KISS-imageOkay, let’s get right to it… At times, pitching can seem EXTREMELY complicated, challenging and downright confusing. But it doesn’t have to be…

There’s a popular acronym that really applies here, especially when it comes to actually competing between the lines.

K.I.S.S… Keep It Simple Stupid…

In today’s post I’m going to attempt to keep things “Stupid Simple” by sharing with you ONE thing that will have a bigger impact on your season than just about anything else.

…At least when it comes to your success on the mound.

Then I’m going to give you TWO super-simple, no-nonsense tips to make you use this knowledge effectively in the game. And just a headsup – these will seem like total no-brainer, obvious things…

But don’t be fooled.

Pitchers and coaches overlook this stuff ALL the time… and it ends up costing them BIG time.

Okay, so without further ado, here’s my ONE big “secret” for a successful season of domination on the mound…

Ready? Here goes: [h1]Avoid. Crooked. Numbers.[/h1]

Yup, that’s it. Not totally sure what I’m talking about? It’s something a pitching coach of mine preached all the time.

“You don’t get hurt letting up 1’s and 0’s… It’s those crooked numbers, the 3’s and 4’s.”

Put simply, we’re talking about avoiding the BIG inning. Giving up multiple runs…

Nothing ruins an otherwise solid outing faster. We’ve all been there.

You cruise through 4 innings and then give up a 3 (or 5) spot in the 5th.

Or maybe you give have a rough start and give up 4 in the first before settling down and giving up 1 run over the next 5 innings and lose 5-3.
[h3]That ONE bad inning is a killer![/h3]

It’s the difference between a great outing and a ho-hum, close-but-no-cigar performance.

And over the course of a season those add up.

Ask yourself this…

At the end of the season, if you look back at your lines/boxscores from each game, how much BETTER would your numbers be if you eliminated all the crooked numbers and replaced them with 1’s or 0’s?

How many more WINS could you have helped your team get?

How much lower would your ERA be?

It’s the difference between Maddux and AJ Burnett (among other things).

Maddux-Burnett

Burnett’s got  more dominant “stuff”… But Maddux mastered the art of avoiding the big inning. 

It’s difference between a line that looks like this:

crooked-numbers-scoreboard-big-inning

And one that looks like this:

scoreboard-baseball-scoreless

Seems simple, but it really is incredibly important. Avoiding the big inning can make or break an outing… and by extension, your season and CAREER.

Okay, I think I’ve hammered home the point enough… I can hear you saying, “Okay, I GET it already!”

So now what? Like anything, it’s not just what you know… It’s what you DO with what you know that matters.

So here are TWO super-simple tips to help you AVOID the big inning this season:

[h1]ONE: Get Ahead… and TWO: Don’t Give In[/h1]

That’s it. Almost sounds TOO simple, right? It ain’t… See, pitching doesn’t have to be this big, giant mystery.

And when pitchers get in trouble, it usually boils down to them messing up one (or both) of these two things.

Either they get stuck working behind in the count a lot…

Or they aren’t able to bear down and focus when they get in a jam.

For me, as a young pitcher, I had that second part down…

I knew how to pitch with my back against the wall and get out of a jam.

I THRIVED on it.

But there was a PROBLEM… I was always avoiding contact and pitching behind in the count… And getting myself in more JAMS as a result!

No bueno…

You go that well too many times, sooner or later it’s gonna bite you.

When I got SMART (for me, at least) and started focusing on “forcing contact” instead of trying to miss bats all the time, things got a WHOLE lot easier…

And it really is that simple.

[circle_list] [list_item]Attack the strike zone early.[/list_item] [list_item]Work ahead…[/list_item] [list_item]And don’t fold when the chips are down.[/list_item][/circle_list] Do those TWO things and not only does the game get easier, pitching becomes a lot more FUN. 

Okay, I think I’ll wrap it up there.

As Sean Connory used to say in The Untouchables…

“Here endeth the lesson.”

here-endeth-the-lesson

Until next time…

Committed to Your Pitching Success,

Coach Phil

PS – If you read this far, maybe you wouldn’t mind going one step further. If you liked this post, do me a HUGE favor… Hit one of those buttons to SHARE this post! (Your support is how the BetterPitching community grows)

 

 
So it’s a new year, and hopefully you’ve taken some time to assess and set some good goals for the year ahead. If you haven’t yet, do it now – write them down!

Read my article on the importance of assessing and setting goals to learn why that’s important.

But even when we start out with good goals and the best intentions, it’s easy to lose momentum as the year goes on. We lose that energy and enthusiasm we had at the outset. This is where the emotional component comes in, something I talked more about in my article on dreaming BIG.

So how do you stay motivated?

Great athletes are self-motivated. They constantly challenge themselves and push themselves to get better. They’re driven by an inner, burning desire to be their best. And that’s a big part of what makes them great, what separates them from their competition. But where does that inner fire come from?

Listen to Ray Lewis talk about where his drive comes from (I watched it again last night and it got me all fired up).

See, just having a goal isn’t enough. Achieving anything truly worthwhile takes hard work, and you have to be willing to sacrifice and take action, day after day.

