The Lending Coach

Coaching and teaching - many through the mortgage process and others on the field

Search results: "baseball" (page 1 of 4)

A Baseball Must for Pitchers: Command and Establish The Fastball

When a pitcher has control that means he pitches in the strike zone.

But when a pitcher has command, that means he can hit spots within that strike zone.  And it’s the fastball that he must command, first and foremost.

Following his third spring training start, David Price said,

“It’s part of the process, continuing to go out there, command my fastball the way that I did today. If I can do that, it just opens up everything that I want to do with all my secondary stuff.”

“That’s always a big emphasis on me, just making sure I’m hitting spots with that fastball—two-seam, four-seam, both sides of the plate, moving it in, up, down.”

As a pitcher that throws a lot of fastballs, Price understands how difficult it is to hit.  He understands that fastballs in different locations thrown with a two-seam and four-seam variations can make life difficult for hitters.

The key is location.

For a great read on fastball command, read Doug Bernier’s article here….

Why The Fastball?

All great pitchers usually have something in common: a good fastball. Having command of your fastball should be the main focus of every pitcher at every level of the game, yet that’s too often not the case.  Too many pitchers (of all ages) tend to spend far too much time on learning how to throw secondary pitches, such as breaking balls.

The fastball is the singularly most important pitch.  If a pitcher has plus command of it, they can cause all sorts of havoc with a hitters mind with the location of that pitch.

Everything works well if you can establish the fastball and put it where you want it.

Having a great fastball means you can get out of most situations, (sometimes) even with a lack of feel for the pitch.  Those who understand this fact know what it’s like when you can’t get a good feel for your breaking ball on a particular day.  The curve ball is a “feel” pitch and can be difficult to throw for a strike at times, especially for younger players.

Having a great fastball also means you can then develop and utilize a secondary pitch with much more effectiveness – like a changeup to simply throw the hitter’s timing off.  This can be killer combination, as many times the hitter can’t recognize the difference out of the pitcher’s hand.

Deception & Perception

If you ever take the time to watch batting practice, you will see how many times hitters don’t square up the baseball.  The hitters know every pitch that is coming and the coach is trying to throw it where they can hit it hard, but still many hitters don’t hit the ball on the barrel of the bat.

Imagine how much harder it gets when they DON’T know what pitch is coming.

  • Inside/outside – After two inside fastballs, a 4-seamer on the outside corner tends to look further outside than normal… even though it is a strike.
  • Speed – The speed differs by 2-3 mph but that is just enough for my contact to be off the barrel if I am timed up for the two-seamer velocity.
  • Up / Down – Moving the ball up and down changes the eye level of the hitter and can produce swing and misses especially with two strikes.

A well located fastball is the most difficult pitch to hit consistently.  The hitter has less time to react, and the further the ball is away from the middle of the plate the more difficult it is for the hitter.

Learning from David Price

Pitchers and coaches might want to take a page out of David Price’s book and throw more fastballs.

As a pitcher, you know the hitter is thinking “once I have to compete against fastballs located for strikes on both sides of the plate and changing eye levels, the secondary stuff becomes much, much nastier to hit.”

As a hitter, when a pitcher establishes the location of his fastball and is not afraid to come after them, it makes hitting that much more difficult.

Adding Another Pitch to the Mix?

For those looking to “add another pitch”, you might want to reconsider, until you’re comfortable with fastball location.

Instead, evaluate what you’re currently throwing, and ask yourself these questions: “do I truly command these pitches?  Can I spot a fastball where I want, anytime I want, with movement?  Can I throw a four-seamer for a strike with my eyes closed?”

Only after you’ve honestly answered “yes” to all three, then consider adding another pitch to your repertoire.

Pitching to Contact

Many pitchers are afraid of “getting hit”, or they try to make the perfect pitch every time.  As a result, they end up throwing balls out of the strike zone,  walking hitters, or pitching from behind in counts.

