Corbin Burnes burst onto the Major League Baseball scene in 2018 when he went 7-0 with a 2.61 ERA helping the Milwaukee Brewers to a NL Central league championship and a game 7 in the NLCS vs the LA Dodgers.
2019 was not as kind to the right handed pitcher. Corbin started the season in the starting rotation for the Brewers and ended the year with a 1-5 record and 8.82 ERA, one of the worst ERA’s for any starting pitcher in the game. After being sent down to the minor leagues and back to the bullpen, the Brewers eventually sent Corbin to their pitching lab in Arizona.
While visiting the lab at the Brewers spring training complex in Arizona, I met with Corbin at my house for the first time. We went to work on refining his mental game and routines both on and off the field.
After a successful shortened season in 2020 where he was 6th in the NL Cy Young voting, 2021 brought even more success. Corbin set a MLB record for starting pitchers by recording 49K’s (and counting) before issuing his first walk, besting the previous record of 36.
When you combine the 2020 and 2021 seasons, he is 3rd in the MLB in wins above replacement (WAR) at 3.7, which is only slightly behind Cy Young Award winners Shane Bieber (4.4) and Jacob deGrom (4.3).
You could say that the turnaround has been completed, yet Corbin would tell you the turnaround is always under construction and that there’s no finish line in the race he is running.
In this podcast, Corbin and I talk about the mental performance skills he works to develop to give him the best chance for success on the mound including:
- What he uses most from The 30 Days to MPM for Athletes Program and why he looks at it every day
- His Daily Routines on and off the field including his AM and PM Routine
- What he tracks with his Daily Success Checklist
- Why he reads The Daily Stoic, The Mental ABCs of Pitching and specifically the chapter on execution
- Why he calls Dr. Rob Gilbert and Success Hotline as a part of his daily drive
- What he learned from UFC Champion Georges St-Pierre about self-control, Signal Lights and Mental Bricks
- How he uses the Calm meditation app, as a part of his recovery protocol
- How and when he uses mental imagery, visualization and his mind movie
- How and why he uses concentration grids as a part of his mental performance training program
- Why and how he does weekly shadow bullpens to increase preparation and confidence
- What he does for a well, better, how post pitching performance analysis to keep him focused on the process
- The details of his 120 hour routine between starts
- His pre-inning, pre-batter, pre-pitch routines
- What he does between innings in the dugout
- How his understanding and commitment to process has evolved over his career
- How he manages the pressure, stress and expectations that come with being a front line starter in the Major Leagues
- What he has learned in his career that he wishes he knew when he was an amateur player in high school and college
- What he loves about golf and how he uses golf as a training ground for his mental game
- What he uses most from The 30 Days to MPM for Athletes Program and why he looks at it every day
- And much much more…
If you want to develop a mental game training program similar to what Corbin Burnes is working with, go to BrianCain.com/baseball for my FREE baseball masterclass to get started.
If you enjoyed this episode of The Brian Cain Mental Performance Podcast, please leave us a review and be sure to visit BrianCain.com/blog for more episodes with top coaches and athletes who are seeing results from their work on the mental game.
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Corbin Burnes Podcast Transcription
It’s not every day you get the opportunity to learn from someone who is the very best in the world at the time that they are the very best in the world.
This is Brian Cain, your Mental Performance Mastery coach and the host of The Mental Performance Mastery podcast, creator of The Mental Performance Mastery Coaching Certification and the 30-day Athlete’s Course.
Today I am thrilled to bring you a podcast with Corbin Burnes.
Corbin is a baseball pitcher with the Milwaukee Brewers. He first burst onto the scene in 2018 where he went 7-0 with a 2.6 ERA out of the bullpen to help the Brewers clinch an NL Central Championship and then they went on to play in game 7 of the NLCS where they lost to the Dodgers, who went on to the World Series.
Now, 2019 was not as kind for the Brewers right-handed pitcher. Corbin started that season in a starting rotation for the Brewers and he ended the year with a 1-5 record and 8.82 ERA, which statistically was one of the worst ERAs for any starting pitcher in the game.
After being sent down to the minor leagues and back to the bullpen, the Brewers eventually sent Corbin to their Spring Training complex in Arizona to go to the pitching lab to work on his craft, to work on his mechanics of pitching.
While visiting “The Lab” in Arizona, which is not so far from my house where I live out there, Corbin’s agent asked if I would be willing to meet with him and, obviously, would love to. I met with Corbin at my house for the first time around August, September of 2019 and we kind of went to work on refining and retooling some of the basic approaches to his mental game, his routines both on and off the field.
And after a successful shortened season in 2020, his first year back where he finished 6th in the NL Cy Young Award voting given to the best pitcher in baseball, 2021 has brought Corbin even more success.
Corbin set a major league baseball record, all time, for starting pitchers by recording 36 strikeouts before issuing his first walk. You see, that record was at 36 and at the time of this podcast, recording here in early May 2021, Corbin is at 49 strikeouts and he hasn’t even walked a batter yet to start the season here in 2021.
He’s one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball.
If you go to my social media (twitter: @BrianCainPeak) you’re going to hear and see clips from the MLB Network, from ESPN where announcers and analysts like John Smoltz, who’s a Hall Of Fame pitcher, and Pedro Martinez are saying that Corbin’s the best pitcher in the game.
And if we look at his 2020 and ‘21 seasons combined, he actually is one of the best pitchers in the game statistically where he’s third in Major League Baseball in a stat called WAR (Wins Above Replacement), just behind CY Young Award winners Shane Bieber and Jacob deGrom .
Now, you could say that the turnaround has been completed but Corbin would tell you that the turnaround is always under construction. That there is no finish line in the race that he’s running. And to go from where he was with the setback in 2019 set him up for a comeback coming back here in 2020, in 2021.
In this podcast Corbin and I talked about the mental performance skills he works to develop to give him the best chance for success on the mound including: what he uses from the 30-Day Athlete’s Program, his daily routines on and off the field, how he uses a daily success checklist, why he reads the Daily Stoic and calls Success Hotline, what do you learn from reading Georges St. Pierre’s book The Way of the Fight, how and why he’s a reader of Philosophers Notes, how he uses meditation, mental imagery, and visualization.
He talks about the importance of watching a positive video of yourself and the mind movie that he’s created of his own personal highlights.
He talks about using concentration grids, shadow bullpens, why he reads Harvey Dorfman’s book The Mental ABC’s of Pitching and why he reads the chapter on Execution two times between every start, how he uses the Well, Better, How process as an evaluation tool after a start and what his 120 hours look like between starts.
He also goes into his pre-inning routine, his pre-batter routine, and his pre-pitch routine as well as what he does in the dugout between innings.
Corbin talks about his understanding and commitment to process and how that’s evolved over his career. He talks about how he manages the pressure, stress and expectations that come with being a frontline starter in the major leagues and what he’s learned over the course of his career that he wishes he knew back when he was in high school or when he was in college.
