Monday, November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday Bat Deals

In case the insanity of Black Friday wasn't enough for you, luckily today is Cyber Monday. There are tons of good deals out there on baseball products. I just did my own shopping at my usual spot for bats. Closeout Bats has some really good deals today and throughout the year. I tend to lean toward Eastons, and they have plenty of those and other models that are approved for Little League and other youth organizations.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Little League Rule Changes for 2012

Little League International has announced rule changes to be implemented in its various divisions of baseball and softball in 2012. These include administrative policy changes, regulation changes and amendments to its playing rules for next spring and beyond. Here are a couple of highlights:

As Little League continues to make a slow transition toward so-called "real baseball," its Major League division will now play "dropped third strike." This means that, as in older divisions of baseball, a batter in the Majors division may now attempt to advance to an unoccupied first base with any amount of outs, or an occupied first base with two outs, if the catcher does not catch strike three in the air.

Documents collected for proof of residency must now be dated or in force between February 1 of the previous and current years. This means that for the 2012 season documents must be from between February 1, 2011 and February 1, 2012. A driver's licence in effect during that time would be accepted. This rule mainly applies to the All-Star Tournament season, when these documents must be presented to Little League officials for player eligibility. Parents of potential All-Star players will be wise to plan ahead and get their documents in order before the summer season.

For additional details regarding these and other rule changes, read the full announcement on the Little League website.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hardball Under Attack In Canada

The Earl Beatty Public School in Toronto, Ontario has banned hard balls of any kind on its playground. In the video below, there appears to be a backstop of some sort in the background, so I assume this means baseball is also a no-no for the little Jays fans. At least they staged a nice protest for the news cameras. Everyone but the kid eating the sandwich is pretty fired up.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

AL Cy Young Award Winner Justin Verlander

It was no surprise that Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers won the AL Cy Young Award for 2011. He was a unanimous selection after a 24-win season in which he won his league's pitching triple crown.

Verlander has many strengths, one being his incredible velocity. He is a starter, but routinely hits triple digits in the late innings of games. How does he do it? Beyond simple arm strength, he has great mechanics that allow him to generate maximum power. He loads up with a very high leg kick, taking his knee well above the waist. That leg drops down into a long and aggressive stride down the mound. But he loses no energy in that leg after it lands. He braces the leg completely like a hitter would and sends all of the energy created by his previous movements up into his hips and shoulders and ultimately the ball. He also loses nothing out to the side in his lead arm. He pulls the left elbow in close to his body to quicken his hip and shoulder rotation and keep his momentum going forward to the catcher.

This is a pitching motion not easily duplicated by young pitchers. The aggressive stride and the braced front leg generate power, but can lead to trouble. The quicker the stride, the quicker the ball must be raised above the level of the shoulders. And the straighter the lead leg, the more the pitcher must work to get his chest and arm out to a proper release point. Rushing down the mound and a high release point can both lead to high pitches, especially at the youth level. But Verlander is a master of his craft and works hard to maintain correct mechanics.

Most guys with the velocity of Verlander throw one or two different pitches and close games. But as if his 100 mph fastball wasn't enough for batters to deal with, he also has a nasty curve and great changeup. Here is a good discussion on Verlander's circle change, a pitch that can be extremely successful at the youth level.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Baseball's Veterans

It's a shame that Veterans Day was nearly buried by media coverage of Penn State last week. But we all owe those who have served our country a big "thank you." Many such heroes were baseball stars who proudly gave much of their athletic careers to our military efforts overseas.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Little League Bat Regulations Announced For 2012

Little League International has announced its bat regulations for the 2012 season. Unlike last year, parents can now do their holiday bat shopping without the fear that their son's prized new stick will be outlawed before the season begins.

At the Little League Majors Division and below there appear to be no changes from last spring. The composite bat moratorium remains in effect, along with this list of approved composite bats that have been tested and proven to meet Little League's Bat Performance Factor (BPF) standards of 1.15 or below, both before and after a bat's break-in period.

At Little League's Junior League level and above, the updated rules fall in line with the anticipated BBCOR (Batted Ball Co-Efficient of Restitution) standards. There are also regulations regarding a bat's "drop," or difference between length and weight.