When are you in a slump? When is it more than just a bad at-bat or two, or bad string of games? And, what do you do about it? Plus, Dan talks about whether or not hitters should be lifting the ball.
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Transcript: EP16 -Mindset During a Slump in Softball & Lifting the Ball as a Hitter
Welcome back to the good advice softball podcast. I’m Dan Blewett on today’s episode. We’ve got two topics. Number one. How do you know when you’re in a slump and when is your, what is your idea of slumping? This is actually a really interesting thought provoking question that I heard, uh, from a coach on another podcast.
So I want to talk through this because I think it’s a really interesting talking point and made me reflect on my own career. Number two. Should you be lifting the ball? Paul has a hitter. So obviously launch angle is, um, something that’s trending in baseball. It’s starting to gain some traction in softball course launching.
It was just a term for the, uh, angle that the ball leaves. The bat could be straight into the ground. That’s still a launch angle could be a popup. That’s also still a launch angle. But we’ll talk about some of the thoughts on softball and whether, you know, with the constraints of a relatively small field that stays consistent over player’s career, uh, whether you should be actively trying to lift it.
Okay. So slumping is probably one of the reasons that players end up leaving softball and baseball. It’s one of the reasons it’s an incredibly hard sport. It’s one of the reasons that. You know, players need a sort of mental training practice and, you know, the mindset is just really, really critical for athletes of all sports, but a lot less.
So in the sportswear, no, there isn’t as much of a time gap. Yeah. And there’s a little bit less luck involved. And I know I’ve talked about luck, um, extensively on the, on the show, but obviously. With slumping. There’s a couple of factors mixed in. So number one, you know, there’s bad luck. So you can have quote unquote slump by hitting, you know, you ha you hit a couple of weak ground balls.
You hit a couple of popups, a couple of can of corns, but maybe you hit a bunch of rockets, right. At people. That should have been for hits and instead, Oh, for eight, you know, or over 12 or whatever. And so slumping is obviously a multifactorial thing. It’s not just, man, I can’t get a hit or it’s not as a pitcher.
And obviously the term slump is used. A little less for pitchers. Uh, but it’s still, I think applies. It’s really just, if we define slump, we’d probably just say that a slump is, you know, a string of bad performances. So, you know, I would use that term for myself as a baseball pitcher that sometimes I’m just in a slump and I always hit a couple, uh, every, every season.
So the number one thing is trying to figure out. W, you know, number one, number one. How do you define a slump? So is it over four in one game? Is it going to for 16 on a weekend? Is it going, you know, for, for 26, over the course of all of a week or week and a half or two weeks? I think we have to. Try to define that.
And I think it’s honestly a really muddy, the, uh, vague, uh, nebulous, which one of my favorite words, I’m gonna throw it in here. So it’s a very nebulous term. Like what a slump means to one person. It could mean something very different to another. Now I will tell you what a slump is. Not a slump is not one over four game.
It’s absolutely not. A slump is not a two over four games. I can tell you that. It’s not that either. So, and the thing with softball and the thing with baseball is these are sports that you play a lot of games, right? So obviously if you’re under competitive travel team, especially if you’re in high school, you know, you’re going to play 30, 35 games with your high school team.
You’re going to go play. 40 50 games with your travel team. Then you might play some, you know, a fall schedule as well and play 20 more games you might play, you know, easily 60 to a hundred games over the course of a year as a competitive, um, you know, young softball player. So, you know, if we say we average out and just say you play 80 games in a year, which I think is probably reasonable, and I’m sure some of you listening and say, yeah, my team plays a schedule.
It’s like that. Or my daughter, you know, plays in the neighborhood of that many games in a year. You know, that’s, you know, we call it, you know, 250 at bats. I know you’re probably not getting four bats in every game. Uh, but you know, if we take the average, you know, three, three game, four game, let’s just say it’s 250 bats a year.
