Baseball can be a complex game. Despite the many intricacies of the sport, sometimes it's best to keep things simple. Just ask pitchers.
One of the more famous Sandy Koufax stories, which the legend recounted Saturday night, was in spring training 1961 when catcher Norm Sherry advised the 25-year old pitcher to not throw the ball as hard. Seems simple enough, but the results were dramatic, as Sherry's advice and regular work in the starting rotation catapulted Koufax to new heights.
Another way Koufax kept it simple was the way he gripped his curve ball. As he tutored Clayton Kershaw on stage Saturday night, Koufax didn't want his thumb pressing on the ball as he threw it, letting his fingers do the work. The simpler, the better.
Tony Jackson on ESPN L.A. has a nice feature on Chad Billingsley today with a similar theme. Billingsley's struggles last season seemed to snowball as Billingsley tried to be perfect with every pitch:
Billingsley, like every big league pitcher, knows in his head he will never be perfect. But like every big league pitcher, he still wishes in his heart that he could be. It is learning how to not be perfect that usually represents a key moment in the career of a top-notch starting pitcher, and although Opening Day remains five weeks away, Billingsley at least sounds now like a guy who is learning that lesson.
The biggest part of that lesson is developing the ability to let go of mistakes -- not just forgetting about a bad start before making the next one five days later, but forgetting about a bad pitch before throwing the next one 30 seconds later.
Getting a sound mind seems to be En Vogue for pitchers: free your mind, and the rest will follow. Eric Stults recalled his sessions with a sports psychologist this offseason to help him prepare for a rotation spot, per Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times:
"I don't know if it's a lack of consistency, or maybe sometimes just nibbling a little bit," Stults said. "I think that comes from just having the right mind-set and working on, 'OK, I’ve got to get ahead here and be confident I can throw strike one.'
"I think sometimes in the past when things kind of started to snowball or I get a couple of guys on, then I'd start to nibble. And I’ve really worked hard with Dana, our psychologist, this off-season to where I can stay in that attack mode. Be aggressive early in the count. When you get ahead, expand it."
The lesson here, for pitchers: keep it simple, stupid. Then shake hands with the catcher!
In other news...
- The Dodgers won their "B" game today against the White Sox, 4-2. Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times let us know that Ivan DeJesus, who broke his leg in a "B" game last spring, drove in two runs with a single.
- Matt Kemp had a photo shoot for GQ Magazine today. Check out Tony Jackson's Twitter feed for a funny recap of the details.
- Bill James ranked the Dodgers 11th in baseball in "Young Talent Inventory" in the 2010 Bill James Goldmine, as detailed by Josh Rawitch of the Dodgers