Friday, April 29, 2011

Cuts and Relays- TEAMWORK

How important are cuts and relays? Execution like this clinched a national championship. Great teamwork! Little things make a big difference.

2 reasons the Royals are struggling

Two reasons the Royals are getting beat
Wow, this looked familiar. OK, there are two things pitchers do that get them whacked (actually, there are probably quite a bit more than two, but that’s all we’ll talk about for now).

1.Pitching up

2.Pitching behind…and you’re seeing both on this road trip.

Pitching up is pretty simple: “Up” is about mid-thigh to just above the belt. The hitter sees (and has a great chance to hit) the side of the ball, and that means line drives. Any higher and the hitter still sees the side of the ball, but has a hard time hitting it.

The barrel of the bat is above the shoulder and descending, so it’s hard to stay on top (a term you’ll hear) of a ball up around the letters. When a pitcher needs a pop-up or strikeout with a runner on third and less than two down, he can go up (but he better not miss) to get the desired results. So the Royals pitchers are “up”, but not up so high they can’t be hit. When a pitcher is “down,” the hitter sees the top of the ball and is likely to hit the top half for a grounder. (Here’s looking at you, Fausto Carmona!)

And grounders tend to be outs or singles: One has to be right down the line for extra bases. That’s why teams like tall pitchers and obsess about pitching on a downward plane. (It’s also why, when baseball wanted to give offense a boost, it lowered the mound.)

As for pitching behind: Good pitchers throw strike one (the best pitch in baseball) and then work toward the corners. Each pitch getting harder to hit. Bad pitchers throw ball one and then have to work back toward the middle of the plate, each pitch getting easier to hit.

Jeff Francis got lit up in the first inning of Wednesday’s game. Here are the counts when the ball was put in play and the results:

1-2 out/2-0 single/1-0 single/3-1 single/1-2 single/3-1 double/1-0 out/1-1 single/2-1 single and 3-2 out. Notice any pattern? With the exception of the 1-2 single (A flare Travis Hafner muscled in) and the 1-1 single, all the hits came when Francis was behind and had to bite off a bit more of the plate.

But if you start grooving fastballs 0-0 to get ahead, won’t hitters jump on them? Well, they can try, but in one five-year study of Division I baseball, the batting average on the 0-0 count was .186.

The longer a hitter stands there, the more information he gets about velocity, movement and location. Forcing the hitter to swing the bat as early as possible is to the pitcher’s advantage, but a lot of them fall behind in the count while trying to make perfect pitches.

And force is the right word. Good pitchers don’t avoid contact, they don’t allow contact, they force contact. (That’s right out of the Mental ABCs of Pitching, a guide to the thought process of successful pitchers.)

Ned Yost thinks the Royals have gotten sloppy about pitching up: getting away with it at home in a big ballpark and paying for it on the road. Geez, I hope he’s right, they need to get away with* something* in this next home stand.

These next nine games will tell us a lot about this season.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

How do you play the game?

George Brett's Last Out

How George Brett Wanted To Be Remembered:

As he neared retirement, Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett said, “In my last at bat, I would like to hit a ground ball to the second baseman and run it out as hard as I can, because that is the way I have played the game; that is who I am. That is what I want people to remember.”


Greg Maddux--Making Each Day A Masterpiece

Greg Maddux is the only pitcher in Major League Baseball history to win at least fifteen games for seventeen consecutive seasons. Re recalls some advice he once received from then-Cubs manager Tom Trebelhorn. "You know what the problem with players these days? Trebelhorn said. "They are always looking forward to something. They're never trying to do something today. They're always looking forward to the next off-day, the All-Star Break, the end of the season. They never stop and enjoy the day that's here."

Maddux says that he thought about that and saw that Trebelhorn had a point. In fact, Maddux realized that he had the same mind-set of looking only to the future and never enjoying the present moment. From that day forward, Maddux concluded, "I started enjoying each day...and really started loving the games from that day on."

Monday, April 25, 2011

Josh Hamilton on mechanics

Audio is not great but there are some great hitting points made in the video.

Can you focus and concentrate?

In an April 16, 2007 Sports Illustrated article titled "Second To One" by, Michael Farber, ace pitcher Roy Halladay discussed how he uses the concentration grid as a part of his mental preparation for pitching. He completes the grid twice on the day before he starts and once more on the day that he pitches.

The purpose of the exercise is to narrow the focus of a lively mind to nothing but the next number, which helps Halladay sharpen his concentration on nothing but the next pitch when he reaches the mound.

