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A post-season agenda for your pitchers: twenty key points that your pitchers, can work on in their time-away from you. Part 1. (Baseball).

BASEBALL COACHES are known for the quality of their in-season planning. They are not as well known for putting the same thought and effort into their post-season planning.

The post-season can offer an unusual dynamic in baseball coaching. In no other sport will a coach send his players off to perform for other coaches, sometimes for months.

Their expectations are simple: They hope their kids will work on the things that will prepare them for the regular season.

As their coaches, how many of us will send them off to other coaches with a definite plan in mind?

Though it is impossible to draw up a list of practice goals that can apply to everyone, it is quite possible to draft a master list from which each player can choose five or six specific objectives to work on during the post season.

1 Get your fastball to move.

The more a pitcher can get his fastball to move, the more effective he is going to be on the mound. The off-season offers a perfect opportunity to experiment with different grips and methods for getting the fastball to move. It is a process of experimentation with different adjustments. I believe it is good to sacrifice a little speed on the fastball to ensure movement. The more a pitcher's fastball moves, the more likely that pitch will miss the barrel of the bat.

2 Work on the stretch.

How of ten do most pitchers focus on their effectiveness from the stretch? Just think: 95% of the most important pitches they make in a game are thrown from the stretch. It is thus, a good strategy to spend the off-season focusing on getting comfortable and effective from the stretch. This will enable you to rise to challenges and prevent the beginnings of a big inning.

3 Locate off-speed pitches:

One of the most important parts of pitching is learning how to change speeds on the mound. A good changeup can make your fastball seem much faster than it truly is. A good mix of pitches will prevent a hitter from locking in on one particular pitch in your arsenal. Developing consistency in your off-speed pitches takes time and patience--it is not an overnight process.

The post-season is a great time to focus on the weaker pitches in your arsenal. You can stumble on something that will pay big dividends. If you can come into a new season with the ability to throw all of your pitches with good command, you can consider it a major step forward.

4 Holding runners on & developing quickness to the plate.

This is an area that does not show up in the box scores, but it is a major part of being successful on the mound. Cutting off the running game is not the sole responsibility of the catcher. The pitcher must also focus upon it. Many young pitchers believe that their inability to pick off runners nullifies the importance of throwing to the bases. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Anyone who can cut leads (even by half a step) or just put doubt into the runner's mind is helping to prevent good jumps.

Another aspect to cutting off the opponents' running game is developing quickness to the plate. Although I am not a proponent of the slide-step, there are many things that a pitcher can do to quicken his delivery to the plate, such as developing an abbreviated leg kick or shortening his regular leg kick. These things enable pitchers to throw quickly to the plate without sacrificing movement and velocity.

5 Developing mental toughness.

The mound can be a lonely place at times. But the pitcher is expected to lead the team with his actions. They must show composure and poise at all times and be able to deal with any situation.

The post-season is a good time to develop a mental focus that will cut off all negative thoughts, such as poor umpiring, bad weather, inadequate facilities, or errors by the defense.

Good pitchers never let such thoughts creep into their minds. They also never allow a let-down to affect their pitches to the next hitter. For example, I tell my staff over and over to never allow a walk after a fielder's error. This situation is not about throwing strikes--it is about focus and mental toughness.

6 Developing 0-2 and 1-2 pitches that get hitters out.

Many pitchers are great at getting ahead of hitters early in the count, but have trouble finishing them off. The post season is the time to work on pitches that will get hitters out late in the count, especially when you are ahead. The ability to throw borderline strikes that move out of the strike zone is a skill that must be worked on in the same manner as other skills in pitching.

I am not a believer in wasting pitches on 0-2, but neither am I a believer in attacking the middle of the plate when you are ahead in the count. You have to develop pitches that are enticing enough to get the hitters to swing at them, but are not in a good hittable location for the batters, either.

7 Long toss to build arm strength.

This is another terrific thing to work on in the post-season plus for pop on the fast ball and improved arm action.

All too often, pitchers will baby their arms and not use the time away from the mound to take their pitching in a positive direction. Long toss is a simple way of using off time in a constructive way.

Encourage your players to throw a lot in the off-season and max-out in their throwing just before they are going to get a day or two off. Good long toss programs done over a series of weeks will add speed to a pitcher's fastball and stamina and allow them to go deeper when they pitch.

8 Control your emotions on the mound.

So much of pitching is mental. How many times have you seen a pitcher breezing along in a game and then after a couple of bad developments, just falls apart? Some pitchers have trouble dealing with any kind of annoyance on the mound.

The post-season is a good time for them to work on this. Outside leagues are often more low-key than the pitcher's school league and offer a good time to work on emotional control.

Another thing I emphasize is no negative body language. We always strive to have our pitchers exude a tough exterior body language when they pitch and never change it, winning or losing.

9 Get in better physical condition.

The post-season is a perfect time to build your body and increase your physical conditioning. That means lifting weights. Have your strength and conditioning coaches design a program for each pitcher. Even if a pitcher has good strength, the post-season is a time to be working at it or at least maintaining it.

There are other aspects to being in good condition. Extensive running will keep the legs in good shape and help increase the pitcher's effectiveness from season to season. If your pitchers consistently ran into problems in the late innings, the post season might offer the perfect opportunity to work on it.

10 Build strength in the center of your body.

Nolan Ryan says, "the center of your body is the center of your power." He really hits the nail on the head. Lots of coaches' concentrate on building strength in their players' legs and upper bodies, but how many focus on the abdominal region?

At Rhode Island, our players go through a long daily regimen of abdominal work and it is very helpful. It is the kind of exercise they can do almost every day, no matter where they are. (Concluded next month.)
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Author:Mason, Jim
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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