There’s that great Tom Hanks quote from A League of Their Own when he says. “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everybody would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”

When it comes to your goals, if you want to see them through, you have to stay motivated and committed. It has to be something bigger than a wish or something you would just like to accomplish. You have to want it! That desire is something that comes from within – no one else can give it to you.
[h5]You have to know your “Why” [/h5]
“You can accomplish any Thing if you have a big enough Why.” – Unknown

Ask yourself why you are training, why do you want to be a better pitcher, why are you willing to put in all of the hard work, why will you not settle for anything but your best? What are your goals this off-season?

Want to make your high school team?
Why?

Want to pitch in college or get a college scholarship?
Why?

Want to get drafted?
Why?

Want to pitch in the big leagues?
Why?

Take this seriously and give it some real thought. One approach can be to take a long walk, go for a jog, or just shut yourself in a room alone in quiet thought and keep asking yourself “Why?” as you let your mind wander.

Your “why” should be personal, unique to you. But when you know your why, it has a way of making everything else clear. Your training becomes more focused. More intense. More productive.

So what drives you? What’s your Why?

Click “like” below and tell us what’s going to keep you motivated this year!
[hr]

[h2]Self Talk and Developing a Winning Pitcher’s Mindset[/h2]

Ask players and coaches about the importance of a good mental approach, and most will agree it plays a huge role in a player’s success. In sports, when guys are really confident and performing at their best, we talk about them being “in the zone,” and you hear all the time about hitters being “locked in” or pitchers being “in a groove.”

But despite this wide agreement, most players and coaches spend all of their time (or at least the vast majority) focusing on training the physical side of the game. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to downplay the physical side – you can have all the confidence in the world, but if you don’t have the strength and skill to execute a pitch with power and precision it won’t do you any good. But what I notice a lot when it comes to pitching (and sports in general) is people tend to think of confidence and a winning mindset as something innate – you either have it or you don’t – rather than something that can be worked on and improved.

When a guy has confidence, believes in himself, and is able to stay calm under pressure, they’re considered mentally tough. When a guy falls apart in pressure situations, he’s a mental weakling. This outlook is pervasive in sports, and it couldn’t be more wrong. In my opinion, not only is a strong, positive mental approach important, it’s something that’s fully within the player’s control and, just like other areas of his game, can be improved with practice.

The problem is most players and coaches don’t know where to begin. They may understand the importance of a good mental approach, but for the most part the workings of the mind remain a total mystery. So here’s my advice to people in this camp:

[h2]Keep it simple!!![/h2]

And for me that starts with self-talk. How you talk to yourself on the mound can have a huge impact on your mental state, your focus, and your performance. When I refer to “self-talk” I really mean your inner dialogue. It’s fine to talk out loud, too, if that helps.



     But I’d stay away from Grant Balfour “shouting profanities” approach.

[h3]Here are some simple guidelines for pitching with a winning pitcher’s mindset:[/h3]

Keep it positive: Your subconscious mind doesn’t differentiate between “do” and “don’t.” So stay away from saying things like “don’t walk this guy.” All your brain hears is “walk this guy.” Instead give yourself a clear, positive directive. “Good low strike right here!” is a good example.

Focus on what you can control: Remember, as a pitcher, you are in control. You’re the one with the ball, you initiate the action. However, once the ball leaves your hand the result is largely out of your control. You might make a great pitch, get a ground ball, but then your short stop boots it. Or the umpire blows a call, or it takes a bad hop.

The problem arises when you place so much emphasis on the result (out of your control) that it negatively affects your approach on the next pitch. This can lead to a vicious cycle where things quickly spiral out of control. Worrying about all those other things going on around you isn’t going to help you make good pitches. So nip it in the bud and get back to focusing on what you can control (your approach and making a good pitch).

Remember this acronym – W.I.N. (What’s Important Now?): For you as a pitcher, the answer is always the same: the next pitch. The next time you start feeling frustrated or that things are going against you, step off the mound, remember W.I.N. and get your focus back where it needs to be: your next pitch.

Have conviction: The wrong pitch executed well is better than the right pitch thrown with doubt or in a half-hearted manner. So quit trying to out-think the hitter. There’s a great line in Bull Durham where Crash Davis tells Nuke LaLoosh, “Don’t think. It can only hurt the ballclub.” It’s funny, but there’s some truth to it. There’s nothing wrong with being a smart pitcher. But once you commit to making a pitch, you have to shut your mind off, get out of your own way, and execute the pitch.

Let go of negative emotions: It’s okay to be upset if you give up a big hit or walk a batter in a key situation. That’s normal, you’re not a robot after all. The key is not to let that frustration spill over to your approach on the next pitch. Step off the mound, kick a little dirt, take a deep relaxing breath, whatever it takes to help you let go. Once you toe the rubber, you need your mind clear and focused.

Have a mantra: I don’t view this as a necessity, but having an expression you can repeat to yourself during a game can be a big help. Greg Maddux, considered one of the smartest pitchers of his era, said when asked of strategy, “I just focus on making good pitches.” For Kevin Costner’s character in For Love of the Game his mantra was “clear the mechanism.” A simple mantra (something as simple as “execute the pitch”) can really help you focus on the task at hand.

This is just a sample of some of the simple steps for pitching with a better mental approach. How do you think about mental toughness? Is it something you just have or can it be developed? What are some things you do to work on your own mental approach?