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Why do pitcher's have bad days? What's the underlying cause?

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  • Why do pitcher's have bad days? What's the underlying cause?

    My son had his worst pitching outing of the year on Saturday. He normally has terrific command, terrific control. Didn't have it. Issued walks, got hit when he didn't, etc.

    Of course he is not alone. You see this all the time - pitchers who do fine 80% or 90% of the outings - but every once in a while they can't do their normal thing, whatever normal is for them.

    Why?

    I get that there's going to be variation from pitch to pitch - the ball slips out of your hand, you lose your balance, you get distracted momentarily . . . whatever. But how is it that at every level of baseball - even the major leagues - pitchers have a bad day sometimes?

    Is there anything that can be done to reduce the chances of having a bad day?

  • #2
    This is a good question... I have no idea what the answer is.

    With my oldest, he has never been a guy to walk a lot of batters. But some days, it seems like everything is clicking and he's breezing along getting strikeouts and weak contact. And another day, it looks like he's throwing BP.

    I see the same thing in MLB. A great pitcher will have an isolated horrible game. Bad luck? Balls finding holes? Better hitters? The wrong approach against those hitters?

    With my son, the quality of the defense makes a huge difference.

    I think the generosity or stinginess of the umpires also makes a big difference, but that will usually be seen affecting both pitchers.

    I have begun playing slowpitch softball, and IMO at least, the pitching isn't really a factor. But you still have games that you breeze through and games where an inning goes on forever because guys are dropping flies and bobbling grounders.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by bbrages View Post
      This is a good question... I have no idea what the answer is.

      With my oldest, he has never been a guy to walk a lot of batters. But some days, it seems like everything is clicking and he's breezing along getting strikeouts and weak contact. And another day, it looks like he's throwing BP.

      I see the same thing in MLB. A great pitcher will have an isolated horrible game. Bad luck? Balls finding holes? Better hitters? The wrong approach against those hitters?

      With my son, the quality of the defense makes a huge difference.

      I think the generosity or stinginess of the umpires also makes a big difference, but that will usually be seen affecting both pitchers.

      I have begun playing slowpitch softball, and IMO at least, the pitching isn't really a factor. But you still have games that you breeze through and games where an inning goes on forever because guys are dropping flies and bobbling grounders.
      Pitcher can't control the fielders - I have seen pitchers pitch great and have a lot of runs scored on them - I think once you've seen enough games, you can tell the difference between bad fielding, and bad pitching.

      Here are indications that it's the pitcher who is having a bad day, not the fielder

      * Issuing more walks than usual
      * At the older ages, grooving a fastball right down the middle of the plate when they have a favorable count
      * Wild pitches (especially if they are not normally prone to wild pitches)
      * Hitting batters
      * Not being able to thrown their off speed pitches for a strike

      So obviously runs can rack up with bad fielding - but if the pitcher is inducing low quality contact like high fly balls, grounders, foul balls, etc. while issuing very few walks, then they are doing their job, regardless of what the fielders do with those kinds of balls in play.

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      • #4
        Interesting question for a thread.
        But, IMO, the answer is unknowable.




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        • #5
          Being human?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by mattun View Post
            Being human?
            I liked math as a kid. If I knew the material, I would always do well on test.

            I played cello as a kid. If I practiced sufficiently, I did not make noticeable mistakes when performing in a concert.

            There are many, many fields where if you have sufficient talent, and you practice a sufficient amount, you perform consistently to the level you reached when you practiced.

            Not so with pitching.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by JoeG View Post
              My son had his worst pitching outing of the year on Saturday. He normally has terrific command, terrific control. Didn't have it. Issued walks, got hit when he didn't, etc.

              Of course he is not alone. You see this all the time - pitchers who do fine 80% or 90% of the outings - but every once in a while they can't do their normal thing, whatever normal is for them.

              Why?

              I get that there's going to be variation from pitch to pitch - the ball slips out of your hand, you lose your balance, you get distracted momentarily . . . whatever. But how is it that at every level of baseball - even the major leagues - pitchers have a bad day sometimes?

              Is there anything that can be done to reduce the chances of having a bad day?
              I will put forth one answer, though it does not cover all cases.

              A mechanics change can throw off a pitcher.

              For example, sometimes my son shorten's his stride a bit, and then he has difficulty controlling the height of the pitch, and the velocity decreases. I point it out to him, he lengthens his stride, and then his pitching returns to normal.

