Great pitchers have great tempo. They control the game, get into a good rhythm, and have a great mound presence. Tempo is what keeps the game moving and helps rid the feeling of the game dragging on and on. Your team feeds off that and it helps them focus better both offensively and defensively.
When you’re on the mound, some people think having good tempo means you get right back on the rubber as soon as you get the ball back from the catcher. Yes that helps speed the game up, but it almost looks forced and makes pitchers think more about getting on the rubber quickly as opposed to staying in control. Remember, you as the pitcher are the one who is in control of the game. That’s one of the main reasons pitching is so important. It’s totally fine to get back on the rubber quickly, get the sign for the next pitch, throw, and then repeat. If you can do that, great. But it’s also totally fine if you take a second or two to take a breath, clear your mind, take a look around, and then engage the hitter. Your mind can sort out a number of things within a couple seconds. This allows you to be fully in control of your body and mind before you get the next pitch. Now I’m not saying you have to do it this way, I’m just letting you know it’s ok to take some time out there. If you’re throwing strikes, getting guys out, and taking a few extra seconds between each pitch to get your mind right, no one is going to care. That is still keeping a good tempo.
What players and coaches can’t stand is when you walk slowly around the mound, rub the ball, take some more time, get on the rubber slowly, and throw a ball. Now you’re thinking too much which is why some coaches teach pitchers to get the ball back from the catcher and go straight to the rubber. It forces pitchers to have some kind of tempo, again to keep the game moving and your teammates engaged.
There are plenty of times when you need to take some extra time between pitches and in my opinion, do it and don’t feel bad about it. Now don’t do that on every pitch, but there are some pitches during a game that require more focus and more energy. For example, when you have runners on base, you feel more pressure. Those “pressure” pitches take more out of you whether you realize it or not. Those are times where you may want to take an extra couple seconds between pitches to make sure your mind is sharp and focused on the next pitch.
Having a good tempo but not being able to throw strikes, get ahead of the count, and miss locating your pitches, doesn’t do anyone any good. If you try to move too quickly to keep the game moving but aren’t in control, then having a good tempo is meaningless. You must be in control of your mind and your breathing before you’re ready to engage the hitter. This should only take a second for your mind to get where you want, maybe a few seconds during times of crisis on the mound. This allows you to be in control of the game which is what having a good tempo is all about.