Know thine enemy

By Dan Gazaway

During any given game I tell athletes they can pick up patterns and tendencies of opposing pitchers/hitters. The key is to be able to pick up on these tells and use them to your advantage. I’ll use a poker analogy here. If you were playing poker and your opponent flipped his cards around each hand so they were facing you, you would be able to alter your strategy based upon what you saw in his cards. It works the same in baseball. I can sit in the stands and watch youth pitchers and hitters and pick out different mechanical flaws that would give me an advantage if I were playing.

Once you understand mechanics, you’ll open up a whole new world as you’ll be able to spot issues with opposing athletes that will help with your knowledge of your opponent and ultimately your confidence.

For example, many youth pitchers open their front side up much too early and pull with their glove arm. This premature opening of the front side will not allow him to throw a curveball with any type of consistency. Knowing this, I’d teach my athletes to simply avoid swinging at a curveball until there were two strikes. His chances of dropping a few curveballs in for strikes are minimal. It takes all the guessing out of the mix if you’re only hitting one pitch.

As a pitcher, the easiest mechanical flaw to spot that makes the biggest difference is when hitters have a long swing and sweep their hands through the hitting zone in a giant circle shape. This issue is an open invitation for you to throw the baseball inside. This type of hitter hates the baseball inside and loves to get his arms extended. Until he backs off the plate, just throw him inside hard and once in a while float a couple slow balls over the outside part of the plate to keep him guessing.

Of course these ideas require a couple skills. You must be able to control your own body in order exploit the mechanical inefficiencies of your opponent. Secondly, you need a great awareness of mechanics. Knowing the weaknesses and tendencies of your opponent is a great place to begin in order to build confidence.

Dan Gazaway is Owner and Founder of The Pitching Academy. He has instructed over 2,000 pitchers in the last seven years and received a Bachelor’s Degree as a Health Education Specialist at Utah State University. He is a motivational speaker for topics ranging from attitude, goal-setting and leadership and be contacted at contact@thepitchingacademy.net.

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