First Pitch Strikes

Why does throwing a first pitch strike shift the statistics so far in the pitchers favor? I think it’s all mental.

We’ve all been told to throw first pitch strikes and we know the odds are more in our favor if we do so, but why?  Why is an 0-1 fastball outside more effective then the same pitch in a 1-0 count?

The Stats

  • 92.7% of first pitch strikes lead to outs
  • 69% of strikeouts start with first pitch strikes

I could go even deeper into the statistics but those tell the story.  Pitchers are FAR more productive when they get the first pitch strike.

No More Stats.

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Melissa Wall – Off the Wall Photography

I’m not going to talk ground ball/ fly ball statistics, average exit velo or swing and miss % after first pitch ball or first pitch strike……  I’m going to talk about the mental side of the whole thing.

There will be little hard evidence to support my claims so feel free to comment if if you agree or disagree.

 

Mental Game

So we know that hitters are worse off in pitchers counts.  But why?  Do pitchers always throw more quality pitches when they’re ahead in the count?

The short answer is no.

What does happen is pitchers gain confidence and hitters lose confidence.

 

When a pitcher gains confidence a few things happen mentally:

  • You feel like you can throw any of your pitches effectively
    • You don’t have to worry as much if you have trouble controlling your off speed.
  • You feel more comfortable flirting with the black on your next pitch.
  • You whole body loosens up because you don’t have to worry about going down 2-0
    • Looser body = more velocity & movement.

Conversely, a few things happen in the hitters head:

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Melissa Wall – Off the Wall Photography

 

 

  • You’re less sure of what the pitcher will throw next.
    • 1-0 you know the pitcher is going to do everything in his power to throw a strike, and depending on his tenancies, you might even know what PITCH is coming.
    • 0-1, his tenancies almost fly out the window – you might know what he usually throws 0-1, but since he’s ahead he can do whatever he wants.
  • Some batters at this point feel pressured to get bat on the ball at anything in the strike zone – they don’t want to go down 0-2
    • A batter ahead in the count can watch a curve ball go by, even if it’s a strike in search of a better pitch to hit.
  • The pressure of the at bat builds against their favor
    • This creates tension in the muscles.  Tension takes a huge toll on bat speed and on the efficiency of a person’s decision making process.

 

Mental Changes are Magnified in Youth Players

I have absolutely no statistics to back the claim I’m about to make, but I think it’s safe to say that these confidence changes take a bigger effect on youth ball players.

Youth players aren’t as used to the failures that come with every single baseball game.  To some kids, giving up a hit can be the end of the world.  To a seasoned veteran, giving up a hit is just a part of the game and has little or no effect on him.

If the fate of the world rides on each and every batter, then getting that first pitch strike takes a huge weight off the pitcher’s shoulders and delicately places it right back on to the batter’s shoulders.

No matter what the pitcher is throwing; whether it’s a fastball, slider, curveball, change up mix or a fastball changeup mix – once that first strike has been thrown, the pressure has been shifted to the batter.  That alone can change the outcome without even mentioning the other things taking place in both the batter and pitcher’s minds.

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Source: Weinstein Baseball

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Silverback Sports Ballistic Hitting Ball Set

Check out these training tools provided by Brighter Baseball Skills.

You want to hit the ball farther… but how?  Strengthen your legs, arms, back, forearms… etc, etc, etc…

(LINKS TO THESE PRODUCTS ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POST)

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Melissa Wall – Off the Wall Photography

To me, it’s always made sense that hitting heavier balls would give me the strength to hit the regular balls harder!  If I can hit a heavy ball feet, then a regular ball will go feet!

 

With a proper swing, the player will feel the right muscles working.  After 10 reps on each side, the player should feel soreness in his/ her:

  • Legs
  • Butt
  • Core
  • Back
  • Forearms

It should be a total body workout – working the muscles you use to hit a ball.  No more, no less.

Do not Overuse

Just with any workout, it is advised not to over train with the balls.  Make sure you’re not swinging a ‘tired’ bat.  Quality swings are a must.  If you allow yourself to swing when you’re tired you can create bad habits.  So consistent use every day is much more effective than trying to get all your swings in at the same time.

Pair Heavy Balls with a Heavy Training Bat

Heavy training bats go hand in hand with heavy balls.  If you can swing a heavy bat quickly, you can swing a normal bat even faster.  Of course, you can also train using under weight bats.

