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Check this page often for new tips.  We'll try to put in pitching tips, hitting tips, fielding tips...anything baseball tips...throughout the year.  Check back often and review the whole page.  Today's page looks at the science of the swing and effectiveness of the change-up.
Outfield Defense
The mental aspect of being an outfielder is often overlooked. Here are four tips to keep your outfielder's mind in the game--and in optimal shape for making a great defensive play.  An easy way to remember this set of outfield defense tips is the acronym MAFA, which stands for:
Keep your attention focused on every batter. Any lack of focus can be detrimental to the team's overall defensive goals. Even if you go a few batters or innings, you must keep your attention sharp.

Keep your attention focused on every batter. Any lack of focus can be detrimental to the team's overall defensive goals. Even if you go a few batters or innings, you must keep your attention sharp.
You must be able to adapt to changes to your outside environment as a player. Always keep in mind what the playing surface is like.
Will the ball be wet?

Will the wind carry the ball deep, knock it down short, or blow it to the left or right?
Do I have to battle the sun?
Is the outfield grass short or long, and how will that affect the speed of groundballs.
Each situation in a game presents different circumstances on which you need to focus.
    What is the game situation?
    What is the score and the number of outs?
    What inning is it?
    How many runners are on base?
    Did they use a pinch hitter?
    Where did the batter hit the ball in previous at-bats.
    What is the hitter's count?
Outfielders should always be aware of their positioning, and that starts with knowing the game situation.
As a competitor, you should want to be involved in every play. This doesn't always mean making the specific play. It could mean simply backing up an infielder on a play. You should know the role that you are assigned to play and always be ready.
Remember, outfielders can serve as the hero or goat of a game. Using the MAFA technique, it could help you make the game-saving play.
The Science of the Swing
The following is based on a 90mph fastball and a big league (90ft) diamond, but the same principles are true at the Little League level.  From a time standpoint the factors are similar when you consider a 60mph fastball and a little league (60ft) diamond.


The Change Up: Very Effective and Very Under-rated...

santana change
If you are a pitcher & have spent any time watching the MLB Playoffs and World Series, one of the several things that you must have observed is the attention focused on the change-up.  Cole Hamels, Ryan Madsen & James Shields have all effectively utilized the change-up to neutralize the best hitters in the opposing teams’ line-ups.  In Game 1 of the World Series, Hamels threw 42 change-ups and 7 breaking balls among his 108 pitches thrown. 
Good pitchers and coaches recognize the change-up as the 2nd most effective pitch in baseball behind the fastball.  It is probably the 2nd easiest pitch to master if you are willing to spend time on developing it.  If pitchers spend the same amount of time developing a change-up as they do a breaking ball, their change-up will be TWICE as good as their breaking ball.  Now that seems like a productive use of time!!!!! 
There are 5 things a pitcher must master in order to throw an effective change – the easy thing is that you most likely already have developed 4 of those things, so there is only one new thing to learn.  Again, a productive use of time!!!!!!  The reason for this – the change is thrown off of the fastball that every pitcher already throws. The 5 things to master to throw an effective change: 

  1. Delivery pace identical to your fastball
  2. Arm slot identical to your fastball
  3. Arm speed identical to your fastball
  4. Release point identical to your fastball
  5. Grip
It’s not hard to see that the change up is thrown off of the fastball.  That’s why it is so effective. The hitter watches your delivery and sees fastball…. fastball… fastball…Look Out...change!!!!!!  The change of speed disrupts one of the 2 primary aspects of hitting that the pitcher can impact – timing (line of sight – changing eye level - is the other).
Since everything is the same as the fastball except for velocity, the grip is what determines the velocity.  One of the many great things about baseball is that there is many ways to do the same things – what works for one, does not work for another.  There are many grips you can develop to throw an effective change: split your fingers a little wider than on your fastball, cup the ball deeper in your hand on your normal fastball grip, circle grip, 3 finger grip, 4 finger grip are only several.  Factors that can determine which grips might be effective for you are size of your hands and the length of your fingers. 
Experiment to see what works best for you.  Most importantly, when you find a grip that works for you, COMMIT to it.  Use it, don’t deviate from it – the consistency you develop will be a major factor in you becoming comfortable throwing it.  Get used to it.  Throw it when playing catch, throw it when playing long toss and THROW  IT IN THE GAME.  Don’t be afraid to throw it in fastball counts, double it up.