Williams: Walking and Chewing Gum

I take two different approaches with my roles as a writer on this site and the Editor in Chief on this site.

Obviously writing and editing are two different things. For me, they require two different mindsets. As I’ve transitioned Pirates Prospects into a weekly format, I’ve been experimenting with something that has been difficult for me over the years: Writing and Editing. On the same day.

I’m always writing in my head. Inside my writer brain rests a miniature version of me, suspended in the middle of my brain. This miniature version looks like the sports writer John Mayer wearing a Spider-Man mask, webbing every direction of my database brain to get everything I need for the idea that just sent me inside my head. With everything combining in my mind, I start to get a clearer picture of what I want to write about, and first, what I need to research.

From there, the actual writing begins. When I’m ready — whether right away, or a few days later — I’ll sit down and empty my head of the topic I’ve researched so much. I start writing almost like a freestyle rapper. I’m unloading lines, some of which were rehearsed earlier, and some which are just thoughts coming live in the moment. That includes this article you’re reading, which fully came together in the process of editing several other articles for this week’s article drop.

The articles that get the best reviews are often the ones that took me barely any time to write, but which I thought about constantly in my head. The ones where I take a more standard writing approach that they teach in school are usually my worst articles. Ultimately, it’s a comfort thing. This writing style is my comfort zone. It’s what I’ve been doing for 15 years, since before Pirates Prospects was even a thing. It’s obviously worked for me to a certain extent, leading to 13 years of this site as my job, plus a few external offers, including the one that I took in 2019 as Baseball America’s Pirates’ correspondent.

Despite the success, there are some holes in my swing, if you will.

For most of the history of this site, I was just freestyling. I didn’t sit down in the studio to mix everything together to make a song. I didn’t do much editing. It’s hard to find time to focus on that aspect when you’re focused on writing non-stop everyday. I had years of practice writing, and very little time to edit.

Over the last few years, I’ve been working more on the editing aspect of this job. I’ve been very fortunate to have an awesome editor at Baseball America in Matt Eddy. He’s given me some tips, and adjusted my articles in ways that I’ve been able to use on this site to be a better writer. I also had a conversation with my buddy Nubyjas Wilborn, who gave me some great advice on his years of working with editors: There are editors who make your work better, editors who make you a better writer, and the best ones are those who can do both.

I want to be the best editor I can be on this site. I’ve worked to improve my skill in that area, using the same “Grit” approach that I used to improve my writing skills.

My only issue? I can take a “Grit” approach with only one thing at a time. I usually write and edit on different days, because of the different mindset I take to do each thing.

While my writing mind is wild, creative, and exponentially thinking, my editing mind is more direct, focused, and linear. In the editing mindset, I’m thinking from the perspective of you guys, reading the article. Are you clearly getting the message that I’m trying to pull together, or that other writers on this site are trying to tell?

With this weekly article drop approach on Pirates Prospects, I’ve been practicing every Monday with the attempt of writing and editing on the same day. I feel like I’ve gotten better at that, now six weeks into this weekly experiment. Still, I have an issue with writing this article, then turning right around and switching on editing mode. There were about five hours in between each.

*****

I was watching video of Sammy Siani on Monday afternoon, during one of my editing blocks while working on Anthony Murphy’s latest video breakdown. In one video, Siani got to a deep 3-2 count, before striking out looking.

A thought hit my mind. “Spider-Mayer” started doing his thing, and I started pulling countless conversations I’ve had with players over the years, while studying Siani laying off close pitches until he laid off one pitch that ended his at-bat.

Patience At The Plate Unlocks the Rest Of Sammy Siani’s Skillset

There’s a shift in mindset that the best hitters will implement in the middle of an at-bat. When they’re in a hitter friendly count, they’re going to be more aggressive, and might aim for more power. When they reach that pitcher friendly count, they take the classic approach of choking up on the bat, shortening their swing, expanding the zone to protect the edges, and just attempting to get on base.

In a way, the hitter-friendly count approach is the natural approach. Like me with writing, this is just what a hitter does naturally. There may be holes in the swing, but the best results will usually come from this swing.

When the pitcher-friendly count comes up, the hitter has to change his approach. This new approach is more direct, but also something that isn’t as natural for the hitter, unless he has years of practice with being comfortable with that approach.

Some players can’t make that switch in the middle of an at-bat. Some players use the same approach the entire at-bat. That can lead to things like Siani hitting an 0-2 home run, or watching a called strike three. This is a very common thing with younger players, and it typically leads to the three-outcome approach that is becoming so prevalent throughout the game lately.

Switching your mindset, mid at-bat, is a difficult thing to do. You have to essentially learn a second version of your swing and approach at the plate, and then learn exactly when the appropriate time is to switch. That last part can be simple in baseball, since it’s all based on a count. However, it’s not easy to just focus your mind from one approach to another in the span of seconds. That’s an approach that requires you understand how your mind works, and how to control it on command. That’s not always something that many 18-22 year olds master.

One of the biggest things I’ve been working on in the last year has been that switch. Understanding how I can get my head in writer mode on command, while understanding when to switch to editor mode, and how to get outside of my database mind and leave Spider-Man rocking out to a blues guitar until I get back.

Ideally, one approach would cover both.

That sounds simple, but you first need an understanding of how to do both individually, then concurrently, before finding a way to do both from a singular approach.

I think the same applies for baseball hitters. They have their natural approach, and it doesn’t always work in both hitter and pitcher counts. If it doesn’t work in pitcher counts, they need to develop an approach that will work. Otherwise, they probably won’t make it out of A-ball.

When they’ve learned an approach for pitcher counts, they need to master when in the at-bat to implement that approach, which requires instantly shifting their mindset. That probably is the biggest result of a lot of players fading out in the upper levels.

The Major League hitters are the ones who can switch their mindset instantly, on a consistent basis. The best ones are the ones who don’t need to switch mindsets, because their overall approach covers hitter and pitcher friendly counts.

At least, that’s my theory, based on my understanding of my own complex mind, my years of conversations with three-true-outcome prospects and their coaches, and my belief that we all deal with the some level of the same brain-based struggles across different professions.

THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS

What Is Different About This Top Rated Pirates Farm System?

The Pirates Build: The Amateur Scouting Department

Demographics of the Pirates’ Prospects Over the Years — Positions

Williams: Walking and Chewing Gum

Carter Bins Has a Whole New Swing/Approach

Colin Selby Continues to Show Improvements After Recovering from Tommy John Surgery

Patience At The Plate Unlocks the Rest Of Sammy Siani’s Skillset

PROSPECT WATCH

DAILY VIDEO RUNDOWN

PIRATES DISCUSSION

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