McGuire Learning To Control His Emotions

MANCHESTER, NH - After sixteen starts in 2012 for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, it is safe to say that Deck McGuire has not lived up to the expectations of a first round draft pick. His coaches say that he knows it, and that knowledge that he carries has often crept into his psyche when trying to bounce back from bad innings.

While McGuire's tendency to get emotional on the mound has hindered him thus far, it is only a part of the problem. At the center of McGuire's pile of troubles, now nine losses deep, is the failure to keep his fastball down in the strike zone.

"His command of the fastball has got to get better," New Hampshire pitching coach Tom Signore said before McGuire's start on Wednesday. "And it's not east and west. It's not just on the side. It's up and down. He needs to pitch down in the strike zone, and right now he's not pitching down enough."

McGuire's inability to throw low in the zone is primarily due to his inconsistency in his delivery after the ball leaves his glove. After that, his movement tends to alter from pitch to pitch.

"He's not been consistent even in his side work," Signore added.

McGuire said the issue has a lot to do with the urge to force his fastballs. It's easy to say you're going to stick with a game plan before you take the mound, but McGuire said he often can't resist improvising mid-windup.

He tries to put a little extra pepper on his fastball, and this leaves many pitches hanging high in the zone, prime for crushing if the hitter can see it coming.

"I know everybody wants to light up the radar gun, and that's obviously not the most important fact," McGuire said. "When you get to this level, guys hit 98 like they hit 88. If it's located, you're gonna be alright, and if its not, you're gonna be in trouble."

Many times, McGuire has fallen in the latter category.

"When I try to throw too hard, the ball goes up [in the zone], I miss when I don't want to, and like I said, in this league, they don't miss those pitches. It doesn't matter whether it's 98 or 88."

Last year in Dunedin, McGuire went 7-4 with a 2.75 ERA. He looked and felt dominant. At that point in his career, he said he felt like his pitches were on location 100 percent of the time.

In what is expected to be his first complete season in Double-A, McGuire has far less confidence in his pitches than he did a year ago. The result has been a 3-9 record through 16 starts. Hitters have tagged him for 56 earned runs, 12 home runs and a 6.27 ERA.

"If you asked me [how often I felt my pitches were on location] earlier in the year," McGuire said, "I'd probably say anywhere from 50 to 75 percent."

McGuire has found a bit of confidence in his last five or six starts, however. Lately, he said, he feels that roughly 90 percent of his pitches are on target. Though that is a huge jump in confidence, he said he knows it's not enough to win ballgames.

"When you throw 100 pitches, that's ten pitches that don't go where you want, and that's not necessarily a good thing," McGuire said. "That's kind of a high percentage of pitches that don't go where you want so."

That's especially high considering the jump from high-A to Double-A, where hitters are a lot more competent, some capable of making the jump to the big leagues at any time. Spending this much time in Double-A makes McGuire understand that he may have had more misses in Dunedin than he realized.

McGuire cited his last start prior to Wednesday's game, against Harrisburg, as an example of how small the margin of error is at this level. That night, he gave up five hits and walked three batters, but he could have escaped with limited damage if it weren't for two missed pitches, both slapped over the Northeast Delta Dental Stadium wall.

"I made two bad pitches, turned into two runs," McGuire said. "I gave up two solo homers, and it allowed them to take the lead both times, so it's just kind of been eliminating mistakes."

McGuire said that his tendency to force his fastball is "all heat of the moment." Even last year in Dunedin, McGuire was known for getting emotional on the mound and acting in the moment.

Sean Ochinko, Fisher Cats catcher who caught McGuire back in Dunedin, said he's seen enough of McGuire to know that he has always habitually walked long distances around the mound between pitches, either pumping himself up or fuming over a bad pitch. He's got a lot of energy and excitement, for good and bad alike.

"He's always been like that," Ochinko said. "It's one of those things that, as time goes on, and he pitches more and more, he'll slowly learn how to harness that type of energy."

In 2012, however, it has often gotten in the way. New Hampshire manager Sal Fasano said that McGuire needs to learn how to control his emotions on the mound.

"He can be [emotional] at times," Fasano said, "and that's something that needs to change. So, once he can control his emotions, he'll have a lot more success."

Fasano did admit that McGuire has gained a lot of ground in the fight to keep his emotions in check lately.

"Oh, compared to the beginning of the year, yeah, I think he has [improved in this area]," Fasano said.

"Yeah, he's much better about controlling his emotions, he's been actually very good in that area," Signore added. "He's frustrated, I know. I think he feels the burden of being a first round pick, and he doesn't feel that he's quite living up to expectations, which I'm glad he feels that way, because if he felt he was living up to expectations, I'd be worried."

On the positive side, McGuire seems genuinely confident that he is learning. This is his first season of adversity in professional baseball.

What he and his coaches are waiting for is the moment where he takes what he's learned about himself - the forcing, the inconsistent delivery - and puts it into effect. They just want to see him put a notch in the win column and hopefully salvage his season in the second half.


Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nWhile McGuire's tendency to get emotional on the mound has hindered him thus far, it is only a part of the problem. At the center of McGuire's pile of troubles, now nine losses deep, is the failure to keep his fastball down in the strike zone.
\r\n
\r\n\"His command of the fastball has got to get better,\" New Hampshire pitching coach Tom Signore said before McGuire's start on Wednesday. \"And it's not east and west. It's not just on the side. It's up and down. He needs to pitch down in the strike zone, and right now he's not pitching down enough.\"
\r\n
\r\nMcGuire's inability to throw low in the zone is primarily due to his inconsistency in his delivery after the ball leaves his glove. After that, his movement tends to alter from pitch to pitch.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's not been consistent even in his side work,\" Signore added.
\r\n
\r\nMcGuire said the issue has a lot to do with the urge to force his fastballs. It's easy to say you're going to stick with a game plan before you take the mound, but McGuire said he often can't resist improvising mid-windup.
\r\n
\r\nHe tries to put a little extra pepper on his fastball, and this leaves many pitches hanging high in the zone, prime for crushing if the hitter can see it coming.
\r\n
\r\n\"I know everybody wants to light up the radar gun, and that's obviously not the most important fact,\" McGuire said. \"When you get to this level, guys hit 98 like they hit 88. If it's located, you're gonna be alright, and if its not, you're gonna be in trouble.\"
\r\n
\r\nMany times, McGuire has fallen in the latter category.
\r\n
\r\n\"When I try to throw too hard, the ball goes up [in the zone], I miss when I don't want to, and like I said, in this league, they don't miss those pitches. It doesn't matter whether it's 98 or 88.\"
\r\n
\r\nLast year in Dunedin, McGuire went 7-4 with a 2.75 ERA. He looked and felt dominant. At that point in his career, he said he felt like his pitches were on location 100 percent of the time.
\r\n
\r\nIn what is expected to be his first complete season in Double-A, McGuire has far less confidence in his pitches than he did a year ago. The result has been a 3-9 record through 16 starts. Hitters have tagged him for 56 earned runs, 12 home runs and a 6.27 ERA.
\r\n
\r\n\"If you asked me [how often I felt my pitches were on location] earlier in the year,\" McGuire said, \"I'd probably say anywhere from 50 to 75 percent.\"
\r\n
\r\nMcGuire has found a bit of confidence in his last five or six starts, however. Lately, he said, he feels that roughly 90 percent of his pitches are on target. Though that is a huge jump in confidence, he said he knows it's not enough to win ballgames.
\r\n
\r\n\"When you throw 100 pitches, that's ten pitches that don't go where you want, and that's not necessarily a good thing,\" McGuire said. \"That's kind of a high percentage of pitches that don't go where you want so.\"
\r\n
\r\nThat's especially high considering the jump from high-A to Double-A, where hitters are a lot more competent, some capable of making the jump to the big leagues at any time. Spending this much time in Double-A makes McGuire understand that he may have had more misses in Dunedin than he realized.
\r\n
\r\nMcGuire cited his last start prior to Wednesday's game, against Harrisburg, as an example of how small the margin of error is at this level. That night, he gave up five hits and walked three batters, but he could have escaped with limited damage if it weren't for two missed pitches, both slapped over the Northeast Delta Dental Stadium wall.
\r\n
\r\n\"I made two bad pitches, turned into two runs,\" McGuire said. \"I gave up two solo homers, and it allowed them to take the lead both times, so it's just kind of been eliminating mistakes.\"
\r\n
\r\nMcGuire said that his tendency to force his fastball is \"all heat of the moment.\" Even last year in Dunedin, McGuire was known for getting emotional on the mound and acting in the moment.
\r\n
\r\nSean Ochinko, Fisher Cats catcher who caught McGuire back in Dunedin, said he's seen enough of McGuire to know that he has always habitually walked long distances around the mound between pitches, either pumping himself up or fuming over a bad pitch. He's got a lot of energy and excitement, for good and bad alike.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's always been like that,\" Ochinko said. \"It's one of those things that, as time goes on, and he pitches more and more, he'll slowly learn how to harness that type of energy.\"
\r\n
\r\nIn 2012, however, it has often gotten in the way. New Hampshire manager Sal Fasano said that McGuire needs to learn how to control his emotions on the mound.
\r\n
\r\n\"He can be [emotional] at times,\" Fasano said, \"and that's something that needs to change. So, once he can control his emotions, he'll have a lot more success.\"
\r\n
\r\nFasano did admit that McGuire has gained a lot of ground in the fight to keep his emotions in check lately.
\r\n
\r\n\"Oh, compared to the beginning of the year, yeah, I think he has [improved in this area],\" Fasano said.
\r\n
\r\n\"Yeah, he's much better about controlling his emotions, he's been actually very good in that area,\" Signore added. \"He's frustrated, I know. I think he feels the burden of being a first round pick, and he doesn't feel that he's quite living up to expectations, which I'm glad he feels that way, because if he felt he was living up to expectations, I'd be worried.\"
\r\n
\r\nOn the positive side, McGuire seems genuinely confident that he is learning. This is his first season of adversity in professional baseball.
\r\n
\r\nWhat he and his coaches are waiting for is the moment where he takes what he's learned about himself - the forcing, the inconsistent delivery - and puts it into effect. They just want to see him put a notch in the win column and hopefully salvage his season in the second half.
\r\n
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