When Halladay began working the 10-square-by-10-square grid five years ago, he needed 17 to 20 minutes to finish. Now he has become so proficient that he sometimes amps up the distractions, turning on the TV or listening to songs that he likes. Halladay’s average time was reported to be around 3:30.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

12 simple thing you can do to be a good leader


1. Be the hardest worker at practice today.

Without fail, one of the quickest ways to impact a team is with your own work ethic. Choose to be one of the hardest workers on your team today. Not only does it set the tone for the work ethic of your program, it is also one of the best and quickest ways to enhance your leadership credibility with your teammates and coaches.

2. Be a spark of energy and enthusiasm today.

Let your passion for the sport shine through today. Spread a contagious energy and enthusiasm amongst your teammates. Think about how lucky you are to be able to play and compete. Remember back to when you were a young child and reconnect with the joy you played with back then. Make your sport fun again for yourself and your teammates.

3. Model mental toughness today.

Because your teammates will look to you under pressure, adversity, and stress, be sure to model mental toughness today. Bounce back quickly after errors to show your teammates how to respond to negative situations. Maintain your poise and optimism despite any mistakes you might make so that your teammates can trust and rely on you to get them through the tough times.

4. Connect with a teammate today.

Leadership is all about relationships. Invest the time to build and strengthen the relationships you have with each of your teammates. Inquire about their day, challenges, and goals. Make a special and ongoing effort to get to know every athlete on your team, not just your friends and classmates. The relationship building you do each day will pay off immeasurably down the road.

5. Compliment a teammate today.

Be on the lookout for teammates who are contributing to your team. Call out a teammate for making a hustle play, pushing through a weight workout, recovering quickly from a mistake, getting an A on an exam, etc. Praise the actions and attitudes you want to see repeated. As Mother Teresa once said, "Kind words are short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless."

6. Challenge a teammate today.

Challenge at least one of your teammates today. Positively push them and yourself to make the most of your workout. Make a friendly wager to see if they can be successful at least 4 out of 5 times in a drill. See if you both can improve your times in conditioning. Offer to stay after to help if there is anything they want to work on. Good leaders consistently invite, inspire, and sometimes implore others to greatness.

7. Support a teammate today.

Odds are, at least one of your teammates is struggling with something today - it could be a performance slump, a rocky romantic relationship, a disagreement with a coach, an unglamorous role, struggling with a class, or a sick family member. Good leaders are consistently on the lookout for teammates who might be struggling and are ready to offer an ear to listen, an encouraging word, a pat on the back, or a shoulder to cry on.

8. Constructively confront negativity, pessimism, and laziness today.

As a leader, have the courage to constructively confront the negativity, pessimism, and laziness that will crop up on your team from time to time. Instead of fueling the fire by joining in or silently standing by, be sure to refocus your teammates on solutions rather than dwelling on and complaining about the problems. Left unchecked, these problems can quickly grow to distract, divide, and destroy your team.

9. Build and bond your team today.

Team chemistry naturally ebbs and flows throughout the course of the season. Take the time to monitor and maintain your team's chemistry. Let your reserves and support staff know how much you appreciate them. Stay connected and current with each of the natural sub-groups on your team. Douse any brush fires that might be occurring and continually remind team members about your common goal and common bond.

10. Check in with your coach today.

Invest the time to check in with your coach today. Ask what you can do to best help the team this week. Find out what your coach wants to accomplish with today's practice. Also discuss if there is anything your coach is concerned about regarding your team. Discuss your collective insights on your team's chemistry, focus, and mindset. Work together to effectively co-lead your team.

11. Remind your team how today's work leads to tomorrow's dreams.

It's easy to get bogged down during your season with monotonous drills, tiring conditioning, and demanding workouts. Remind your teammates how all the quality work you do today gives you a distinct advantage over your opponents. Help them see and even get excited about how today's hard work is a long-term investment in your team's goals, rather than just a short-term hardship or sacrifice.

12. Represent yourself and team with class and pride today.

Leaders have the awesome privilege and responsibility of representing their teams. Take advantage of this opportunity by representing your team with class and pride today. Hold a door open for someone, sit in the front rows of class and actively engage in the discussion, say please and thank you, dress in respectful attire, etc. These tiny pushes represent you and your team with class and distinction. And they ultimately set you up for a lifetime of respect and success.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

PRACTICE...... the secret to getting to the top

Coach K on his USA basketball team that included LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant, and many other great players:
“I never had one second of problem with any of them. They truly are professionals,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s the way they conduct themselves and practice. It’s also what they do when you’re not practicing.

People would be shocked at how hard they work away from practice early in the morning, after practice, late at night. They may have one or two workouts they do every day in addition to practice to keep themselves prepared.”

