Have you read this article on Trevor Bauer?
It’s typical of today’s culture in baseball.
In today’s coaching society, there’s a mechanical tag for every mistake or mis-located pitch.
Struggling with command? Change your mechanics.
Struggling with your breaking ball? It’s because of your mechanics.
Oh, so you’re missing outside, send me a video and let me see what you’re doing wrong with your mechanics.
Get my point?
Keep reading and we will discuss what Trevor Bauer’s doing in Spring Training and why I wouldn’t recommend you doing it.
Let’s start with the basics and keep the process as elementary as possible.
Trevor mentioned trying to overwrite neuromuscular programming in 4 or 5 weeks is difficult to do. I would agree. What he’s referring to is altering his pitching mechanics.
Pitching mechanics is the cultural buzz word for the complex movement patterns required to throw a baseball.
These patterns form over the years and become deeply ingrained into the Central Nervous System. The process starts as a young boy and after a certain age, they are virtually impossible to change.
Let’s use an analogy everyone is familiar with, speech patterns.
How many of you guys have seen Swamp People, “Choot em”. The star of the program, Troy, has speech patterns that require sub titles and are native to South Louisiana.
Speech patterns are very similar to movement patterns being they form at a very young age and are deeply ingrained. They are a product of our environment, intent and hundreds of other influences.
Pay attention to Troy’s accent in the heat of battle, he’s competing against a ferocious opponent in hopes of locating a kill shot, the size of a dime. (Sound familiar pitchers?)
Let’s have a little fun with this:
Our boy from the swamp, Troy, decides he wants to expand his business and begins offering tours on his boat. For some reason or another, people from Boston are flocking down in droves to take the tour.
In order to prepare, he hires a private coach to help him remove the captions from the bottom of the screen, he wants to speak more clearly in hopes of the passengers being able to understand him.
Since, the first few tours are filled with passengers from the Northeast, his coach decides to model the accent in the shape of a native Bostonian.
While preparing, ole Troy he begins to hear noticeable changes in his accent while practicing it alone. He spends hours watching “Good Will Hunting”, and even finds a copy of Rosetta Stone, tailored and customized to the native Bostonian accent. He practices it daily, because he knows he only has a few weeks until the speaking campaign starts. He’s confident he’s made the switch and is ready to test it.
The first day, passengers line the boat and he gives the new accent his best shot. Right away, Troy notices that it’s more difficult because he’s no longer speaking to himself. His brain is being asked to pull double duty. One part of his brain is conscious of his change in accent, while the other side is responsible for the content of his speech. He understands that the people on the boat want:
- To see him hook a monster, but
- They also are interested in hearing his life experiences on the swamp.
He continues to battle through, slowly and methodically, still aware of the customized accent.
What do you think happens to the Boston accent once a 1200 pound alligator jumps out of the water?
You guessed it, it’s right back to “Choot em.”
Why? Because the decision or accent is longer a conscious choice, it’s involuntary. His CNS is being challenged, it’s “fight or flight” time and his brain responds to the situation based on how it’s been hardwired throughout years of experience.
The same can be said for trying to change pitching mechanics during the season or while competing. Your goal as a pitcher is to get results, it’s a results driven process. As a pitcher you have multiple constraints that you encounter every time you step on the mound:
- Umpire’s strike zone
- Trying to control the running game
- Locating pitches and changing speeds
- Etc,etc, etc……..
As you begin to age and the level of competition progresses, the degree of constraints increases while your ability to change movement patterns decreases. You’re fighting a losing battle!
However, most pitchers and pitching coaches fail to realize this. They think it’s still possible to catch the alligator while speaking with a Boston accent, even at Troy’s age.
It’s not going to happen! During a competitive training cycle, it’s not about pitching mechanics.
In fact, while you’re pitching and competing, pitching mechanics cannot be a conscious thought.
If you’re hoping to make in-game adjustments with command and speed changes, and it hinges on changing your mechanics, good luck with that. The more constraints present equates to less ability to attain motor precision.
In closing, we could all learn from the good people at The Center For Hearing & Speech:
The speech patterns of a native language are deeply ingrained and resistant to change. In addition, English as a Second Language (ESL) programs typically focus more on improving vocabulary and grammar rather than pronunciation skills.
Instead of “hoping” to change your mechanics, focus more on the finer points of the game and the necessary requirements, like changing speeds, locating and finding a way to get hitters out.
What’s your thoughts? Leave a comment and let me know what you’re thinking.