Games are Won or Lost in between pitches!

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Lantz, really good article.

What a pitcher does in between pitches can be so important to that pitcher. More coaches and parents should recognize this and let the guys pitch.

Time after time, I’ve heard coaches and parents barking orders to pitchers between every pitch. Some of which I have to admit are kinda funny. My favorite is a dad on my son’s HS team, yells to his son on the mound between every pitch to, “Bow your neck”. God forbid the kid walks a hitter, the dad jumps up and starts pacing behind home plate. A hit, the hands go flying, like he was trying to take off and fly.

Most pitchers have a routine or something they do superstitious. As parents and coaches we need to realize this and leave them alone once they climb the hill for the next pitch.

Can you imagine someone telling CC Sabathia not to catch the ball from the third baseman with his bare hand? It’s part of his routine and superstition.

Pretty good article. I hope you’re open for an itty bitty bit of constructive criticism that you might be able to work in somehow.

When you say he can’t control ANYTHING once he releases the ball, that’s not quite right. He can certainly control how he fields his position, and that could have a direct effect the game and its outcome. A lot of people forget that once the pitcher lets go of a pitch, he doesn’t disappear. All that happens is, he becomes one of 9 fielders with distinct responsibilities.

So while he can’t control anything from the standpoint of pitching, once he releases the ball he has an obligation just like any other fielder, to be prepared to make a play correctly. Some years back I began doing a metric called “Pitcher Mistakes”. In it I kept track of all the normal things, but I added something. Errors made by the pitcher. If you go to and do a find on “pitcher mistakes” you’ll see how our pitchers have done over the years. I think you’ll see one how 1 pitcher caused himself a lot of problems that he was in total control of but failed.

Great stuff thinktank absolutely great


When you say he can’t control ANYTHING once he releases the ball, that’s not quite right. He can certainly control how he fields his position, and that could have a direct effect the game and its outcome. A lot of people forget that once the pitcher lets go of a pitch, he doesn’t disappear. All that happens is, he becomes one of 9 fielders with distinct responsibilities. [/quote]

Sure, I see what you’re talking about and fielding your position is important, you failed to mention back up responsibilities. I think both would be reacting, he still has no control over where the ball is hit or if the ball hits a rock as he’s fielding it, lol.

You just brought up something I have been talking about for quite some time.
When a pitcher steps off the rubber, whether it be in completing a pitch or throwing to a base, s/he becomes a fifth infielder and has to be able to do all the things infielders do. This is why pitchers’ fielding practice—PFP for short—is of such paramount importance. It’s not just backing up; it’s handling come-backers, covering one base or another when the infielder is out of position, bunts of every size and description, bang-bang plays, high popups near the mound—you name it, more often than not the pitcher finds himself or herself having to deal with all these things. I have seen games lost because the pitcher didn’t know what to do in one of these situations, and I have seen games won because the pitcher (such as Andy Pettitte) was on the ball and then some. I remember one day when Eddie Lopat, my wise and wonderful pitching coach, showed up with some guys and put us all through a PFP that was not only a terrific workout but also a lot of fun; I got more out of it in those three hours than most pitchers do in a month or even a season! One of the highlights for me was starting a 1-4-3 double play, and when that was done Lopat said to me, "Nice going. You nailed that one."
Pitchers actually have more control over things than they realize. The only thing against which there is no defense is the screaming line drive that clears the wall and goes out of the park, across the street and into Aunt Minnie’s kitchen window and smack into the roast turkey on the table! :slight_smile:

What a pitcher does between each pitch is just as important as how he executes each pitch. Most practice and training is centered around making the pitch or preparing the body to make the pitch. The mental aspect before and after the game, as well as between pitches is mostly overlooked.

I like to teach pitchers about their circle of influence. It’s often wider than they think, but sometimes it’s smaller than they would like. <–Meditate on that one for a while :wink:

Good post Paul. How in the world does mental prep mostly slip through the cracks?

We prepare pitchers exhaustively. From core training to mechanics. Fine tuning to make them as “perfect” as possible between outings. I could go on and on, but, mental prep, not so much.

Another aspect that’s often overlooked is the pitcher’s superstition. It’s usually seen as quirky instead of what it is; Part of his mental preparation to make the next pitch.

The reason I didn’t mention it was because I consider backup responsibilities as part and parcel to fielding responsibilities, and I agree they would both be reactionary.

If you really wanted to get technical, he could check for rocks, divots, wet spots, etc. prior to every pitch, but it would be a bit silly and time consuming. :wink: But in theory, the pitcher does have a lot of control over where and how the ball is it. There are GB pitchers and FB pitchers, and the tendencies can be tracked. There are also a lot folks who believe purposely throwing certain pitches in certain locations can and do induce ground balls, oppo BIPs, etc…

Of course that’s part of the pitch execution and takes place prior to the ball being released, so in the end it really is out of the pitchers control after release. :wink:

Yes, there are ground-ball pitchers and fly-ball pitchers. But you left out one important variety: the K-pitchers. The ones who strike out an awful lot of batters. Besides all those strikeouts, they could be either GB or FB pitchers as a side-dish. I remember that I was mainly a K-pitcher, but I could also get a few grounders—good to know, because I did have to relieve from time to time and there was often someone on base, so with none or one out in that situation I could induce a nice juicy DP. Eddie Lopat once told me, "You have some good fielders behind you. You can let them do some of the work—get a few outs for you now and then."
Because I had a very good arsenal of pitches and knew what to do with them, I had a distinct advantage. The batters never knew what I was going to throw, or even if I would throw it, and being a sidearmer I had that extra weapon—the crossfire—and used it extensively. Lots of unhittable pitches. Down in the strike zone. The batters would return, grumbling and grousing, to their bench, polluting the air with imprecations and invectives and just plain cusswords—and I would chuckle evilly to myself. :lol:

Everything posted about pitchers fielding, backing up, and choosing the correct pitch is definitely part of the process and necessary.