So in this podcast (whether you’re a pitcher, a pitching coach, in baseball or not, whether you’re a mental performance coach or just someone who’s looking to level up and optimize all aspects of their life) you can hear from someone who’s one of the very best, if not the very best, in the world at what he does, while he’s doing it, talking about the mental game skills and tools that he uses to help him get the results he’s looking for on the field.
Super humbled and excited that Corbin would take time out of his preparation schedule to sit down and talk with us about his mental game and the things that he uses. I’m super excited for the opportunity to have you here and learn from him.
You also have the opportunity to go through a similar program, just head over to BrianCain.com/baseball. Check out my FREE 60-minute masterclass on the Mental Game of Baseball.
Also, if you go to BrianCain.com/athlete, you can check out my 30 Day MPM For Athletes Course, this exact course that Corbin went through and continues to go through to help him sharpen his biggest weapon on the mound – his mental game.
Let’s get right to it. Here’s Corbin Burnes, MLB record setting pitcher with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Brian Cain: Hey, how are you doing? Brian Cain, the host of The Brian Cain Mental Performance Mastery podcast. I’m super excited today to bring to you one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball – the Milwaukee Brewers, Corbin Burnes.
Corbin, thanks for joining us here on the podcast.
Corbin Burnes: Awesome. It’s good to get out here and talk. Brian and I have worked together for almost two years now so it’s a pretty good working relationship and something that we’re continuing to grow.
Brian Cain: [00:00:29] I’m excited to have you come on and talk about some of the things that you do from a mental performance standpoint that I think the high school coaches, high school players, and other… people in baseball that are getting the chance to listen to this podcast.
It’s not everyday that they get to hear from somebody who’s doing it at the highest level.
And when we say highest level… right now, Corbin, you are in the middle of a historic run to start the 2021 season. I mean, you set a major league record as a starting pitcher. The record was 36 strikeouts to start a season as a starting pitcher without a walk. You’ve pushed that number to 49 right now, still, with zero walk.
So you’re in the middle of a historic run.
And I think it’s exciting to see you go through this run because I know the amount of work that you’ve put into this physically, mentally,… the whole thing and how you came back from 2019, which was kind of a struggle for you.
So why don’t we go back.
You obviously burst on the scene in 2018. 7-0 with a 2.6 ERA, helping the Brewers go all the way to the NLCS Championship game, eventually losing to the Dodgers in game 7. And then 2019, they take you from the bullpen and make you a starter. Doesn’t quite go as you have planned.
[00:01:38] Maybe let’s go back to 2019… maybe go back to kind of your introduction to the mental game and why was that such a pivotal point for you.
Corbin Burnes: So, I come out 2018. I was kind of on the ultimate high of highs, debut pitching the post-season. It had been a game away from the World Series. Then coming into ’19, it was like hey, you’re in the rotation kind of full time, go ahead and go for it.
And I just wasn’t really prepared. I was able to do a short stint out of the bullpen but when it came to starting, I just didn’t have the process and the routine put in place to start every five days. I kind of got kicked in the face, bouncing the damage between the big leagues and the Triple-A and also the rotational bullpen.
So kind of up and down, back and forth the whole year and just led to very bad results and put us in a really bad spot.
It got to the point that the Brewers kind of said hey, let’s take you away from the game. Let’s send you back to Arizona, get you in the pitching lab, just kind of decompress, and get away from the game.
And that’s when I started working with you. That’s when we first kind of connected and first kind of started to put everything together and we kind of built everything since then.
Brian Cain: So we kind of came together at a point in your career where we say like maybe hitting rock bottom, right?
Rock bottom is relative to the individual. But I always say rock bottom is a great place to build a foundation.
And previous to that point in 2019 you played division in college baseball. You had years of pro baseball experience. [00:03:10]What has been your exposure to the mental game up to that point?
Corbin Burnes: They’re very little. Our coach at St. Mary’s [00:03:18 – …ground?] , who’s a pretty old school coach and pretty hard-nosed, was kind of really my only exposure. It was kind of like hey, you just kind of grind, you got to grip through it. His big thing was having a bulldog mentality which… it’s kind of like hey, just suck it up and play kind of thing. No one really knew what it was.
That was kind of really the only exposure I had.
It got me through college baseball. It got me through the minor leagues. It got me through my partial season in the big leagues.
But to get to where I’m at now was a completely different level. A lot of work and routines and processes – stuff that we’re all going to talk about.
Brian Cain: Yeah. And one of the first things that we had to do was start to go through the 30-day Athlete’s Program. It’s kind of an exposure to the system that we try to install around the 10 Pillars of Mental Performance Mastery and kind of the skills that you need as a baseball player.
And for the players and the coaches on this call, the Mental Performance Mastery System basically is a set of drills that you do, which Corbin is going to get into the drills that he does, to develop the 10 skills that make the skill set.
I call it Mental Toughness or Mental Performance Mastery.
And part of the first step, for anybody who is listening to this that’s interested in getting more into the mental game, is to go through that 30-day Athlete’s Program.
[00:04:28] So, Corbin, could you talk about how you used that program? Because I know it’s something that you go through but you kind of touch it a little bit a lot everyday with your notes.
Could you kind of explain how you use that program and what benefit it’s provided for you?
Corbin Burnes: So the first time I was exposed to it was after that 2019 season. I remember going through all the notebook and the videos attached to it and filling out the workbook.
So I’ve actually gone through it now twice. So I did it prior to 2020 season and I did it again this off-season.
So, now, I’d say it’s part of the everyday routine. I have the calendar synced up through the phone so we got the notes that I’ve added to and some of the notes that you have from the 30-day program.
So it’s one of those things that each day that correlates to that day of the month and you work after you do your morning readings and your daily routine. It’s just one of those things you go and you check your notes for what day it is on the 30-day Master Performance program.
It’s something that just gives you a touch up and a reminder of every single day that month.
Brian Cain: So it’s kind of the mentality of do a little a lot, right? We get better through repetition.
So Corbin’s gone through the full program.
He goes through it in the off season, before the season, and then makes notes on his Google calendar that pop up every day. So today being May 2nd, day 2 notes, pop up on his calendar, he would look at those notes. On May 15th, he looks at the day 15 notes.
So he’s created a system and a routine where he doesn’t just go through the program once but he touches the program a little bit every day.
I think that’s one of the key things, Corbin, I want to try and get into here – the importance of your routines and your processes.
[00:06:03] How important is routine and process to your success as a major league baseball pitcher?
Corbin Burnes: I mean, it’s everything as far as the profession that we’re in. Being a baseball player, and more so as a starting pitcher, is you know you’re playing every five days.
We’ve generated this routine over the last year and a half that has become second nature. It’s a routine. It’s something that you do just as well as waking up and brushing your teeth and combing your hair in the morning.
That’s something I talk about when I talk to everyone. It’s like what is it that you actually do? I said hey, it’s this routine. It’s something that you do without even thinking about it. It’s something that becomes so part of your daily routine that it’s just subconscious.
And so that’s something that we’ve developed.
