Does Prep Work Change for the World Series?

The final moments of preparation are underway as the Dodgers and Astros get ready for tonight’s Game 1 of the World Series. On the one hand, it represents baseball’s biggest stage. For the players, however, it’s also the game they’ve been playing forever. When it comes to getting ready, do they prepare like usual? Or is it a contest that requires greater planning than any other?

We went to the players (and a coach) to ask if their routines had been altered at all and if they’d been poring over the data before tonight’s game.


Dave Hudgens, Astros Hitting Coach: “I was thinking about that earlier in the day, and I was thinking, ‘I want to do the same thing everyday as I do for this game.’ That’s what I try to do. You don’t want to do anything different. Okay, now it’s important so I’m going to do more? I’m going to do the same thing, these guys are doing their same routine, going about their jobs the same way.

“Everyone knows how important it is. Our guys have worked really hard to get to this point. They’ve been doing the right thing, just keep doing the same kind of preparation. Our guys’ preparation work is elite. Everybody watches video, everyone looks at how they’re being pitched personally, and maybe how they’re pitching guys that are similar to them. They’re all doing their homework and then they’ve got us giving them information that we want to get across to them, too.”

Logan Forsythe, Dodgers infielder: “The prep work — when it comes to swings in the cage and things of that nature — no, there’s not a ton more. It’s about finding your feel as a hitter, getting your work in. The work that is more in the postseason is the video, the scouting. It’s been two or three days, and you’re trying to figure out ‘what’s the plan I’m taking to the plate for this guy, what plan for the next guy. When tomorrow hits, this is my approach, this is what I’m doing today.’ If I stick with it and have success, and everyone can do that, we’ll take Game 1.”

Justin Verlander, Astros starter: “I’m going to try to prepare physically as best I can. As a pitcher, you always want to go with your strengths and trust your instincts when you’re out there. There’s a lot of data out there. We know their strengths and weaknesses, they know mine, it’s just a game of feel at that point.

“That’s why I think it comes in handy being a veteran and having more information to rely on with your instincts. When I first got to the big leagues, we didn’t have video right away. You had to go back and look at video after the game. It wasn’t instant feedback. I think it’s been good for the game in some aspects, and I think it’s been bad in some aspects. It’s definitely here; it’s not going anywhere. I think you’d be naive not to use it.

“Routine is one thing that can help alleviate [the adrenaline], more so before the game. In the afternoon, you’re going about your business, you’ve got your routine and you’re set in your ways… Everything is laid out, what you’re going to be doing. The second you take the mound, before that first pitch, is probably the most intense you can possibly experience. Once you make that first pitch, it all just kind of goes away. You’re still hyperfocused, but now you’re playing the same game you’ve ever played.”

Josh Reddick, Astros outfielder: “I keep the routine the same. I don’t want to do much more or much less than I’ve already been doing all year. You have to treat it as the same game. Just sticking to what I’ve been doing all year will be in the best interest for me, because it’ll get my mindset into what I’ve been doing all year.”

Joe Musgrove, Astros reliever: “I’ve tried to stay as normal as possible. I haven’t thrown as much in the postseason, so I’ve had more time to prep and stuff, but I’ve tried to keep my program the same as it was at the end of the season. I had a lot of success at the end of the season, and I’m just trying to keep it going.”

Rich Hill, Dodgers starting pitcher: “You draw upon all your experiences, and you draw upon what you’ve faced in your entire life, and it comes to play in these moments. Someone told me you don’t rise to the occasion, the occasion rises to you, because of the preparation you’ve done over the course of your life and your career.

“The adrenaline is going to take you where you need to go. You want to go out there and give everything you’ve got with the time that you have… In that time, your effort level should be at its maximum height. And understand that adrenaline is going to creep and give you more of a boost. Understanding how to control that is something you can draw upon in your past experiences and sequences in past years.

“My game plan isn’t going to change much from what I’ve been doing all year. You don’t get to a moment like this and all of a sudden say, ‘I’m going to do something completely different.’ When you get to a moment like this, you stick to what has made you successful and you attack, attack, attack.

“You don’t want to be too subdued, you don’t want to be overamped. [It’s about] finding that perfect balance where you need to be in the moment that is about to happen. That’s what comes into play from the front office, from the coaching staff, in allowing everyone to have those creative freedoms to be themselves.

“For myself, it’s drawing upon those experiences from years past and understanding that these moments that we are about to have are going to be extremely exciting and enjoyable and really understand what that means, to be in these moments. I’ve heard over this entire postseason process, multiple front-office executives, players, coaches, whoever it might be, reflect on their time in the postseason and wish they had enjoyed it more. I understand what they’re saying, because every single day, it’s a huge blessing to be in this moment, this opportunity with everybody every single day. Really, just take it in and remember that there’s work to be done.”

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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4 years ago

I’m not a Dodgers fan, but I cannot stop wanting Rich Hill to succeed. He gets it.