The Ultimate Guide to Power, Precision and Long-term Performance
by Nolan Ryan
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You should treat the art of pitching as you would a Thanks-giving dinner. Families get together for the holidays and there's always a lot of good food to enjoy. You're not going to eat everything at once, of course; a satisfying meal is best appreciated one bite at a time. Pitching a ball game is based on the same principle -- deal with one pitch at a time and make every one count. Are the bases loaded with nobody out? That's fine; you still need to feel like there's no one on base. Just relax and make quality pitches, or your worst fears will come true.
Of course, the score of the game will influence my overall strategy. With a substantial lead, for instance, I'll just throw fastballs, keep the pitches down and let them put the ball in play. In a tight game, though, I'll be finer with my control and change speeds more. But the one thing that remains constant is my overall mental attitude: I just focus on getting ahead in the count and maintaining my composure.
If I can't work my way out of trouble and I do give up a run, then it's essential to cut it off right there. You can't fret over the fact that you've fallen behind in the game, given up a key run, or made a bad pitch; what's done is done. You have to look at it from the standpoint that it's your job to pitch effectively, regardless of the circumstances.
A lot of young pitchers even lose their confidence and their composure if their stuff isn't up to par in the bull pen. They'll take the mound with uncertainty, get depressed by the fact that they're not throwing well, and undermine any chance of being effective.
My advice is to see what you have and try to establish your pitches early in the game. If your curve isn't breaking or you can't throw it for strikes, then make the necessary adjustments in your pitch selection. But you have to pitch every game differently; vary your repertoire as you see fit based on the stuff you've got on that particular day.
And never put too much stock in how you throw in the bull pen; loosening up your arm is not the same as pitching in a game. Here's proof: Right before I tossed my first no-hitter with the Angels, I was warming up in the bull pen and my stuff was simply horrendous. I couldn't find the plate, had poor velocity, and -- to make matters worse -- my curveball was flat. I honestly didn't think I'd get out of the first inning. I struggled with my control early on, but persisted until I found my rhythm and got into a good groove. By the end of the night I was throwing as well as I ever had.
This is an extreme but pertinent example of the fact that you don't predetermine in the bull pen how you're going to pitch in the game. I've seen pitchers warm up and just be absolutely overpowering, only to lose their concentration once they took the field. You can have great stuff, but it won't guarantee success until you understand -- and master -- the mental side of pitching.
Copyright © 1991 by Nolan Ryan and Tom House. Excerpted with permission.