in any one inning would be nine points and that would only happen if we scored in the previous half inning giving the pitcher the opportunity to earn two points for the Shutdown Inning:
Two points for a Shutdown Inning (+2)
One point for throwing thirteen or less pitches that inning (+1)
One point for retiring the lead off hitter (+1)
One point for a 1, 2, 3 inning (+1)
Three points for striking out the side (+3)
One point for ending the inning (+1)
= 9 Point Total (Max) for the inning
Obviously a nine-point inning would be rare but definitely possible. What we are really looking for is an average of 3.5 points per inning or higher in the S.T.R.1.K.E System. Obviously we would want to look at each inning individually but we would consider it a quality start by a pitcher if they had a 3.5 inning S.T.R.1.K.E. average win or lose. We have found 3.5 points to be the magic number when we rate starting pitchers with the S.T.R.1.K.E. System. We want pitchers to focus on process and this is a great way for players to have a road map of what successful pitchers do to give themselves a chance for good outcomes.
Here is the data that we have collected over 4 seasons:
QUALITY STARTS (Having a 3.5 STR1KE rating or higher by our starting pitcher)
This resulted in 82 wins, 3 losses, and 3 no decisions by our starters.
NON-QUALITY STARTS (Having a less than 3.5 STR1KE rating by our starting pitcher)
This resulted in 14 wins, 17 losses, and 9 no decisions by our starters.
This makes it very apparent that there are certain things that pitchers can do to improve their outings as a starter to have a Quality Start. The best part is now you can measure those specifics and provide constructive criticism to players in a loss and even in a win. The worst thing we can do as coaches is give a pitcher a false sense of confidence when they really didn’t earn it. The measurement systems created within the 1-Pitch Warrior System are designed to measure the process but also provide opportunities for growth as we are able to identify what may be crippling our performance. Coaching players openly and honestly with the mindset to provide continual opportunities to grow should be the goal for your pitching staff, hopefully S.T.R.1.K.E. can now be apart of that. If you are interested in learning more about S.T.R.1.K.E. or other processed based measurement systems head to www.1pitchwarrior.com to checkout the 1PW DVD/Book and be sure to sign-up for the free email list for a ton of free videos and content.
I have been hard at work this summer writing the second installment of the 1-Pitch Warrior Series: 101 Ways to Become a 1-Pitch Warrior. The S.T.R.1.K.E. article is one of one-hundred other chapters that range from process based measurement (for both practice and games), mental game ideas, drills, practice organization, and program builders. The book is set to be released by the end of the year (hopefully end of October) and will be available at www.1pitchwarrior.com for $20.
Any coaches interested in the STR1KE System or any of the other Process Based 1PW Measurements can purchase the 1PW System DVD and will receive all the things necessary information to record and track the data.