Here is a video of Bryce Harper before he was in the MLB using a 40 oz. bat.

Brighter Baseball Skills has a selection on FollowThru Training Bats

28 inch – 33 ounce

28 inch – 36 ounce

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32 inch – 43 ounce

 

Get exactly what you want out of your workout!

Try the Silverback Sports Ballistic Hitting Ball Set and one of the FollowThru Training Bats!

Sold by Brighter Baseball Skills

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Follow Up to ‘Youth Pitchers Get the Short Straw’

While the rise of Tommy John Surgeries has risen, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop pitching.

On July 26th I posted the article, “Youth Pitchers Get the Short Straw” and I got feedback that made me rethink what I said.  Instead of take down my post I’m going to write about what I learned.

Essentially, in the initial post I said that if your goal is to make it Division 1 ball or pro ball, you should refrain from pitching until you get to high school.

Some of the feedback was that you can’t be scared to pitch.  You should not prohibit players from doing what they want.  If that’s what makes the game fun, then that’s what they should do.  Also, I had someone tell me that age restrictions from pitching weren’t the solution, better yet, focus on pre-habilitation.

I completely agree with both of these statements.  Like I said in “3 Tips for Travel Ball Pitchers,” arm care is extremely important.

So What?

There’s not much I can do about the risk that comes with pitching.  I can only warn about what can happen.  I regret trying to tell you that your players shouldn’t pitch.  Here are my key points – what I think are the most important takeaways from this conversation people are having every day:

  • Be aware of the risk involved with pitching.  Young kids sometimes think they’re invincible but they’re not.
    • Just because you don’t get have any severe pain doesn’t mean you have an iron arm.  Years of throwing takes its toll slowly over the course of years.
  • Don’t worry about impressing people with velocity or with a curve ball if you haven’t done the necessary pre-habilitation required to throw hard or to throw that curve.
    • The stage isn’t big enough to do that until you’re older anyway!
  • Don’t be afraid of pitching – in my last post I was too conservative.  There needs to be enough pitchers for this game to continue growing!  If pitching keeps your son in the game, whether he’s 9 or 19, do it.

 

I hope I don’t have to write to many more articles admitting I’m wrong.  But I’ll never take down a post and pretend it never happened.  I will learn from you as much as I hope you learn from me.

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What kind of Protein is Right for Kids 13+

3 of the best articles on youth supplementation, for better or worse.

I’m not a nutrition coach, and I haven’t had any schooling on the subject so I’ve been going around the internet researching as much as I can.  I’ve made sure to use only the most trusted sources and compiled the best 3 articles.

Should Kids Younger than 18 Take Supplements?

This question had never even crossed my mind before I started my research…

I started taking supplements when I was 13, and I haven’t felt any negative effects from it yet.  Protein supplements have been an integral part of my training experience for about 8 years now.

From what I’ve read, it seems like the sports focused dietitians don’t give protein supplements a second thought while the normal dietitians speak out against kids using protein supplements.  The general argument is that with some thought and planning, you can get all the protein you need in your daily diet.

The problem with that is that student athletes simply don’t have the time in their busy schedules to eat enough quality food…

Jenna Braddock

Image result for jenna braddock make healthy easy logoJenna Braddock, a successful and knowledgeable dietitian who teaches at the University of North Florida, gives us an example of a football player in high school who is busy from 6:30 am to 5:55 pm at school and practice.   And as we know, a similar schedule can be expected for a high school baseball player.

While this schedule might sound cruel and unusual, this is the life of a high school student athlete.  In her article, under the “How to use a Protein Supplement” subheading she gives four ways to get your protein in at the right time.

The whole article is great but towards the end she is clearly trying to sell a product.  She is very knowledgeable but if you want to buy what she’s selling do your research first, as I haven’t done any on the product itself.

I suggest the article for all of the great content beforehand.

Luke Corey

Luke Corey brands himself as a “Performance Dietitian” and works for EXOS at the UCLA Health Sports Performance Center.  Everything he says in his article is geared towards youth athletes.  I really like this article because it is about total health rather than just muscle growth. logo

If we know that student athletes have a hard time getting the right amount of protein in, what other vitamins and minerals are kids generally not getting in and what are the effects?  He goes over the answers to that question in this article.

