The pitcher’s mound is one of the loneliest spots in all of sports. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and anxious. One of the biggest things a pitcher can do to combat these unwanted emotions is breathe. Yes, just breathe. Proper breathing helps you relax and concentrate.
Remember that it is harder to hit than it is to pitch.
Never step on the pitching rubber until you are completely ready and focused on the task at hand. Imagine a place behind the mound where you can “take out the trash” before stepping up to get the sign. You are in control. The game cannot start until you throw the ball.
Do not show emotion on the mound. Demonstrate your mental toughness by keeping a level head during success and failure.
Focus on the task at hand – one pitch at a time. You cannot go back and change the last pitch. The only thing you can control is the pitch you are about to throw. Focus on the target and purpose of that particular pitch.
Try to avoid crooked numbers. You won’t get beat by giving up 1s and 0s.
Trust your catcher!
Many youth pitchers try and want to strike everyone out. If you want a recipe for disaster, go ahead and try it. Sandy Koufax said, “I became a good pitcher when I stopped trying to make them miss the ball and started trying to make them hit it.
Do not give away free passes. There is no defense for a base on balls or hit by pitch.
Being a successful pitcher means getting outs. To do that, you must be a smart pitcher. Focus on getting ahead of the hitter. Throwing the first pitch for a strike is extremely important. A hitter with an 0-1 count has a batting average much lower than with a 1-0 count.
Focus on pitching to advantage counts. Get ahead (0-1, 0-2, 1-2) and keep the count in your favor. Throw a strike on 1-1 and swing the at-bat in your favor.
Trust your catcher. Don’t worry about throwing to a hitter. Don’t throw to home plate. Throw to the catcher’s glove. Be a mitt hitter.
Warren Spahn said, “Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.”
All pitchers need to have a pitch they can consistently throw for strikes. This is usually a fastball. To really be successful, a second pitch needs to be developed that can be used to mess up the hitter’s timing.
Smart coaches and players will watch pitchers to see if they are tipping their pitches. Be sure that your motion and arm speed are exactly the same no matter what pitch you are throwing.
Work on your off-speed pitches. Play catch using your changeup grip. Develop enough confidence in your changeup that you can throw it in disadvantaged counts (1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-0, 3-1).
If you are around this game long enough, you will pick up little tricks of the trade. Small modifications that can be made to give you even a slight advantage are part of the game. But have you ever used a magic trick?
What if I told you that I could make home plate grow and/or shrink? A good magician never reveals his secrets, so be thankful that I am not a good magician…and that this really isn’t magic at all.
A post by Baseball Toolshed was making the rounds yesterday addressing players and their body language. I completely agree with the article, stating that poor body language will have a negative impact on your performance and send you spiraling downward. Having a positive attitude and reaction toward failure will allow you to be more confident. That confidence will help translate into production.
Now, let’s take it a step further with Player A vs Player B after striking out looking on a questionable call.
Immediately turns and jogs back to dugout
Sets his bat and helmet down
Gets ready to play defense
Turns to look at the umpire
Shakes his head as he slowly walks to dugout
Throws bat or helmet
Pouts alone on the end of the bench
Umpires are human. They see how players and coaches react to their decisions. When Player A comes up for his next at-bat, the umpire may really bear down because he knows he missed a call last time. Player B will not get the benefit of the doubt. That borderline pitch will definitely be a strike. The pitch two or three inches off the plate will probably be a strike too. Player B’s home plate just widened by about six inches.
How can home plate shrink? Let’s compare Pitcher A vs Pitcher B after a borderline pitch is called ball four.
Receives ball back from the catcher
Focuses on the next batter
Stares down the umpire
Shakes his head or makes a gesture with hands
Pitcher A realizes that the umpire might have made a mistake, but it happens. There is nothing he can do so he focuses on the next batter. Pitcher B won’t get another call if he keeps up that behavior. In fact, his plate will shrink. That fastball two inches off the black that has been a strike might be seen a little differently next time by the umpire.
Umpires are not cheating. Most of the time, these situations aren’t even intentional. An umpire can see home plate in different ways depending on the actions of those around him. It’s human nature. Or is it magic?
There are many problems with the way youth baseball tournaments are set up. One of the biggest issues is how pitching limitations are enforced.
Occasionally, you will get a tournament that trusts each coach not to abuse a child just to win a game. But for the most part, tournaments limit the time a kid can spend on the mound one of two ways.
The first way is limiting the number of innings pitched. A kid can pitch “x” amount of innings per day and “y” for the entire tournament. The number of pitches thrown are not taken into consideration. A pitcher can labor through an inning with 30 pitches or come in with two outs and throw one pitch to retire the final batter. Both would count as one inning pitched.
The other way tournaments “protect” pitchers is by limiting the number of outs recorded. This is slightly better than one pitch counting as an inning, but still doesn’t give an accurate account of how much the pitcher is actually working. This method will say a pitcher can record “x” amount of outs in a day and “y” for the tournament. What if your pitcher is a power pitcher that records a lot of strikeouts? He may average five or more pitches per batter. A pitcher that relies on control and changing speeds may pitch to contact and average three pitches per batter. You could also have a pitcher performing mop-up duty who records six outs but faced 18 batters in the process, throwing 50 or 60 pitches.
How do you fix it?
Obviously, not having an idiot coaching a team is the best way. A good coach should know his pitcher and monitor his pitch count. You should also remember that each kid is different. Throwing 40 pitches for one kid may have a completely different effect of another.
I can’t remember the last time I saw a coach using a pencil and paper scorebook. These days, everyone uses some type of program or app to keep score and track statistics. These apps track pitch counts automatically. Have the scorekeepers compare numbers at the end of the game. Take the average if there is a difference.
Greg Maddux is my favorite pitcher of all-time. He didn’t look like a professional athlete. He didn’t even look like a guy you would see playing basketball at your local YMCA. He is listed at 6 feet tall and that is probably being a little generous. He would beat you with his mind, hence the nickname, “The Professor”. Even though he looked more like someone who would do your taxes, Maddux is a hall-of-famer and firmly cemented as one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.
There are plenty of Maddux gems for us to re-live but let’s briefly look at a game Maddux started against the Chicago Cubs on July 22, 1997. He pitched a complete game, allowing five hits and one run. He did not walk a single batter and struck out six. The best statistic is that Maddux threw 76 pitches and 63 of those were strikes.
Some other incredible Maddux stats…
- In 1997, Maddux faced 893 batters. He went to a 3-0 count on five of those batters.
- He walked the leadoff batter in an inning 0.3 percent of the time.
- Maddux faced 20, 421 batters in his career. Only 310 saw a 3-0 count and 177 of those were intentional walks.
In these days of pitch counts and innings limits, why in the world would you waste a pitch with an 0-2 count? Why give the hitter something for free? Most likely, your “waste” pitch will be so far out of the strike zone that nobody will even consider swinging at it.
Throw the ball 2-3 inches off the black and put the hitter away. Make them chase the ball and hit it anywhere on the bat other than the barrel. If you show the umpire you can consistently hit the catcher’s mitt, you will get called strikes on that pitch just off the plate.
If you don’t believe me, perhaps Greg Maddux will convince you not to be wasteful? Hat tip to the Baseball Dudes Facebook page.