If you want to get to the top, you have to OUT WORK others.



I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot. Why? Because when you think about the consequences you always think of a negative result.

I realized that if I was going to achieve anything in life I had to be aggressive. I had to get out there and go for it. I don’t believe you can achieve anything by being passive. I know fear is an obstacle for some people, but it’s an illusion to me.

That’s why my advice has always been to “think positive” and find fuel in any failure. Sometimes failure actually just gets you closer to where you want to be.

I think fear sometimes comes from a lack of focus or concentration especially in sports.

I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.

I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come. I don’t do things halfheartedly. Because I know if I do, then I can expect halfhearted results. That’s why I approached practices the same way I approached games. You can’t turn it on and off like a faucet. I couldn’t dog it during practice and then, when I needed that extra push late in the game, expect it to be there.

Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.

From: "I Can't Accept Not Trying" by Michael Jordan

Monday, April 18, 2011


"What carries people to the top? What makes them take risks, go the extra mile, and do whatever it takes to achieve their goals? It isn't talent. It's passion. Passion is more important than a plan. Passion creates fire. It provides fuel. I have yet to meet a passionate person who lacked energy. As long as the passion is there, it doesn't matter if they fail. It doesn't matter how many times they fall down. It doesn't matter if others are against them or if people say they cannot succeed. They keep going and make the most of whatever talent they possess. They are talent-plus people and do not stop until they succeed."

From "Talent Is Never Enough" by John Maxwell

Preparation and confidence

The following comes from "Mental Toughness: Baseball’s Winning Edge" by Karl Kuehl, John Kuehl, and Casey Tefertiller:
In the bullpen and between innings, Greg Maddux spends most of his time working out of the stretch. The toughest pitches during a game come from the stretch, and Maddux wants to be ready, both physically and mentally. Knowing that he can make his best pitches from the stretch in the bullpen builds a confidence that carries over into the game.

Practice is a time to build confidence.

Consistently doing it right in practice builds confidence that carries over into the game.

Being prepared also means being well conditioned. Added strength and stamina from workouts give an athlete confidence in his physical abilities to meet the challenges of competition.

It may sound almost circular, but confidence breeds success, and success leads to confidence. The trick is to use success to build a level of confidence.

A process of replay and pre-play enhances confidence. A player can replay past successes in his mind, recalling past successes that have led to his current level. The pre-play is the process of visualization, in which an athlete envisions every situation in his mind in order to prepare for what will actually occur on the field. Curt Schilling goes so far as to acquire his own personal computer program that plays his previous outings in order to help him prepare for upcoming games. In visualization, as we shall see, every thought should be positive.

Confidence does not always mean achievement—it means believing in the ability to overcome challenges and adversity. A confident player can fall into a slump and know that he will somehow find his way out rather than folding in despair.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


By DARREN EVERSON There are aces, closers, sluggers and Gold Glovers. And then there are the really important people in a ballclub: the glue guys.

“Glue” guys, in baseball parlance, are the players whose oft-overlooked performance quietly holds winning teams together—and without which, presumably, the team would fall apart. Statisticians don’t buy that they exist, but psychologists do. And players and managers swear by them.

“He’s the scrapper,” says Charlie Manuel, manager of the defending World Series-champion Philadelphia Phillies. “The guy who plays every day. Who gets big hits. Hustles. He’s the guy who, in his own way, whether it’s quiet or spoken or whatever, he leads.” Jason Bartlett is a glue guy. Before he joined the Rays last season, Tampa Bay had baseball’s worst record in 2007, due greatly to having the majors’ worst defense. Then Mr. Bartlett came over from the Twins and took over the shortstop position. The Rays’ defense became the best in baseball last season and they reached the World Series.

Tim Wakefield, the Red Sox’s knuckleball pitcher, is a glue guy. As Boston’s pitching staff has evolved over the past 15 years—with youngsters coming, veterans going and pricey additions like Daisuke Matsuzaka not always delivering—the dependable constant has been Mr. Wakefield, a first-time All-Star this year at 42 who has made at least 15 starts each season.

As baseball enters the second half of the season Thursday, the top contenders all have a glue guy or two whom they attribute part of their success to. With the Tigers, it’s All-Star third baseman Brandon Inge, who not only has a surprising 21 home runs but is also hitting .348 in close, late-game situations. With the Yankees, as usual, it’s shortstop Derek Jeter, who owns the highest on-base percentage among the American League’s starting shortstops despite being its oldest (35). And the Phillies insist slugger Ryan Howard is a glue guy—despite not fitting the tag’s small, scrappy stereotype—because he quietly never takes a day off.