The 30-day Master Performance program and reading The Daily Stoic, like reading ABC’s are some of the things that’s included in this daily routine. I mean waking up, making your bed, taking the dogs out, feeding the dogs. Whatever it may be.
It’s just something that makes everything in your life a routine that when you get to the field it’s like hey, I’m in day 2 of my 5-day preparation. I’ve got to get to the field. I’ve got a bullpen today. I got a lower body workout. Get my recovery in. Go eat lunch. Go out and shag BP. Do your conditioning and then come in. Eat your dinner before the game. Go through the mind movie… the meditation. And whatever else may be in your daily routine. Then it’s gone. It’s Day 2. I’m the guy in the dugout watching the game that day.
So it’s something that each day correlates.
For me, my weeks are basically five days long. Someone with a different profession, it may be seven or it may be six days. So mine is five days.
That’s just kind of how our process has developed and has gone over the last two years.
Brian Cain: So Kirk Cousins is a guy that comes to mind. He’s a quarterback right now for the Minnesota Vikings. He’d say he breaks his week up into 15-minute blocks so he knows exactly what he has to do, when he has to do it to prepare for those games, most likely on a Sunday.
But for you as a major league baseball pitcher, you’re going to get the ball every five days. So you got 120 hours between starts. And you have a specific process and checklist for each of those five days. It says okay, this is what I have to do and in what order and essentially at what time on each of those days.
[00:08:18] What has that done for you from a confidence and a consistency standpoint?
Corbin Burnes: I mean, it makes it huge just knowing that I feel fully prepared when I come into my start on that 5th day of the week.
I’m going in facing the Dodgers. I’ve done my preparation of hey, my bullpen. I checked the things off of my bullpen. I got all my workouts in. I got my conditioning in. I got my recovery in. My body feels good. I’ve done my homework the last three days of going through just kind of the importance to make a note, watching the video of the guy, watching previous outings of [unclear at 00:08:48] so that when you go in to day five and you’re starting that morning: I’d be wake up and I’m prepared, go to the field, go to my pre-pitch routine and my pre-day of pitch routine and go out there.
Once you’re on the mound you’re not thinking about what do I got to do this time, why did I do that, how’s my arm feeling, how does my body feel.
Hey, this is what I got to do. Get a fast ball done in the way. Let’s execute the pitch and go out and get after it. Attack early on and have fun.
So that’s kind of what we’ve narrowed everything down to just to be able to free my own self when we get on the mound and just go out and just attack.
Brian Cain: I want to kind of dig in to some of these skills that we’re talking about and kind of developing.
Let’s start with maybe some of the off the field routines. You’ve mentioned like making your bed, walking the dogs, feeding the dogs.
[00:09:36] Why is it important that you have not just “at the field baseball” routine and a routine for your five days between starts? Why is it important that you set yourself up with a morning routine of something like making your bed?
Corbin Burnes: By waking up and kicking your day off with checking something off the list provides us like a waterfall effect. As you go down the day it’s like hey, I’ve done this. I feel great. I’ve done everything after this point of the day and why am I still going to skip something now?
It’s like I’ve done this, I’ve done this, I’ve done this. Let’s just keep rolling down the list.
Before you know it you’ve gone through your morning routine. You’re having a productive morning that you get to the field and you’re like hey, I feel good. I’ve been moving today. I’ve got everything checked off on the list. Let’s do this. Let’s get this done. Let’s get this done.
It creates this cascade effect.
All of a sudden it’s 7 o’clock and the first pitch is at 7:10. Throw clothes on spot and you’re hopeful to get a win today.
It provides you that next stepping stone to get through the next step throughout the day.
At the end of the day you shower, you wash off, you leave the field and you go home… eat dinner, go through your Calm meditation, take the dogs out one last time and it’s lights out, go to bed.
And you start to process again in the morning.
Brian Cain: You just mentioned something I think that is so good – like when you’re at the field and “you shower” and “you wash it off”.
I remember when I was working with Jeff Banister with the Rangers, one of the things that he would always say is you got to learn how as a baseball player to shower well. Meaning, at the end of the day you got to wash it off because in baseball you’re going to come back and play every day, as a pitcher maybe every five days. But it’s not like football where you play once a week. You play 162 games a year.
[00:11:14] So how important is that kind of shutdown routine at the end of the day for you to when you shower and put your street clothes back on and you leave the ballpark? How important is it for you to leave baseball behind and go back and be husband and be able to disconnect a little bit from the game?
Corbin Burnes: It’s probably one of the biggest things I had to learn from 2019 going into 2020.
In 2019, it was a struggle. It was a struggle from the very first outing year to the last outing year. It’s something that I would take it at home from the field. It was affecting my life at home with my wife, my dogs.
So it was one of those things that I really had to learn.
At the end of the day, good or bad, stay at the field as long as you have to to clear but as soon as you shower and put those street clothes on, the day’s over. It’s time to move on to the next.
It’s something that I did really well with last year.
I had a couple rough outings early on and obviously it was a success after that.
But even on good days, you have to go home. At the end of the day, it was a good day. We’ve settled it with the guys in the clubhouse a little bit. Do whatever you’re going to do and then… I’d showered, washed it off, street clothes on, it’s time to go home and be a husband.
For me that’s allowed me to move on to the next outing after next outing, whether it’s good or bad.
Right now everything’s been going smooth. So it’s allowed me to keep staying in the good process and keep rolling
Brian Cain: [0012:32] Well, I was going to ask you, is the process different in 2019, maybe where you’re not getting the results that you’re looking for, as to maybe 2021?
I mean, frankly, you’ve started this season as one of the best pitchers in major league baseball history and now you’re getting a lot more media attention. There’s a lot more people pulling at you. There’s people asking you to do podcasts, like I am, to do this. So you’re getting a lot of things pulling at you.
[0012:52] But is the process the same for you where you’re kind of using that shower as a way to sort of separate what you do as a baseball player and just who you are as a person every day, looking to try to make the world a better place?
Corbin Burnes: Yeah. I mean you have to. You hear one say, can I really hit really high highs and the low lows?
Part of having your process of showering and washing it off and putting your street clothes on at the end of the day is not getting too high. Not getting way too high and not knowing what you’re doing and all of a sudden you’re like I’m in unknown territory of… I don’t really know what to do now. Like, I’m talking to the media like I’m this and that. I don’t know what to do.
It’s the same process. You have a good day. You start to get up on this high. It’s like shower it off, wash it off.
You try to stay as even keel as possible.
And part of that is having to wash it off even after a good day.
Brian Cain: It’s interesting. I was in Vegas a couple weeks ago and happened to catch you in a game pitching against Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta with the Chicago Cubs, it’s on a Wednesday, and the announcers during the game were talking about you and some of the work that you had done to make this great turnaround. One of the things they mentioned was a success checklist.
[00:13:57] Could you, kind of, talk to the people who are listening to this podcast, to those who are with us live as we’re recording this, what is the success checklist for you and why is that such an important tool?
