One of the hardest questions I ask pitchers is; who are you on the mound? I follow that up with; how do you see yourself as a pitcher? These questions need honest answers. Knowing your identity on the mound determines what direction you need to go in terms of what you need to work on.
Knowing the following things can help you determine your identity:
Arm Slot – What angle is your arm at when you throw?
Velocity – Is your fastball above average, average, or below average?
Breaking Ball(s) – Do you have a sharp breaking ball (slider or curve)? How does it break, meaning straight down, straight across, down and across, or is it just floating in there? Is it loopy and slow?
Change-up – Can you throw a change-up for a strike in any count? Is it straight or does it have movement?
2-seam fastball – Does it sink or tail or both? If it’s straight, find another grip or pronate the arm slightly during release to make the ball move.
Location – Do you find it easier to throw high and low or side to side? This usually goes hand in hand with arm slot.
Running Game – Are you able to kill the running game or are runners stealing bases left and right? How is your ability to hold runners? Are you mixing up your timing to throw off the runner as well as the batter?
Body Language – How do you portray yourself on the mound when things are going well and while things aren’t going your way?
Time to Home Plate – What is your time to home plate out of the stretch with runners on base? Meaning, how long does it take from the moment your heel comes off the ground to the time the ball gets in the catcher’s glove?
Mental State – Are you mentally strong or weak? Do you get bothered easily on the mound or hardly at all? How is your focus? What do you focus on? What do you do to engage the task at hand? Can you think about the runner, the hitter, the pitch, and where to go if the ball is hit to you all at the same time? (These are just the tip of the iceberg with regards to the mental game)
The things listed above are just to give you a starting point. You can go into more depth and detail but if you can answer the questions above, you’re off to a great start. By answering those questions honestly, it will help give you an idea of what you do well and what you don’t do well. It helps you determine what you need to build on and what you need to really work on.
For example, if you have an average to below average fastball then you need to get some movement on that pitch. Maybe your 4-seam fastball is really straight but you have some movement on your 2-seam. If that’s the case, maybe work to develop a really good 2-seam with some sink (if you can). You may decide to throw only 2-seam fastballs. If your fastball is not very hard, at least a batter trying to hit a ball that’s moving and changing planes is harder to square up more than trying to hit something coming straight in with no movement. From there, work on a slider. Then you have 2 pitches with movement that break the opposite way of each other. Now you can identify as a sinker/slider guy.
The example is just an idea to help guide you towards finding your identity on the mound. Once you establish that, it’s easier to determine what you really need to work on. Instead of trying to work on 4 pitches, maybe you’re working on 2 because – for example – you realize that you don’t need a curveball or it doesn’t work with your arm slot so you get rid of it. Great! That’s one less thing to worry about. Your goal should be to try and simplify a complicated game as best you can and knowing your identity is a good place to start.