I think you see the great players in any sport, whether it's Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan, and you see the things that separate them from other athletes. Obviously, they have supreme physical talent, but I think it's their mental approach to the game.
Some of those guys have sports psychologists. I think the power of your mind is tremendous, because this game is based on failure. Hitters fail every game and yet, the ones who fail the least are glorified. For pitchers, it's the same way.
If you really look at it, pitchers don't win games – they just don't lose them. It's like a hockey goalie. He doesn't make the winning shot; he saves it. It gets overlooked. The pitcher doesn't win the game, unless he throws a shutout, and then the attention is on him.
That's the mental battle you fight as a pitcher; I know I'm going to fail. I just have to fail less than the other guy out there. I've seen a lot of players from high school to college to the minor leagues who had better talent than me. It was the mental rollercoaster of failing and having success that they just weren't able to control as much.
Look at a guy like Billy (Wagner). That's the extreme of it, but those closers are going out there every day into a close game, whether they did well the night before or not. They have to be able to flush their mind and start over again. That's the extreme, though. At least we (starting pitchers) have five days to flush it out.
Do you think that growing up around the game (Bannister's father, Floyd, was a pitcher in the Major Leagues from 1977-92) helped you understand the ups and downs of day-to-day life?
When people talk about my childhood and my experiences, the thing I pulled the most from the guys who are really successful were the guys who handle failure the best. That's what this game is about.
Everybody's going to fail, and it's who can overcome it and who's going to bounce back the next day and have a great game. As a pitcher, you have to make adjustments from pitch to pitch. If you wait too long, you're going to get beat.
It's the same way as a hitter. You can't let pitchers pitch to your weakness the whole year; you have to make that adjustment. That's what the game is all about. It's not physical – 'Can I hit a pitch?' It's mental – 'Can I make the adjustment to hit this pitch, even though it's not the way I prefer to hit?'
Going forth, what goals do you have for this year? Is it 'I just want to get adjusted,' or 'I want to win 'X' number of games…'?
The way that I've approached the role they've given to me, I don't set statistical goals. Look at a guy like Roger Clemens, who had a 1.87 ERA but the results didn't match up. And there were other guys who didn't pitch as well (as Clemens), but they had a lot more wins. That's what's funny about this game. Setting statistical goals is dangerous.
For me, the big one is giving six quality innings to this team every time out, averaged over the whole season. I think that would be the biggest success I could have. I want to pitch six good innings and keep my team in the lead.
That's a huge goal – that's what everybody's trying to do – but especially as a rookie, if I could give my team that faith and go out to save the bullpen, and keep our team in the game, regardless of the score, that would be an achievement.
I think that would be the biggest success I could have this year. That would result in wins and all the other peripherals, and with this team and this lineup, that's what they're relying on me for. That's why they put me here.
So you're a big believer in the quality start – six innings, three runs or less?
Absolutely. I know it's not a 'real' stat, but as a starting pitcher, it's the biggest thing you can do.
If there's a starting pitcher out there who did that every game, every year, he'd be the most desired starting pitcher in the game. You're looking at 15 or so wins, minimum, and with a team like this, that's a very realistic achievement.
A lot of a pitcher's success is determined by how many runs are scored for him – just look at Clemens last year as an example. For me, it's quality innings to keep my team in the lead. That's my goal for this year.