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Game Variables

Posted on April 18, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

With the Lokator System a pitcher's command can be graded, pitch sequences and selection taught, then practiced and put into competition with tools provided by the Academy. It is a big accomplishment to learn and execute in the bullpen, but games will offer many more variables for pitchers to recognize and react to.  Our goal for this blog is to identify and defend against the variables that make pitching in games so much harder than throwing a bullpen in practice.

Here at Lokator HQ we see pitchers hitting a higher percentage of Lokations in practice sessions than in game situations.  Each blog post will consider a different variable pitchers will have to contend with during a game that is not there in bullpens.  Without game success it doesn't matter how well you throw in practice! 

Throwing a bullpen in practice is similar to a hitter taking batting practice on the field.  Both are controlled environments where far fewer variables come into play.  Both BP and bullpen work can benefit muscle memory and confidence, but you must understand the different variables between practice and the game to be a successful pitcher.   

Its common for a pitcher to command multiple pitches and Lokations during bullpens, then struggle with those exact same pitches and Lokations in games.  In bullpens pitchers only have to think about themselves and the catcher's target.  This makes it easier to repeat mechanics, keep good rhythm, and stay focused on the current pitch only.  Confidence builds in the bullpen and when game variables are introduced pitch command isn't as good.  

Its also common for a slumping batter to hit multiple line drives and even home runs during BP before the game and then continue to struggle during the game.  In BP hitters are seeing pitches at the same speed, movement, and Lokation on every pitch.  This allows hitter's timing and mechanics to be consistent on every swing.  Confidence builds during BP and in the game when pitch command, sequencing, and selection are introduced its back to the slump.  

The first step is to recognize the difference between the bullpen and the game.  It is easier adjusting to game variables once pitchers understand what to look for.  Experience then becomes the teacher and the same mistakes are not repeated.

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Emotions

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

There is very little emotion in bullpen work during practice compared to game situations, mostly because competition has not been involved up to this point.  Emotions can play a big part in the outcome of a game and can be a huge key to success.  Learning to control negative emotions and knowing when to show positive emotion is the first step. 

There is a fine line between showing positive emotion like a fist pump after a big strikeout to end the inning and showing the other team up, like doing a little jig on the mound after the first out of the game.  Positive emotion in the right circumstances can fire up the team and build momentum in the game.  Showing the opponent up can actually light a fire underneath them and build momentum in the opposite direction.  

When things go bad on the mound, and believe me, things will go bad for as long as your in the game, you have to be able to keep negative emotions from showing in body language as much as possible.  There is rarely a good time to "show" negative emotion and these include kicking the dirt, slumping shoulders, rolling eyes, raising arms, etc.  These actions tell everyone in the park that you are loosing control.  It gives your team less confidence in you and the opponent more confidence in themselves.

When things are going well on the mound it will not be as challenging to control emotions as it is when things are not going your way.  But choose your spots wisely when it comes to screaming out a big "LETS GO", pumping fists, pulling the chainsaw cord, or giving Tiger's Woods patented upper cut.  More times than not you want to act like you've been there and done that before when possible.  If you don't show the positive emotional body language often, when you do, it will fire your team up even more! 

Recognize when game emotions run high so you understand when you need to defend against letting negative emotions show in body language.  We've listed a few examples of high emotional situations below: 

  • A tournament game
  • Close score, late in a game
  • Big rivalry games
  • Bad calls by umpires
  • Top ranked opponent
  • Big crowd

Use the Lokator Bullpen App to create competition among friends and teammates and work on controlling emotions internally and externally in practice.  Don't get too high or too low while competing and try to stay even keeled whether you are performing the way you would like or not.  Emotions do not show up in the scorebook but they can definitely help determine the outcome of the game.

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Umpire

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

There is never an umpire calling balls and strikes in the bullpen.  What you or your coach may see as a strike in practice, an umpire could call a ball in the game.  Depending on how you deal with calls you don't agree with, this variable could be a game-changer.  

It is important to get to know what kind of strike-zone the umpire has and use it to your advantage.  If they are giving you strike calls in the Chase Zones then live in them if you can command it.  If the Blues are not giving the you strike calls in Chase Zones then you need to adjust to their Zone and command sections of the Go Zones.

If you show negative body language towards a home plate umpire or argue with a call there is a good chance your strike-zone will shrink for remainder of the game.  Most umpires know when they miss a call although you will rarely hear one admit a mistake after the fact.  Umpires never reverse a strike or ball and rarely reverse any call so it most often hurts you to show everybody how bad you think the umpire is. 

Before the Lokator Bullpen statistics there was no competition invoved or documentation of how well you threw on the side.  Now with someone else keeping stats during your bullpen sessions that you may not agree with all the time, you can work on controlling body language and overcoming bad calls. Umpires are needed when competition is involved.  So by having someone record Lokator Bullpen stats, you can also mature towards umpires in practice.   

Umpires are also blamed for bad outings more often than they should be.  Very rarely does a pitcher come out of a bullpen session blaming someone else for what happened. You should learn to focus on your performance in the game and not the umpire, just like in bullpen sessions.  Document what you could have done better and pick bullpens out of the Lokator Bullpen App that apply.  Then practice it, check your scores, and make adjustments accordingly.

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Game Situation

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

Game situations are the most diverse set of variables that differ from the bullpen to the game.  Every at bat in a game will represent a new pitch sequence so ALL bullpens should be thrown with sequential planning.  If you can only command one or two types of pitches in one or two Lokations, good hitters will recognize a pattern and anticipate a certain pitch in a certain Lokation.  This makes timing good and batting averages increase.  

Use the Lokator Bullpen App to calculate statistics and rankings for sequences you throw well, file them as your strengths, and put them in your game plan.  Bullpen sequences you do not score or rank highly on can be labeled weaknesses and worked on more often in practice, file those as works in progress.  You have to know your own strengths and weaknesses first when deciding how to approach each game situation. 

Throw bullpens to catchers and simulate at bats in different game situations with the pre-made bullpen sequences on the Lokator Bullpen App. After catchers memorize the Lokator design they will know exactly where to put the target.  Then the scorekeeper can judge hit and missed targets by where the catcher catches the ball and call situational innings from behind the mound.   

Game situations to simulate in the bullpen:

  • Different counts, outs, innings, and scores
  • Runners on base with and without speed
  • Various hitters at the plate
  • Errors in the field
  • Umpires with big and small strike zones 
  • Bunt situations
  • Early, on time, or late swinging foul balls

The more imagination you use for the game situation the better.  Younger pitchers seem to enjoy imagining pitching game 7 of the World Series for their favorite MLB team in the bottom of the ninth or pitching in the Little League World Series, while older pitchers can usually focus more on game strategy and recreating game scenarios.

 

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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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