September 23, 2015
LAFAYETTE, La. — One of the greatest pitching coaches in the game is Tony Robichaux, head baseball coach at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.
Under this marvelous teacher (1,037-669-1 record in 29 seasons as a college head coach) his pitching staffs have finished first or second in the Sun Belt Conference 13 of the past 16 years in fewest walks per game.
In addition, his staffs have led the Sun Belt Conference in lowest ERA 11 of the last 16 seasons.
Another amazing stat is that seven former players are now NCAA Division I coaches.
Entering last season, he faced a massive rebuilding job with his pitching staff as his Friday, Saturday and Sunday starters were all true freshmen. If that wasn’t enough, his closer was a true freshman as well. They struggled through the first half of the season and then were outstanding the rest of the way.
His pitching system is all encompassing. Every fall pitchers spend 20-25 hours in the classroom learning how to get batters out, how to manage games when everything is hitting the fan and how to develop 10 different pitches which destroy the timing of hitters.
“When pitchers first come in our program, we don’t worry too much about mechanics,” said Robichaux.
“First, we want to work on them mentally. We believe that the muscle in between the ears is the most important in the pitching system.
“Our pitchers and catchers spend 20-25 hours in the classroom with us, and pitchers don’t shag balls in the outfield in practice during the fall. They are in the classroom. We not only want to recruit high end pitchers. But once they get in school, they must learn the art and science of pitching. It is absolutely vital.
“Our pitchers can’t throw all the time because of the potential of sore arms. But they can keep working mentally in the classroom when they are not throwing physically.”
Robichaux was asked what topics are covered in his pitching classes.
“One big thing we cover is how to manage a baseball game. All great pitchers are able to manage games when things go south. If you watch a baseball game, two things typically happen. One team scores more runs in one inning than the other team has scored throughout the ball game. The second thing is that the winning team has put together 3 or more runs in one inning.
“We break the game down into three mini games. Innings 1-3 is game one, innings 4-6 is game two and innings 7-9 is game three. You have to win two out of three of those games. If you do, most of the time you will win. That is where game management comes in. For instance, if a batter hits a leadoff triple against one of our pitchers, we’d love to stop him from scoring, but the odds are with no outs, he will get in.
“So instead of trying to stop him from scoring, we will trade the run for an out in that situation to clear the bases. Then we stay away from the 3-run inning. Our whole teach is to stay away from the 3-run inning. If we can do that, then our team will be in the ball game.
“How many times have you seen pitchers give up a triple and then try to stop the runner from scoring as he presses? Before you know it, he has loaded the bases with no outs. That leads to the 3-run inning. Once we trade the run for the out with the bases now clear, we move on from there.”
Robichaux said another chapter his pitchers work on in class is how a hitter hits.
“We reverse teach. We want them to understand how a hitter hits mechanically and mentally. I tell our pitchers all the time that if a guy is going to hunt deer, he studies the habits of a deer. If he goes duck hunting, he studies the habits of ducks as well. It should be no different when we hunt hitters.”
To read more of this in-depth article on Tony Robichaux’s incredible pitching system, purchase the Oct. 2, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.
Coach Robichaux delves into why it is vital to teach pitchers how hitters hit, the value of linear path pitches that Greg Maddux exploited during his Hall of Fame career, the process of calling games, studying hitters, why the colored plate with lanes is a vital tool, what great pitchers do, why every pitcher should develop 10 different pitches, utilizing string strike zones, plastic batters, formulating a velocity improvement plan, competitive bullpens, long distance running, charting pitches and more.