This newsletter is being sent from San Francisco airport. I’m on my way home from games played in Palm Springs and I have 3 days to unwind, do laundry, clean my fish aquariums, etc. before heading out to more games in Pueblo Colorado next weekend. So, my season is officially in full swing now. Thus far, I’m pitched 6 games and done well enough to win them all but, as any pitcher will tell you… at this point, it’s about building endurance and game strength. Wins and losses in May don’t count when it’s all said and done at the finals in August.
In past newsletters, I’ve talked about how pitching is a marathon not a sprint. That’s true in both the long term aspect of learning how to pitch and the games played within a season. Sometimes, the worst thing a pitcher can do is peak way too soon. Keep in mind that everything that goes up, must come down. This includes pitching and the ascension to ‘mid season form’. The first half of the season should be building ones self up to the peak, after that it’s down hill. So, everyone who follows any sport has heard the term “Peaked too soon” or “Peaking at the right time”. This is true in pitching as well. In a perfect world, the last game of the season should be a pitcher’s best game!
So, how does one prevent themselves from ‘peaking too soon’? Well, it’s an important question and like many other things in pitching, there isn’t a cookie cutter answer to this. Everyone is different and prepares for things differently. If you watch any 2 teams before the start of a game, you will see pitchers/players from both teams going through their own routines and warm up practices. No two are alike. Nor should they be. There are so many variables to warming up like weather, field conditions, body health, working with a new catcher, etc. Some pitchers like throwing for 30 entire minutes before a game, others like 10 minutes. There are certainly pros and cons to each warm up ‘style’.
But, reaching the peak of the season is a different situation. I don’t think there is a person alive who would rather win a game or tournament in June instead of winning at the end of the year, which is most likely the championship or national final. So, the key is to make sure that is when you peak not before and not after.
For me personally, it’s not entirely about the number of games or innings I pitch. To use a cliche here: It’s about Quality, not Quantity . Without question, the two go hand in hand. But, knowing how to use them together and get the most quality out of the quantity is what makes a smart pitcher. You’ll have to use your own math for this equation because I’m going to refer to my own season, which begins in May and lasts until August.
I use the first 2 months to work on my location, my movement, and identifying a hitter’s weakness. While 2 months may seem like a long time, it’s really not. There are so many things to be working on at the same time that it takes that long, if not longer, to accomplish. Working on location is above all else on the importance meter. A pitcher who cannot locate the ball where they want is virtually useless when the game is on the line. Movement comes next and then incorporating the movement together with the location. Keeping every pitch “MARGINAL”, right around the strike zone but not in it. A pitcher who can be marginal with all their pitches is likely going to get the close calls from umpires. They will also make the hitter swing at a pitcher’s pitch, instead of a hitter’s pitch.
The last thing is one of the more underrated; working on pitch sequences and identifying a batter’s flaws and tendencies. There are certain rules of thumb to follow with where a hitter stands in the box, how they swing, etc. but working on the ability to set a hitter up is something that far too many pitchers do not do these days. Part of this problem stems from what I talked about in a previous newsletter about coaches who call pitches. I maintain that I don’t understand why so many coaches feel the need to call a game for the pitcher/catcher. Why do people feel females are incapable of learning how to do this? If your current catcher or pitcher does not know how to set up a hitter and/or know what to pitch and when, then someone needs to ask the question why weren’t they taught how to do this? How can someone get a feel for the game and develop instincts for what to do and when
if they are never taught to think for themselves? The first part of the season is PERFECT for this type training. If a catcher or pitcher is making bad decisions about what to throw and when, then it’s something that should be talked about between innings by the coach, pitcher and catcher. Have a game plan of what to work on vs the slappers, power hitters, right handers, left handers, the bunters, and every type of hitter the opposition has.. then work on it. Also, identify who the team’s best hitter is and and make sure that hitter does not be the one to beat you.
Many times, teams will play each other more than once during a season. So, all the while that the pitcher is trying to figure out the hitter and look for weaknesses, the hitter is doing the same thing to the pitcher. Pitchers need to be 1 step ahead. Especially in this era of bats and balls which turn 90 pound slap hitters into homerun hitters. So, early in the year it’s crucial to not give away your tendencies as a pitcher. For example, on an 0-2 count.. don’t throw the riseball that you normally would to the batter. Throw an outside drop instead. Then, when you face the same hitter later in the season in a more crucial game, the hitter is likely to be looking for that outside drop in the same situation and count. But, instead of throwing what they are looking for, you come back with a surprise riseball. If you know you’re going to see the same team again later and on a bigger
stage, then the key is to not show them everything you have in that first meeting. Tease them with a little, and save a lot. Even if you aren’t going to see the same team again, remember that your next opponent is probably watching your game and is scouting your sequences. Don’t tip your hand to them either.
Working on things in the beginning will have a pitcher ready for anything when the time is right. If you feel you’re peaking too soon, work on something different. Develop a new weapon for your arsenal. And work on peaking at the right time with it too! Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint.
ESPN will be airing a men’s fastpitch game in July! The USA softball is hosting a men’s international tournament in Oklahoma City one week before the Women’s world cup hold their’s annually. The men’s game will be Japan vs USA and it’s going to be tape delayed. I think the air date will be July 22 on ESPN2. This will be the first time since 1993 that a men’s game was shown on ESPN. I will spare you the details why but, unfortunately the USA team will not be featuring many of our best players. However, it will be exciting to see that game on TV, that’s for sure. No, I will not be attending or playing either. I don’t know who will be pitching for the US team. Anyway, I hope everyone gets a chance to see it or record it.