Rothschild emphasizing the bottom of the zone



The new Yankee Stadium has been open for five full seasons now, more than enough time to definitively say it is a hitter’s park, especially for left-handed hitters. The short porch in right is shorter than it was across the street, so we’ve seen plenty of balls that looked like routine fly outs go over the fence for the cheap homer. Anecdotally, I think the short porch has benefited the Yankees much more than it’s hurt them since 2009.

Because of that potential for the cheap homer, the Bombers have emphasized getting ground balls since the new park opened. The staff has gradually progressed from a 42.3% ground ball rate in 2009 to a 44.9% ground ball rate last year. Ground balls will again be a focus this year, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild has his staff focusing on the bottom of the zone early in camp. From Joel Sherman:

In bullpen sessions this year, pitching coach Larry Rothschild has introduced a technique he used in previous locales, but not with the Yankees — he has a yellow string that crosses the bottom of the strike zone and he actually is encouraging his pupils to hit the string.

Pounding the bottom of the zone should lead to more ground balls just because it’s tough to lift a ball at or below your knees, though the occasional golf shot is unavoidable. Whether this new drill actually leads to an increased grounder rate during the regular season remains to be seen, but hey, at least they’re trying.

In addition to an increased ground ball rate, emphasizing the bottom of the zone may also have a side effect: more called strikes. In a long but must read piece, Jon Roegele explained last month that the shape of the strike zone has changed during the PitchFX era. The zone is increasing in overall size but the corners are coming in while the bottom of the zone has expanded downward. Here are two heat maps from his post:

2008-13 Strike Zone Changes

Grey means no change in the percentage of called strikes from 2008 (first full year of PitchFX) to 2013 while white means fewer called strikes and black means more called strikes. Again, the corners are coming in while the bottom of the zone gets bigger and bigger. You can click the image for a larger view, or, even better, click the link and read Roegele’s post for the entire analysis. It’s great stuff.

Anyway, Rothschild has emphasized the bottom of the zone this spring and it figures to help the Yankees both get ground balls and called strikes. Throwing strikes is hard though, especially to precise locations. It’s unlikely the entire pitching staff will suddenly start throwing everything right at the knees, but all it takes is one pitcher taking advantage of the bottom of the zone for this work to be worth it.


  1. dkidd says:

    rothschild > stottlemyre >>>>>>> eiland >>>>>>>>>> guidry

  2. Dalek Jeter says:

    I don’t know how I feel about this…sure it’s impossible to hit a groundball over the fence…but its also a lot easier for a ground ball to find outfield grass. Especially when your infield is going to be average at best in 3 out of 4 positions.

  3. TWTR says:

    I love this. It’s similar to Dave Duncan’s philosophy.

  4. Jedile says:

    Apparently the Yankees are trying to acquire Elvis Andrus?


    I just doubt this is legit considering it is latinopost. But ?

  5. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    I watched the Pirates do this drill in ST a few years ago–its very interesting. It was surprising how often they hit the string.

    • Havok9120 says:

      I would really like to see big leaguers do this kind of exercise at some point. One of the few drills I’ve heard described where I’ve said “that might be fun to watch.”

      • Dalek Jeter says:

        I’d like to see this and K-Long’s pull drill. I might not like the philosophy, but it sounds like a cool drill to watch.

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

        The biggest surprise was how many catchers they carry the first month of ST. I want to say there were six or eight mounds in the pitching pen, and 3-4 were in use at any given moment. It was also the best view of an MLB fastball I’ve ever had, and it was amazing. I have 15/20 vision and I couldn’t see shit.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

      Big leaguers are really really good.

      • jjyank says:

        Yep. I remember one time a few years ago, I paid in an 18+ statewide baseball league in NJ during one summer. This one pitcher was some former prospect who flamed out in AA somewhere. And he just swiped the floor with our line up all day. And that was a failed prospect.

        • Dalek Jeter says:

          Remember I said I know the kid Rob Kaminsky, the LHP who got drafted by the Cardinals, at age like 14 he could strike me and all his other older brother’s friends out like it was nothing and we were all in our late teens early 20s. He was only going at like 75% and was only throwing fastballs and changeups. I made contact (literally just a foul tip) and I felt good about myself.

          • jjyank says:

            Yup. I actually got on base against the guy, but it was a walk on a full count and it was really more “I can’t hit his stuff so I’m not gonna swing and hope he misses the plate” than it was “I have a good eye”.

        • jjyank says:

          *played in

        • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

          Cashman obviously failed there.

  6. OldYanksFan says:

    I wonder if Pitching to the bottom of the zone also makes the ‘high hard one’ more effect.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      The TWSS is strong with this one.

    • Havok9120 says:

      One would think. If nothing else, it’d mean that hitters need to keep an eye on part of the zone they might otherwise largely ignore (since they can’t do anything with a pitch there anyway).

  7. Eddard says:

    I’m a big fan of pitching to contact. Pitchers like Nova who have great sinking fastballs should be trying to induce the groundball. Allows the pitcher to go deeper into games and isn’t prone to the cheap HR. CC and Hughes were the biggest culprits last year in giving up HRs and need the most work on this.

  8. JGYank says:

    Grounders are great, but with YS dimensions and Gardy and Ells in the outfield I wouldn’t have a problem with fly balls being hit to left or center.

  9. I'm One says:

    Strikeouts >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> contact of any kind, especially when compared with ground balls and this infield as currently constructed. That said, if there’s contact, I still prefer ground balls to other types.

  10. Jorge Steinbrenner says:

    Chien-Ming Wang was a groundball pitcher. We should beware of any our pitchers rounding third base during interleague games moving forward.

  11. pinch hitter says:

    In a related note, MLB will announce at the end of spring training that in the interest of competitive balance the strike zone will be raised 6 inches this year. Also, all Yankee mound visits will have to be conducted in Sanskrit.

  12. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    Can anybody steal Girardi’s binder so I can replace Jeter or Roberts with Ryan in the 7th?

  13. RHP says:

    college teams do this all the time, this is nothing new.

Leave a Reply

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

If this is your first time commenting on River Ave. Blues, please review the RAB Commenter Guidelines. Login for commenting features. Register for RAB.