I had a great conversation with Trevor Bauer about command training and motor learning. He used this analogy of a math equation and it put me on his thought process below which I believe is the key to developing pitch command in all athletes, especially in young ones.
Pitch Command Training Math Analogy
Let’s say command (x) equals 2
You could practice by guessing a number to equal x over and over and over, but what if a 4 just happens? What if you’re given a negative number to start? Do you fall apart? Are you really even learning by guessing?
If you’ve never practiced anything but one mode of training – let’s say a fastball only pullpen – when you get a 4, you have a ball. You get a 2, strike. You get a 1, ball. Simply, it is guessing.
The key is being able to get a 4 and subtract 2 to find ‘x’. Get a 1 and be able to add 3 and find ‘x’. The more possible inputs you can give – or the more modes of differentiating scenarios you practice in training – the more your body will be able to adjust and make that equation equal ‘x’ and you will learn that x=2.
So what is the takeaway? Don’t think you are working on command or a pitch if we practice that skill in one way over and over again on repeat without change or without variation.
Practice command in different ways: different pitches, implements, intensities, angles, and distances. Do jump throws. Play horse. THAT will be your best shot.
These are drills with an external focus like hitting a target instead of an internal focus on mechanics. Mechanics do not dictate command. Examining and improving mechanics can aid in injury reduction, power transfer and relative repeatability, but command isn’t a product of mechanics. Mechanics can only support command.