One of my favorite sayings as a baseball coach is “minimizing damage refers to trading a run in order to get out of a potential big inning.” It is unlikely that you are going to throw a shutout every time you pitch. With that said, it is important that, especially early in the game, you don’t try to avoid giving up a single run because doing so could potentially turn into giving up multiple runs.
With runners on base, pitchers have a tendency to “aim” the ball more often, trying to throw the perfect pitch to get the hitters out and prevent any runs for scoring. But more often than not, aiming the ball leads to walks, which puts runners on base and more pressure on you, the pitcher. After an innocent single, if you walk the next two guys, you have increased your opponent’s chances of scoring multiple runs.
Although I cannot explain every situation that could potentially happen in a baseball game, I will try to show you what I mean with the following scenario.
Let’s say the first two batters hit singles, and the leadoff guy advances to third base on the number two hitter’s single. You have runners on first base and third base with no one out. Your team is up by a score of eight to two.
The runner at third base will not affect the game. If he scores, you will still be winning eight to three. Your focus should be on getting outs, and if you allow the runner at third to score, it is not a big deal. A ground ball to the second baseman, which could then turn into a potential double play, should be a more desirable outcome than focusing on how you can keep the run from scoring.
Think of the same situation, but now you are down three to one, and it is the last inning. Your team still has an at-bat left, so you have to do what you can to prevent the runner at third base from scoring. Here, your focus should not simply be on “minimizing damage,” but on not allowing your opponent to extend their lead.
A good rule of thumb is, if you are up by four or more runs and you are pitching late in the game, minimizing damage is a good strategy. Do not give your opponent a chance to mount a comeback.
Visit our complete online resource for instructional baseball videos and eBooks at www.ToTheTopPerformance.com.