Corbin Burnes: The success checklist is basically very similar to what the daily checklist throughout the day is.
It basically allows you to move from one step to the next throughout the day.
It provides you what would be your perfect day, your perfect outlook on the day. What’s going to lead you to the most success. And for a lot of people, if you have the same routine throughout the day, it’s going to provide you the best scenario and circumstance to have the most success you can have.
For me it was, once again, what my AM routine looks like. What am I doing when I get to the field.
I have this process: it’s Day 1, it’s Day 2, it’s Day 3, it’s Day 4, it’s Day 5 -whatever the day it is. In my process: go out, knock out what you got to do that day. Some days it’s two hours at the field that I have to lock in and focus and get stuff done. Some days it might be three.
The day before I pitch is one of the easier days when I get to the field because I don’t have a day of workout. It’s a little heart rate activity – get the heart rate up, play some light catch, finish the scouting notes for whatever it may be and look over one more time. That’s kind of it. Then you just go be a baseball player.
Depending on the day, it’s different hours of varying focus and work.
But you have to know what it takes for you to have that correct process to lead the maximum success you can have.
Brian Cain: It’s interesting. I know on your success checklist, some of the things you’ve already mentioned earlier in the podcast—
I go back to the conversation I had with Sean Casey, who’s an analyst for the MLB Network, 11-year major league, a lifetime hitter over 300 . One of the things that he said is from the day he turned 18 years old until the end of his baseball career he read a page of Harvey Dorfman’s book, The Mental Game of Baseball every day.
I’d like to share with our listeners that leaders are readers.
A lot of times we think maybe athletes maybe don’t get as much into reading as they could or should but I know it’s something that you do consistently.
On this success checklist, one of the things that you do is you read a chapter or a letter, I should say, of Harvey Dorfman’s book, The Mental ABC’s of Pitching.
[00:16:15] How do you use that book and what have you found to be beneficial?
Corbin Burnes: My daily routine is reading one chapter, one letter – whatever it may be, of The Mental Game of Baseball and also The Daily Stoic.
And so for me, when you’re getting up and you’re making breakfast in the morning, you’re sitting on the toilet – whatever it may be, you’ve got time. You’ve got plenty of time in the morning to take the time of 5-10 minutes to read those things.
I think I’m on maybe the third or fourth time of going through The Mental Game of Baseball.
It’s one of those things that each letter’s a reminder of hey, Adversity or whatever.
I think I just started over maybe the fourth time. I just read the Adversity chapter maybe yesterday.
So it just gives you an insight of something that hey, maybe you have come across a bunch of adversities. This is how you should do it.
All that leads to the 10 pillars that we discussed. Every chapter has some sort of tie to it.
So it just gives you this constant reminder of hey, yeah I need to make sure that I need to get to the field today and get back my mental work in, get back my physical work in and then enjoy it again that day.
The Daily Stoic is another thing that I’m sure you’re going to mention.
It’s philosophers and guys from hundred and hundred years ago that were doing the same type of thing. It just gives you the insight of hey, these guys lived 250 years ago but they were going through the same process, they were going through the same mindsets.
So it gives you the daily reminder of what you got to do that day and brings you back to what we’ve started and what we’re continuing to do.
Brian Cain: So reading The Daily Stoic every day, reading The Mental ABC’s of Pitching by Harvey Dorfman daily as well.
Corb’s, one of the chapters that we kind of connected on I think back in 2019 and 2020, off-season, when you started going through some of these processes and making them a part of what you did everyday was… I remember talking about the chapter on Execution and how clearly Harvey Dorfman in that book, ABC’s of Pitching, talks about your only goal as a pitcher is to execute this one pitch and that’s it and every pitch has a life and history of its own.
So I think for the pitchers listening to this, for the pitching coaches listening to this, if you just get the book The Mental ABC’s of Pitching and you just read the Execution chapter on a weekly basis, that alone is going to provide you with a completely different perspective than 99% of the pitchers out there have.
[00:18:39] What were some of the big takeaways for you from that chapter on execution?
Corbin Burnes: So the Execution chapter is something that over the course of my five days I’ll read it twice. So I’ll read it at the bullpen day, and it’s the third day, along with another chapter for that given day.
The biggest takeaway I have from that section every time I read it is how to evaluate your performance that day.
Obviously, if you go out and get those six innings and give up one run and punch out 12, it looks great on paper. But how did you execute that day? Were you lucky? Were you out there guys… found balls down right in the middle?
So, for me, part of that Execution chapter is the next morning when I go and review the film for that day is you can see every– I see every single pitch that I’ve thrown and you just mark a tally.
So I know that I threw, let’s say, 92 pitches the day before, I’m counting every mistake that I made. Basically every pitch that wasn’t within maybe an inch of the spot where we were trying to throw it counts as a non-executed pitch. For me, I count every non-executed pitch, subtract it from the total and that’s how I have my total execution pitches of the total pitch that day and then spit out a percentage of. Say, my first four outings this year are like 79 to 80% execution and on my fifth one dropped down like 72 or 74%.
So, basically, It just gives you this idea of hey, how am I executing pitches. Based off my four starts, my goal for the year is to be about 79 to 80% execution on every outing.
So that kind of gives me a gauge, performance wise, of how we did that day.
Brian Cain: Well, I think the key thing that you’re saying, and I want to make sure our listeners get here, is that you’re not looking at the 49 strikeouts and the no walks or the sub .5 or sub 1 ERA as your measurement of success.
You’re looking at how many times did I throw the pitch where I was trying to throw it, where I wanted to throw it because that is all you can control.
[00:20:45] Can you kind of unpack for us Corbs about controlling the things that you can control and, as a pitcher, you can’t control ERA. You can’t, frankly, even control if you’re getting all these strikeouts that you’re getting, right? All you can control is the execution of the pitch.
Could you kind of unpack that in your words about the importance of just controlling what you can control and the commitment to the execution of the one pitch?
Corbin Burnes: Yeah. So as a starting pitcher, things you can control are your preparation for the week, your effort that you’re going to give that day or your effort level. And then once you’re on the mound, your pre-pitch routine, your pre-batter routine.
Basically, you can control everything up when the ball is in your hand. As soon as the ball leaves your hand, everything is out of your control.
I go back to my last outing. The first hitter hit the ground ball to the second base that triggered that hop, it went over the first single. Immediately from the very first hitter we were being tested of hey, that should have been the ground ball out. It went for a hit.
What are you going to do about it? You’re going to get upset? You’re going to throw a fit? Like oh, freaking [unclear at 00:21:45] I got a guy on first by the fastest guy in the league.
But, no. You got to bear down. It’s out of your control. Go back and execute some pitches [unclear at 00:21:54] scoring.
But things that you can’t control are where guys hit the ball, where is your defense playing behind you, are you in a shift, are you making good pitches, there’s a dribbler… 12 hoppers [00:22:03 – … the other way?] Part of it should have been ground ball but, hey, you’re a defense [00:22:09 – shift?] try to match and gather reports.
