Posted: 2019-05-31 10:49:27 (ET) [ 429 views ]
Why does a usually good hitter be so on one day and without any substantial change (except the pitcher’s name) turn in such a pitiful performance the next?
Why do hitting coaches spend so much time on “mechanics” down to the practice of hitting off a tee, just like 6 year olds begin their baseball swing mechanics?
Furthermore, why do baseball players tend to be so superstitious?
All the above can be answered pretty easily – for good reason!!
However, the VMI is a tool which has really never been used before and if one follows basic 8th grade logic, then he can see where the VMI actually identifies the aspects of hitting that are physical (including visual) and mechanical, leaving the mental side of hitting to stand alone and therefore open to be analyzed more specifically, as well.
Here begins the logic: If a pitcher’s job is to get the ball by the hitter’s bat and does so with speed, spin, location, and by varying the pitch-type; then he needs the air resistance against the threads and cover of the ball for all of his varied pitches. He keeps a hitter off-balance by making him guess what type of pitch is coming his way, so the hitter normally sets up to hit the fastest and most used pitch in this pitcher’s arsenal. When he then quickly re-sets his body midway down the pitches travel, to extend the bat downward to connect with the various breaking pitches his physical, mechanical and visual skills must be on target to make hard contact. However, as you now realize, the VMI gauges the varied amount of movement the hitter is used to seeing in every pitcher’s arsenal and therefore gives us a gauge of his ability to adjust mechanically between the various pitches while attempting to stay on balance during his swing.
So, as the logic continues, if his eye is picking up the ball, the spin, and his instinct to evaluate the speed; and the pitcher's location has been good; plus, he has been on balance, and his VMI (the Visual Memory Index) has been moving daily toward zero (gauging his familiarity with the ball movement); then, while we are anticipating normal production from this hitter; we know that all of the physical and mechanical aspects of hitting are accounted for. So, the logical conclusion is that the remainder is mental.
Experienced athletes know and have confidence in bodily movement fundamentals that drive other hand-eye coordination sports such as tennis, handball, and gymnastics, etc. so we know that muscle memory is very stable. The sayings, “Practice makes perfect” and “practice makes permanent,” are testaments to this confidence. It is here where we discover that only the mental aspect of hitting is not accounted for by the VMI and this is especially true where the hitter is familiar with today’s pitcher from previous games in which he pitched. In this case, the VMI is nearing zero, so the larger variables in pitcher and hitter performances are accounted for-- so, we can turn our attention to the mental side of anticipated performance.
What is the mental side of performance? In this example, we have isolated “when” variations in performance occur not due to a physical pitch movement challenge for the hitter, so we can assume that mental anticipation, decision-making (as to which pitch to swing at) and focus on the pitch itself are most likely the only components in hitting, which have not been accounted for by the VMI and Mechanics. These items all fall under the “mental approach to hitting” category. While there may be other variables such as inaccuracy by the hitter, these suppositions have not been gauged to date that I am aware. So performance variations outside the gauge of the Visual Memory Index are considered “Mental” variables.
For a team, we know there is a high tendency to win today and lose tomorrow. This is a “team mental focus issue” that is real, especially within a league that is truly paired in talent like MLB. I have stated previously that a low range VMI between -1.00 to zero and zero to +1.00 is a range where 50/50 winning baseball occurs more frequently than in any other range. Unlike higher VMI ranges, there are no substantial pitch movement issues caused by the invisible air density, which would throw the team of hitters into a physical disadvantage against the opposing pitcher. Where movement on the pitch is no issue, the team of hitters will focus on power, placement of the ball within the field, and/or attempt to break the defensive team’s shift. It is in this “fully conformed” state that playing small ball is more productive than in most other pitch movement states. This is because moving the runner over by bunting and also, hit and run baseball is easier to perform when the ball is diving and darting as expected. But, in this state, if a team lost yesterday, then it is only natural they would focus better today, than a team who won yesterday, thus creating the win today; lose tomorrow tendency. If both teams are in this “fully conformed” state, then both tend to trade-off wins throughout the series.
Mental pressure from needing a team win, or an individual player needing to break out of a slump can undermine the hitter from a decision-making standpoint, as well, whether it is brought onto the team from a physical disadvantage or a mental focus issue. When a team is pressing, it tends to swing at bad pitches or “take” on hittable pitches instead of swinging. This can even have an effect on base running decisions and cause throwing errors in the field.
Going along with, or adding to those issues is the following scenario; when a team starts hitting directly at the defense, the game generally gets away from them and this too tends to occur more often when ball movement is less of an issue and mental aspects take center stage. This may be from over-thinking; trying too hard; swinging at the wrong pitch; or just plain bad luck. No one seems to know. But it generally does not happen when either the hitters are greatly advantaged by the thin air (large plus VMI), or when they are greatly overpowered by the pitcher in heavy air (large minus VMI).
Frustrations that set into the mind of the hitter during slumps are another mental side of hitting which can infect an entire team, as is well-known. The team’s last 10 games record is a good indication if a team is out of focus mentally, or if it is going through a high minus VMI ball movement differential period. A new manager, coach or assistant or even a new teammate can create a good or bad focus which is another mental issue for a player or team. Team chemistry is all mental, because it is relational.
Extremely experienced hitters need something a little different to help keep their focus "exactly" right. That means, one cannot over-focus on anything or under-focus on anything. There are many things a hitter can focus on that can be detrimental to their production. A few examples are as follows: over-focus on "hit placement", accidentally focused on being the "hero", trying to hit the "homerun", "outguessing" the pitcher about which pitch he'll throw, wondering if his own "mechanics" are right, and that may only be a few of the myriad potential issues that cause a player or team to hit directly at the defense, or mis-hit the pitch. It happens a lot in MLB and actually all leagues. But, the interesting aspect, to me, is how often it happens after a team has experienced almost the same ball movement conditions for a handful of games, bringing their VMI to a "zero-something." Now, why would that be?
I have no proof of my explanation, but I'll take a good stab at it hoping it is not just a SWAG of an answer. Most people in baseball, especially the MLB, imagine that since each pitcher is different, then there is no such thing as getting used to the movement. I don't believe this is true, because that which causes extra movement is invisible and un-detectible. Yes, each pitcher does have his individual differences, which also throw hitters off balance, but on top of that fact, is the invisible air which periodically provides extra movement for all pitchers. When that invisible and un-detectible "extra" movement is not there to surprise the hitter and help keep the "right" focus, the VMI will be in a "zero" range. That gauge appears to detect "when" might a team zero out of production. Normally it takes only one "wake-up" loss to rectify the "right" focus.
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