S.T.R.1.K.E. is to a pitcher/defense what B.A.S.E.2. is to offense. Again, we covered the significant impact the B.A.S.E.2. System can have on the outcome of the game, if you get three of the five criteria. What we wanted to do was develop something that was similar to 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:
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. 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 just the starter to determine if the pitcher had a Quality Start.
Let me explain why we decided on the six factors that make up S.T.R.1.K.E. and why we award the point values that we do. Before I get into each category individually, let me say that
these were chosen, because we felt that by doing these things defensively, we would greatly increase our chances of winning. We wanted to keep the list short. I have read what some pitching coaches are trying to do and the list is endless, it goes on and on. I cannot remember more than a handful of things and I am certain most players are the same. 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.
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 decided to include the Shutdown Inning was we are trying to prevent that from happening to us defensively. If we score, then put up a zero after we have scored. Essentially, we are trying to negate the other team’s 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 game’s first runs in the bottom of the third inning, then our defense/pitcher has the chance to record a Shutdown Inning in the top half fourth inning. If we do put up a zero, then two points are earned in that inning, and any subsequent inning, when 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, whereas the criteria of S.T.R.1.K.E. can be earned multiple times throughout the game. It is a scoring system rather than a check system. Aside from the Shutdown Inning, pitchers have the chance to earn points in each category, every inning.
Thirteen Pitches or Less
As previously mentioned, we want to work short innings, keeping the pitch count low for the inning and down for the game. Every time a pitcher records thirteen pitches or less, they receive one point.
Retire First Batter of Inning
The data I have found for MLB state 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 moves from college to high school, or even younger. So, to try to avoid this issue, we make sure we give credit to our pitchers when they do retire the lead-off hitter of an inning. Again, it is 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 him 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 do is split apart what I previously called a Quality Inning and award a point for both (Thirteen or Less/1, 2, 3) parts individually, 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., due to the fact that baseball and 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, then lose focus and walk the third hitter. We want to keep our focus and make sure players do 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 against it happening to us when pitching because of the significant impact it can have on the game. So, defensively our pitchers only 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. An example of not earning a point would be the pitcher striking out a hitter for the second out and then giving up a hit and a walk, then the last out is recorded by a force-out at 2nd 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 score in the previous half inning, giving the pitcher the opportunity to earn:
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 Total Point for the inning
Obviously, a nine-point inning would be rare, but definitely possible. What we really look for is an average of 3.5 points per inning, or higher in the S.T.R.1.K.E System. Of course, we want to look at each inning individually, but we consider it a quality start by a pitcher if they have a 3.5 inning S.T.R.1.K.E. average, win or lose. We 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 are the data that we have collected over the four seasons:
(Having a 3.5 S.T.R.1.K.E. rating or higher)
The result was 82 wins, 3 losses, and 3 no decisions by our starters.
(Having less than 3.5 S.T.R.1.K.E. rating)
The result was 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. As coaches, the worst thing we can do is give a pitcher a false sense of confidence when they really did not earn it. Coaching players openly and honestly with the mindset to provide ongoing opportunities to grow should be the goal for your pitching staff. S.T.R.1.K.E. can now be part of that.
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Attack the season 1-Pitch at a Time!!!