By Ethan Guevin
With close races for playoff spots in both leagues, it may as well already be the post-season for a handful of MLB teams. During the stretch run and playoffs, we can learn a lot by analyzing what happens during these high intensity games. With a lot on the line, split-second decisions, good and bad, can have huge consequences. Without pulling you away from any more of the games, here are 10 things to watch for that can help you improve your own game and approach:
1. How often does the team with the biggest offensive inning win the game? (The stretch run can teach you a lot about the importance of damage control.)
2. What do the “clutch” players do differently than other players? Do they do anything different than they usually do for the big AB or pitch?
3. What do you see that shows how the players keep their emotions in check?
4. How many times do you see an extra base (on an overthrow or poor defensive decision) come back to hurt the defense?
5. How often does the team with fewer errors win the game?
6. How often do base-running blunders end up costing a team runs?
7. How do pitchers and hitters try to control the timing or tempo of the game?
8. Does the game appear different for the players who are struggling and the players who are having success? How? How are the approaches different?
9. How do coaches use role players (pinch runners, match-up pitchers, pinch hitters, defensive replacements, etc.)? What are the special skills these players have that allow them to get in the game? How can you work to improve your own skills that would help in a similar situation?
10. Which players appear to be having fun or excited to get each opportunity to contribute? How does this attitude affect how they play the game?
Even though we aren’t on the field, media coverage of playoff games helps us all get a close up view of what players are doing on the field and in the dugout. How do you think these players learned what matters most to help their teams win the biggest games? They watched and learned from other successful players. Now, it’s your turn.