My brief downward spiral


#1

Here’s a great example of how a pitcher can start spiraling out of control:

I pitched in a game last Sat. The mound was never maintained all season and had giant plant and landing holes. When I say giant, I mean about a square foot in size and about five or six inches deep. Well, I could’ve gone out, adapted well and executed my game plan. Instead, I let it get into my head. As soon as I walked out in the bottom of the first, I saw the mound and thought, “Ohhhh s***!” Things just went downhill from there. I gave up five runs in that inning and didn’t even make it through three. A funny thing also happened with my infield. They just picked up on the hard time I was having and gave up three errors behind me. One of which was the first baseman throwing the ball about three feet over my head after the play was over.

The mound was messed up and it really affected my timing sure, but I didn’t have any control over that and I let it affect what I did have control over: executing my pitches. This funk didn’t end with the game however. I’ve thrown three times since then including today. Well, let’s just say I finally got my mechanics, confidence and timing back on track today, five days later. Could’ve been a lot worse, I know. I just kept thinking about what happened to Chad Billingsley this past year. What happened was as I lost confidence, I started to question my mechanics which was a huge mistake. As long as I’m executing the way I know how, I have a quite good mechanical foundation. Finally, I just took a giant step back, tried to relax, realize that this happens to virtually every pitcher at one time or another and concentrated on getting back in the zone I was in before last Saturday’s game.

Luckily, this curtailed the problem and I was throwing very well today. Hitting my spots without thinking about every tiny little aspect of my mechanics. I’d hate to think what would’ve happened if I had started to nit pick every little part of my delivery. I just know it would’ve been bad.

I’d love to hear comments from you guys/gals about a similar experience or advice from the gurus here at LTP on how to keep this from happening again… I mean I was down and depressed! I knew the whole time that I was better than what was happening to me. It’s such a good feeling to feel as though I’m back on track!


#2

Like I said, 9 runs in two innings. :cry: :cry:


#3

It happens. It just felt especially tough and frustrating this time because it was my first outing with a new team.


#4

Our sense of sight gives us a visual representation of our physical environment. Hence, if you were to see a deep hole in front of you, your natural reaction would be to avoid it. After all, you must know that stepping into a hole can be harmful to you. Right? You wouldn’t want to sprain or twist your ankle, turn your knee, or lose your balance and fall would you? In fact, every instinct tells you to avoid this hole. Right?

Then, how come most amateurs pitchers and their coaches will allow play on a mound that has a deep hole in front of the rubber, a deteriorated frontal slope, and a gouged out hole right where the pitcher’s stride foot is suppose to land? I don’t know about you, but from where I stand, every time I see something like this my senses tell me to avoid it!

However, because these conditions are so prevalent, we do our best to make due with what we’ve got. And therein lays a host of problems from our first pitch to our last. With respect to Sight, here’s what happening:
1. When we stand on a mound our visual interpretation of its condition starts a decision making process.
2. This process either reinforces our confidence or instills apprehension.
3. If our interpretation is positive well, that’s that, and we’re left to concentrate on our delivery.
4. If, on the other hand, our interpretation instills apprehension, this apprehension will stay with us pitch after pitch.

In fact, this sense of apprehension can be so strong that, subconsciously, it can force us to exaggerate our motion. Normally, most pitchers in this instance will shorten their stride, stand upright during their final delivery, stride shallow left or right, or even drop the ball out of their glove during the windup.

The picture below will drive home the point that I’m trying to make with respect to the visual effects on our work.

The first thing we see is a large, gouged hole just before the pitcher’s rubber. Our second impression gives way to the downward slope of the mound. And the last, but perhaps the most lasting observation, is the large hole where the stride foot is about to land.

Now think for a minute. Collectively, these observations are not going unnoticed. Your brain is telling you consciously and subconsciously

  • d o n’ t d o t h i s ! And if you’ve ever pitched off a surface like this you know exactly what I’m talking about.

So, how do we go about instilling a positive observation that will support our work? Below you’ll see a simple yet effective way of dealing with the influences of visual stimuli - especially the negative ones.

Take your baseball cleats and try your best to make a uniform surface in front of you. Smooth out and flatten out the hole next to the pitcher rubber. Then, go down the frontal slope of the mound and scrape and stomp your cleats on the surface so it has a smooth carpet look. When you get to the hole at the bottom of the slope, fill in as best you can, then build up that area. Be deliberate to form a raised surface here. Why? Because you’re trying to leave an impression with your visual subconscious that your stride foot will not slip out from under you when you land. I know this sounds a bit unusual but believe me, it works. Repeat this process as many times as you think necessary. Unfortunately, pitching mounds composed of sand, dried clay and lose topsoil are extremely difficult if not impossible, to maintain.

Coach B.


#5

Two words: Mark Fidrych


#6

Another problem with holes in the front of the rubber, is that this hole will force your toe of your pivot foot down and your heel up. Thus, shifting your weight prematurely to the third base side if your a righ-handed pitcher, or shifting your weight prematurely to the first base side if your a left-handed pitcher. See below for an example - the picture on the left is for a right-handed pitcher, the picture on the right is for a left-handed pitcher.

Now how does this translate into problems for you once you’ve commited too far left or right with your weight? Your stride leg, and consequently your planting of your stride foot, will influence some of the control of your pitch and your desired results. Too far off to the left or right can produce location control problems – up and down, left and right. See the example below for the causes and effects.

