How To Win 85% Of Your Ball Games

Based on national averages, if your team can accomplish this one goal, you’ll win 85% of your baseball games, and have an opportunity to win the other 15%. What is this magical formula? Preventing the big inning!

I once watched Adam Wainwright, the St. Louis Cardinal’s ace pitcher, demonstrate a child like exuberance when he allowed the San Diego Padres to score a run. Why be happy about allowing a run? Because with runners on first and third with no outs, there was a distinct possibility the Padres could have scored a lot more than one run. By the way, the Cards went on to win that game 10-1.

Preventing or minimizing your opponents’ number of big scoring innings is the best way to not only win ball games, but provide yourself an opportunity to win every game. So how do you achieve this seemingly simple, but not so simple task?

Let me begin by saying all coaches should be listening because these rules apply to every baseball team in the world, amateur and professional.

Rule One: There’s a saying in baseball “Make them earn their way on,” which means make the batters hit the ball in order to reach base safely. Walks are the bane of every pitcher and the number one reason big innings occur.

When teaching your players how to pitch always stress throwing strikes. Most young, and some older pitchers, feel they must strike everyone out in order to be effective. That train of thought should be strongly discouraged. There are times a pitcher needs a strike out, but in reality those times are actually infrequent.

Explain to your players that most major league pitchers, all starting pitchers, are taught to “pitch to contact,” which simply means forcing the batter to make contact, putting the ball in play for the defense to handle.

In summary, teaching pitchers how to throw strikes and minimize walks is the number one priority for the coach.

Rule Two: Another saying in baseball is “Never give a team more than three outs.” This simply means if a ball is put into play which should normally result in an out, make sure you get the out. Elimination and/or minimizing errors in the field will stop big innings.

If you stop and think about it an example of most big innings are the result of a walk, an error, another walk, a hit, another error, another walk, etc. etc. and before you know it the opposition has scored 5 runs on 1 hit.

How do you prevent this onslaught? Practice, practice and more practice. Basic I know, but imperative to making the automatic play. I guarantee you the chances of a shortstop letting a ball go between his legs or making a bad throw to first base are a lot less for the infielder who has fielded 200 ground balls vs. the player who has had 25 grounders hit to him.

Rule Three: Think, think, think! Players must always be aware of the game’s situation and must know when to take the sure out. For example, a runner on third with no outs and a ground ball is hit sharply to the third baseman. The runner is off on contact and the infielder has a chance of throwing him out at the plate, but should he?

If it’s the second inning of a scoreless ball game, most likely the best play is to allow the run to score and get the put out at first base. If the play is to home and the runner is safe, the opposition has scored 1 run and now has a runner on second base with a potential another run and the making of a big inning.

However, if it’s the top half of the last inning of a scoreless pitchers’ duel, the play at home makes more sense as it has a larger impact than another runner on second.

In summary, the best way to eliminate big innings is to throw strikes, eliminate errors and make the correct play.

I know you’re thinking “Oh, is that all.” Remember, after doing all of this you’ll still get your butt kicked 10-0 from time to time. That’s baseball and that’s why you play the game.

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