Unless they throw 100+ miles per hour, they really, they’re trying to control the inevitable – that the batter is going to make contact. Interestingly, pitchers with great command like Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine want them to hit the baseball.  And they don’t worry if a hitter ends up reaching base.  Their attitude is, “That’s fine. I’ll get the next guy.”

In Conclusion

Let’s be clear, if you don’t have good command of your fastball, you are not a good pitcher.  That’s the reality. If you want to improve your game, improve your velocity or command, not add a new pitch to your arsenal.

Work on it.

Baseball Parenting the Wrong Way

What’s wrong with the picture above?  Looks like a fun 9 or 10 year-old baseball game here in Phoenix, right?

Check out the dad behind the screen.  Do I see that correctly?  Is he really holding a radar gun?

I’m absolutely sickened by this image.

There are just so many things wrong here.  Please pass this post on to everyone you know in the baseball community.  I’ll attempt to break down just a few of the disasters here – and try not to rant too long.

The Radar Gun

First of all, with all of the things we now know about young pitchers and arm injuries, the last thing any young pitcher needs to be concerned with is radar gun velocity.

Dr. James Andrews is arguably the world’s most famous and best orthopedic surgeon, and he has saved the pitching arms of some of the greatest professional baseball players on the planet.  To the right is an image of what actually takes place when doctors have to rebuild the joint and the ligament.

So when he has a request for the game he loves the most, we should be wise and listen to his request — especially at the youth and high school level.

“I think they should outlaw the radar gun,” he said. “Young pitchers, coaches, scouts and parents put so much emphasis now on throwing hard that these kids are hurting their elbows and their shoulders because they’re trying to throw 90 mph.”

The radar gun, Andrews says, is one of many injury risks at the youth and high school level in an age of baseball that is seeing more and more teenage athletes on the operating table instead of the pitching mound.

You should read more from Dr. Andrews here…

You should read more from Major League Baseball and PitchSmart here….

The Complete Lack of Perspective on Youth Baseball

What in the world is this dad thinking?  How does measuring the velocity of a 9-year old pitcher have anything to do with what is important in a 9-year old baseball game?

Baseball is one of the most difficult games ever invented – it’s a self-esteem destroyer on it’s own.  We need to be encouraging our kids at the youth level, not measuring the exit velocity of the fastball, for crying out loud.

The goal at the end of every 9 year-old baseball game is that the kid wants to come back and do it again.

I’ve got to turn it over to Steve Springer here so you can see his video on what’s important….a must watch for all baseball parents.  Like Spring says, take the kid out for ice cream after the ballgame.  Tell him how much you love him and how much fun you had watching him.

Also, see Brian Regan’s comedic take on youth baseball that will give you some insight on how many kids view the game.

The Singular Lack of Perspective on Pitching

Youth pitching is completely about having fun and learning to handle yourself on the mound.  And that, by the way, isn’t easy.  It’s also about learning proper pitching mechanics and throwing strikes. Period.

There is absolutely no way that any kid’s baseball future can be determined by how hard he throws or how effective he is when he’s 9.

With that said, there’s absolutely no way you can determine a kid’s baseball future in any way when he is 9 years of age.

The Absolute Unawareness of His Position in the Stands

Dude.  Assuming that your son is the pitcher, he really needs to be concentrating on the catcher’s glove.

Not you right behind home plate holding that radar gun. I bet you give him the thumbs up when he throws a good pitch, too.

You know and I know (and I’m sure his coaches do, too) that he’s looking at you half of the time – and that’s not at all how it should be. 

Secondly, you are more than likely blocking the view of other parents, grandparents, other family members, and friends at that ball game.  You are taking up prime viewing real estate to get the 51 MPH reading, man.  I’m also sure they are really impressed that he’s breaking 50 MPH from 46 feet.

