Many baseball coaches will say that the thinking or the understanding part of the game is the most vital to success for a player. This part of the game is sometimes called the mental pillar and is one of the primary pillars that support the structure of the athlete within the game of baseball (and any sport - these being mental, physical, technical and tactical).
In general terms, a baseball player will commit two types of errors, but one more than the other can have long term effects - mental and physical. Coaches have no problem for the most part accepting physical mistakes; players will clank ground balls, butcher fly balls and look like a bag of hammers searching for a tool box as a hitter. Players will have bad days, where physically all that happens. No problem, we are all human, all make mistakes. In baseball, it is the mental error that has harsh effects both short and long term on players and teams and will often manifest themselves as physical errors (i.e. what looks like a physical error was actually born a few seconds earlier as a mental one).
As poignant as it is, numerous mental mistakes happen in games and are often not noticed, never brought up and never thrown into the box or line score. Why? Simple - if the result of the play is in favour of the player that commits he mental error, “all’s well ends well”. However, if the error falls in disfavour of the player, then, holy cow, it hits the roof. The verbal tirades come out.
Physical mistakes truthfully are quite easy to see and very easy to determine if it was a fielding, throwing, hitting, baserunning or pitching one. Hey, clanking a ground ball or dropping a fly ball would be classified as physical, however, some might voice an opinion the clank or the drop were mental lapses that caused the physical mistake. Running into a tag, not picking up a sign or getting picked off in a non-baserunning situation are examples of offensive mental miscues.
Here are a few simple examples of mental errors that are so glaring:
- Missed Sign
- Not knowing the number of outs
- Getting picked off in a sacrifice bunt situation
- Getting picked off on a hit and run
- Breaking for second base on a sacrifice bunt before seeing the ball going down
- Getting doubled off on an easy to read fly ball
- Getting back door picked by the pitcher or catcher
- Slowing down before the coach makes the decision on what he wants to do
- Attempting to steal on own, no sign or green light and getting thrown out
- Failure to swing at pitch in hit and run because it wasn’t in “your” zone
- Missing a hit and run sign and taking pitch
- Taking off for the plate, baserunner on 3B, less than two out, ball in air to outfield.
- Trying to hit a sacrifice fly (don’t think most teams have a sacrifice fly sign)
- Called third strike runners in scoring position
It is hard enough to be physically proficient in this game, yet it astonishes me as to how frequently I see players, young and old alike, making simple, fundamental mental errors that are 100% avoidable. So get your mind into the game - before, during and after - and you can start avoiding these crippling mental errors with greater frequency.
I know there are numerous other examples of poor offensive baseball and mental processing. Please send us some more and we can collect a long thread of these. Thanks!
Rick Johnston, Head Instructor - The Baseball Zone