Daily Archives: September 6, 2008

For all those pitchers who aren’t strikeout queens

The popular view of pitching in our sport is that it’s critical to have a dominant pitcher — one who can strike out 10-15 hitters per game, every game.

While I agree that it certainly helps cover up other ills, and often makes coaches look better than they really are, not every pitcher is capable of such singular heroics. But the truth is, they don’t have to be. A pitcher’s job isn’t to strike everybody out. It’s to prevent the other team from hitting the ball well, so your fielders can help get the outs. Strikeouts are merely a bonus.

Don’t believe me? I just saw the stats on the Gold Medal game. Cat Osterman had nine strikeouts in five innings of work, while Monica Abbott had four in two innings. That’s a total of 13 strikeouts. In the seven innings she pitched, Yukiko Ueno for Team Japan had four strikeouts total. Her team won 3-1.

Mike Candrea is always saying that softball is an individual sport played in a team setting. That team part is the part a lot of people forget about. If you can play strong defense and scratch out a few runs you can win a lot of ballgames even if your pitcher isn’t throwing bullets by batters. Setting up hitters by changing speeds and moving the ball around can keep them off-balance enough to induce weak ground balls and simple pop-ups that turn into outs.

To a lot of people, a perfect inning for a pitcher is nine pitches, all strikes. To me, it’s three pitches/three outs. If you can do that you won’t have great personal stats. But you’ll take the heart out of the other team and rack up the most important stat — a lot of Ws.

So take heart all you undersized or less than gifted pitchers. You can still be effective. You just need to do your part and help the team. After all, they don’t hand out trophies for strikeouts.


One man gathers what another man spills

The title phrase for this post is a song lyric. It comes from the Grateful Dead. My friend and co-coach Rich was the person who introduced me to it (old hippie that he is). I was thinking about that tonight as I pondered the aftermath of tryouts.

By now most teams have completed their tryouts for the 2009 season. Some of them, maybe even many, look a lot like they did in 2008. Others, however, may have had a lot of turnover in players.

That kind of thing can be traumatic for some people. They look at the players who left — whom they know — and wonder how the team will ever recover and be any good. This is more of a parent thing than a player thing, incidentally.

Well, the team will certainly be different. But if you’re one of those left behind, it may actually be a good thing for you. You see, on teams that have been around for a while, the coaches make certain assumptions about their players. Consciously or unconsciously, there is a pecking order that was established long ago, especially at certain key positions. It’s tough to break through that for new players, or players who skills may not have been so good when they joined the team.

But as those preferred players leave it opens up opportunities for others. If there was an established shortstop you (or your daughter) may never have had a reasonable shot to play there. If the shortstop leaves, however, she has to be replaced, which creates an opportunity that wasn’t there before.

The same is true at every position — even pitcher. While it’s always tough on a team to lose a great pitcher, it does create the opportunity for #2 (or #3 or #4) to step up and take on a bigger role.

Remember what Charles R. Swindoll said: Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. Players leaving a team is part of the 10%. What you do about it falls in the 90% category. Instead of moaning over it, take advantage of the opportunity. You don’t get that many opportunities in life to make such a big leap forward.

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