It’s hard to say that, you know, Oh, for eight, which is, say three games, worth three games at an 80, you know, you, that’s going to be a little tiny wave. Over the course of that long season. And really the, the good analogy is, is waves. I mean, a season. Yeah. If you hit 300 for the year, you get 400 for the year.
You don’t hit three out of every 10. You don’t get three base hits for every 10 at bat. So you just don’t what happens is you as you go, yeah, six, four 14, and then you go. Oh, four, six, and then you go, you know, seven for nine, and then you go one for 21. That’s what? 300. I have no idea what that averages out to be.
Um, so bear with me. My math is way off, off, but that’s how this goes. When you chunk out a whole season as a hitter, it’s never that you consistently get. You know, nine hits out of every 30th pass. That’s not what a 300 hitter looks like. It just isn’t. And it’s just, you know, periods of, you know, very low batting average.
So one week you’re hitting one 14, the next week, you’re hitting four 96. The next week you’re hitting two 20, the next week you’re hitting three 88. That’s what a 300 hitter looks like over time. It’s this constant waves up and down, up and down. Now the better, yeah. Hitters they’re waves are, are less.
Steve. They’re not as much like that. They’re not one 12, one week and four 96 the next week. And then, you know, one 60 and then four 40 again. That’s not as much what good hitters do, but they still do that. Good hitters are more like, you know, maybe three 91 week and then two 40 the next week and then three 80 the next week.
And then two 60, the next week, you know, their waves are shorter. They’re more shallow. It’s a, it’s a more calm looking water, essentially. And so that’s why I think in no way, can you say over four is a slump or over eight is a slump because that’s going to be within the natural variance of what a 300 hitter looks like over the course of a season.
And so, you know, as we go. Um, the goal of any player is just to do what you can control to control the, the, the small atoms of softball, which that’s this at bat, but even more so it’s this pitch, right? If you put a good swing on this pitch, that’s coming in, and that means if you identify the pitcher early and you really see it well, and you stay back and you kind of keep in your mechanics as best you, can you put a good swing on it?
That’s what insulates you in the longterm? Good hitters, who don’t have really profound slumps, um, who don’t have crazy, insane highs and lows. They end up having really good at baths where they always compete for the bat. They always have really good, um, per pitch recognition, they have good. They just put more good swings on more quality pitches.
And one of the things that I think needs to be mentioned here is that there’s this concept of giving it bats away. And my college coach used to mention it. I didn’t really as much know to math until I saw it later on when you don’t see many bats get given away. So in pro ball, you don’t see as many hitters go up there and just like, you know, they, they fly out on a first pitch, you know, breaking ball or it’s just like they take two really hittable pitches over the plate and they’re Oh two.
And then they just like wave at a, uh, at a breaking ball in the dirt. You don’t see that as much with, with pro hitters because they’re so good and they’ve done it for so long. They’re gonna take more stuff that they can’t hit, and they’re going to put good swings on stuff that they can. And when they start to get down the count, they’re going to become more selective and they’re going to focus up and, and they have a very competitive at bat to the last pitch.
It’s where it becomes rare where you’re like, man, that guy just went up there and gave up. Right. You see this with young kids more and more. So one of the things that increases over time, Is how many competitive of bats, you know, D one softball players have versus, you know, D three softball players or D three versus high school players, and then pro versus D one players.
So having lots and lots of competitive, highly focused at bats is one of the things that prevents you from being deep in a slump. So the thing is you’re always a hard hit ball away from being out of it. Right? And of course we know that just through the natural variants and, uh, you know, and random chance and luck, you’re gonna hit squeakers that fall in.
You’re going to hit missiles. They get caught, but on the whole, if you hit the ball hard, it’s gonna find, you know, the fielders are going to have less reaction time. And so. They’re going to fall, right? We know that when you hit a bunch of line drives, it’s just keep doing what you’re doing because you hit the ball hard.
The low, the limited reaction time of hitters, it’s going to the hits. The hits are going to be there. Right? We all know that, but as players, and this is back to the original point. When are you in a slump? Now another thing, going back to me as a player, I never considered this, this really, uh, this, this concept personally, because I never spent too much time dwelling on it.