That’s out of your control.
An umpire makes a bad strike call… The umpire in the field makes a bad out call.
There are certain things throughout the day that are going to be completely out of your control and you have to realize that the focus for you, no matter what happens, is executing pitches. The only way that you can get out of that inning that you’re in, or the shitty situation may be in, is for you to execute pitches.
Trying to complain this and that may have led to a bigger inning or may led to a bigger line is just something that’s not in your control.
The only thing you got to go back and focus on is how did I do on execution percentage that day. That’s basically all you got to go off of.
Brian Cain: And, Corbin, you’ve mentioned a lot of things on the success checklist. You’ve mentioned reading The Mental ABC’s of Pitching. You’ve mentioned going through your 120-hour kind of routine between starts. You’ve mentioned reading The Daily Stoic.
Couple other things that I think that you’ve mentioned that I want you to maybe unpack a little bit more in terms of how you use it and the benefit you’ve gotten from them – something like Success Hotline.
[00:23:12] How have you used that in calling everyday to listen to Dr. Rob Gilbert for three minutes?
Corbin Burnes: So my drive to the field everyday is about five minutes and so most of my drive that… I’m heading to the field, is listening to the Success Hotline. It’s on the favorites on my phone or synced on the favorite of my bluetooth in the truck.
It’s as soon as get in the car… hit the call button, listen to the Success Hotline as you’re driving to the field then you got maybe a time for one little song to pump you up before you get to the field that day.
Dr. Rob Gilbert just gives you different life stories every day, just different mental things to think about every day. And it’s something that you may not even know it but you’re going through this mental mess– mental performance program and all of a sudden– He talks about something that you just talked about two days prior.
So it’s something that’s giving you constant reminders and giving you this constant feedback of somewhere you can think and somewhere you can improve on for that day or that week or month – whatever it may be.
Brian Cain: Another thing that you’ve done a lot in the car when you have that time when you’re driving or when you guys are travelling from city to city is PhilosophersNotes in the Optimize app and going through some of those books on mindsets or those books on kind of mental performance in 20-minute cliff note versions.
[00:24:30] How do you use that app and what are some of the benefits that you’ve found from that or maybe some of the favorite books you’ve gone through?
Corbin Burnes: So that’s really cool because it gives you some insight and some background on some other guys that… either Brian, who you’ve worked with, or some other guys have gone into some mental programs.
I think the one that sticks out for me the most is the book by GSP (Georges St-Pierre). They break it down. It may be a 300-page book that they basically summarize and do the big points in 15, 20 minutes.
I think the coolest one was GSP. It talks about when he lost and that’s when he started working with you and just kind of the mental brick, he said, he was carrying.
This is when he started to learn about his red, yellow, and green lights.
I think that’s probably the toughest thing to learn as a pitcher – is knowing and realizing when you’d hit a yellow light, a green light.
Obviously when you’re going good and everything is rolling and you’re having good numbers and good success, you’re on the green. But as soon as something happens at you – starting getting a couple runs or something, stringing two or three hits together, go 3-0 on a hitter – that’s when you got to realize hey, these are kind of out of my control and that’s why I need to go through my routine [unclear at 25:54] back then.
So I think that was probably one of my favorite ones from the PhilosophersNotes – is GSP. You learn about his signal lights.
Brian Cain: Yeah, Georges St-Pierre’s book The Way of the Fight in the Optimize as are some other great books that athletes get exposed to: like Michael Phelps and his book No Limits or Conor McGregor and his book Win or Learn.
One of the things also that you’ve talked about, Corbin, is the Calm meditation. Calm is an app and meditation is basically the skill that you’re using to help kind of just learn to get more present, to quiet your mind, to be able to refocus when you get distracted.
[00:26:31] When do you do your meditation? How do you do your meditation? And what does that kind of look like for you?
Corbin Burnes: So the Calm meditation that you talked about is something that I can do as I’m falling asleep at night. It’s kind of like the last thing to check off my success list of the day.
We’re just finished watching TV on the couch, we’re heading to bed, phones are away, we reach over and turn on Tamara Levitt to see what she’s got for the day. And if some days if I forget, my wife’s like, “Weren’t you going to listen to Tamara tonight? What’s going on?” She’s my accountability partner when it comes to listening to the Calm meditation.
And then the other piece of the meditation are the mind movie and then your…. gosh, I’m blanking on what you like to call the…
Brian Cain: Mental imagery.
Corbin Burnes: Mental imagery. That’s right. For some reason I call it meditation. But the mental imagery.
And so those are more meditation and stuff that I do throughout the day to prepare for the outing or a day before to help kind of visualize some stuff.
Mental imagery is a lot different than the Calm meditation. The Calm meditation, it takes you through a lot of breathing exercises, kind of totally relax and decompress for the day. The mental imagery, that [00:27:59] has recorded for me, goes into more of a mental recollection of success in the past. Body scan or body check, showing that you can control the different levels of relaxation and intensity.
Right before I go up for the game I would listen to this. It takes you through basically visualizing each one of your pitches for that day. It’s like hey, visualize the cutter, visualize the sinker, the curveball change, outsider – whatever it may be. It just gives you this last few mental visual reps before I head out and start playing catch for the day.
Brian Cain: You mentioned a couple times the mind movie.
I know Zach Sorensen, who’s a mental performance coach with the Atlanta Braves, and one of the things he talked about when he was playing in the big leagues was going in to watch Manny Ramirez when he was a teammate of his I think with the Indians. And Manny Ramirez would go in and he’d watch a video before a game and Zach, being a learner and wanted to follow and kind of pick the brain of some of these best players in the big leagues, he’s like, “Manny, I know you spend a lot of time watching film—
And this was kind of before I think a lot of guys watch film and film was so prevalent as it is today.
He goes in to watch Manny. Manny puts his big headphones on and he’s listening to his reggae pump up music and he’s watching double, missile, homeruns, seed. Zach follows him in the locker room and he goes, “Hey, I knew I wasn’t going to ask any questions about how or why you watch a video but you didn’t look at any of your strikeouts from yesterday. You didn’t look at the ball you rolled over to the short stop or the runner in scoring position. You just watched your highlights. Why?” And Manny Ramirez’s message to Zach was like, “Who’s more prepared to play? Why would I want to watch a strikeout or the rollover? I want to watch all the hard contact that I’ve had over the last couple months in my career.”
[00:29:34] So with the mind movie, Corbin, what exactly is that and how do you use that?
Corbin Burnes: My mind movie is about 10 minutes long. I usually do it maybe as I’m getting on the—[unclear at 00: 29:48] that day or stretching out on a roller whenever on the ground.
Basically it’s got highlights from 2018, there’s even highlights from 2019… last year, and I’ve got some ready to upload for this year. So basically punch outs… big outs maybe and the post-season from 2018, good locations of pitches that we’re trying to throw for that day. Even if a guy takes it… maybe it was for a ball or a pitch or a strike. It was like that’s the ideal placement that we would want for a sinker, the ideal placement for a cutter… some ugly swings and missed hits.
