Talk About Major League Superstitions!
Nobody tops former MLB pitcher Turk Wendell's rituals, shown here. Whoa!
Do you have any rituals or superstitions?
Nobody tops former MLB pitcher Turk Wendell's rituals, shown here. Whoa!
Do you have any rituals or superstitions?
"Don't rush" (or) "Stay back."
This one deserves a lot of attention, and as I look at it, I may need to spend a few days looking at it from a few a different angles.
I'll start with this. Timing is everything. It even supersedes mechanics in importance. For a pitcher to repeat his delivery, he needs to repeat the timing of his delivery.
More in tomorrow's post...
Who inspires you? Who do you inspire? Do you ever think about that when you're coaching or instructing the baseball pitchers you work with? I do. Inspiration is not a small deal, in fact it's quite important. As a baseball coach or parent, the things you do and say make a big difference and can leave a lasting impression on a kid's life far beyond the pitcher's mound or baseball field. This video brings it home...
"Don't lose him."
Imagine yourself coaching a golfer. As he approaches a Par 3, you notice a water hazard directly in front of the tee box. Your golfer sticks his tee into the ground and takes a few practice swings. Then right after he addresses the ball, moments away from swinging, you "help" him by saying "Don't hit it in the lake!"
You certainly would have meant well...you really didn't want him to hit the ball in the water, but did your advice really help matters? Would saying that motivate a golfer to hit a better shot?
It's like telling a person not to think of a pink elephant ... just by mentioning it can cause the opposite result. The application here is obvious. By telling a pitcher not to lose the batter, the pitcher thinks about losing him.
The trick for a pitcher is to be focused on the task, the next pitch, and to turn the mind off. Japanese baseball players call this "Mushin" which loosely translates into "no mind." For a pitcher, it's not just not thinking about losing him but not thinking about anything at all. It is seeing the target and hitting it.
In my opinion, a coach really can't do much to help with this during a game. A pitcher needs to learn how to relax and let himself compete with a clear head. We are all tempted to help, but a pitcher's mind is much more like a golfer's than we all might think. Staying out of it, and keeping the teammates out of it, might be the best thing we coaches can do during competition.
"Get on top."
This is one of the most common cues heard from coaches. The problem with this one is the majority of pitchers don't have an over-the-top arm-slot and asking them to "get on top" of the baseball only causes problems.
Take Nolan Ryan, for instance. His release point was from a 3/4 slot and releasing the baseball from the side of his hand allowed him to stay upright with his head over his center-of-gravity (around the belly button). Asking him to "get on top" would have encouraged him to leave his natural arm-slot and sacrifice his posture.
Anytime a pitcher leaves his natural arm-path and arm-slot he runs a higher risk of injury and, less importantly, will lose velocity and natural movement. Biomechanists tell us that each individual has a biomechanical signature that includes the natural path of the arm, and allowing a pitcher to pitch without altering it is the safest way to go.
Somewhere along the line a popular rumor started in baseball that warned of the dangers of throwing sidearm. I can remember hearing people tell me as a kid that throwing sidearm is "dangerous" and had to do the (unfortunately still popular) "showing the baseball to 2nd base" drill over and over again.
The thing is, that arm path, and slot, is artificial for most baseball players and an artificial arm path, and slot, is counterproductive and can often lead to injury.
A look at a few other healthy pitchers reveals the same thing. Here we see three slightly different arm-slots, but none of them are over-the-top and none of them release the baseball "on top" of it. (Another potentially interesting observation is that all four examples are releasing fastballs).
When a pitcher hears a coach instructing him to "get on top" it often ends up looking like the following image of Francisco Liriano. His dramatic change of posture, head leaning glove side, occurs because he is trying to get his hand on top of the baseball. While pitching like this can still be effective, it can often - and did - lead to injury. Liriano spent the '07 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Just casually walking by youth baseball games and you'll hear some pretty typical instructional cues coming from the stands, the dugout and even from the players themselves. Funny thing is, they seem to be the same basic "tips" that I heard way back when I was a kid. But this got me thinking, is it wise to ask ourselves a few questions:
1) Are we sharing this advice because we are certain it will help?
2) Are the instructional cues based on science or on tradition?
3) Do the pitchers even understand what those cues really mean?
4) Is calling out pitching advice during the game all that helpful anyway?
This week I will look at some commonly shouted out instructional cues and share some thoughts on what they mean, and if they are really what the best pitchers in the game do at all.
Ray Adams, a youth travel team coach, submitted this article on running an effective team practice. I particularly like how these tips keep all players (pitchers and position players) active throughout the entire practice session. As always, I encourage you to submit your articles, details here.
With cold weather upon us and the excitement of the upcoming season just around the corner, one of the greatest challenges of a youth baseball coach is not only finding an indoor practice facility for off season workouts, but also trying to cover as many aspects of the game as possible if and when you do find such a place.
