What happens when a pitcher loses his best pitch

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No matter the age, experience or past success, for lefties and righties alike, losing the feel of the baseball — especially on one’s best pitch — is maddening. It can happen at any time, in the bullpen before a game, in the first inning or even midway through a start. Fortunately, many times, pitchers find “it” again and can continue. It’s why you often see a hurler have one bad inning but look like Sandy Koufax before or afterward.

“There are times you wake up, feel great, go to the park, throw a pitch and it’s like you’ve never done this before,” Cubs starter Jon Lester said recently. “Other days, you feel like you couldn’t break a window pane and you go eight shutout. It’s the nature of baseball.”

Lester will take the mound against the Atlanta Braves on Monday night, crossing his fingers his famed cutter is there for him. Of course, his work between starts ensures a better chance of that happening, but a pitcher never really knows how he’ll feel until he gets out there. It can be hard for the layman to understand what that’s like, but there are several analogies that illustrate the sheer confusion a pitcher encounters when he loses that feel.

“You ever been lost during the day?” Lester asked. “You know where you want to go, you’re trying to find a place and you can’t find it. Then the next day, you have no problem. That’s what it feels like.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Of course, we have to imagine that scenario in a pre-GPS world, since the moment we’re not sure where we’re going, there’s always a device to show us the way. Fellow lefty Cole Hamels — who incidentally said he has never lost the feel for his change-up — broke it down in the simplest of terms.8

“You wake up feeling different every day, right?” he said. “Same with baseball. It’s different every day. A lot of it is exactly that: How you feel that day. How strong you feel, how tired you are.”

The best and most relatable analogy is golf. Just as easily as you can lose your swing, you can find it again. That could be within the same round, or maybe it takes a few times out on the course to click in again. We know it happens, we just don’t always know why or when it will occur. Same with pitching. One important aspect, said another Cubs starter, is to expect it and not panic. That’s the whole key to getting it back.

“It’s weird, but we’ve gone through that a lot, so it doesn’t feel that strange, if that makes sense,” righty Kyle Hendricks said. “You just can’t expect to always have it, because it’s never been that way.

“The better your mental approach and sustaining that, it’ll keep your stuff more consistent. When you get out of it mentally, it’ll snowball on you, big time.”

Emphasizing the randomness of it all, Lester was asked which was more likely to happen: starting the game without the feel for a pitch or losing it once he’s gotten going.

“Either or,” he responded. “I’ve started games without a feel for a pitch, then found it, and other times, it feels great and you try to make it even better and you lose it. More so, that applies to the curveball for me. It’s 0-2, you try to bury one and you throw it 52 feet and you’re like, ‘Whoa, where did that come from,’ and now you may have lost it a little bit.”