At the end of his article he says, “Hydration affects performance more than any other nutritional factor.”  This is the easiest thing your ball player can do throughout the day, and according to Corey, it will be the most effective.

When I was in high school I would carry a gallon jug of water around school and try to drink the whole thing through out the day.  Usually I could do it, but even when I couldn’t, I could tell I was drinking a lot more water then I usually did.  I made it a game for myself which made me drink as much as I could.

It made me feel a lot better not just at practice but also in the classroom (It didn’t instantly make me smarter, but it helped me stay awake and focused).

Chris Koutures & Keith Gladstien

This is my last recommended article and my favorite.  It’s written by two well known doctors who really  know what they’re talking about and it’s easy to read and understand.

It goes over, in order, the most important parts of supplementing a growing athlete, and not so surprisingly protein supplements come 3rd on the list.

The article also talks about creatine and pre-workout supplements.  It goes over the pros and cons, but I personally do not recommend these supplements for anyone under 18 years of age.

Creatine is known to give quick and noticeable results in a short time but I’ve noticed that when you stop taking the creatine supplement, you almost immediately lose your progress.  It also is very tough on the liver even for someone who drinks a lot of water.  It also dehydrates you so however much water you drink, you need to drink 1.5X more.

As for pre-workout, most supplements are packed with caffeine and people who like taking pre-workout before a lift find themselves just a year later unable to have a quality lift without the supplement.  Caffeine is a drug and should be treated as such especially by younger athletes.

This article states, “The best pre-workout supplement is that 8-9 hours of sleep the night before starting exercise.” and I completely agree.

Sleep is the most underrated supplement because you can’t sell sleep supplements to people who don’t have problems sleeping so you never see anybody advertising a full night’s rest.

Similarities in the Articles

All three articles stress hydration.  They all say something along the lines of how a dehydrated athlete is sluggish and isn’t getting the most out of his/ her body.  Not only does the athlete not work as hard, but the body doesn’t rebuild itself as quickly or efficiently.

They all call protein the ‘building block of skeletal muscle’ and that the best time to take Gems (6-2-16)-478protein is 30 minutes after a workout.  Also, generally agreed upon is the idea that 0.5 – 0.7 grams/ pound of body weight/ day is a good amount to aim for (including protein found in the food you eat every day).

All three articles state that is possible (and recommended) to get your protein in through whole foods every day rather than through supplements.  But, they all admit that it is difficult and if you have a hard time doing that, supplements are the way to go.  They are also all concerned with getting a quality source of protein.  Whether it is through whole foods or supplements, make sure it isn’t a fatty source or from a sketchy protein supplement brand.

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Youth Pitchers Get the Short Straw

If you son is pitching before he is 13, he is only hurting his own career. Here’s why..

If your son isn’t in high school, in my opinion, he doesn’t need to be pitching just yet.

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Photo Credits: Arianna Macalouso

Save your son from the early stress to his UCL and Labrum and just have him play the field.  Pitching at an early age doesn’t do as much good as you think.  It doesn’t give him that much of an edge at the college level or even the high school level.

Kids under 18 years old have considerably less body awareness meaning they might feel like they are moving in one way, but are actually aren’t doing what they think they’re doing.

Here’s a Wall Street Journal article called “The Rise of the Accidental Pitcher.”  More and more often, pitchers who became pitchers late in their careers (college and minor league) are making the Major Leagues.  Why?  I think it’s because the competition is literally dwindling due to injury.  Players that don’t pitch their entire lives generally have healthier arms WHEN IT COUNTS.

I know this might upset or even OFFEND some people with kids who are already pitching, but here’s an honest opinion from a guy who’s SEEN college prospects lose scholarships due to Tommy John Surgery.

I don’t take your money for pitching lessons…  My selling point is honest, unbiased opinions on how to allow your kid have the greatest chance to succeed.

Benefits of Not Pitching Before High School

  • Reduce lifetime stress to the arm.
  • Increase overall athleticism by focusing on fielding positions or even by playing other sports.
  • Learn throwing mechanics through hitting mechanics.
    • Two perspectives on the mechanics gives players a better feel for their body and how the mechanics really work.
  •  Playing other sports helps a player improve his overall athleticism, it’s a lot more fun for the kid and it will allow both the parent and child to better decide which sport the kid likes the most and which he is the best at.  Also, playing other sports gives young athletes better body control
    • Instead of just throwing your child into baseball, let him choose which he thinks is the most fun.  The sport he enjoys the most will ultimately be the one he is the best at.
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Photo Credits: Arianna Macalouso

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Related Articles:

What College Coaches Look For

5 Tips for Players Looking for a Scholarship

Does Position Matter to College Scouts?