As a coach for a youth travel team, I spend a great deal of my free time planning our indoor practices. Our setting is an old office building that has been setup with a single full size batting cage, and a space that's around 60 sq. feet behind the cage. The limited space creates the biggest challenge in planning practices, but here are some tips that may help those of you who are in similar situations.
1. Divide the team into halves and have two separate - one hour practices. When we first began practicing in December, we had the entire team show up for the first two practices of the month. This was only to let the new guys get to know each other and gel a bit. Afterward, we split the team up to arrive at separate times which cuts down on "idle" time.
2. Set up stations. Have assistant coaches or parent volunteers to assist. Every week, two of our three stations are the same. At station 1 we have a guy hitting off the tee, with a coach feeding the tee and covering fundamentals. At station 2 another coach pitches live. Finally, station 3 is where I am. I call it the classroom part of practice because each week we cover a different topic and always review our discussions from the weeks before. In our six practices thus far, I have covered pitching mechanics, pickoffs, rundowns, 1st and 3rd situations, batting and pitching signs, and how to take primary and secondary leads. You can't actually perform some of these things at the cage but a dry erase board works great for covering topics like run downs and relays.
Remember, the purpose of covering these topics indoors in the offseason is to save time on the field when you practice outdoors.
3. Give them homework. For example, some of our guys have never pitched before, so going over pitching mechanics for one hour a week at practice just isn't enough. Have your pitchers work at home 10 minutes a day, 3 days a week simulating the pitching motions they learn at practice. You'll be able to tell the ones who actually work at it.
4. Also, you can utilize the cage for working with catcher's on mechanics, throwing ground balls and short hops to infielders, ground balls and do or die situations to outfielders, and pitchers can actually throw a bull pen in the cage.
Covering as many aspects of the game as possible at your indoor off season practices will not only save you time later on , but it will also allow you to have more productive workouts. Good luck to you and your team in 2009!
Here's a nice interview with Rick Peterson, former pitching coach for the Oakland A's and N.Y. Mets, on pitch counts, evaluating pitchers, getting ahead of hitters, and the makeup of a successful pitcher.
I recently got into a discussion with some coaches about balks and thought I would share the following 11 ways to balk
1) Make a quick pitch. This seems to be the most common balk called at any level. The pitcher must come to a complete stop from the set position and must not pitch before the batter is ready.
2) Pitch while not touching the rubber. The post foot must be in contact with the rubber while beginning the delivery. (As soon as the pitcher goes into foot-strike the post foot will naturally drag forward toward home plate and will not touch the rubber as the torso rotates). The consistent bend of the post leg from start to finish proves the concept of "pushing off" the rubber is nothing but a popular myth.
3) Fake the pitch. The pitcher can't make any movement to deceive the runner or batter.
4) Fail to have both hands on the baseball in the set position.
5) Pitch without looking at the batter.
6) Fake a throw to first base. (Unless he steps off the rubber first).
7) Make a pitching motion without completing the pitch.
8) Drop the baseball while on the rubber.
9) Delay the game.
10) If the catcher is out of the catcher's box during an intentional walk.
11) Fail to step toward and ahead of the throw. This makes any type of "spin-move" illegal.
Jeff Moree, a high school pitcher at Carmel Catholic, in Illinois, submitted this article on establishing mound presence. I really like his advice on the importance of body language and the role it plays on mental side of pitching. As always, I encourage you to submit your articles, details here.
So you have the 90 mph heater, a dirty curve, and a sneaky change. What are you missing? It is one thing to have the tools of successful pitching, but it is another thing to show the hitter that you have what it takes to get them out.
I am talking about mound presence. It is the unspoken pitching tool that separates the good from the great. Being able to intimidate the hitter and get into their head will give you the advantage when push comes to shove.
Having "command presence" is proving your ability to take control of the situation at hand; that situation being the pitcher versus the hitter. If you can demonstrate that you are in charge of the situation, and can attack the hitter, you will have the upper hand in the battle. If you allow the hitter to intimidate you or get in your head, he will pick up on this and thrive. It is in your best interest to show the hitter that you are the boss, and that you are in charge of his impending strike out.
Another key factor of Mound Presence is "body language." As a pitcher, we have tendencies to show our emotions through our body motions. If you let up a screaming double and slowly walk back to the mound, it gives the impression that you are defeated, and therefore gives the hitter all the more confidence. A solid physical presence will give you the look of "mental toughness." Pitching mechanics tend to differ when emotions set in. Some pitchers may over throw when they are getting shelled, others may drop their arm angle. These flaws in a pitcher's mechanics usually lead to more hits and a fatigued arm. A strong mental pitcher keeps his mechanics sound throughout the entire game, regardless of his emotions.
Having a certain aura about you as a pitcher will help to give you the upper hand in a game. If you show your confidence on the mound, the batter will realize that you mean business. However, if you allow the emotions of the game to affect your body language and mechanics, you will lose any advantage you may have had over the hitter. You are the pitcher ... you are in charge of the game ... be the boss.