The mental aspect of pitching may be the most important discipline that a pitcher can go through to assure success. Many pitchers have a good enough arm to pitch in High School, College or the Big Leagues but not all are successful. There is a relationship between repetitive practice, confidence, and knowing when you are going to have success.
Whether you are a power pitcher who throws the ball by hitters up in the strike zone or you are a finesse pitcher who relies on control and change of speeds, you must practice your strengths over and over until you know you can perform them any time you want. This is what I call developing your power pitch. From the time you are in Little League you begin to realize on which pitch you get most people out. It may be a fastball or it may be another pitch. Even subconsciously, you formulate the different ways you can get people out with that pitch to the point where other pitches help to set up your power pitch. It may even be that you alter your power pitch’s break or speed to make it more effective. If you are successful when you are young you have at least one pitch with which you know you can get any hitter out As you get older you must refine that pitch to remain dominant. That requires many hours of concentrated practice to be able to throw your power pitch where you want to with different speeds and breaks.
The ultimate example of this today is Greg Maddox. He can throw a regular moving fastball to either corner at different speeds and just miss the corner when he wants. He also throws a cut fastball to either corner with varying heights and he can miss when he wants. He has the confidence to pitch whole games using his fastball almost exclusively. It sounds easy enough; just throw your fastball to either corner and change speeds on it. The truth is his ability did not come overnight but only through long ours of practice. He is successful because he knows what he can do and that if he executes properly he cannot be hit hard.
Every pitcher, to be successful must know that he can execute his power pitch, or pitches, and that if he does so, he cannot be hit hard.
The fact is that the pitcher can control the game. I like pitchers to think of themselves as thermostats, that control their environment, rather than thermometers that react to their environment. All pitchers should have a “This game is mine attitude”; any time they take the mound. After all, you are the one with the W or the L next to your name in the box score.
Below are some objectives to help with your mental preparation.
1. “This game is mine”, attitude. Every time I walk on the mound I control the game or batting practice or throwing on the side. Nothing can happen till I release the ball. I am in charge.

2. Know the purpose of every pitch and picture yourself succeeding. (The purpose is to get the hitter to hit the ball.) Visualization can be very beneficial. This will be covered at another time.

3. From the first pitch to every hitter, every pitch is designed to get the hitter out. There are no waste pitches. (Get ahead in the count.)

4. Every hitter must prove that he can hit my power pitch. My other pitches will compliment and set up my power pitch.

5. I will develop an off speed pitch that I can throw for a strike when I am faced with a fastball count, 2-0, 3-0, 3-1, 2-1, 1-0.

6. I will know my strike zone and throw pitchers strikes. I will never throw hitters strikes. This means developing my power pitch on and off the plate and pitching to both sides of the plate. I will pitch inside.

7. Develop a plan for each hitter. How? Develop an attitude that says every time I see a hitter swing or take a pitch I will learn about him. To do that you must be in the game on every pitch: On the mound or in the dugout or bullpen.
1. Win the game throwing the fewest pitches I can. I want them to hit the ball.

2. Get ahead of each hitter.

3. I will get the first hitter out each inning.

4. I will get three outs before they score, i.e., I will adjust to each situation as it develops and pitch accordingly to stop the other team from scoring.

5. I will stop the running game.

6. I will stop the big inning, especially early in the game.
1. Every time I pick up a ball to throw it I will practice throwing it to the exact spot on which I fine center.

2. I will always practice controlling the ball with all of my pitches. (I will learn to adjust through concentration and compensation.

3. I will work to be able to change speeds on all my pitches.

4. I will put pressure on myself to execute through simulated situations.

5. I will practice varying my delivery to hold runners on.

6. I will develop my move to hold runners on and not necessarily to pick runners off.

7. I will learn to work better with my catcher, to get us thinking on the same page.
By Geoff Zahn
Former Head Baseball Coach University of Michigan and 12 Year Major League Veteran Pitcher

October 14, 2014 | Strategy | 0

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