Well, that’s what I’ve got for now – I can’t take this much longer.  Please, please parents, encourage your youngsters.  They need someone there for them after they fail – and they will in this game.  Again, I ask that you share this post with anyone you know in the baseball community – let’s make sure we are encouraging and protecting our young players and pitchers.

 

Baseball Pre-Season Workouts

The high school baseball season is less than 6 weeks away here in Arizona – and there’s still time to make sure that your body is ready for the season.

I know I talk more frequently on the mental side of the game, but your body must be ready to handle the ups-and-downs of the condensed 20 game season.

I’ve compiled a number of links that the baseball minded will find worthwhile and I highly recommend that you check them out.


The first is a piece with accompanying video from Stack.com regarding a 6-week pre-season program. Their program utilizes medicine balls to build baseball specific strength.

“Developing stronger baseball-specific movement patterns comes with a bonus: it helps to prevent injuries. By improving often-hurt areas like shoulder and back muscles before camp starts, you’ll reduce your chance of breaking down over the course of a long season.”

http://www.stack.com/a/6-week-baseball-workout

From the HSBaseball web – they talk specifics about particular muscle groups that get used more than others. During pitching and batting, it’s the chest and shoulders, particularly the rotator cuffs, pecs and triceps. Players also need good torso strength, i.e., a strong back and abdomen – and leg power will get you going with those bursts of speed needed to run bases.

Jeff Holt, a fitness trainer and owner of Personal Health and Fitness Inc. in Hendersonville, says a training regimen for softball should focus on improving overall strength and flexibility.

http://www.hsbaseballweb.com/pre_season.htm

Here’s a great PDF from WPA Baseball for both players and parents.

Youth baseball has become increasingly competitive over recent years, joining other sports in which athletes are frequently exposing themselves to overuse injuries.

They state that pre-season conditioning should start 8-12 weeks prior to the start of your season and give a great outline of what that training program should look like.

http://www.wpabaseball.com/files/SportsPerfArticles/Conditioning(1).pdf

Finally, here’s a great Sports Illustrated article on Evan Longoria that highlights his specific pre-season workout regimen.

“It’s taken a lot of years for me to understand what my body needs,” says Longoria. “I don’t want to put 500 pounds on my back and squat because it doesn’t translate for me on the field. My workout program is tailored to being baseball strong.”

It goes into very specific detail that is eye-opening for those who think baseball players aren’t in great shape!

http://www.si.com/edge/2015/03/18/training-evan-longoria-workout-rays-third-baseman

The views expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of American Financial Network, Inc

Playing Baseball and Mental Preparation

arrieta

We all have been there at one time or another – when you are playing with confidence and playing “free”, even when you are exhausted.  The game seems slower, in a good way – you see the seams on the ball more clearly and it doesn’t seem to be moving as fast. You can’t wait for your next at-bat or the ball to be hit to you or to throw that next pitch.  Really, it’s all about mental preparation and being ready in that particular moment.

“My ability to fully focus on what I had to do on a daily basis was what made me the successful player I was. Sure I had some natural ability, but that only gets you so far. I think I learned how to focus; it wasn’t something that I was necessarily born with.”

Hank Aaron

How do you get there?

I’d highly recommend that you first check out this video/interview with Evan Longoria about how he made the decision to really work on his mental preparation. Click on the image below to play:

longoria

As Tom Hanson and Ken Ravissa write, “working on the mental game is not a substitute for hard physical work. Regardless of how good your mental game is, if you are not putting in the effort on your physical body….you will not find out how good you can be.”  Hanson and Ravissa have co-written Heads-Up Baseball: Playing the Game One Pitch at a Time.

I’d invite you to take a look at their book, here:

It’s the mental side of the game that makes the difference in getting to that “zone”.  Most athletes leave their thinking to chance.  If they are playing well, they are easy going and loose – but when things are not going well for them, they can’t heads-up-coverget out of their own way.