Now granted, these two examples that I’ve shown here will not totally correct whatever problem your having on any given day. But they are reference points that offer a starting point to get you practicing and adjusting - that’s what we as pitchers do.

Coach B.


#7

[quote=“CSamuel”]Here’s a great example of how a pitcher can start spiraling out of control:

I pitched in a game last Sat. The mound was never maintained all season and had giant plant and landing holes. When I say giant, I mean about a square foot in size and about five or six inches deep. Well, I could’ve gone out, adapted well and executed my game plan. Instead, I let it get into my head. As soon as I walked out in the bottom of the first, I saw the mound and thought, “Ohhhh s***!” Things just went downhill from there. I gave up five runs in that inning and didn’t even make it through three. A funny thing also happened with my infield. They just picked up on the hard time I was having and gave up three errors behind me. One of which was the first baseman throwing the ball about three feet over my head after the play was over.

The mound was messed up and it really affected my timing sure, but I didn’t have any control over that and I let it affect what I did have control over: executing my pitches. This funk didn’t end with the game however. I’ve thrown three times since then including today. Well, let’s just say I finally got my mechanics, confidence and timing back on track today, five days later. Could’ve been a lot worse, I know. I just kept thinking about what happened to Chad Billingsley this past year. What happened was as I lost confidence, I started to question my mechanics which was a huge mistake. As long as I’m executing the way I know how, I have a quite good mechanical foundation. Finally, I just took a giant step back, tried to relax, realize that this happens to virtually every pitcher at one time or another and concentrated on getting back in the zone I was in before last Saturday’s game.

Luckily, this curtailed the problem and I was throwing very well today. Hitting my spots without thinking about every tiny little aspect of my mechanics. I’d hate to think what would’ve happened if I had started to nit pick every little part of my delivery. I just know it would’ve been bad.

I’d love to hear comments from you guys/gals about a similar experience or advice from the gurus here at LTP on how to keep this from happening again… I mean I was down and depressed! I knew the whole time that I was better than what was happening to me. It’s such a good feeling to feel as though I’m back on track![/quote]

Oh man have I been there, have you ever read Heads Up Baseball, it’s by Tom Hanson and Ken Ravizza it really talks a lot about things like this. The biggest thing I’ve picked up and it applies for you in this situation is only focus on what you can control, and that is how you prepare and what kind of pitches you make. You can try to smooth a rough mound out but sometimes it doesn’t always work, and we all know you can’t control what your defense does so just worry about you and go into tunnel vision next time.

I’m not a guru on this forum but I’ve been in this situation and the best thing for you to do is put in perspective and then let it go. I had a ERA below 1 for my entire fall season and I averaging about 2k per inning and on my last outing I was on a terrible mound and didn’t get a chance to warm up and got rocked, these things happen to us all.

I made a throwing error at 2nd base 2 years ago and lost confidence and had one of the toughest seasons I’ve ever had. I have an extremely accurate arm (I can hit squirrels out of trees with rocks) and yet I still made throwing errors left and right last season. Things like this just happen and you have to get over it.


#8

What I—and a number of others here—have been saying all along: You have to get out there well before the game and check the mound and the rest of the area around you, and if it isn’t to your liking you have to play groundskeeper and work with that surface and fix it the way you want it. Among other things, you don’t want to risk injury by stepping into a foot-and-a-half-long pothole! 8)


#9

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, this game is all about mental toughness, you have to be tough to be able to control your emotions and remain confident in your ability.


#10

Wow!

Thank you so much to all you guys/gals!

Coach B: You hit the nail right on the head several times in your post
It was simply impossible for me to stride into that green area of your diagram. When I tried to execute my stride correctly, I had to place my foot on the side of the hole cocking it sideways. This was due to the fact that the plant hole was centered in respect to the rubber and I stand on the first base side. To summarize, I was forced to plant and stride into the center of the two holes which was not where I’m used to pitching. My mechanics were at the mercy of the holes.

I feel a lot better having read through everybody’s different experiences and advice.

I’ve decided that I’m either going to see to it that this mound gets repaired or wait to play until spring. Our leagues here in the spring are much better and more legitimate. They play on high school ball fields.

Again, I thank you for the posts, especially Coach B. for getting into the science of exactly what went wrong that day.


#11

when the mound is crap, i just think of all the kids in the dominican playing with milk carton gloves. then i figure i should feel fortunate.


#12

I like how andrew put it I also have some advice from the esteemed Mike Evans atBellevue University “I dont know why you wussies(not the word he used) are complainig about a hole in the mound. You should be the one ruining the mound in the first place. You should be scratching it up, putting holes in the mound so the OTHER team has to worry about it. What kind of girl worries about holes in the mound? Ridiculous” Now, I know these arent the most encouraging words in the world but it goes back to what Coach B said, do your best to work with what you have. If you can get the fear out of your head its possible to create problems for whoever else doesnt have the mental fortitude to shake off minor problems with a mound. And back to what andrew said some just take it as a privilege to have a field with grass in the outfield and no rocks for the ball (if of course youre using a ball) to skip off of.


#13

These were not minor problems. I’m not sure the word “mound” could even be used to describe what I was working with.

Water under the bridge, however as I have already gone to the city and fixed it myself.

The purpose of this thread wasn’t so much the mound itself. It was what can happen if you let that kind of stuff get in your head.