Saturday, June 19, 2010

Artistry And The Fastball

A sincere artist is not one who makes a faithful attempt to put on to canvas what is in front of him, but one who tries to create something which is, in itself, a living thing. - Giorgio Morandi

I've always said that pitching was an art, but not being an artist, I had a hard time completing the analogy. My wife, however, is an artist and fluent in the language of analogies, so when she began the conversation last night with "It's like you're an artist..." I was intrigued.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to pitch for a playoff birth for our team (the first such accomplishment in 14 years for Savannah's franchise). It was a big game for me, I knew it, and I was ready for I thought. I worked out of jam after jam and pitched with runners in scoring position for most of my night. They managed 9 hits off of me, 5 of the infield variety, and scored only twice in 5 innings. After the game I had to decide how I felt about my performance. Did I pitch well? No, not particularly. Did I battle hard? Yes, definitely. Did I go out to accomplish what I intended? I'm not sure. You see, I hadn't set a specific goal for the game., I just wanted to win and pitch well. Here's where the analogy continues.
Ashley said to me that If I don't have a specific goal in mind each time I go out on the mound and only hope that I pitch well, it's like an artist looking at a blank white sheet of paper and saying "Be Art." No, an artist knows the picture that he is trying to create and has specific tools for each aspect of the piece. In the same way, a pitcher must have a specific picture in mind and full confidence in the tools he is using to paint it. So what kind of pitcher am I, in art terms? I am a landscape artist. I don't paint big broad strokes. I'm precise. I'm not a guy who will blow you away throwing 96. I work at 88-91 with a two and four seam fastball that I spot low in the zone. As an artist I have three primary colors (pitches) that i use in combination to paint my artwork. I have Red, my fastball. I have Blue, my 12-6 curveball. And I have yellow, my up and coming changeup. In order for me to paint vast landscapes (7 innings) I have to use all three in combination. A landscape that is all red isn't a landscape at all, and one with only blue and yellow is just a green mess. Most importantly, though, is the painter's ability to call on these colors at will in order to impose his will on the blank canvas. If he knows he needs a bright blue for the sky, but isn't sure if he will get royal blue or navy blue, the sky will be either day or night. Big difference. In the same way, if I know I need a sinking fastball away, and I'm not sure if i will get the sinker or the cutter, the outcome is as unpredictable as day and night. People always say that you cannot control the outcome of baseball. You throw the pitch and live with the results. Well, what if that was not the case? What if you decided to control the outcome of your pitches? You may not get the result you are looking for 100% of the time, but maybe you'll get 80%. And in baseball, 80% of anything is a lot.
So the new goal is this, 7 inn. 5 hits or less, 0 walks, 0 runs. The new idea is being able to throw all three of my pitches at will in any count. I will have an idea of what I want the hitter to do and throw my pitch to make that happen. I have a sneaking suspicion that I will get more groundballs that I've been getting, and giving up less 0-2 hits. Pitching isn't just AN art it IS art. And I'm an artist. Time to paint.

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