I’m a big fan of both authors – and I hope you become one, too.  I love the fact that these guys want players to embrace being uncomfortable in practice – so that they will be better prepared when the game is on the line.  They encourage players to have a mental plan of letting the uncontrollables go and moving on to the next pitch or play.

I’d also highly recommend that you take a look at a variety of other “mental coaches” and read what they have to say.  Here’s a list to start:

If you are a parent, take the time to sit down with your player and watch the Longoria video.  And make sure to check out the links listed above.  Take heart – you never know when your physical tools will catch up to your mental side to take you to that next level!

Baseball Prospectus | Spinning Yarn: Hit-and-Run Success is No Accident

The hit-and-run is much maligned as a small-ball tactic, but it’s a surprisingly successful strategy.

Source: Baseball Prospectus | Spinning Yarn: Hit-and-Run Success is No Accident

Bosox coachThe hit-and-run play is not highly regarded by the analytical crowd. It is considered a one-run play and, like the sacrifice bunt attempt, it garners derision from people who hate small-ball tactics.

If you are a baseball insider, do check out this analysis – this is a real in-depth study!

The conclusion reads like this: The hit-and-run is far from the worst play in baseball. For a small-ball tactic, it has been quite successful over the past nine seasons, increasing scoring by .06 runs per attempt on average. The value of the hole in the infield defense is real, adding about 27 points to the batting average of the hitter. The double plays avoided by executing the hit-and-run offset the runners caught stealing on the play, and the extra bases gained by the runner when the ball is put in play are enough to move the play into the plus column overall.

Overcoming Performance Fears and Blocks – Baseball | Mental Toughness

Youth Baseball-pitcher-bp6316What REALLY causes slumps, throwing problems and other, seemingly mysterious performance difficulties on the field and the BREAKTHROUGH techniques that can get you unstuck and back on track!

Source from Dr. Alan Golberg: Overcoming Performance Fears and Blocks – Baseball | Competitive Advantage: Mental Toughness

The Problem

Repetitive Sports Performance Problems or RSPPs, a very common performance issue that lays waste to the careers of many talented ball players across all levels of the game. Occasionally an athlete will successfully work through this kind of problem by himself. More often than not, however, these problems will continually sabotage an self-confidence and ultimately drive him right out of the sport.

The Causes

These repetitive performance problems are most often caused by past physically or emotionally upsetting events. For example, a physical injury like a collision, concussion, torn ligaments, pulled muscle, getting hit by a pitch or breaking a bone, or the upset can be emotional like committing an error that costs your team an important game, choking away a big performance opportunity, getting cut from the team or being screamed at and humiliated by your coach in front of your teammates and fans.Second Game 6-26-12106

The Results

These upsetting events end up getting memorized and held in the athlete’s mind and body, long after the experience has been forgotten. If they’re in any way reminded of these upsets or the athlete is under pressure, then components from the original experience end up bubbling up into awareness.

What the athlete becomes aware of at that point is a loss of confidence or feeeling of danger inside. This sense of inner danger then triggers that athlete’s nervous system to automatically respond with self-protective motor programs, i.e. fight/flight. Suddenly the athlete can’t get himself to do what he knows how to do. He loses his velocity on the mound and can’t get the bat off of his shoulders!

The long history of baseball’s most glorious fashion accessory: The stirrup sock

stirrup“Baseball uniforms are a unique beast. The shirts have buttons (though, for some reason, they don’t count as “formal wear” at weddings), the pants have belts and the players need to wear hats to keep the sun out of their eyes. But nothing is as unique to baseball as the stirrup sock.”

Source: The long history of baseball’s most glorious fashion accessory: The stirrup sock

Baseball uniforms are very interesting, but nothing is as unique to baseball as the stirruShil on moundp sock.

The tradition can be traced back to 1868, when the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first team to expose their socked legs.

“The stirrup has become part of the visual signature of baseball as no other sport used it. For a certain generation, myself included, it was kind of a key moment when you got your first Little League uniform and got to pull up those stirrups. I remember how official that felt.”

