There will come a time when you get on the mound and just don’t have your stuff that day. Well guess what? The game of baseball, or anyone else for that matter, doesn’t care one bit. You don’t have a feel for your breaking pitch, your change-up keeps sailing, and/or you don’t have your good 2-seam or 4-seam fastball that you normally rely on. So what do you do then? Ask the other team to take it easy on you and give you a break because you don’t have your best stuff that day? Maybe tell your coach you’ll try to get through an inning or two but then need to come out because you’re feeling uncomfortable out on the mound? Yeah right, good luck with either of those options. You have only one choice; throw through it and compete.
When you don’t have your stuff working for you, it makes an already difficult game all the more difficult. But a winner, a competitor, is going to try and figure it out. It really comes down to something other than your physical ability to throw quality pitches and strikes. It comes down to your mental ability to control your composure and your mindset enough so you can bear down and focus on one pitch at a time.
It’s easy to get flustered and show bad body language. And at a time when you’re struggling both mentally and physically on the mound, things don’t always seem to go your way. It just adds more fuel to the fire and you have to figure out how to get through it while giving your team a chance to win.
At times like these, you just need to try and let the ball fly out of the hand. You just need to throw it. Our segment on “Throw it, Don’t aim” ties directly into this. When things get tough, we try to aim and hope we throw a strike. That just makes it worse. You have to trust in your ability and the amount of time and effort you’ve put in to get to this point. Mechanics should go out the window. If you’re trying to fix a mechanical flaw during a game, it’s too late. Sure, there are adjustments you need to make throughout the game. But if you’re worrying about your mechanics and thinking that mechanics are causing you to throw poorly, think again. It’s your mind.
Think about the success you’ve had. Try to put some positive thoughts in your head. Go back to a game in which you dominated, where hitters couldn’t make solid contact and it seemed easy to get outs. Get your mind on those memories just for a moment so you can remember the feeling of getting batters out. Now comes the moment you need to realize that you’re still that pitcher. You have the stuff to get guys out and make them look foolish at the plate. Trust in yourself and your ability as you had done in the past. It’s not easy, but you need to fight the negative thoughts with positive ones. You need to push out the doubt in your mind and fill it with certainty.
It is not an easy thing to do. As I say all the time, if pitching was easy then everyone would do it. But the truth is that pitching isn’t easy and most people can’t do it. And one big reason is because some athletes can’t get the negative thoughts out of their minds. The mind continues to spiral out of control until it has fully consumed you. Before you know it, you’re on the bench and the game may be out of reach.
How do you start to get yourself back on track? Breathe. Take some time and some deep breaths. Fill your mind with positivity as opposed to negativity. We can’t think, “Man, I just don’t have it today. I can’t throw a strike with any of my pitches.” We have to force ourselves to think something along the lines of, “Hey, I may not have my best stuff today but I’ve gotten hundreds and hundreds of hitters out because I do have some good stuff. I’m going to challenge this hitter with all I’ve got because I believe my stuff is still better than his swing.” Positive mindset and compete. Those two things are not easy to come by, but you have to work just as hard at those two things as anything else.
Remember, the game is in your favor more times than not. Say a good hitter is batting .350. People say, “That guy can hit.” However people tend to forget that on the flip side of that, he’s actually getting out 65% of the time. So if you throw a meaty fastball right down the middle, he may hit it hard but it may be a hit or it may be hit right to someone. But if you can’t throw through your funk and force hitters to put the ball in play, you’re not giving yourself a chance to have success. So challenge the the guy up at the plate. Make him hit you. Believe in your stuff and your ability. Rear back and throw the ball. And lastly, fill your mind with positive thoughts. If you can do some, if not all, of those things, I think you’re going to surprise people – especially yourself.