Baseball is a beautiful game. It is a game of inches, a game of symmetry, and a game of failure. There are some things that show up in every game - some of which we see and some of which goes unnoticed.
As a player, sometimes we can forget that certain aspects of the game are simply unavoidable, and we proceed to work to avoid meeting these certainties unsuccessfully. This work always ends up being a waste of time, and often times can even hinder our development instead of improve it. Here are some of those "absolutes" that will always be a part of the game.
1. Pitchers will always get signed first, but will always get released first.
Pitchers are always noticed first. After all, they're in the spotlight. They sit on a hill, elevated above every other player on the field, throwing to a back stop full of scouts peeking out from behind their radar guns.
Pitchers get signed first - not because they are more valuable, but because they are more quantifiable. In other words, 90 mph is 90 mph, and there's no way around it. Hitters can come in all shapes and sizes, and they can help their team win in 100 different ways. With that being said, it's harder to judge what makes a valuable hitter. Therefore, pitchers are the first ones to put pen to paper.
Pitchers are the first ones on the chopping block. You can throw 90 mph. Good for you. Guess what? So can everyone else. If you can't do your job, someone else can.
A hitter on the other hand is allowed to make mistakes at the plate. Slumps happen to everyone. No hitter is immune, and most higher level coaches get that. Hitting is the hardest thing to do in sports, plain and simple. And if they are not getting the job done right away, it will happen sooner or later.
2. Defense is king.
Hitting is a luxury item. Defense is a must.
In order to win baseball games, players must defend their position. Baseball is about which team can allow the least amount of free bases. If hitting is truly the hardest part of baseball, then giving the other team free baserunners is a sure-fire way to make their offensive experience easier. More baserunners equals more stress for pitchers. Stressed pitchers equals more mistakes over the middle of the plate. And more mistakes equals fun for the opponent's offense.
3. The team that throws more strikes usually wins.
On the topic of free baserunners, the team that throws more strikes will most likely win the game. If both offenses are proficient and both defenses can field the ball, then the team that draws more walks has the advantage. Too many times you'll see a pitcher who throws hard yet can't find the strike zone. In this nightmarish scenario, the entire pace of the game slows to a halt. It becomes a game of "pitcher versus himself." Will he throw three strikes first, or will he throw four balls?
When this happens, the defense grows stale. Players get caught sitting on their heals, roasting under the hot summer sun. Being left out there to rot, they finally head back into the dugout more dehydrated and wary than the other lineup. Which side do you think will produce for the pitcher?
4. A pretty swing doesn't always mean a pretty batting average.
We've seen it all too many times: the dude who has the most beautiful swing but can't do anything with it once the game begins.
Don't be that guy.
The last thing we want to do is neglect the mental game, or else we'll turn into the guy who can't hit regardless of the cage work we put in.
Remember, just because you work on your swing doesn't mean it automatically translates to the game. Work on your swing, but work on your mind as well.
5. You will strike out again.
And there you have it. Strikeouts are inevitable. Sorry, but it's true. Which is a shame, considering every coach feels the impulsive need to yell at players when they strike out, punish them for striking out looking, and force players to swing early in the count so as not to get to two strikes. Imagine spending that much energy trying to avoid the unavoidable.
The sad part is all this worrying still doesn't change the result of striking out. In fact, it changes everything else. Think about it...
- We swing early in the count at pitches we shouldn't to avoid getting behind in the count.
- We expand our zone with one strike out of fear of getting to two, thus swinging at worse pitches and getting ourselves into even more two strike counts.
- We swing at balls out of the zone with two strikes out of fear of striking out looking, thus increasing out strikeout totals instead of diminishing them
By attempting to avoid the unavoidable, we make ourselves a worse player - a player filled with fear and doubt.
Instead, try to flip the script. Accept strikeouts. They are just as much part of the game as homeruns, if not more so. All of a sudden, those close pitches that we previously got ourselves out on aren't so tough to take. Heck, some of them might even be called balls and you'll find yourself in more hitter's counts than you would have if you went up to the plate swing-happy. Accepting strikeouts leads to confidence deep in counts. Confidence leads to patience, and patience leads you to your pitch.
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