An underrated way to become a better ballplayer is to WATCH MORE BASEBALL!! I am deeply saddened by how many aspiring baseball players just don’t watch baseball on a regular basis. There is soooo much that can be learned by simply watching games and paying attention to how the best players handle different situations.
I am currently on my 4th year of subscribing to MLB Package (Almost all MLB games), and despite the occasional argument with the wife about the need to have four games on at the same time, it is awesome.
Along with the usual Next Level Ballplayer interviews and articles, I’m going to do the occasional “Smarter Ballplayer” posts based on things we can learn from watching MLB games. Without further ado, here is the first installment.
When to Work a Count:
Game: Giants vs Dodgers (4/2)
Situation: Bottom of the 9th. 2 outs. Dodgers losing 3-0. Two hole batter Mark Ellis is up in a 2-0 count.
What Happened: He took the next pitch even though it was a fastball down the middle. The next pitch was a ball leaving the count at 3-1. Everyone in the ballpark knew another fastball was coming, yet Ellis still was taking all the way. Another fastball down the middle to bring the count to 3-2.
What We Can Learn: The point that Ellis ended up striking out to end the game on the 3-2 pitch is irrelevant. The point is that he recognized the game situation and acted accordingly. Down 3 in the 9th meant that his job was to get on base any way possible. His run meant absolutely nothing. Therefore, ESPECIALLY in hitting counts (2-0, 3-1) it’s a good idea to take. Some coaches and players will even take till you get a strike or even two strikes in a situation like that, but you definitely shouldn’t swing when the pitcher is struggling to throw strikes.
Game: Cardinals vs D’Backs (4/2)
Situation: Beginning of the top of 7th . Cardinals up 3-1. Heath Bell is making his D’Back debut. He was a lights out closer/reliever with the Padres for many years, then struggled last year in Miami. Everyone in Arizona wants to know which Heath Bell will show up this year. No doubt Heath wants to get off to a good start.
What Happened: First pitch- BOMB to dead center (more on this in the dating section below). TV camera catches Bell yelling curse words. Next pitch is a curveball which crosses up the catcher who had called for a fastball. That batter ends up walking. 3rd Batter- BOMB. More cursing. Visually upset. 4th Batter- Double. 5th Batter- Strikeout. Whoa baby!! 6th Batter- single. Night over. Hit the showers.
What We Can Learn: Bell visually got more and more emotional as the inning wore on. It’s hard to blame him, because of all the expectations but at the end of the day, as a pitcher, you HAVE TO hold it together. This is why it’s so important to have a “focal point” that you can go back to when you need to refocus. Every pitcher is going to give up hits. It’s just a matter of being able to refocus on that next pitch. Clearly Bell was so distracted by the first pitch HR he gave up, that he miss read the catchers sign for the next pitch. From there, he was never able to get it back together.
Game: Cards vs D’Backs (4/2)
Situation: 1st Pitch of the 7th inning.
What Happened: The Cardinals’ Pete Kozma hits the first pitch he sees 440ft to dead center for a homerun. Some ding dong is on a date and sees the ball coming straight at him.
Instead of playing the hero and catching it, he plays the zero and bails at the last minute. Of course the ball hits his girlfriend (Hopefully ex- girlfriend) right in the face! (Video here if you want to see it.
It is mind blowing to me that this could happen. Don’t fans go to games praying for a chance at getting a ball?!
What We Can Learn: Don’t take a girl to the ballpark if you aren’t willing to make a play! If a ball is headed towards your girlfriend’s face- you do what needs to be done to protect her… And if you’re a Next Level Ballplayer follower, than you just make the catch and really impress her!
If you see any MLB game situations worthy of our “Smarter Ballplayer” section, email them to me @ Franco@NextLevelBallplayer.com (The Game, Situation, What Happened, and What We Can Learn)