What Percent Of Baseball Pitching Is Mental?
The start of the major league baseball season is just around the corner now. College teams, town teams, travel teams and high school teams will all be starting to play their schedules shortly.
As is always the case at this time of the year, fans, coaches, players and media pundits will begin to focus on what is always a key aspect of the game of baseball--pitching.
Pitching, like most athletic tasks, is both mental and physical. But, how much of pitching really is about what is going on between the pitcher’s ears?
Pitchers benefit from knowing the count, the game situation, their history with a hitter,
their strengths and weaknesses and the ideal spot to deliver the ball to at a given time.
In addition, the pitcher’s relationship with his catcher and his pitching coach are quite important in developing comfort and mental toughness on the mound.
During a recent lecture that I gave to twenty college starting pitchers and relief pitchers, called How To Throw More Strikes With Sport Psychology, I asked the participants what they thought about the mental aspects of pitching.
The players felt that pitching, is, in fact, approximately eighty percent mental.
Interestingly, these college player had reported having virtually zero mental training during the course of their baseball careers.
It is surprising that these athletes have made it to the college level, without ever really addressing what can be done to improve confidence, concentration, focus, accuracy, speed, movement and performance on the mound in a pressure packed game situation.
In my view, the more physically skilled you are as pitcher and the higher the level you compete at, the more mental pitching becomes. That is, once you have mastered your mechanics, your balance and control of your pitches, the art of pitching becomes quite psychological in nature.
Interestingly, of the twenty pitchers who attended the seminar, only one had the capacity to throw five different pitches. Most of the players had three pitches in their
Having five pitches at any level can really create problems for hitters who like to guess what pitch is coming. In my view, the pitcher with this kind of varied arsenal can have a significant advantage in game situations. Moreover, they can really keep hitters on the defensive in the batter’s box. It is hard to confident at the plate when you have no idea what kind of pitch you are about to see coming at you.
During the seminar, participants were taught several simple techniques which are a combination of self-hypnosis, guided imagery, visualization and positive psychology.
These methods help pitchers to understand how to control the relationship between their minds and their bodies.
Specifically, they learn how to better manage their thoughts and feelings on the mound, in the dugout, in the bullpen, on the way to the game and during the night before the game.
Once on the mound, I encourage pitchers to have one main idea. Here are some examples: Throw strikes ,jam tall players, pitch away from shorter players, keep the ball low, hit the catchers glove, blow it by him, keep him guessing, the most important pitch is the next one you throw.
Jay P. Granat, Ph.D., is a Psychotherapist in River Edge, New Jersey and the Founder of www.StayInTheZone.com