Team defense can be a deal breaker when it comes to pitching in the game while it is never a factor practicing in the bullpen. Errors by teammates always seem to come at the most inopportune times and you have no defensive control when the ball is put in play and you're not involved. You can back up bases, communicate on pop ups, and cover bases when infielders leave their position, but overall, your reaction to errors is very important.
The first type of reaction to a defensive miscue is body language. Body language is defined as the process of communicating nonverbally through conscious or unconscious gestures and movements. Positive body language can build team momentum and morale. Negative body language bring momentum to a halt, turn teammates against each other, and give opponents more confidence.
Emotions run much higher during games than in bullpen work so it is much easier to let negative body language get the best of you between the lines. When a fielder makes an error or a bad play they feel bad enough as it is. When fielders see a pitcher raise arms, shake their head, go down to a knee, roll eyes, take their hat off, etc, their confidence and sometimes effort will decrease after the error. This is called "showing your teammate up" and it has no positive effects!
If you are able to keep negative body language in check it can give your team confidence that you have things under control. It shows poise, maturity, and allows you to stay focused on the task at hand. A great way to show leadership is to give a word of encouragement to a teammate after an error or between innings. A pitcher's body language is more important than any other position because they are the undisputed leader of the defense and are watched more than all others on the field.
The next step after an error and you've kept your cool on the mound is to command Lokations on the very next hitter. When you get out of the inning and strand the baserunner it will always give the fielder who committed the error a sense of relief. It will build momentum, show leadership, and frustrate the other team for not taking advantage of opportunities.
You can also help your fielders make the plays before the ball is even hit. Listed below are ways you can help fielders stay in rhythm behind you and make a higher percentage of plays.
- Command the Go Zone in 0-0 counts
- Keep a good tempo between pitches
- Keep your pitch count down
- Promote contact
- Limit walks
Do everything you can to keep fielders in rhythm and alert before they even get an opportunity to make a play. If they boot it then you should not show negative body language towards your teammate at any time. After the fact, make sure to stay focused, command Lokations one pitch at a time, and pitch your team out of the situation.