 

In my next article I will put together helpful information for players trying to gain weight.

3 Tips for Travel Ball Pitchers

The three most important things for a developing youth pitcher looking for a scholarship.

What are the most important things for a growing pitcher?  I’ll explain the 5 most important things to focus on perfecting before college.

While there is a conversation that needs to happen about youth pitches throwing too much, that’s not what I’m going to talk about in this post.  Expect that in a week or so…

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Photo Credit: Arianna Macaluso

1. Arm Care & Strengthening

          CARE

The #1 most important thing for every pitcher is arm health.  There are plenty of pitchers who use Jaeger Bands before a start but that is NOT enough.

Even if you band for 20 minutes before a start, that doesn’t mean anything.  Banding before a start is your warm up, it helps your arm get acclimated to the throwing motion before you start actually throwing a ball.

You get real arm care when you take your pre-game arm care routine and combine it with a few light arm strengthening routines and do it every other day.  Regardless of whether you pitch or even play that day.  You should have about 30 minutes of work you can do every day.

And that is just to keep your health at 100%.

          STRENGTHENING

I’m not a pitcher and I’m not going to act like a baseball strength or pitching coach when I’m not one.  I am speaking from the point of view of a Division 1 baseball player and about what I’ve seen successful pitchers like recently called up pitcher Corbin Burnes do.

Talk to a strength coach about how to strengthen your arm and work on it every day.  Here are a few things I picked up when trying to strengthen my arm;

  • Your arm will only go as fast as your muscles can slow it down.  That is why a strong back is so important.
  • Arm strength is only one part of throwing hard.  With the right mechanics, velocity comes from the legs.
  • Many reps of small weight are much more effective than heavy weight.  Especially when dealing with small muscles in the arm.
  • When dealing with those smaller muscles, it shouldn’t hurt like when you squat or do curls, it should feel like a warm burn.
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Photo Credit: Arianna Macaluso

2. Be able to Throw AT LEAST 2 Pitches for Strikes Consistently

As a hitter, the biggest relief is when you realize a pitcher can only throw his fastball for a strike.  At the high school level, you can have an 81 mph fastball and be extremely efficient… but not if that’s the only pitch you can throw for a strike.

The key is to throw your off speed for strikes.  This summer for the Palm Springs Power, I played against pitchers of ALL different skill levels.  We went 28-7 powered mostly by our offense and the only thing that slowed us down was NOT pitchers with velocity.

It was pitchers who could locate more than one pitch for QUALITY strikes.

Few pitchers at the high school level can throw 3 pitches for strikes.  While you need to make sure your velocity is climbing, a lot of that will come with working out and growing.  Don’t try to force it too early.  Also you need to make sure your off speed pitches are effective.

I’m not saying that you can throw a bad slider down the middle.  You need to work on having good off speed pitches, and when I say ‘strike’ I mean something low in the zone.

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Photo Credits: Arianna Macaluso

3. Velocity (unfortunately)

I hate the idea that you HAVE to throw hard to get a scholarship and it’s NOT I repeat NOT always true… but it does make it a whole lot easier.

I personally would rather hit against someone with velocity and little or no off speed command, but the way coaches see it, it’s a lot easier to teach off speed than it is to velo.

There are a lot of youth coaches out there who will see a guy who clearly is having trouble getting his velo up and will tell him, ‘ohhh you don’t really need velo to be successful.’  WHICH IS TRUE.  The problem is getting scout attention.  When your velo isn’t high you have to prove yourself every time you take the mound because your success can only be measured in the stat column.

Velo can be recorded and impress someone whether or not they give up any runs.

Even though I don’t want to, I am going to leave ‘getting your velo up’ as my last piece of advice.  That being said, I want to end my post with this:

When you’re working on your velocity, be aware that throwing too much or working your arm too hard will only cause poor or negative results.  If your goal is to get your velo up, slow and steady really wins the race and doing it the RIGHT way, through mechanics, total body strengthening, and deceleration exercises will benefit you in the long run.  You must be patient.

