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Anatomy of a staff

Posted: Friday, May 06, 2011

Last week we discussed the offensive side of the baseball. This week, let's talk pitching. Putting together the Oilers pitching staff is not as easy as signing 12 guys with good arms. We try to break it down to specific roles and recruit pitchers who fit those roles.

We know we will have a five-man starting rotation. This is different than what the players do during the school year. During the college season pitchers generally pitch Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays or during the midweek (Tuesday or Wednesday) games, which means they are on a six- to seven-day rest period between starts. Using the five-man rotation during the summer season allows the guys to experience what professional baseball will be like. It is not a big transition from six or seven days rest to four. Basic motor learning tells us that the human body will conform to the activities we train it to do.

Professional baseball wants the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 to pitch as many times as possible during a season; they are the ones making the big bucks. On many occasions the fourth and fifth starters are bypassed when the team has an off day. You may see us do that this summer depending on the depth of our rotation, resiliency at the top of the rotation or game matchups.

From the skills standpoint, what we are looking for with our starting rotation is the ability to throw multiple pitches for a strike consistently. Arm strength may and can vary as long as they have command of their secondary pitches. The most important skill is something that I will talk about later -- and it has nothing to do with arm strength or command.

With five starters set, we need to build the bullpen. We will carry two pitchers whose role will be middle relief or spot starters. This job entails pitching between the innings of one through six. If something has gone terribly wrong at the beginning of the game, or our starter just didn't have it that day, the middle reliever's job is to get us to the back end of the game while holding the opponent to as little as possible.

The middle relievers will also make "spot" starts when needed. This generally occurs in the back end of a doubleheader. Having the "spot" start allows the rotation to stay intact by not having to move guys from their cycle.

Past the middle relievers we get to our setup guys. We will carry four setup pitchers -- two left-handed and two right-handed. The "setup" guys pitch in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Their job is to work out of situations the starter or middle reliever may be in and get the ball to our closer.

The skill set we would like to have with our setup guys is different than that of a starter or middle reliever. We do not need them to throw multiple pitches or be able to pitch for a long period of time. We are looking for a swing-and-miss pitch. It doesn't matter what pitch it is -- fastball, slider, change-up or split -- as long as it's nasty. Setup guys also need to be able to pitch on back-to-back days.

That brings us to the closer. Like the setup guys, the closer must have a swing-and-miss pitch. When he is in the game, it's close and often tense. We want someone who will come in and strike people out. When the ball is put in play strange things can happen; having a guy at the back end who can strike people out decreases the chances of craziness at the end.

Five starters, two middle relievers, four setup guys and one closer bring us to 12 total pitchers. Now you know what we try to do physically with putting together a pitching staff. Next, I'll try to talk about the more important part -- the mental side.

Dennis Machado is the head coach of the Peninsula Oilers. Send questions for future columns by Machado to sports@peninsulaclarion.com.



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