              However, for every instance I see a mechanics change thrown off pitching on a certain day, I see many more instances of a pitcher whose mechanics look the same as last time he/she pitched - yet results are different.
              Last edited by JoeG; 10-01-2018, 09:50 AM.

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              • #8
                Its the mind, that gets in the way, he was probably thinking about the new Fortnite season, or what skin he wanted to buy after the game... LOL.....
                "Baseball is 90% Mental" it aint just a funny T-shirt, its real talk

                You have to train the mind as well....everybody does their fielding reps, bullpens, and hits thousands of baseballs, BUT very few train the mind.

                I played competitive Golf through high school and Jr. College.... when we played practice rounds we would do things on purpose to train your mind like
                1. remind them of lateral water to the right as they address the ball. Mind hears this last thing suggested and body does it
                2. start talking loudly in backswing
                3. we would hide air horns in our bag and let it go when start backswing

                ALL distractions... some suggestive, some noise distractions, but they all train your mind to block out and focus.

                I have done this with my son since he was little, during soft toss I will ask him a math problems, & random questions, make loud noises as I toss the ball, play loud music taking grounders, when he throws a bullpen, I get in his vision just off the mound, ask random questions during delivery. I don't do this all the time, and every rep you mix it in when not expected to see how they block it out and execute.

                when he gets frustrated, I remind him just tune me out and focus on your current task. Baseball is a lot like golf... just a bunch of small tasks that must be executed to have a good day!

                Now don't get me wrong, I still had bad days as a golfer, and he still does too, the mind is powerful and can get in your way somedays.
                This is just some stuff we do... maybe right maybe wrong? Dunno, but helped me as a Golfer :-) seems to help him as a baseball player, not as easily distracted, and seems more calmed, like a been there dun that attitude.

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                • #9
                  I have the answer. Just send me $350 to PO Box 1235.... Just kidding. As a father and coach of 7 and 10 year olds, I know my older son tends to think too much when he if off, and this causes him to alter his delivery, typically making it worse.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Pwrecker289 View Post
                    I have the answer. Just send me $350 to PO Box 1235.... Just kidding. As a father and coach of 7 and 10 year olds, I know my older son tends to think too much when he if off, and this causes him to alter his delivery, typically making it worse.
                    Good point - a common pattern is a pitcher who starts out a little off, then tries to make adjustments and/or think too much about their mechanics, which makes it even worse.

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                    • #11
                      Great question. Great thread.

                      I have often wondered about this. I don't know the answer. But I have one observation.

                      I used to video most of son's games. I have looked at some old ones where I knew he threw a complete game, so I only had great memories of them. However, in looking at the game again, there were many,many times where he was one pitch away from it turning into a disaster, or the home run was caught just over the fence.

                      But yes, in many games the hitters seem like they cant hit anything, and the next game, they know exactly where the pitch is going and they hammer everything.

                      I'm guessing that ball movement, or lack thereof, plays a big role, but I'm guessing.
                      Last edited by songtitle; 10-01-2018, 10:00 AM.
                      efastball.com - hitting and pitching fact checker

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by mattun View Post
                        Being human?
                        This is the correct answer.
                        I don't like my balls to smell like pickles.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by JoeG View Post

                          I liked math as a kid. If I knew the material, I would always do well on test.

                          I played cello as a kid. If I practiced sufficiently, I did not make noticeable mistakes when performing in a concert.

                          There are many, many fields where if you have sufficient talent, and you practice a sufficient amount, you perform consistently to the level you reached when you practiced.

                          Not so with pitching.

                          You don't have opponents in math or cello... Incomparable.
                          I don't like my balls to smell like pickles.

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                          • #14
                            what's the difference between a pitcher's pitch and a hitter's pitch (or a ball)? less than 9"? from 60'6", what's the difference in release point that will make the ball's eventual landing spot differ by 9"? what has to happen upstream (in the windup) to get to the exact release point that will allow you to throw a corner rather than the heart? add in different mounds on every field, different landing spots (some slippery, some deep, etc), environmental factors and all the rest and it's a wonder some guys can hit spots at all.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Bolts-Baseball View Post


                              You don't have opponents in math or cello... Incomparable.
                              You may be on to something there - at least in terms of the opposing team's ability to square up the barrels. If they've seen a very similar type of pitcher before, maybe that makes it easier for them to square up.

                              On the other hand, that doesn't explain pitcher ability to locate their pitches, which is independent of the opposition.
                              Last edited by JoeG; 10-01-2018, 12:54 PM.

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