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Thread: Take command

  1. #1
    Moderator RedlegJake's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Saint Joseph, Mo

    Take command

    It looks like the Reds hopes ride high on some young arms who "simply" need to gain command of their stuff to bring out heir great potential. Bailey, Volquez, and Burton all have high ceilings and great stuff. In the minors Ty Pelland, Lotzkar, Smit, and Ravin just to name a few, have good to great stuff but all have issues with being able to harness it.

    So, my question is -what are the factors that go into "command"? Are they mental? Physical? Mechanics? Neuro-physiological? Why do some guys sem to have good command all along and some, who may have better raw stuff, never seem to be able to get their pitches to strike where they want?

    Is this a learnable skill or something acquired through simply grinding it out until it "clicks"? If it's purely a mechanical issue then why don't more pitchers acquire enough command to be effective? If you tour the minors there are arms in every system that make you do a double take but most will never see the light of day in the ML because of health or command.

    What is everyone's opinion? Is this really coachable or do you just hope you have a guy who can either has it innately or can stay healthy long enough for it to just develop? Why is the su cess percentage of hard throwing young pitchers, even those who stay healthy, so low?

    Are the Reds really horrible at coaching this or just historically bad at picking pitchers who project (is eventual command even projectible) to someday harness their stuff? Sems like the Reds through the years have had some guys who threw as hard and had about as good "stuff" as any teams but never "blossomed" -and most, to my memory were that ol' command issue.

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  3. #2
    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Toronto, ON

    Re: Take command

    Firstly, I'd argue that command and control are two different, but related things. I'd call control location. Does the ball consistently end up where you want it to? For command, I'd describe that as the ability to make the ball consistently move the way you want it to. Obviously these things interact, but I think they're different. For example, one pitcher may have a release point issue or follow-through issue which makes him leave the ball up on occasion. Another might not get the right rotation/release on the ball and so the ball doesn't bite as hard and "hangs". Somewhat similar effect, different problem.

    Regarding command, I think it's more of an issue of practice, hard work, experience etc. I don't think physical makeup plays as significant a role as it does with control, where your inherent kinesthetic ability, body control comes in to play to a greater degree.

    I don't have any particular insight in to the Reds problems, but am inclined to think that it lies in low quality instruction.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

  4. #3
    Member Red Heeler's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Knoxville, TN

    Re: Take command

    I think that command is mostly an innate skill. Throwing a baseball to an exact target isn't hard, nor has it ever been hard for guys with great command. Like Tiger Woods has always been good a squaring a golf ball with a club, Greg Maddux has likely always been good at throwing a ball right where he wanted it.

    That is not to say that mechanics and commitment do not play a part in it. Tiger Woods has revamped his swing a couple of times to make him better at striking a golf ball, but the average guy could have perfect mechanics and never strike the ball like Tiger does. There are plenty of pitchers whose command has improved after mechanical tweaks, but a change in mechanics is not going to turn Mitch Williams into Greg Maddux.

    Finally, commitment is vital in improving any skill. It is hard work, and not particularly fun, to practice the mechanics of throwing, hitting, golf swing, etc. Having the mental strength to not only put in the time, but to put in quality time is important. Guys at the top of their game are generally not only the most talented, but the hardest workers, too.

  5. #4
    Charlie Brown All-Star IslandRed's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Melbourne, FL

    Re: Take command

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    Firstly, I'd argue that command and control are two different, but related things. I'd call control location. Does the ball consistently end up where you want it to? For command, I'd describe that as the ability to make the ball consistently move the way you want it to. Obviously these things interact, but I think they're different.
    It would be interesting to hear from people within the game what they deem as "command" versus "control." I've generally seen control used kind of as a shorthand for the ability to throw strikes consistently while command is a more specific measure of hitting the intended spot within the zone. Different ways of saying the same thing, perhaps.

    I remember Jim Bouton's comment in Ball Four about coming up to the show, hearing about "pinpoint" control and feeling bad that he could only consistently hit an area about a foot square. Then he found out that's what they meant.
    Reading comprehension is not just an ability, it's a choice

  6. #5
    SERP deep cover ops WebScorpion's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2000
    In the Ether

    Re: Take command

    It's always been my understanding, as Rick stated, that command is the ability to command all your pitches to follow the path you expect, and control is the ability to hit your spots and locate each pitch where you desire, whether that be inside or outside the strike zone.
    In order for a layman to get a small feel for what is involved, I like to use the bowling analogy. Anyone who's tried to bowl knows that the key is a predictable, repeatable motion and a smooth release of the ball. If your approach (like a windup) is the same every time, and your release point and hand and finger position during release are consistent, the ball usually travels the same path and thus you can predict where it should strike the (strike zone) pins. That is command. Sometimes your approach can be off a little and you can adjust the pressure or angle of your hand/fingers and still hit your spot. Control. I'm sure pitching is about 1,000 times more difficult since you can hit your spot perfectly and the hitter takes you out of the park anyway, but I think the principles are very similar.
    Given all that, I believe both command and control can be improved by simple repetition. I'm sure that there is a whole lot more involved, but simply by repeating your motion so many times that your muscles remember it rather than a conscious thought has to help. It seems like all the principles involved, (concentration, relaxation, external observation plus communication, etc.) lend themselves to improvement through practice. But like all things in life, some people just seem to have a knack for it and it comes easier to them. They can also improve through practice and that's what separates the gifted from the truly great.
    Good subject. Cheers Jake!

    PS - I'm interested to hear Spitball's take on this subject.
    Last edited by WebScorpion; 02-06-2008 at 10:30 AM.

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