Josh Wheeler recently had the opportunity to speak about something he is passionate about — the sport of baseball.
As head coach of the Muenster baseball team, Wheeler helped lead the Hornets to back-to-back state title games, winning it all in 2017.
Some of the philosophies he is passionate about involve the base-running game and its corresponding defense from pitchers.
Certain strategies Wheeler lives by include a pickoff-to-stolen-base ratio. The better the ratio, the more likely wins are to follow.
Wheeler said his talk at the Texas High School Coaches Association convention in Houston had him nervous at first, but he eventually settled in.
“I thought it went well,” Wheeler said. “Once you get into it, you’re talking about stuff that you really know about and it was a lot of fun.”
Wheeler was able to choose whatever topic he wanted to speak on and he said the choice for him was easy.
“I wanted to choose something that was beneficial,” Wheeler said. “First of all, a lot of people talk about their program and how to run their program and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do something that maybe somebody could run with and give them ideas.”
His topic revolved around the need to steal bases and not allow them and in 2017 during the Hornets’ run to the state championship, that ratio was a definite advantage for them.
Muenster stole 92.4% of their attempted 157 bases. On defense, the Hornets only allowed only a 58.8 steals percentage. Overall, the Hornets had an advantage of 129 stolen bases.
In 2018, the Hornets had an even better steal percentage of 93.8 and an advantage of 128 bases.
Wheeler credited his former collegiate coach Steve Goodheart for some of his inspiration.
“I went to Southern Arkansas University and we had a really good coach and I took a lot of what I learned there and put it into what we’re doing here,” Wheeler said. “The more bags you give up, the more runs you give up. So if you can keep runners at bay and not let them steal bags and hold them close to the bag, you don’t give up as many runs.”
As for how Wheeler and the Hornets try to keep those ratios to their liking, he said it’s a multi-pronged approach.
“One key is the routine of a pitcher,” Wheeler said. “When he makes a move, he may take four seconds to throw the ball to the plate, but he has to mix that up all the time, depending on what bag the runner is at. Head movements are key. So if there’s a runner at first, we want to make sure that the runner is keying on the pitcher’s feet, basically to steal. As pitchers, we want to move our head so that runner sees our head move which might lead to a bad jump. We also want to be fast and quick with our pickoff moves.”
Wheeler said there are many nuances to a pitcher keeping base runners in check and that having a diverse array of tricks is crucial to success.
“When runners are not on, I want pitchers to get on the rubber and throw the ball,” Wheeler said. “When there are base runners, it’s on the pitcher. He controls everything. We want the pitcher to not be in a routine. He’s got to be different all the time.”
Patrick Hayslip can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip