How Sarasota baseball coach Clyde Metcalf manages a game

Written by Staff Report on April 12, 2011 | Herald-Tribune

 

SARASOTA, Fla. – This is the latest in an occasional series of how area varsity sports coaches operate from the sidelines during a game. Today, Sarasota High baseball coach Clyde Metcalf.

 

Clyde Metcalf, in his 30th season as the baseball coach at Sarasota High, is the area's preeminent baseball coach.

 

He has won six state championships and compiled a 742-183 overall record, including 25 20-plus win seasons, primarily by making sure that his Sailor teams go into every game prepared for the opposing pitcher and hitters.

 

With the help of scouting reports, Metcalf tries to leave as little to chance as possible.

 

One of his assistant coaches, Ted Lyke, scouts opposing teams and puts together index cards and "spray charts" of the hitters' at-bats over not only one season, but the player's entire career.

 

Armed with this knowledge, and trusted assistant coaches Ed Howell, Mark Aschenbrenner and Lyke at his side, Metcalf, 57, outlined how he manages the ebb and flow of a game from the dugout.

 

Pre-game briefing

 

"We try to scout all of our opponents and tell our kids what they can expect from the opposing pitcher that night, if there's any special things they do defensively, pickoff plays we've seen or heard about, or if we know of any weaknesses. We want them to play with instinct. You try not to overcoach on game night. If you browbeat them too much, it's hard for them to be relaxed. The scouting report is a great benefit. But some days the kids just can't execute it. If they can't, you've got to adjust to what they're doing well."

 

As the Game Unfolds

 

"The game situation really dictates what we do. We use 'spray charts' on all the hitters to determine where we're going to position our fielders. A lot depends on how we're going to pitch him and who we have pitching as to where we position our fielders. Spray charts have lines drawn as to where guys hit the ball when they make contact. Ted Lyke keeps 5x7 cards on the hitters. Say a team like Riverview, or a team in our district, he may have 50 or 60 at-bats on those kids. We will keep them from year to year. There was a young man who played for Riverview last year, that between his four years on varsity and his summer, I'll bet we had 90 at-bats on him. And we used all 90 of them. Then it comes down to, could our pitcher execute?"

 

Changing pitchers

 

"All of our pitchers are on pitch limits — 50 to 55 pitches early in the season. I don't remember one of our guys throwing over 100 pitches. We need to know in our mind where we're going if we need to start an inning with a new pitcher, or where we're going to go if we get in trouble. Because it could be two different guys. Some guys get looser quicker than others. But that moment really dictates and that's ever changing. You could be one pitch away from getting out of an inning and two pitches later, you may be down two runs. A lot of it is just feel for what's going on. Because a guy may be just missing his location and they get a couple cheap hits. Knowing who we have on the mound, who we have on the bench, sometimes when you look down your bench, the guy that's on the field might be your best option. If someone starts having a big inning, there's times we'll get a guy up, throwing in the bullpen with no intention of bringing him in, just to try to refocus the guy that's on the mound. Sometimes I'll send Eddie Howell out to the mound if we see something that's mechanical, to talk to the kid, settle him down, unnerve him. To slow down their offensive pace, maybe take a little momentum away, or make a little adjustment. Sometimes I'll take a trip to slow everything down and calm everybody down, bring the infielders and catchers in and say, 'Hey, look, we're a ground ball away from getting out of this inning, let's relax, refocus.'"

 

Calling Pitches

 

"We call all the pitches from the dugout. We found we have better success doing that. Because we have the charts. We call all the pitches and all locations, in, out, up, down. Really, it's a chess match as much with our kids as it is with the opponents. There's situations where maybe you should throw a curveball. But you know that your pitcher is struggling with a curveball. Even though our scouting report says in that count, we should throw a curveball, we know we can't. Because we're going to fall further behind in the count. We have to adjust what we do. That's when it really becomes a game of feel, not just with your opponent, but also with your own kid. If we think it's a steal situation, we may call for a fastball up in the zone, to give us a better chance to throw the guy out."

 

Sign language

 

Metcalf has a sign system that uses number sequences and touches to tell the catcher what pitch to call.

 

"Sometimes the number sequence is 'hot.' Sometimes the touch is 'hot.' They can work independently or together. Sometimes the number sequence will tell the catcher what's hot. Sometimes the inning will determine what's 'hot.' We vary it up. Be it the inning, the number, the touch. By changing it up, we've been pretty successful not having people steal our signs. We've played teams where as I give the signs, I can look into the opposing dugout and there will be five or six sets of eyes, a varsity coach, a junior varsity coach and a couple of players trying to steal our signs. Bottom line, they still have to hit what's pitched. But you try not to give them the advantage of knowing what's coming. We don't try to pick people's signs up. I personally don't think signs help hitters."

 

Playing for the Big Inning

 

"Our philosophy is to hit the ball and score runs with the bat. That's what we're built on here. We hit-and-run a little bit. But we like to swing the bat. We work a lot on situational hitting, on moving runners up. We always feel we're capable of a bigger inning swinging a bat than giving up an out. We make sure they understand the importance that when they're in the on-deck circle, or when they're "in the hole" or just sitting in the dugout, that they need to be watching the pitcher, seeing if he changes a release point or picking up any patterns that he does. If he gets behind in the count, does he go to a high leg kick because he's trying to throw a strike, which makes it easier to steal. We want the kids, with the help of the coaches, picking those up during the game. Not when they're on first base or in the batter's box. Because at that point, they've got to concentrate on exactly what's going on."

 

Time for a bunt

 

"If it's a one-run game, a tie game, we're very adept at bunting. We usually don't do that until the sixth or seventh inning. If it's time for a sacrifice bunt, every guy in our lineup can bunt. They know they're going to get three chances to do it. They'll either put the ball down, or they'll strike out. If a pitcher falls behind 2-0 in the count, there's a very good chance I'm going to take that bunt off. A lot of times, pitchers lose the strike zone when guys are bunting and they're thinking about fielding their position. Don't bunt at a 'ball.' Make him throw strikes. Because if he doesn't, you're probably back swinging away."

 

Pinch-hitters

 

"If a guy has struck out twice and you see it in his body and his face, you make a change to shake it up a little bit. We've brought in pinch-hitters and looked like geniuses and also brought in pinch-hitters and looked like we didn't know what we're doing because he struck out on three pitches. It's mainly knowing your personnel. Maybe you saw a guy in batting practice that's 'dialed in' and hitting well, but he's not in your starting lineup. You have an opportunity to use him. It's really a 'gut' thing."

 

Playing the field in a close game

 

"Can we keep the infield back? Maybe try to turn a double play if there are no outs and give up that run. Or bring our middle infielders into the baseline and that play better go to the plate. If it's late in the game, it may affect the depth you position your outfielders. Because you want to give yourself a chance to make a play if the ball is hit in the air. Some guys will 'squeeze' bunt on the first pitch. If it's a tight game in the sixth inning, if we're the home team, we got the hammer, we get to hit last. If we feel we can score runs off their pitching staff, that could dictate what you do, too."

 

Talk in the dugout

 

"It may be about a situation that just occurred on the field, someone was out of position. Late in the game we may bring them together and say, 'All right, we have to get a man on base. If we get a man on base, guys, we are playing for a run. Mentally start preparing yourself for that. We're going to bunt or hit-and-run. If we get a man on second base, you have to hit the ball to the right side of the infield to move him up.' ... It's man-on-man, let's go get him and see what happens. That's, to me, baseball."

 

 

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