“They’re the reliable guys,” says Braves president John Schuerholz, “who, in the toughest of circumstances, in the biggest of moments, deliver the goods.”

The legend of the glue guy is an extension of the age-old question in sports over whether natural “winners” exist—players who are greater than their statistics indicate, who win in part because of their force of will or ability to perform under pressure. Whether it’s with superstars who make clutch plays or unknowns who have a knack for being in the right place at the right time, fans and observers ascribe special talents to these players—often exaggerating their actual contributions.

Michael Jordan famously said in a 1997 Nike commercial that he’d missed 26 potential game-winning shots. “He’s probably been successful about 50 times,” then-Bulls coach Phil Jackson said at the time. But when Mr. Jordan retired from the Bulls in 1999—seven months after making his iconic shot to beat the Jazz for the championship—the total number of game-winning shots he’d hit was 25.

Skeptical about whether winners exist, statistician Scott Berry of Berry Consultants studied the matter in 2005. Taking the statistics of more than 14,000 players who had played in Major League Baseball, he created a formula to find the ultimate winner: the player whose teams exceeded their win-loss expectations the most when he happened to be on them. The winners’ winner? Dennis Cook, a journeyman lefty reliever in the 1990s. Several players whom fans widely regard as winners and glue guys did fare well: Mr. Jeter, the Yankees shortstop, was in the 97th percentile, and David Wells, a noted big-game pitcher in the 1990s and 2000s, was in the 99th. But the presence of the relatively unknown Mr. Cook at the top, Mr. Berry says, proves his point. “Announcers refer to players who just have the will to win,” he says. “The fact that he comes out on top pokes fun at that notion.” But Mr. Cook does believe in glue. Although he admits he was lucky to bounce from one winner to the next—including the 1996 division-winning Rangers, the 1997 world-champion Marlins and the 2000 National League-winning Mets—Mr. Cook says his teams won in part because they invested in overlooked roles like middle relievers.

“A long man who eats up 100 innings a year, he saves the rest of your pitching staff,” he says. “Those guys don’t get recognized, but they’re every bit as important. Baseball people see that, but number-crunchers don’t.”

Psychologists say there is indeed a spill-over effect with glue guys that helps their teams win, one which goes beyond quantifiable contributions. John F. Murray, a sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Fla., says that teams are much like fraternities or high schools in that players spend a massive amount of time in close proximity to each other. Because of this, “they’re constantly influencing one another,” he says. “One of the keys to confidence is social support and modeling. If you have some outstanding role models who deal with pressure effectively, that glue is going to spill out of the bottle and help everyone.”

A huge hole in the reasoning of glue believers is that it’s impossible to know in retrospect how teams would have fared without their glue players. For example, the Rays won 58% of their games (11 of 19) earlier this season when Mr. Bartlett, their slick-fielding shortstop, was out with an injured ankle. They’ve won 54% overall. But the first-place Phillies’ abundance of glue, according to both them and their opponents, appears to be what’s put that franchise over the top—just a few years after it had a reputation for underachieving. “It’s not about just one guy,” says All-Star second baseman Chase Utley.

The Phillies’ most-talented players also happen to be their glue guys, including Mr. Utley, who has led the majors the past two years in times hit by pitch, and Mr. Howard, who has played in 362 of Philadelphia’s last 363 games. Unlike many left-handed hitters over the years, he even refused to take a day off against Randy Johnson once last season.

“He’s definitely a leader, just by keeping his mouth shut,” Mr. Manuel says. “I call him the Big Piece. As in the big piece of the puzzle.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


"I could probably throw harder if I wanted, but why? When they're in a jam, a lot of pitchers…try and throw harder. Me, I try and locate better."

- Greg Maddux

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The best give practice their best

Eddie Matz of ESPN The Magazine: President's Day is a day most of America takes it easy anyway. So you could forgive Kevin Garnett, coming off a 14th straight All-Star appearance the previous night in LA, if he felt like conserving a little energy during the Celtics' two-hour workout at Sky Gym in San Francisco's Olympic Club. After all, Boston entered the break with the best record in the East and the team is scheduled for a track meet against the lowly Warriors in Oakland the following night. But Garnett doesn't do easy.