Just whatever it may be to give you that mental recollection of hey, that’s the feeling that I want, that’s the shape I want of this pitch.
It just provides you that right mindset.
So as soon as you go out and you start playing catch like, okay, first pitch, a cutter. I’ve seen it already today. I’ve seen it every other day that I’ve watched the mind movie so I know the feeling of it, I know what I had to do and I’m just going to go and execute this cutter down in the way and just let it happen.
For me it’s more visualizing that exact location of the pitch I want, with ugly swings and misses – whatever it may be.
It just gives you that perfect mindset of hey, that’s what I want to do. Now I’ve seen it, let’s go do it.
Brian Cain: And the more you see the positive video of you pitching the way you want to and performing well, the more confidence you get, the more prepared you have, the more likely you are able to execute that I think when you go out there.
[00:31:15] If we go back to 2019, during the struggle, did you have a mind movie that you’re watching consistently back then, back in 2019? Or is that something that you started after that? Is that right?
Corbin Burnes: Yeah. That’s something I think we started putting together… that off-season of 2019, prior to 2020.
Brian Cain: For the players listening to this that are going, “But Corbin’s in the big leagues. He’s got every pitch he throws. There are seven different camera angles. It’s easy to make a highlight video.” but when you’re coming up, even if you’re–
If you’re a youth baseball player and you don’t have a lot of footage of yourself, well, find the guys who you want to be like in the big leagues, maybe it’s Corbin Burnes – and you go get footage of him and you watch him execute those pitches everyday and your brain will interpret that as if you’re doing it, right?
That’s the cool part about visualization – is the brain isn’t really good at determining what’s real and what’s vividly imagined.
That’s why sometimes you wake up from having a dream or whatever and we have a physiological response. Our body is freaking out, our heart rate is elevated when there’s nothing there. We just had a dream.
So I remember when I was with Team USA in 2013, Tyler Beede, who’s a pitcher with the Giants Organization now, he everyday would watch highlight video of Pedro Martinez because he wanted to be able to see the way he was throwing his two-seamer, the way that he was executing some pitches.
So I think for the listeners, getting a highlight video called a mind movie, right, because it’s kind of like you’re watching highlights of yourself – whether that be of you, whether that be a pitcher who you want to model your game after – can be massively important.
I think another thing that’s really important in terms of locking into focus and the concentration, and it’s something that Harvey Dorfman used to do with a lot of guys he worked with including Roy Halladay who was a Cy Young Award winner multiple times, was a concentration grid in helping you learn to kind of lock in your focus and be more able at going number to number, pitch to pitch.
[00:30:00] How do you use concentration grids Corbs?
Corbin Burnes: So the concentration grids are part of not necessarily the morning routine but the routine when I get to the field for the day. It’s one of really the first thing that I do when I get there. I change, I eat, and as I’m sitting down after eating, you know, let my food digest for a little bit. I’ll go through the concentration grid, maybe just looking at some… and video.
But the concentration grids…
Originally, when I started doing them, when we were doing 0 to 100 so it might take a couple minutes to get through it. And then this year we transition to doing just the 5×5 grids. So basically it’s 0 to 25 because those take about 13, 14, 15 seconds to get through, which might be… how long you need to focus for. You’re getting your sign, come in set, taking a breath and roll on.
We adjusted to a little bit more realistic focus time for myself.
And so I go through maybe six or seven of those 5×5 concentration grids that take anywhere from 12 to 15, 16 seconds.
Brian Cain: [00:34:09] And using the concentration grids, right, to try to mirror the amount of focus that you’re going to have to bring to a pitch?
Corbin Burnes: Right.
Brian Cain: The time you step on the rubber, get to sign, come set, deliver the pitch – let’s call it 15 seconds – you want a grid that’s going to match the stress that you have to be under or the stimulus you have to be under for that focus.
Where if you’re a UFC fighter, you got to fight a 5-minute rounds so we’re going to do a 10×10 to try to get you to focus for that five minutes at a really intent level.
For anybody, the listeners, that want to go in to concentration grids, if you go to BrianCain.com/cgrid, cgrid as in concentration grid, you can now access the grids there and you can do a 5×5 like Corbin or you can challenge yourself with a 10×10 or find the grid that you feel like is going to work for you. There’s a video, there’s an article there that kind of explains them.
But it’s just how Corbin explained, how he uses them. It’s almost a warm up for his mind.
[00:34:56] What about shadow bullpens, Corbs?
We’ve talked a lot about that on the podcast previously and the importance of that in terms of practicing the body language – the focus, the visualization, the breath.
[00:35:05] How do you use shadow bullpen as part of your 5-day routine and what benefit have they made for you?
Corbin Burnes: In my 5-day plan I go through a shadow bullpen usually three times. It’s usually the day after. And then Day 2, my actual bullpen days, if I don’t do a shadow with the normal. And then Day 3 and Day 4 will also be a shadow bullpen day.
For me, I’ve got into a really good routine with it.
When I get into the field I go through all my prep routine, doing the concentration grids, the mind movie, get loose in the weight room, go through a lift, then go out on the field I play catch. I go through my conditioning and then I go straight out to the bullpen. And when I go out to the bullpen is when I do my shadow bullpens. So whenever the guys are finishing their catch play, I’m out on the mound going through my reps.
And so right now I… all shadow one inning. So I get up there. Before I shadow my bullpen I’ll go through some dry reps of… some mechanical cues that I go through that without a ball.
So I’ll do those.
Basically, those are kind of the warm-up pitches for the shadow… shadowing that inning is going through my dry reps. And then it’s going right into my pre-inning and pre-batter routine of… getting the ball back from the third baseman. I’m hitting the cleat cleaner, hitting my focus with the breath– for my visual, my breath on the wire. And then it’s your visual cue and it’s on the mound and I’m shadowing inning. Usually my first hit I’ll go against a right-handed, and that’s a three pitch punch out … do the walk around the mound, go back to the pre- batter, the cleat cleaner, the wire, the verbal back on the bump and then I’ll make a four pitch punch out to a lefty.
Again, I mix all my pitches. Mix them up, sequencing… sequencing again, walk around the rubber… and then go through my cleat cleaner, my visual, my verbal and then I’m going to get in to a yellow light, whether it’s a first pitch ball and then a single or it’s 1-0 or 2-0, some sort of stressful situation that go through my reset, in my yellow light reset of hey, go through the cleat cleaner, go through your visual, go through your verbal, get back on the mound and then I’ll finish up the inning and that’ll be it for the day.
So one inning takes 5, 10 minutes.
It’s something that it kind of caps off my time on the field for that day.
Brian Cain: I think the biggest takeaway for the pitchers, the pitching coaches listening to this is Corbin just outlined what he works on when he does his shadow bullpen.
He mentioned he executes his pre-inning routine, he executes his pre-batter routine, he executes his pre-pitch routine. He’s got a red and yellow light release that he comes to.
