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General  | Blog  | 3/26/2024

Wolforth Throwing Mentorship: Article 37

Ron Wolforth     
The 5% That May Hinder Many Travel Ball Pitchers' Success This Spring

There isn't a single travel ball coach, parent, or pitcher who wouldn't agree with what the Tampa Bay Rays see as the crucial factor that often determines the outcome of a baseball game. Yet, immediately after their resounding concurrence, many of these individuals would raise questions like, "But what about..."

Velocity?
Spin rate, horizontal and vertical break?
Generating nasty movement?
Changing speeds?
Hitting different spots within the strike zone?
Consistency and recovery?
Hitters adjusting to your game plan?



If we were to inquire with the folks at the Rays organization, I'd bet their response would be, "Yes, these factors can matter, but THIS... this specific aspect holds unique influence over the game's outcome."

So, what's the insight the Rays possess that others don't quite grasp?
It's not about receiving recognition; as I mentioned earlier, everyone 'gets' this. The distinction lies, in my view, in the Rays' unparalleled commitment to embracing and executing one simple yet profound truth.

And what is this truth?

"Throwing a first-pitch quality strike leads to a positive outcome 95 times out of 100. They consistently emphasize the 'Cost of Ball One.’ “

Who talks like this?

They're fully dedicated to 1) Repeatedly echoing this concept as a philosophical mantra and 2) Tailoring their pitchers' daily practice towards consistently delivering quality pitches and executing them for strike one.

So, if everyone acknowledges this, why isn't everyone adopting it?

It's because of that elusive 5%.

People struggle to move beyond it. They become fixated on avoiding the 5%.

It might help to look at this process from a different perspective, unrelated to baseball.  For instance, being a world-class investor isn't about never being wrong; it's about being consistently right over time.

Vegas doesn't thrive in gambling solely because they win every hand. They succeed because they ensure the odds are in their favor, guaranteeing more wins than losses. They understand this, stick to the process, and emerge victorious.

In my opinion, the Tampa Bay Rays aim to be the Vegas casinos of baseball.

They recognize that approximately 5% of the time, the first pitch will be crushed. They accept this as a harsh reality and an inevitable cost of pursuing victory. While they try to minimize this damage, their primary focus remains on executing the 95%.

They understand that, for a hitter in 2023, the league average on-base percentage is .266 after falling behind 0-1. However, the same hitter, ahead 1-0 after the first pitch, boasts an OBS of .380. Essentially, the 'cost' of ball one transforms a hitter from Martin Maldonado to Mookie Betts.

That's how games are lost.

So, what’s the key takeaway here?

Continue improving your velocity. Excellent suggestion!
Keep refining your breaking ball's sharpness.  Absolutely!
Enhance your strength, mobility, and overall athleticism. 100% agree!
Prioritize your arm care and body's well being, and focus on recovery. Great advice!

But if you aspire to emulate Las Vegas and maximize your current abilities, become fixated on consistently throwing strike one with your best stuff.

During the season, forget about the 5%. Concentrate your daily efforts on the 95%.

You'll be glad you did.

Coach Ron Wolforth is the founder of the Texas Baseball Ranch® and has written six books on pitching including the Amazon Best Seller, Pitching with Confidence. Since 2003, The Texas Baseball Ranch® has had over 579 pitchers break the 90 mph barrier, 208 have toped 94mph or better, and 135 of his students have been drafted in the MLB’s June Amateur Draft. Coach Wolforth has consulted with 13 MLB teams, dozens of NCAA programs and has been referred to as “ America’s Go-to-Guy on Pitching” and “The Pitching Coaches Pitching Coach.” Coach Wolforth lives in Montgomery, TX with his wife, Jill. They are intimately familiar with youth select, travel baseball and PG events as their son Garrett (now a professional catcher) went through the process. Garrett still holds the PG Underclass All-American Games record for
catcher velocity at 89mph which he set in 2014 at the age of 16.

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