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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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Scouting

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

Scouting reports are rarely used or talked about during bullpen sessions while they can play a much bigger role in the game.  When a hitter comes up to bat that has hit a first pitch fastball in the gap earlier in the game, your pitch sequence should be more likely to change for that hitter later in the game.  Whether you realize it or not, memory alone will act as scouting in the game much more than in practice.     

Up until now, the majority of pitchers and coaches have used the term scouting as a tool to represent what  the hitters' strengths and weaknesses are.  It is actually more important to practice with a scouting report of yourself in mind.  You should recognize what you do well first and then take the hitter into consideration.  If it is obvious that the hitter struggles with the change up and you can't come close to throwing a change up for a strike, what good does that do you?

You need to understand what you do well so you know what to rely on in game situations.  But it is also important to know what your weaknesses are so you understand what you need to work on the most during practice.  As the old saying goes, your either getting better or worse, and it's always beneficial to know what you're improving on and what you haven't been able to accomplish yet.   

The Lokator Bullpen App will be your own personal scouting service so you can practice with purpose instead of only using scouting for games.  Lokation statistics will tell you what Zones, pitches, and sequences you can command the best and how you rank among others in the database.  This revolutionary App will give you hard evidence of what you do best so you can apply it in games. 

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Hitter

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

One of the most obvious variables that differ from the bullpen to the game is that there is no live hitter in the box when you throw on the side.  Bullpens do not simulate times when your confidence has been a little shaken and a good hitter steps in the box.  Recognize what state your confidence is in, the game situation, and the hitter in the box.  

Hot hitters or hitters who have good numbers against you can be especially troublesome for your ability to command Lokations.  Players you have confidence against or are slumping can help you command Lokations.  Sometimes pitchers struggle throwing inside off the plate in the Purpose Zones when a hitter is in the box.  Often times younger pitchers can be intimidated by the size of the hitter in the box.

Sometimes pitchers and catchers can give hitter's more credit than they deserve during games and nibble at the corners early in the count.  Maybe you are being too fine towards the edges of the plate with off speed while even or behind in the count.  Whatever the situation, you need to identify and practice pitch sequences with hitters in mind.

Try to imagine different hitters you've faced in the past during side sessions.  Remember sequences you used to get individual hitters out and execute them in practice as well.  Build an arsenal of patterns your confident in and command Lokations in relation to the count.  

Tag bullpen sequences you practice with the Lokator Bullpen App to certain hitters and file it away for safe keeping.  If you know a hitter loves to swing at the first pitch fastball then practice pitching backwards or executing fastballs towards the Chase Zones 5/6 earlier in the count.  Match successful sequences with faces!

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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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Fielding

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

Throwing bullpens in practice will not simulate the duties you have on the mound in the game as a fielder.  There are a number of fielding situations if not executed correctly, could cost your team a win.  Once you release the ball you are the closest fielder to the hitter so you have to be in a position to defend yourself against line drives up the middle and field your position. 

Come backers up the middle can have a big impact on the momentum of the game.  Say you are pitching late in a tie game, with a runner on first base, and one out.  If you are not in a good fielding position a one hopper up the middle will normally result in runners on first and third with one out. If you are in a good fielding position a one hopper back to you will generally result in an inning ending double play.  

Fielding bunts is another game variable that can't be reproduced during bullpen work.  Generally sacrifice bunts and bunts for a hit happen in close or low scoring games, so errors can be especially costly.  An unbalanced followthrough can make getting to and fielding bunts much more difficult as well.   

Covering first on ground balls to the right side of the infield is used more often when the pitcher's mound is 60.5  feet from the plate and the bases are 90 feet apart.  But even young pitchers can develop good habits during games by hustling towards first on all ground balls to the right side of the field.  The most important part of covering first base is getting a good jump off the mound.  

Backing up bases isn't physically hard to do, but in the heat of battle when you are dealing with runners circling the bases while giving up hits and runs it can be harder to make yourself get into position.  This game variable ties in closely with body language.  If you have bad body language, sulk, pout, or start arguing with an umpire you are probably missing your assignment and giving the opponent a better chase to get extra bases.  Not to mention it makes you and your team look terrible. 

A runner on third in a close game can sometimes make a difference when selecting pitches to throw during the sequence. If you have the confidence in your catcher to throw off speed pitches in the dirt with a runner on third and the ball gets away, you have to be ready to point out the ball, cover home without blocking the plate, catch the throw, and apply the tag. Almost any legal slide will take your legs out if you move too far across the plate, practice this for your safety.

Whenever you pick a runner off the bases you will likely be a part of the rundown that follows.  You have to understand which base to go, how to close the distance toward the runner, get out of the baseline when you don't have the ball, catch, throw, and apply the tag.  These are all important skills that are not learned in the bullpen.

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Adrenaline

Posted on April 11, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

         

You will rarely have an adrenaline rush during bullpen work while the exact opposite is true during games.  Most pitchers get a handful of adrenaline rushes during every game and it's something that is hard to be mirrored in bullpen work, so you must be able to recognize when it happens and know how to use it or defend against it.

Most people associate adrenaline in sports with extreme sports like the X games, skydiving, bungee jumping, or dare devil stunts.  People who participate in these activities have been coined adrenaline junkies.  But just because adrenaline isn't normally associated with baseball or softball, it doesn't mean it can't play a huge role in the game.

Adrenaline is a hormone that is released into the bloodstream in response to physical or mental stress when your mind feels fear or injury.  You will most likely have an adrenaline rush when you first take the mound, face a tough hitter in a big situation, have a hitter charge the mound, almost get hit by a line drive, hear the crowd cheering, and any number of other situations.    

When adrenaline is released into your bloodstream your heart rate and blood pressure increase, lungs and pupils expand, and blood is redistributed to muscles throughout your body. Other symptoms include the feeling of butterflies in your stomach, shaking knees, tingling feet, sweaty palms, shortness of breath, and an increase in energy.

Adrenaline can be a disadvantage or an advantage during games.  

Disadvantages

  • Speeds tempo and makes rhythm, balance, and timing difficult
  • Can cause overthrowing
  • Makes off speed pitches harder to command
  • Makes body language harder to control

Avantages

  • Give extra energy when fatigued
  • Adds MPH's on fastball 
  • Can help temporarily with pain
  • Can help agressiveness        

Prepare for this burst of hormone by first identifying when it is happening and then deciding whether it is hurting or helping in the situation. If it is a disadvantage, like making your tempo speed up too much then take a deep breath, refocus, and remind yourself to keep your weight back.  If it is an advantage, like hearing the crowd cheer for you while your ahead in the count 1-2, you may want to throw a fastball instead of an off speed pitch to take advantage of an extra MPH or two. 

The Lokator Bullpen App will help stimulate adrenaline surges by promoting competition between friends and teammates.  If you have the competitive fire burning inside, then the stress and fear of loosing will be all that is needed to stimulate a game-time adrenaline rush. 

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