I had a really rough season. I definitely had some really rough stretches, but my thing was, I knew when I was throwing the ball well, And just like my hitter counterparts. They knew when they were really swinging the bat well, where it was more about again. And I hate using this cliche term, the process rather than the outcome.
I knew that if I was throwing the ball well, unify was giving up runs and losing games. You know, I knew that yeah, what I was doing was right. And I knew that this was probably just a little bit of bad luck and maybe some hitters are starting to get to me. And I maybe need to change a little bit about my approach, but I knew what I was throwing the ball well, and when I wasn’t.
And so whether the results weren’t there, whether I was quote unquote in a slump, Didn’t matter as much as what I was going to do about it. And that’s what I think the bigger message here is it’s not super important for here to say, Oh, I’m over 12 now. Therefore I’m technically by the book in a slump, right.
I was over nine, but now I’m over 10. So now I’m officially in a slump that doesn’t matter. What does matter is when you analyze the fact that yeah, I’ve been kind of struggling recently. I haven’t had a lot of hits. The question is what do I do about it? Do I do something? Does something need to change? Or have I been swinging the bat pretty well?
And it’s got a little bit of lucky. Maybe we face a couple tough, a couple of tough pitchers and, and this is the other thing you can, and this is why good hitters who don’t give a bats away. They’re more insulated from slumps. When you give a couple of bats away and then you have your good at bats, you’re still going to have bad luck on your good at bats.
And when you give bets, give them, that’s a way you’re going to get nothing for those. Right. But hitters who never give a bats away, they’re giving themselves more chances to get lucky. Essentially, you put the ball in, play more. You’re going to get lucky more, or you put a good swing on it. You’re going to get lucky more and find a hole through both the hard hit ground balls and the weak ones, you know, the hard hit line drives and fly balls and the weak ones.
So having this singular mindset, which is all right, I’m going to go up there. I’m going to see one pitch. I’m gonna put one good swing on it. That’s what I can control. Whether I’m over eight or over 16 at this point or two for 24, or it doesn’t really matter. As long as I go out there and I see them pitch and I put my swing on it.
So I think it’s an important, it’s an issue. Interesting idea to consider when you consider yourself in a slump. But I don’t know that it’s really relevant. You know, what happened in the past doesn’t matter. And this is another quality of really good players on all sides of the, of the chalk line, whether you’re over 36 has no bearing on whether you put a good swing on this next pitch that’s coming in.
Right. So good hitters. Don’t let the stuff that’s already happened and, or their mind, and they don’t let the potential for future consequences. Good or bad. And, or their mind either they just try to stay level and put a good swing on this pitch right now, here in today. So. Ask yourself. If you know, you know, what a slump feels like, if you know what a slump looks like to you, it’s probably, at least I’d say if we want to quantify it, it’s probably at least 20 bats.
That’s a big enough sample size where we can say, okay, something’s going on. Maybe we do need to make some mechanical changes or some mindset changes. Like something needs to be fixed. And I would definitely not get. Upset if it’s something in the single digit of a bats or in just a couple innings as a pitcher, anything like that, that’s too small of a sample size where it’s really not clear that anything is anything bad has happened, where it could just be random chance and variance and luck accounting for the couple, you know, couple of hearted balls.
I didn’t go for hits and just some unlucky balances and all that sort of stuff. So slumping is a part of softball. The better you handle it, the better. Player you’ll be longterm, but you just want to try to smooth it out by having competitive bats, keeping your mind singularly focused on the present moment.
And then just trying to ride it out as best you can.
Our second topic today, should you lift the ball now? One thing I think that’s interesting about softball. That’s that’s different from baseball is that the field dimensions are the same from the youth level all the way up, right? The field, the fences don’t really extend back. And when you get to like high school or college, you know, they’re pretty much 200, two 20, maybe two 40 at most, all the way around from, you know, 10 you all the way up, which is, like I said, it’s very different from base one.