[00:38:09] Corbs, the way you just kind of ran through what you do at the shadow bullpen, I think for our listeners maybe who are new to shadow bullpens, how long has it taken you to get into that routine and that rhythm where you feel like the shadow now, you know exactly what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and it’s become beneficial for you? Was it like that right out of the shoot? Does it take you a little time to kind of get used to it and understand what you were doing and why?
Corbin Burnes: It probably took two to three months over the off season of ‘19 and the ‘20. That’s when we established it. And then it’s something that we’re always tweaking as we go and add another routine. It’s like between the innings and the dugout routines – that kind of stuff.
So that’s something that we’re always adding to and making tweaks to depending on how things are going and kind of how things flow with the game.
Brian Cain: If you’re taking notes here, let’s kind of go through some of the routines that Corbin has.
It’s his pre-inning routine. And the pre-inning routine is going to be basically from the time he comes out of the dugout, crosses the line, gets the ball, manicures the mound, throws his warm up pitches and then the ball gets thrown to second and he gets the ball back from the third base.
That’s all pre-inning routine.
[00:39:07] Corbin, question, in the pre-inning routine, do you throw the same sequence that’s six to eight pitches every time or does that change based off of kind of how you feel or what’s working for you that day?
Corbin Burnes: I play the same sequence every single practice.
When I get on the mound it’s two sinkers… the glove side sinker, arm side with a changeup and then it’s cutter, sinker, and then we’re throwing the ball down.
So I don’t throw very many pitches. It’s just enough to kind of lock back in, get the arm movement, and then it’s right back to business.
Brian Cain: So then you get the ball back– Let’s imagine this as a pitcher. So the ball gets thrown to the second. You get the ball back from third base. You’re probably in that third base side of the mound. You walk back behind the mound.
And then if you get the chance to watch Corbin, which after listening to this I hope you do because this is a clinic in the mental game of pitching, alright?
So when you see him looking at those– standing behind the rubber by the cleat cleaner, which is on the back of the mound, looking at the wire above home plate and you’re taking that deep breath, Corbs, with that focal point of the wire, [00:40:00] what does that deep breath do for you as part of that pre-batter routine on the back of the mound before you get up on the rubber and enter that pre-pitch routine?
What does that do for you back there looking at that focal point of the wire and the deep breath?
Corbin Burnes: Yeah, the deep breath and the focal point brings you basically into like the here and the now. It’s like where are my feet at?
As I’m taking this deep breath it’s… feeling the spikes and the dirt, knowing that hey… we’re in the now. We’re in the present. We can’t be in the last inning that you may have just given up a whole [unclear at 00:40:30] just punch on the side. We’re not looking like hey, what’s my line going to be? Can I get through six? Can I get through seven? What’s my pitch count?
The breath is right here. We’re right now. After you get your visuals, it’s your verbal – whatever it may be, and it’s on the mound. It’s attack mode.
Brian Cain: So you take that breath on the wire—
And for the pitchers watching Corbin, if you’re watching Corbin pitch, okay, you’re going to see big body language. Breath on the wire. The wire he’s looking at the top of the backstop as a focal point, like you said, that says okay, I am where my feet are. I’m ready for this confrontation and the setback. He’ll walk up and get on the rubber. And when you’re on the rubber—
[00:41:05] Now you’re only throwing onto the stretch. Is that right?
Corbin Burnes: Yup.
Brian Cain: So if you’re watching, he’s only throwing onto the stretch.
[00:41:08] Is there a time where like you come set with your hands, is that when you’re taking your last breath? How do you use the deep breath once our foot hits the rubber within that pre-pitch routine?
Corbin Burnes: So I take a deep breath and I step on the rubber and then I’m taking a breath and then I get the sign and then out of them becoming a set again there is another breath that we’re getting.
For me, the more important breath is the one, obviously, on the hook, you know, the focal point to kind of focus on where we’re at but then also take one in between pitches. You’re not going into a yellow or red. As I’m getting the ball back, I’m getting back on the rubber is when I take my next deep breath.
Brian Cain: And you’ve mentioned a lot about signal lights. [00:41:47] Like with red, yellow lights… What are signal lights for you Corbin? What’s the difference between, say, a green light, a yellow light, and a red light for you?
Corbin Burnes: So green is everything is going good. You’re attacking the zone. You’re executing pitches. You’re getting the spots you want. You’re getting… Whether it is a weak contact, you punch out. Whatever may be. Things are rolling.
That’s the green light.
And then I group my yellow and red together. I don’t like to say hey, I’m in the yellow light. Let’s try to keep rolling and then, boom, we’re in the red.
For me, it’s as soon as I don’t like what’s going on I try to go first pitch curveball… miss, try to do second pitch curveball and miss. Let’s go back. Let’s take a deep breath. We just missed two pots in a row. Let’s get back… get off the rubber. Wipe it clean. Take a deep breath. You know, the verbal attack and then we’re back on there.
So for me the yellow, red, it’s kind of combined into one and it comes after… What if it’s one really, really bad pitch. Where we at? Where’s our head at? Let’s get off and let’s get back after. Otherwise, it’s usually after two balls in a row.
Every time a runner gets on whether it’s a hit, a walk, whatever it may be, I always go right into a yellow, red which for me is just– it’s almost become part of the pre-batter routine.
It’s just going right through the signal light and getting to it. I just wipe them, whatever happened, clean it and getting back to it.
Brian Cain: Like it. Like it. So if you catch yourself outside of green and the red and yellow – we talked about the three steps to a release – a physical action, a deep breath to release, and a verbal trigger -so you’re going for your release to the cleat cleaner. Taking a deep breath is you wiping that away. Moving your spikes is symbolic of okay, I’m wiping away that last pitch, cleaning my cleats, taking a deep breath and saying to yourself alright, let’s go attack the next pitch.
We’ve went through– I don’t know, was this off-season or ‘19 to ’20? I think it might have been ‘20 to ‘21. We went to Bob Tewksbury, his book Ninety Percent Mental. Tewks being a mental performance coach with different organizations in the big leagues. He’s been with the Cubs. He’s been with the Giants. He’s been with the Red Sox.
And in that book, Tewks who pitched in the major league all star game I think finished second for Cy Young one year, talked about how he would try to say a pitch he was trying to throw like as he was coming to set, even before he would deliver to the plate.
And one of our questions that came in here from Tom, is he said [00:44:05] , “Are there any verbals that Corbin uses, like a final thought, based off of a pitch he’s trying to throw or a location? Does he have that kind of predetermined self-talk as part of his pre-pitch routine?”
Corbin Burnes: Yes. So when I initially started… actually working with Brian and putting our routines together, so that’s prior to 2020 and for most of 2020, I used this, is as I got the sign and I was coming set I was saying, you know, verbally saying, “fastball down and away, fastball down and away” just to keep my mind locked in of what I was doing.
I think more than anything that was to prevent me from– the time I got signed [unclear at 00:44:44] , prevent the mind from going somewhere, and continually saying it and saying it so that we’re staying locked in.
