Sacking small ball

Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011

I was approached by Shawn Maltby, the Oilers general manager, about an idea the Clarion had for a coaches corner. He said the paper wanted me to do weekly write-ups on coaching baseball, tips and anecdotes.

My first thought was, "Who in the heck would want to listen to me ramble about baseball? There are a lot smarter coaches than me out there to pass on tidbits."

Then it hit me, here is my chance to write in the paper I grew up reading (sports page/comics). So here we go!

The 2011 Oilers will have a different look than previous seasons. While the focus, for me, will always be pitching and defense, our offensive strategy will mirror American League baseball. Every team that has played in Kenai knows that the ballpark plays big; the grass is thick and plays slow, and the ball does not carry due to the wind, which always blows in.

For this reason teams are constructed to play "small ball," a lot of drag/push bunts, sacrifice bunts to move runners over from first to second, hit-and-runs and any other way to manufacture runs. That is about to end and here is why.

Our goal is to win the National Baseball Congress World Series. Playing at Lawrence-DuMont Stadium in Wichita, Kan., is vastly different than playing at Coral Seymour Memorial Park. In Kansas, the ball flies, the turf infield plays fast and teams can play defense. When you play nine innings, or 27 outs, you need every one of them.

Teams score runs in bunches so scrapping for three or four runs isn't going to beat the better teams. Playing a "small ball" system means you are going to give away five to seven outs per game via sacrifice bunts, botched hit-and-runs and runners being thrown out stealing. That means the other team only has to get you out 20 to 22 times, which would mean they are getting nine offensive innings and you are getting seven, not a good matchup.

The below table, taken from the website Boyd's World, represents the average runs scored in college ball after the given situation occurred. Statistically, giving away outs lowers the chance of scoring runs.

That does not mean that we will never "play the game." There will be times a sacrifice bunt is needed, there will be times we will ask our players to attempt a stolen base. But, over the long run of a season, we will give away as few outs as we can.

Outs 0 1 2

Empty 0.63 0.32 0.11

1st 1.10 0.65 0.28

2nd 1.39 0.84 0.39

1st and 2nd 1.83 1.16 0.57

3rd 1.62 1.08 0.44

1st and 3rd 2.07 1.40 0.65

2nd and 3rd 2.32 1.59 0.73

Loaded 2.70 1.88 0.98

Playing this style of baseball is going to take some time for our players to learn. We may even lose a game or two during the process. That is a price we are willing to pay for our ultimate goal.

The 2011 Oilers roster was put together with this in mind. We have players who can hit the ball out of the ballpark, we have players who will wear out the gaps in the outfield, and we still have some players who can flat out run. Our offense is designed to score runs in bunches. We are looking for the four- or five-run "knockout punch" inning.

From the baseball standpoint, playing this style of baseball is a no-brainer. From the fan standpoint, it should be an exciting brand of baseball to watch. I hope I did not bore you into skipping the rest of the sports page and moving on to the classifieds. We look forward to seeing you at the ballpark this summer.

Dennis Machado is the head coach of the Peninsula Oilers.

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