“But you can influence what will happen.”
This line comes from a new book I’m in the middle of reading titled Every Shot Must Have a Purpose by Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott. The book is VERY practical. It’s easy to understand and apply. It is written for golf players but the message applies just as well to us in baseball and softball. (Don’t do it now, but as soon as you’ve finished reading and sharing this blog, get online and get a copy.)
Here it is again:
“You can’t alter what has happened, but you can influence what will happen.”
I’m going to specifically tie this phrase into practicing. The authors make the point that most practice is wasteful in that it doesn’t prepare us for competition because it doesn’t replicate competition. For example, in golf, most people, in training or prior to playing a round, will go to the driving range, pull out a club, often a driver and then proceed to hit 10-20-30 golf balls before moving onto the next club, at which time they repeat the process. The problem, according to the authors, is that you’d never do this in a round of golf. You’d hit one club, followed by an iron, followed by a pitching wedge, followed by a putter.
Here is a great example they shared about Ben Hogan. “Hogan used to warm up for each competitive round by hitting the shots in the order he was going to hit them on the golf course. Once, a few weeks before the 1951 U.S. Open, a friend came upon Hogan practicing by himself at this home course in Texas, hitting knockdown 150-yard 5-irons. When asked what he was doing, Hogan replied: ‘I’m going to need that shot at Oakland Hills.’”
Let’s apply this to baseball. It is common for hitters, when doing cage work or taking BP to hit 10-20-30 balls in a row. Typically what happens is the hitter starts to really smoke the baseball around swings 10-20. The problem, in an actual AB you won’t see that many pitches. There’s a good chance you won’t even see that many pitches in the game.
Here’s some inside baseball: The BEST average number of pitches per plate appearance in the Major Leagues last year was 4.59. That’s the best, the top guy (Napoli if you’re curious).
So, how do we “influence what will happen”? Take 3-5 cuts and get your fanny out of the cage. Next guy. You might ask “what if I’m practicing by myself?” Take 3-5 cuts, and then go take some ground balls or have a video clip of one of your favorite hitters and watch it for a couple minutes. The point is, break it up; make it more game like.
I’ll take this one step further. During a typically BP, everyone wants to get their swings in. It’s swing, swing, swing. Is that really what happens in a game? Pitchers would certainly like that. The reality is that Major League pitcher on average throw 62% strikes. That’s not college and that’s certainly not high school.
So, how do we “influence what will happen”? Have the guy throwing intentionally mix in some balls now and then. And if it’s a guy that struggles somewhat to throw strikes, don’t complain as a hitter. It’s actually more game like.
One quick pitching example: pitchers are in the bullpen and they throw 10 fastballs, followed by 10 curveballs, followed by 10 changeups. Are you getting this? How close to game like is that? So, how do we “influence what will happen”? You should throw sequences such as fastball, curveball, fastball, changeup and you should do it in a set of 12-15 pitches followed by a rest. Why? Because that is like a game.
The message here is take some time and ask yourself if what you’re doing in your practice and drill work replicates and prepares you for what you’ll see and do in a game.
At the Texas Baseball Ranch, we are constantly working on this concept. We believe it is a worthwhile endeavor. I hope you will now see it as one too.