It’s an, it presents an interesting, um, Idea of how much hitters change over the year, compared over the years compared to the field itself, because in baseball, it sort of scales up, right? Fences are closer. As kids are younger, as kids get bigger, uh, the field gets bigger, but in softball, that’s not really the case, which is, which is interesting to consider.
So. With the 220 foot, if we take that as sort of the average of the 220 foot fence dimensions, you know, if you start to look at what it takes to get a ball out, it’s going to be somewhere around upper sixties, 70 miles per hour, or something like that, of exit velocity. And. So when we start to think of it that way, you know, if you can start to hit that off of a tee, then when I need to start considering, okay.
Do you have enough pop to be near the fence a lot, right. If you’re consistently hitting the ball in the sixties off of like BP or off competitive batting practice, if you’re hitting a 60 mile power line drives relatively consistently. It might be time for you to start lifting the ball on this is where I think the quantification of, you know, your skills starts to matter, right?
So obviously we like pitchers are, especially in softball are pretty good. They’ve been, you know, quantifying their revolutions, the revs for many years. And obviously velocity is easier to calculate than ever with things like pocket radar. And some of these, you know, radar technology is getting cheaper and better.
So, you know, we track it there and obviously tracking, um, you know, exit velocity is becoming more and more the norm as we, you know, use that data in showcases and such, but the implications of if you’re a big, strong hitter and, and this is again, going back to baseball. You’re not paid, you know, $20 million in the major leagues.
If you’re a three, four or five hitter to hit singles, they don’t want it. They don’t care. If you can hit a hundred, five mile per hour single up the middle, they want that a hundred, five mile per hour hit in the air because it leaves the ballpark. Right. So if you’re hitting in the sixties, those are going to get to the fence with a 20 to 30 degree launch angle.
And so. It’s it’s interesting and relevant to start to consider. Hey, if I can consistently hit balls in the 60 mile per hour, exit velocity range, should I maybe start to adjust my swing to start lifting it a little bit more? Because again, you don’t get extra credit for hitting the hardest ground ball through the hole ever.
No, it’s a single, whether it’s a one weekly hit ground ball through the hole, or a hard at ground ball through the hole. But you do get credit, obviously for lifting that ball over the shortstop’s head. And now it goes to the fence for a double and plates, two runs, right. Or a triple if it’s your fast and you hit to the right center.
Yeah. So for parents and for players, And you typically know who you are when you have, you know, a bigger frame and some strength than you can, and you can put some juice into the ball, but I think it’s a relevant question to ask yourself that if you can consistently hit the ball in the sixties as a high schooler, whether you start to lift it or not.
And start to turn some of those missile line drive singles into misaligned drive doubles, and then as you start to fill out and probably get encouraged and, and your confidence grows because you’re hitting more extra base hits, you know, do some of those start to leave the yard and you put a little more time in the weight room.
And now those, you know, low to mid sixties, um, hits off the bat, become, you know, upper, upper sixties into the seventies. And now they’re all even the ARD. So. I think this is an interesting concept. I hadn’t thought of this before. Um, and this was a, another, uh, insight from another coach that again, I mean the, the field constraints are the same and we have some pretty strong girls at the high school level, you know, with weight training, strengthening conditioning, being more prevalent than ever, which is great.
Um, that more girls are going to be at achieve that. Into this 60 mile per hour, exit exit Velo range, where it’s going to start to make sense, to getting some air, to get some air under the ball. So I hope this episode was thought provoking to kind of abstract concepts of when you should start to lift the ball and start to prioritize more extra base hits and power.
And also what does a slump mean to you? And when is a slump actually occurring? Right? Is it. Eight for bats, eight of bats, 12 of bat, 16 of baths, 20 bats. And of course, more importantly than that, how do you combat a slump and, you know, What should your mindset be? If you believe that you’ve found yourself in one.
So thanks for listening. I hope you have a great week and we’ll see you here next week on the good advice, softball podcast.
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