Stirrups give a player the ability to show off his unique style and pizazz . As one old-time announcer said, “I definitely do notice when guys on the other team wear them and they look sharp. There’s a lot of good looks out there.”

A Great Hitting Lesson – An Analysis

Two of my favorite and “go-to” mental guys in the baseball world are Dr. Ken Ravizza and Tom Hanson. I’ve mentioned them before – and I’d highly recommend that you read their book, Heads-Up Baseball 2.0.

I’ve worked with Ken for 30 years…he’s made me a better teacher of the mental game and helped me help players become better at being what I call ‘present moment guys’ – Joe Maddon

You can also go here to learn more about them and their other content.

Their latest article has to do with a great hitting lesson that they were a part of – and here’s the link to the complete post. I’d invite you to check it out in full.

The Anatomy of a Great Hitting Lesson

Here are a few key highlights:

Yesterday I, witnessed what I considered to be an outstanding hitting lesson.  I’ll take a few moments now to explain what made it so powerful.  The bottom line:  The player came in feeling frustrated, a bit lost, and out of sync with himself.  He left feeling excited, renewed, re-connected with what makes him good, and highly confident.

Before the first swing was taken, the coach took the time to connect and listen to the player. “What’s been going on?”  “How have you been feeling?” “WHAT have you been feeling?”  Questions like that… and then he took the time to hear the player’s responses, and ask follow up questions.

This put the player at ease, made him feel respected, and gave the coach essential information. The dialogue made it less likely that the coach would pile additional thoughts on top of what the player was already thinking.

Here’s the secret sauce to the whole thing: The player likes, respects, and trusts the coach. Contributors to this are all of the elements listed above that address how the coach relates to the player, plus the coach is a “learner” who is open-minded and always looking to get better (as opposed to a “knower” who has all the answers.

“It’s the relationship, stupid” is a worthy mantra for coaching.  Not a buddy, like “lets catch a movie after the lesson,” but a respectful, adult-to-adult relationship.  As Joe Maddon said: “With a great relationships, anything is possible.  With poor relationships, almost nothing is.”

Managing and Handling Pressure as an Athlete

I’ve mentioned this previously, one of my favorite mental coaches is Dr. Patrick Cohn of Peak Sports Performance. Dr. Cohn is a sports psychologist out of Orlando Florida. He’s always preaching on how to handle pressure and mental toughness – as well as the techniques athletes can use to grasp it.

He sent out an e-mail blast recently that I’ve posted below regarding pressure – and how to best handle it.

I love his interview with new Yankee Giancarlo Stanton and how he focuses on the things he can control. He doesn’t worry about the things outside of his scope.

I highly recommend that all players and parents read through this –as it doesn’t matter if you are a position player or a pitcher. The same techniques apply for both!

Here’s the entirety of Dr. Cohn’s piece:

Pressure is to baseball as gas is to a car. Without gas, a car won’t go.

Pressure is necessary for peak performance. That’s right, pressure is needed to be at your best on the field.

Problems arise when pressure becomes uncomfortable and overwhelming. Too much pressure causes you feel anxious and tight.

Conversely, not enough pressure makes you feel sluggish and not “up for the game.”  When you have just the right amount of pressure, you feel excited and ready to go.

For example, Tony G. is a Division I collegiate outfielder…

Tony was having trouble at the plate during the middle of the season and was hitting well-below his average. H was anxious as he stepped to the plate thinking, “I gotta get a hit and have to break out of this slump.”

Tony started pressing at the plate, so his coach decided to have a talk with him and he admitted he felt a lot of pressure to up his production.

The coach talked about pressure in positive terms.

The coach told Tony that there is an optimal range of pressure that is helpful for performance and it is a matter of just finding that personal optimal range. The coach helped him settle down at the plate and, soon enough, Tony found his swing again.

There is an optimal range that helps you perform at your peak and all players can learn how to move into that optimal range of pressure.