It’s funny how quickly the conversation moved away from the mental aspect of pitching and turned back to execution. This IMO is the same thing we do with pitchers far too often.

There’s no choice but to include execution in any conversation about pitching, because no matter what happens, sooner or later a pitch has to be thrown. I’ll go along with what the pitcher’s mental state is has an effect on how that pitch is executed, but so do a host of other things.

What’s unfortunate is, how much the pitcher’s mental state has an effect on the execution depends entirely on the pitcher, so in that sense some need a much different mental approach than others. Because of that, you can’t ASSUME every pitcher would benefit from concentrating more on the mental aspect. In fact, doing that may well hurt more than it helps in some cases.

In the end, no matter if the pitcher’s mentally a basket case or rock solid, a pitch has to be thrown, and there’s no way around it.

Agree that execution of the pitch is the ultimate goal.

The pitcher’s mental state of course plays into the execution of his pitches. No matter the mental state of the pitcher, the mental aspect has to be addressed even if the position is to clear his mind and “just throw”. It’s still a mental aspect of the game and needs to be addressed.

Especially for those kinds of pitchers coaches need to recognize the “fragile” nature of the player and approach that player differently so he can execute without his head getting in the way, thus concentrating on the mental aspect.

What you’re saying seems to be agreeing with me in that all players are different, and therefore require different approaches. That another way of saying that no approach is the “best” approach for all players, and that not all players will benefit equally from any specific approach.

We agree that the mental aspect of pitching is very important. We also agree that a pitch has to be eventually thrown. And it also seems we agree that no cookie cutter approach will work equally for all pitchers. So are you trying to say pitchers in general aren’t being coached properly in their mental approach? If so, what do you see as a way to change that?

Very often the judge of what will or won’t work for an individual pitcher is the catcher. A prime exemplar was Yankees catcher Yogi Berra, who knew his pitching staff as no one else could. He knew, for example, that Vic Raschi often needed a good goosing to get him going; while Raschi was warming up Yogi would yell at him “Come ON, Onionhead, is that as fast as you can throw it?” He knew that once Raschi got going he was practically unhittable on the mound. Yogi would take it easier with Allie Reynolds; the Chief was a power pitcher with finesse but he had a few medical problems—he was a diabetic who was also prone to hypoglycemia, and this affected his stamina, which was the reason he often couldn’t finish a game and needed the assistance of Joe Page in the late innings. So Yogi would not push him any further than he had to. With Eddie Lopat, Yogi would just settle behind the plate and catch him; he knew that Lopat, who was not a fireballer (or so he wanted the batters to think),would outfox and discombooberate the hitters with his vast arsenal of offspeed and breaking pitches, which made catching him a piece of cake. And with the younger pitchers Yogi would tailor his approach to the needs of the individual.
Jim Turner, the Yankees’ pitching coach for ten years, often asked Lopat for advice and help. While Turner preferred to address mechanics, Lopat was heavily into the mental and psychological side of pitching, and he was the one who could get a confused pitcher back on track. I asked him once about this particular approach, and he told me that a pitching coach (and he doubled as an extra coach for the Yankees) really needs to be something of a psychologist. Often a pitcher’s difficulties have nothing to do with mechanics or repertoire—but what’s going on between his ears—and Steady Eddie would find himself having to deal with this. And all this while he was consistently and monotonously beating the Cleveland Indians to an unrecognizable pulp!

I wouldn’t say pitchers in general. However, at the youth level and even into high school, I’ve seen a lot of coaches who don’t even mention the mental aspects of the game in between starts. I’ve also seen these same coaches who appear to take the hands off approach when it comes to mental prep or even general game prep with pitchers, yell to the kid on the mound between every pitch. It’s not always negative and that’s not the point.

The point is that in between pitches is the wrong time to get into a kids head. I’ve seen alot of young pitchers blow up due to coaches constant “instruction” after every pitch.

For me the bottom line is, the kids have to execute the pitch. He also has to have the mindset to be able to execute. Coaches IMO need to spend more time learning and recognizing what kind of pitchers they have mentally, alot of their approach to the kid can help or hinder his performance. I see this simply as an aspect of being a coach.

Turn 22

Gotta throw in a little tease here. Since most baseball pitchers are playing HS and below, when you say a “lot” of coaches, you’re pretty much saying the problem is a general one and widespread. :wink:

I certainly won’t disagree with anything said there, but as for how to fix what seems like a very widespread problem is beyond me. Hollering at a pitcher between pitches is pretty much part and parcel at every amateur level. If it isn’t parents or others in the bleachers yelling encouragement or advice, its teammates or coaches.

I’m not sure why, but I stopped doing that about the time my son started playing HSB at 14, and I don’t do it now, other than the occasion recognition of something really outstanding, no matter which team’s pitcher is out there.