As a pitcher, success is something that we measure with every pitch. We ask ourselves: Was that a good pitch? Was it hard enough? Did the batter hit it? Was it hit hard? The questions keep going. Oftentimes a pitcher will measure success under the idea that failure is not an option. Well, I would like to change your perspective on what a successful pitcher is. This means we have to re-define what success means in the sport of baseball.
The most important thing to know is that baseball is a sport of failure. I know it seems harsh, but it's true. It is the only sport that an above-average hitter fails seven times out of ten. That's 70% of the time! It seems like pitchers have a huge advantage, but what happens the other 30% of the time? Well, a great pitcher has a an era of 3.00 or less. This means that in that small window of success, an offense still manages to get 3 runs a game off of a pitcher.
What do all these numbers imply? It means that we cannot measure success with score or ERA or even strikeouts for that matter. We cannot rely on factors outside of our control to determine our success, because there are too many variables that we cannot account for or even measure. By measuring success in this way, we give ourselves a false sense of accomplishment and/or failure. We want to measure things that give us a more accurate account of our performance and realistic expectations of ourselves.
What can we measure? In order to answer this we have to figure out what is in our control. Every one has a to have a starting point, a time when you begin to measure success. For professional athletes it is a constant in their routine. In season, this begins immediately after their outing with how they recover. It then moves from there to measuring the success of side sessions and then pre-gameday preparation, pre-game preparation and all the way through the start. For the sake of this article we will focus specifically on the game itself. It is a great place to start from and to learn the process. Later, we can expand on it.
Here are some questions we can use to help measure success in a game. They are broken down into 4 categories: Before the Inning Starts, During the Inning, Between Innings and The End of Your Performance.
Before the Inning Starts - Were my warmup pitches effective? Did I locate them? Did I have a plan for them? Did I throw each warmup pitch with conviction?
During the Inning - Did I throw each pitch with conviction? Did I hit my spots? (Notice how I didn't say 'did I throw strikes?' This is something the umpire controls, not you.) How was my tempo? How did I deal with adversity? (This is important because it can be the difference between a good outing and a bad one.) Did I field my position?
Between Innings - What did I do between innings? Was I in the game? If you are batting, are you able to separate it from pitching? (These require two completely independent means of measurement. You have to be able to switch and differentiate between the two.) Before taking the mound again was I ready to commit to a new inning?
The End of Your Performance - Do not make a final determination of your success until after the game when you have time to re-visit each question above. Your ability to stay in the moment will translate to the mound. If you are sulking in the corner this attitude can be projected on to other teammates. When you do have time to re-visit your outing (within 24-hours), quantify each answer by use of a scale. It could be as simple as answering the questions with always, sometimes, rarely, never. This way you can see how this improves over the season.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Don't let your measurement be result driven, meaning that once the ball leaves your hand the result is out of your control and therefore cannot be quantified or reflect your success.
- Sometimes in this game you will get beat even if you have done everything above. It is the nature of the game.
- If you can answer all these questions with confidence and you know you did everything you should have, that should be all you need to say "I was successful".
Be satisfied with that and I guarantee that you will become a better pitcher.
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