My last tip comes from something AMAZING I saw.  I was watching my buddy throw a bullpen one day at school.  He usually sat 87-90… I have no idea what mechanical changes the pitching coach told him to make, but he literally made a jump from 87-90 to 91-93 right in front of my eyes.

So what’s my point?  He wasn’t exerting extra energy.  Your mechanics are your most important part of your velocity which is why people say there is a difference between THROWING and PITCHING.

Not only that, your mechanics will keep your arm healthier.  Throw harder and get less sore… what more can you ask for?

pitching 3
Photo Credits: Arianna Macaluso

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5 Things You Can Change to Get a College Scholarship

Choosing a Travel Ball Team

Does Your Position Make a Difference to College Scouts?

Does Position Make a Difference to College Scouts?

Does the position you play matter to scouts? What are scouts looking for when they watch defense?

When you go to tournaments and play in front of scouts, does it matter to them whether you’re at shortstop or right field?  I’ve got your answer…

Outfield

First of all, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the outfield.  The only problem will come when you prove yourself to be a bad outfielder or you show just how much you don’t want to be in the outfield.

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©2017 Jacqui South Photography

Here are two tips from me about the outfield.

  1. Do everything you can to get that center field spot.  Sometimes coaches assume the smaller guy is the center fielder because they think he is faster.  If you think you’re faster than the center fielder, tell the coach that.  The center fielder is the leader and when you’re in center it is assumed you are fast and at least slightly more athletic than the other two outfielders.
    • Sometimes simply telling the coach you want to play center is enough to make him think about it more.  Often times coaches will assume a lot of things just by your appearance and won’t second guess their decisions.  Make him second guess his decision.
  2. If you’re in the outfield, don’t treat it like a walk in the park.  Obviously, on routine balls which will be 90% of your outfield experience, you won’t be showcasing much by catching a lazy fly ball or ground ball.  So here’s a few things to focus on when you’re out there…
    • Make every single routine play – messing up routine plays shows a lack of focus more than a lack of ability… which is probably worse.
    • Do ALL the little things.  Back up bags, throws and fielding infielders.  This shows strong focus, baseball IQ, and hustle.
    • Make smart plays… know the situation.  Every time you get a ball you should already know where it’s going without having to listen to anybody else.  Also never miss your cutoff, letting runners get an extra bag does not (or should never) happen at the college level.

Infield

By showing that you play the infield, you’re showing you have a skill that the outfielder’s might not have – fielding a ground ball.  That being said, by playing the infield you’re going to be presented with the opportunity to prove that you CAN’T field a ground ball.

My #1 piece of advice for an infielder is to just make the routine plays.  That doesn’t sound like much, but picking up the ball and getting it over to first on time constantly is the first thing coaches look for.

It’s great making outstanding plays, but don’t be the guy that makes incredible plays but just can’t figure out how to field the ball right at him.

Shortstop vs the Other Positions…

In high school I had a friend who transferred schools because he wasn’t playing short stop.  Do I think it’s that important to play short stop?  No.  At second or third base you showcase the same exact skills.

At my college, all the second basemen played short, and all the short stops played both second and third.  The only difference between third basemen is that they sometimes are bigger and have less range, but just because you play third doesn’t mean that’s true.

Whether you play second, third or short, my advice stays the same.  Show that you can consistently make routine plays and coaches will be able to trust you playing the field for their school.

Catchers

If you’re a catcher and you really commit yourself to becoming a great defensive player, you’ll have a huge leg up on many other catchers.  There are a lot of decent catchers and not too many great ones.

If you’re a great catcher, then how you hit doesn’t really matter.  That being said, if you’re a great catcher and a pretty good hitter then you’re a premium player.

Most players have to attract college scouts on the offensive side first.  Catchers can attract offers on both sides of the field.  You can grab yourself a scholarship hitting .200 if you’re a top tier catcher.  I had a friend at school who got drafted as a catcher… he was top 20 in division 1 strikeouts…..

Yes, he had a ton of power, but he didn’t prove much on the offensive side of the ball.  Yet, he was given a lot of money by the Chicago White Sox.

I’m not going to do a section on pitchers because you’re not technically a position player.  I will write about pitchers in the near future though.

 

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5 Things You Can Change to Get a College Scholarship

My View on the Launch Angle Focused Swing

Choosing a Travel Ball Team