“You can observe a lot by watching.” – Yogi Berra
I was a career .285 hitter (give or take) going into my senior year at Wake Forest. Pretty respectable in the ACC, but far from exceptional. However, my average ballooned to .330 my senior year. How did this happen? My belief is that the increase can be attributed to the switch I made from 2nd base to catcher.
The transition from 2nd to catcher meant a few changes for me. I upped my physical workouts in the weight room to strengthen my legs. I spent a lot more time in the training room working on my flexibility. But the biggest change came in my game-day preparation. Our pitching coach, Bobby Moranda (now Head Coach at Western Carolina), was as well prepared for an opponent as any other coach I have ever known. It didn’t matter if it was a weekday non-conference game, or a weekend conference series, he had charts, video and scouting reports on our opponent. We watched the opposing team take batting practice and analyzed pitch charts between innings. It was a constant analysis that fed into a 9-inning chess match. And for most of the year, we won many chess matches.
As the year progressed, the constant analysis of opposing hitters began to have a positive effect on my own hitting. The more I analyzed opposing hitters, the more I began to understand my own weaknesses and flaws. And the better my hitting became. So, I do not think it’s a coincidence that my average jumped so considerably the year I switched to catcher.
“Paralysis by Analysis” is an often-said phrase that is commonly used when any athlete is experiencing issues, and trying to resolve them through video analysis. “Just go out and play your game” is what usually follows. I do agree that there are times when athletes tend to overthink things; but if you’re struggling, you need to find out why. And video is the perfect place to start. And those that do use the “Paralysis by Analysis” saying usually do so because they have no clue as to why the individual may be struggling. They have no answers.
Analysis should not just be reserved for hitters and pitchers. Coaches should emphasize the importance of ‘watching’ the game; whether it’s on video, while they are on the bench, or if it’s an MLB game. Players need to be students of the game. Players need to take the time to see how others move when balls are hit; how they move between pitches; and how they execute plays when balls are hit to them. Watch the best baserunners. How big are their leads? Are they peeking at the catcher’s signs? How quick do they break on balls in the dirt? How efficient are their turns?
Baseball sometimes gets a bad rap for being a boring game. People equate baseball with there being too much downtime, and players just standing around. Players that buy into this stigma are missing out on incredible learning opportunities. Instead of watching the ‘chess match’ that is being played, they get caught up in watching the crowd, or getting caught up in conversation with teammates.
Meanwhile, the best players are watching the game. They’re taking advantage of the numerous learning opportunities that surround them. They’re getting better by soaking in what they see, and then they put what they learn into their own game.
Take some time this Spring to watch the game. Try to see through the normal flow of the game and analyze what’s really happening. Challenge yourself to see more than what others may see.