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Mound Inconsistencies

Posted on April 12, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

           

There are a number of different situations mound inconsistencies can come into play as a game variable. For younger pitchers there is rarely a bullpen mound that is the same as the game mound.  Normally starting little league pitchers warm up on the side down an outfield line without a mound at all.  Release points will differ when moving from a flat surface to a raised mound with a declining slope.  Pitchers should focus on finding game mound release points just as much as loosening their arm when throwing warm up pitches.

Normally when throwing a bullpen in practice you are going to start and finish the session without sharing the mound with another pitcher so you don't have to deal with other pitcher's foot holes, this is never the case in a game situation.   If you feel these holes are affecting pitch Lokation you must make an adjustment to overcome the situation instead of letting it become a mental block and loosing focus.

Adjustments include

  • Fill in the hole between pitches so your foot is flat on the dirt.
  • Make a bigger hole so you foot doesn't slide into another hole.
  • Move to a different spot on the rubber.  
  • DO NOT shorten or lengthen your stride

Other pitcher's foot holes in front of the rubber and in landing areas can affect 

  • Balance, if half of your foot is in a hole and the other half is not. 
  • Weight shift, if your foot is half on the rubber and half in a hole.
  • Direction, if you move to a different spot on the rubber.
  • Mental focus, if your too concerned with the mound.

Relief pitchers will have to pay special attention to game mound conditions because they are often the 4th, 5th, or 6th pitcher to throw on that mound.  Relievers also generally have less time to adjust to conditions when they enter the game because outings are much shorter than starters.  If you come in the game in relief make sure to inspect the surface for any holes you think might be a problem before you throw any warm up pitches.  There is no time limit for warm ups so don't rush through the allotted pitches, take your time and do some ground keeping if need be.

As pitchers get older, generally bullpen and game mounds are built with clay and have more stable surfaces, especially after high school.  But this general rule does not mean there will be no adjustment from the bullpen mound to the game mound.  Sometimes the home grounds crew will give the visitors bullpen a different slope on purpose to give the home team an advantage.  Other times the visitors pen is given the once over with a rake and called game ready.  Both instances will require a conscious effort to find a good release point during warm up pitches.

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Weather Conditions

Posted on April 12, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

It is more common to encounter adverse weather conditions in games than in practice.  On practice days most teams will simply go indoors or reschedule if there is light rain, the field is wet,  winds are high, temperatures are low, or if fog happens to roll in. But on game days it is more likely teams will play through worse conditions than they are willing to practice in.  

During the course of a game weather conditions can worsen to the point where it seems like you're battling them and the hitter equally. The first step is to recognize what conditions you have to deal with and then continue to adjust as the game progresses.  Another factor to take into account is that playing conditions affect everyone on the field, especially the hitter, so conditions can also play a role in your game plan.

Rain and a wet field can make pitch command much more difficult than it is in a dry bullpen.  A muddy playing surface and high humidity has a bigger effect on the pitcher than the same conditions for the hitter.  Generally hitters have less movement with their lower bodies so footing isn't as big of an issue.  Hitters also have batting gloves and pine tar to help with the grip of the bat while pitchers only have the option of a wet rosin bag and a bare throwing hand.  

Adjustments for wet conditions include

  • Keep a tongue depressor on the mound to clean mud off your spikes
  • Keep a mini rosin bag in your back pocket
  • Aim for a bigger portion of the Go Zone early in the count
  • Throw a lower percentage of breaking balls than normal
  • Communicate with umpire about mound conditions 
  • Ask for a new ball as often as needed 

In cold temperatures the pitcher has a slight advantage because they are in constant motion while on the mound and don't have to swing a bat that could possibly ring the hands.  Hitters are generally more vulnerable to the pitch inside on a cold day compared to a warm one.  Once you jam a hitter early in the game or see them shaking their hands after a foul ball, generally a bigger percentage of the outer part of the plate is open.  Watch the body language of the hitter to see if they are struggling with the cold.

Adjustments for cold conditions include

  • Toss between all long innings on the side
  • Keep a hand warmer in your back pocket
  • Challenge hitters inside more often
  • Get the most out of warm up pitches before the inning
  • Ask umpire if you can warm hand with breath on the mound
  • Keep pitch count down and work quickly

Windy conditions can give either the hitter or the pitcher a big advantage.  Obviously if the wind is blowing out the ball will go further off the bat and with the wind blowing in the ball will get knocked down.  From the mound, wind strength and direction can play a role within the game plan.  

When the wind is blowing out there will be more air resistance on the pitch as it moves to the plate, this will increase movement on all pitches.  Pitchers and catchers can adjust by accounting for extra movement when choosing pitches and Zones to aim for.  Usually more movement on the pitch allows pitchers to be more aggressive in the Go Zone.

When the wind is blowing in there will be less air resistance on the pitch, this will decrease movement on all pitches.  Pitchers and catchers can adjust by accounting for less movement when choosing pitches and Zones to aim for.  Usually less movement on the pitch makes pitchers be a little more fine with Lokations and could possibly call for more variety in pitch calling.  

Make sure to practice throwing bullpens in as many adverse weather conditions as possible.  Challenge friends and teammates to go outside and compete throwing bullpens against each other with the Lokator Bullpen App when weather is bad but playable.  Compare Lokation results in bad and good weather.  As always, make adjustments accordingly. 

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No Coach

Posted on April 12, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

Throwing bullpens in practice is where you will get much of you're pitching instruction from the coach.  A pitching coach normally stands behind the mound or off to the side and gives mechanical tips, calls pitch Lokation and selection, gives sequential patterns, and general advice. We use physical props and a helpful hand approach when talking mechanics and they are obviously not possible in a game situation. 

During games coaches are allowed one short mound visit per inning and if they make a second trip during that same inning the pitcher is automatically removed from the game.  In most leagues a coach is only allowed two total visits for each pitcher and on the third the pitcher has to be removed.  

When you take the mound in a game you have to be your own pitching coach.  While pitching you undoubtably become the leader of the team, you control the pace and momentum of the game, you're in charge of the running game, and your body language represents the whole defense.  You are the most important person on the field when you pitch, no question about it!      

In games you have to make adjustments without being told by a coach.  A coach can relay pitch calling signs to the catcher or bark keywords to refresh memory but that is basically the only help they can give from the dugout. You have to identify and defend against all the different variables that arise during games on your own.  Success depends on adjustments you learn to make in game situations.  

Game-time adjustments include:

  • Pitch Lokation
  • Pitch Sequencing
  • Pitch Selection 
  • Pitch Signs by Catcher with runner on 2nd
  • Umpire's Strike-zone
  • Game Situation
  • Weather 
  • Defensive Alignment
  • Mechanical
  • Hitter's Current Game Success  

There are too many in-game adjustments to form a complete list but you get the idea of the categories you must take into consideration and prepare yourself for.  It is important to recognize these types of situations while you are in the game, be conscious of the decisions you make, evaluate afterwards, and learn from the experience.  There is no better teacher than experience!

Take note of your in game experiences and apply game imagery to bullpen sessions while using the Lokator System.  The better you know the System, the more prepared you will be when you take the mound and the game is on the line. 

 

 

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Defense

Posted on April 12, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

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. 

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