Friday, December 15th, 2017

Jim Abbott & pitching with confidence

May 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Pitching

My very first college at-bat was in Florida during our spring trip when we played the University of Michigan.  The starting

10 year MLB pitcher Jim Abbott

pitcher for Michigan was Jim Abbott who was also in his first college game.  Aside from watching in amazement how he could use a glove with only one hand, it was clear he had amazing stuff.  One thing I remember about that game is instructive for all pitchers, catchers, and coaches.  

Early in the game the Michigan catcher, a senior, was putting down signs for Abbott and during one such exchange, Abbott kept on shaking him off.  The catcher got annoyed, called time, and started out to the mound.  The Michigan head coach yelled “Get back behind the plate and let him throw what he wants to throw!”  The catcher promptly U-turned it and went back to the plate without a word.

This story is important for coaches that seem to want more and more control over what their pitchers throw.  I have written about the long-term ramifications of this strategy – players don’t learn to think for themselves – but there can be short-term loss as well.  This short-term loss can be wrapped up in a single sentence.

It’s better to throw the wrong pitch with 100 % confidence than throw the right pitch at 50% confidence.

The point is that a pitcher who has confidence in his stuff is generally going to make better pitches even though a coach or catcher may not want that particular pitch.  Conventional wisdom may scream for a particular pitch but ultimately it’s the pitcher who has to throw it.  

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