I’m sure you have heard someone say, “He puts too much pressure on himself.”

Well, pressure is something we do to ourselves. If you can put too much pressure on yourself, then you also have the ability to lessen the pressure you put on yourself.  Managing pressure is similar to a thermostat that regulates temperature. Each person has a range where the temperature of a room feels comfortable.

If a room is too cold or too hot, you can adjust the thermostat accordingly.  Similarly, you have the ability to increase or decrease the amount of pressure in competitive situations.

Preparing your mind to cope with pressure is the act of you taking back the reins and controlling the amount of pressure you experience in competitive situations.

There may be no greater pressure for some players than playing for the New York Yankees….

Yankees outfielder and newcomer, Giancarlo Stanton, may be experiencing above average levels of pressure early this season. Stanton, the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, was the centerpiece in a blockbuster trade with the Florida Marlins during the off-season.

In 21 games, Stanton has a .224 batting average, well below his .281 average last season. In his first 66 at-bats with the Yankees, Stanton struck out 29 times.

It is not easy playing at Yankee Stadium and to add to the pressure, Stanton has received a steady dose of boos and has a strategy to minimize the pressure by focusing on the positive aspects of his game and the things he can control.

STANTON: “Very simple. [Focus on] the positive things, even if it’s not very many things. That’s all you can do. Worry about [the booing], you’re going to keep twirling down.”

Stanton stays focused on his performance, such as:

–Good contact

–Working the count

–Feeling comfortable in the batter’s box

–Trusting his swing

–His play in the field

How much added pressure helps you focus and perform well? And when you do you feel overwhelmed by pressure to the point you can’t perform freely.

A Tip for Staying on Top of Pressure Rather than Under Pressure

In order to manage pressure, you want to note a few things:

  1. Too much pressure is common for many baseball players.
  2. Pressure is something you do to yourself.
  3. Some pressure is needed to play your best.
  4. You have the ability to manage pressure.
  5. Preparing your mind to deal with added pressure helps you.

Dr. Cohn has put together a free online e-book that can be found here: http://www.peaksports.com/baseball-softball-confidence-report/

If you are a player, or parent of a player, I’d recommend that you download it and get to know the contents!

 

Pinch Hitting – A Different Mindset for Hitters

Everyday players can trust that they will see a good number of pitches over multiple at bats during a ballgame. They have standard routines and approach the game for the longer haul.

Pinch hitters, on the other hand, are often called on infrequently and need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Getting ready for a pinch at-bat is a complicated thing that can involve stretching, swinging, studying and reading a variety of cues about game situation – all in order to generate peak performance within a tiny window.

Source: Andrew Simon’s “The Post Game” article “How MLB’s Best Pinch-Hitters Prepare To Thrive In their Limited Opportunities”

The job is not an easy one. Pinch-hitters must ready themselves physically and mentally for an at-bat that could come at any moment — or never.  Not all hitters are capable of this – nor are many fully willing to embrace the role.

It takes a different mindset and approach all together. Pinch hitters are generally more aggressive at the plate, as they don’t have the time to see pitches and get behind in the count.

Many anticipate a particular pitch early in the at-bat…and when they get it, they swing with authority.

The key is to not get cheated as a pinch hitter!

However, before a pinch-hitter can worry about when to swing, he must get his body ready for the task. This means getting loose and limber, sometimes more than once during the course of the game. The player might stretch, run, ride a stationary bike, and take a good number of practice swings.

Some take time before and even during games to utilize the batting cages situated near the dugouts in many ballparks. They take cuts off a tee or tosses from a coach or teammate.  They spend time during this session visualizing the upcoming at-bat – “seeing” their success with the pitches that they expect.

The big takeaway here is that these MLB hitters know and embrace their roles – and take an aggressive mind set to each pinch-hit at-bat.

Younger players should do the same!

« Older posts

© 2018 The Lending Coach

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