Saturday, January 30, 2010

The 3 R's of Pitching

By Rick Harig

Realize the basic premise that the pitcher has the advantage. This is the foundation for a successful pitcher. Hitting a baseball is said to be the hardest thing to do in all of sport. The pitcher needs to remember that. "If the swing by a right-hand batter is seven milliseconds (.007) too late, the squarely hit ball will sail foul past first base." - Robert Adair, a Yale physicist who has studied the science of baseball, referring to a 90mph fastball.

Recognize when you, as the pitcher, lose your focus. How do you avoid a big inning? You avoid it by recognizing that you have been taken out of your game and only then can you adjust and refocus to the task at hand. Many pitching plans include some avoidance of "the big inning". It is easy to talk about, but after one of these "big innings" takes place, the pitcher usually only understands it when reflecting back on it after the game and on the chaos that surrounded him while it was going on. The pitcher needs a thought-stopping cue from himself to help recognize that he has lost his focus. It is important to do this so he can pitch in the present and not in the past. The thought stopping cue could be as simple as "STOP", or "play in the now".

Refocus to the task at hand. Once the pitcher "snaps out of it" and concentrates on the present, then he can pitch to his potential and win the situation. The pitcher who analyzes and frets on how all those guys got on base will not be able to refocus into the present to do the job. A routine or mental cue can help with focus. The pitcher needs to let it flow and let the right side of the brain take over. He can only do this if the mind in clear and free of distracting thoughts. Here is an example of how a pitcher can get back into the now by letting his left brain guide him and set his right brain up for the actual pitch. Use the dirt circle of the mound as the positive / negative ground. Whenever he catches himself being negative he goes into the grass. At that time, he can tell himself anything he wants, he can worry about all the runners, the errors and walks that got them there, whatever he wants. However, the second he gets back onto the dirt he is positive and ready to get the next guy out! A routine like this combined with some proper breathing can get the pitcher to stay in a positive, non-distracting mode. Hopefully he spends most of his time in the dirt and stays in the now.

Every pitcher needs a plan. There is not one pitcher in the history of baseball that has gone through his career, let alone a season, or even a game, without adversity. No matter how good a pitcher is he will face dilemmas in games that he needs to have a plan for. It is too easy to say, "Be a bulldog, go get them". Sure successful pitchers have bulldog characteristics and competitive success models built in that they do not even know about, but there is no need to analyze that. It is the pitcher's past experiences, successes, and failures that have given him those built in characteristics. It is the future challenges that the pitcher will face as he progresses to higher levels of competition in his career that he needs the above to help advance his success rate.

Rick Harig
Copyright 2009
Cognitive Advantage Program

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