When assistant Lawrence Frank begins a walk-through of the Golden State offense, Garnett interjects, "Why we walkin' through it? The Warriors ain't gonna be walkin' through it!" Just like that, it's starters versus subs, and even the stars, following the lead of their motivational big man, go all-out. Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen make this a veteran squad, and veteran squads understand how quickly championship windows can close. In the middle of the Celtics' scrimmage, head coach Doc Rivers toots his whistle and tells Garnett to take a blow. Turkish big man Semih Erden reluctantly tags out KG. Reluctantly, because this minor event can resemble going to the dentist: It's something you do only when you have to. Erden proceeds to allow a crisp pass to fly off his hands and out of bounds. Meanwhile, rather than take a seat or a swig, Garnett, who is 34, but has played more minutes than all but 13 players in NBA history, breaks into wind sprints on the sideline. Up. Back. Up. Back. Up. Back. Touching the end line every time, like a ninth-grader trying to make JV. "Never seen another NBA player do that," says Phil Galvin, the facility's basketball director. And Galvin has seen a lot: Not only is the Olympic Club the oldest such facility in the country, it's where most NBA teams practice when they drop into the Bay Area.

As the pink glow of sunset pours through the 40-foot-high window along the baseline, Garnett continues to run. Up. Back. Up. Back. Sweat rains off his dome. After 10 round-trips, each one all out, Rivers has seen enough. He motions his star back onto the court. As the 6'11" power forward passes by his coach, he says, "I hate f--ing sittin' out, Doc! Let's go!" Rubbernecking Sky Gym staffers watch from the sideline, mouths agape. No wonder the typical Celtics workout lasts barely an hour. As Rivers says later, "The only way to get KG to rest is to end practice."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pitching Rubber- RESET BUTTON

To me the pitching rubber is a giant Reset Button. Think about the last time you played video games, especially by yourself and against the computer. If you were playing a football game against the computer and it returns the opening kickoff for a touchdown, what are you most likely to do? If you’re honest, you’d probably push the Reset Button and start over…right? Why can’t you take that same approach into pitching?

Every time a pitcher toes the rubber it doesn’t matter how good or bad his last pitch was. It only matters what he does from this point forward. Essentially, when he toes the rubber he has reset the game and is playing from the beginning all over again. Another way of saying it is that the next pitch is always the beginning of the rest of the game. Pitchers control ALL action on the baseball field. No other person on the field acts independently. Only the pitcher has the ability to control what every other person on the field does. The pitcher controls whether the umpire yells “Strike”, he controls, to a great degree, if the batter hits the ball and where that ball goes (should he be lucky enough to make contact). Therefore the movement of the defense is predicated on where the ball is hit which is ultimately controlled by where the pitcher locates the pitch.

On a basic level the pitcher is in control. Hitters, catchers, centerfielders, umpires, coaches, fans and announcers all react to the pitcher’s action. Once a pitcher understands his ability to control a game he can use a device, such as the Reset Button, to help him focus on the task at hand. from

Friday, April 1, 2011

Three Characteristics of a good pitcher?

Eric Newman Pitching Coach University Nebraska
1. Great preparation is non-negotiable. When you take the mound to compete you must have no hesitation in your mind, body or spirit. That only can happen by doing the work in between games (conditioning, lifting, making good decisions off the field, etc…). When you do those things you take the mound feeling confident that you have done what is necessary leading up to that moment.
2. “Pound the Zone”- This is our catch phrase. I hate “just throw strikes”. That is what the guy throwing batting practice is supposed to do, lay it in there and let the hitters swing as hard as they can at it. Pitchers that do that don’t last long. Attack hitters with your best stuff on every pitch.
3. Know yourself and pitch to your strengths. Too many young pitchers want to be good at everything and they end up struggling to find success. In my first couple years of coaching I know I was guilty of focusing on “turning a weakness into a strength” and it caused some guys to go backwards. Whatever a young pitcher is best at he needs to maintain that edge. We (coaches) need to help our players work on glaring weaknesses that can keep them from success, but always keep them focused on what makes them good.
Craig Moore Hitting Coach Creighton University One characteristic of a pitcher that I look for – either when playing against or recruiting – is mound presence. A guy who is very confident in what he is doing, a guy who does not get phased by an adverse situation – a guy that is going to be a “bulldog”, not going to beat me attitude-are tough guys to face. Another characteristic that makes up a good pitcher is the ability to keep hitters off-balance. A guy that can throw his secondary pitches for strikes and have that one out pitch is not the guy you want to face too often. That type of pitcher will keep an offense guessing all day. The last characteristic that makes a good pitcher is the ability to locate. The guys that can keep the ball down, the guys that can work both sides of the plate and get ahead in the count by doing this, gives the offense a lot of times the inability to barrel baseballs. Hitters are taught to get the barrel on the ball and when they run into a situation where the pitcher has the ability to “miss” barrels they are going to get frustrated -and we all know what happens to success rates when guys get frustrated.

Approach at the plate