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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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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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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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Holding Runners

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

Bullpen sessions do not simulate the feeling of pitching late in a tight game with a fast runner on first base looking to get into scoring position.  When you are focused on being quick to the plate and holding runners close, your attention can gravitate more towards the runner than the hitter.  This is a whole different situation than commanding pitches in the comfort of the bullpen.  

Good base-runners can wreak havoc on timing, tempo, and rhythm in a game situations.  There is such a small margin for error on release points of the ball in pitching, the smallest amount of rushing towards the plate can cause you to loose command or leave the ball up in the Danger Zone.

You almost always make the most important pitches of the game from the stretch, very rarely does the solo home run beat you.  That being said, you also have to recognize who is a threat to run and whether the game situation calls for you to pay close attention to runners.

Below we have listed some general rules of when to: 

Pay Attention to Runners

  • Late in a tight game with good base-runner on first
  • In bunt situations, cut down secondary leads
  • Lead off batter gets on base in a close game
  • In off speed counts with good base-runner on
  • With 1 out and a good base-runner on second
  • When your catcher struggles throwing runners out
  • When you can't get the ball to the plate in under 1.3 seconds  

Focus on the hitter

  • When you have a big lead or are way behind 
  • When the runner is slow
  • When you have 2 strikes on the hitter and 2 outs in the inning
  • When you slide step or are very quick to the plate
  • When you're struggling with command
  • With bases loaded, second and third, or third base occupied

When throwing bullpens in practice make sure to spend an equal amount of time pitching out of the stretch.  Concentrate on changing the amount of time you come to the set position so the base-runner cannot time you and get a great jump.  Work on being quick to the plate on pitches where you are paying close attention to the runner and then take a little more time getting the pitch away when you're focusing on the hitter.  Simulate looks towards base-runners when throwing pens.

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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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