Now, I’ve got to the point that I know that hey, when I get this fastball down and away I’m visualizing okay, this fastball down and away. I no longer have to say it verbally. It’s in my head. Hey, fastball down and away, fastball down and away.
It’s something that I have grown that I don’t need to say it verbally but it’s still being said mentally. It’s by my head.
Brian Cain: [00:45:14] And when you’re saying that “I’m seeing that fastball down and away.” like are you seeing almost like on pitch tracker like you’d see if we were watching TV and you’re seeing kind of the tunnel of that pitch down in the way?
What exactly are you seeing when you’re visualizing that pitch?
Corbin Burnes: It’s a combination of seeing visually but also seeing it in the past. Every pitch that I’ve thrown now I’ve already thrown. I’ve seen it in my mind movie or visualizing it in prep work – whatever it may be. It’s stuff that I’ve already seen and done before so it’s already ingrained in my head.
There is no pitch that I’ve thrown this year that I haven’t thrown in the past.
So that’s something I’m able to recall and go back to.
Brian Cain: Love it Love it. Corbs, one of the things that I know you do too and talking about kind of having a routine– you know, having a routine and a process for everything is.
Let’s say you go out , you punch out the side in the first inning, now you’re sitting in the dugout. [00:46:01] What’s that routine in between innings look like for you?
Corbin Burnes: So this is actually something that we’ve discussed recently.
Because it came up that a couple of my starts early on… that we would cruise through four innings, we would cruise through five. I’m starting to visually look ahead like, hey, what’s my line going to look like there at the end of the game as I’m sitting at the dugout. So it’s like do I need it to stay locked in from pitch 1 to pitch 100 even when I’m not on the mound or what do we got to do?
So that’s something we actually recently discussed.
I’ve gotten to a point now that it’s as soon as I come on the field, the pitching coach is going to come over, the catcher is going to come over, we’re going to talk about that. Half inning, maybe a sequence, maybe one pitch – whatever it may be… as soon as that meeting is over, you know, gloves down, hat comes off. So when the hat comes off is when you can kind of go ahead and just let your mind roam. Let it be free. Whatever’s going on.
And then every time a new hitter comes to the plate, I go through a 6-2-8 breath, kind of a quick recheck, refocus take – where are we at, what do we got to do and then you can go ahead and let your mind go free a little bit.
Once we got two outs, after that last 6-2-8 breath– when the hat goes back on that’s when you sit and lock in.
So two outs, the hat goes back on. Now we’re looking hey, who are our next three hitters for the inning? What do we want to do first pitch? How do I attack? That kind of thing.
So that’s something that we’ve developed in the last couple weeks of what’s new between innings so that we’re not– continually trying to stay focused and locked in for two hours of a game.
Brian Cain: Yeah, it kind of gives you that ability to kind of come in and come out, which is something that I think we’ve talked about on the golf course.
On the golf course it’s like you come into the hourglass and you get ready and you hit a shot and you hit a shot a mile and then you come out of the hourglass, you drive to the ball and you repeat that process.
[00:47:53] Corbin, before we go into some questions from the people who have joined us live here in this recording, how do you use golf as kind of a training ground for your mental aspects of pitching?
Corbin Burnes: Golf is something, honestly, that I love to play. I love to go have fun. But it just provides you another avenue to work on some of the mental stuff that made my golf routine of stepping up to the golf ball changes probably every… about four or five holes, depending on how I’m playing. But it just kind of gives you this idea, this thought of hey, what if—
There’s this constant routine. It just kind of gives you a brief four or five shots in a row that you’re hey, let’s try this.
It kind of gives you this empty template to kind of try some things out and some focus techniques, breathing stuff – whatever it may be, while you’re out there having fun.
I also like to fish. So while you’re sitting there waiting for a fish you’re kind of thinking– pondering stuff like hey, what if we try this, what if we try that.
It just gives you some of the avenues to kind of have some fun and try some other things out that you may– probably you wouldn’t want to do while you’re in the sixth inning of the 0-0 ballgame or something.
Brian Cain: Yeah. And I think what’s cool about– as an athlete when you can play different sports or when– you use golf or you use ping-pong or billiards or fishing as a way to work on things and try different things that maybe will translate into your pitching, but because every time you’re pitching it’s so important it may not be the right platform to sort of work on it in that moment.
But if you use it– part of your golf game or if you’re shooting free throws, if you’re a high school player who’s also playing basketball, well the breath that you take before a free throw is probably going to be the same type of breath that will help you before you throw a pitch.
Corbin, speaking about high school baseball, we’ve got some high school players and coaches and mental performance coaches that have joined us here live for this recording.
[00:49:41] One of the questions comes in from Jack Wilson. He said, ” Corbin, you talked a lot about habits and routines. Which habits and routines do you think would be most beneficial for a high school student athlete to start and develop?”
Corbin Burnes: I would say planning out your day.
Obviously, two-thirds of your day is going to be planned out with your class schedule. So I would suggest having a routine when you wake up in the morning. You know, whether you’re a guy that you wake up, you shower, eat breakfast – whatever it is, make it a consistent routine in the morning because not only will it help you in your sport, it’s probably going to help you in class, in school along the way just to feel more prepared.
And then as soon as the last bell rings, for the school to end, how much time do you have before you go to practice. Can you make use of that time? Whether it’s some readings, the mind movie, the meditation – whatever it may be. What can you make use of your hour before practice starts.
And then when you’re at practice, making sure everything’s productive. Getting done what needs to be done for the day.
And when you go home it’s… have a Well, Better, How checklist for the day or a schedule. Getting homework done, eating dinner, carving out 30 minutes for a video game – whatever it may be.
Just scheduling out your day just so you know that when you’re headed to the pillow at night you feel like you’re productive and got everything done.
Brian Cain: Love it. This question comes from Zack. [00:51:12] He says, “Corbin, do you pay attention to who you are facing and pitch “more carefully” or is it just about your strengths and your routine?
Corbin Burnes: Mostly it’s the strengths and my routine.
Over the last year and a half, two years I’ve been able to really define and know who I am as a pitcher.
So now when I dissect a lineup I can throw almost everyone into two categories, being right-handed and left-handed. That’s really it. I have my attack plans for righties and my attack plans for lefties. And I’ve got like two or three sequences I go to for a righty, two or three for a lefty.
Basically when I’m looking through a scatter report and looking at these guys… Let’s say there are five lefties in the lineup. So I’ll go: with this lefty, will this attack work? Yup. This? Yup. Yup. Yup.
Basically, if there’s one lefty in the lineup that’s like hey… the two or the three sequences that you normally do against lefties are going to play into this guy? Well, then maybe put a mental note, like hey, this guy, we might have to be a little creative with. The other four righties in the lineup, now we can put them in the bucket of the generic right-handed way that we attack and go after it. So now we know that day I have three different attack plans. I got a righty and a lefty and the one special lefty that we need to look out for.
So basically it eliminates trying to think about nine different ways to get hitters out. Now, it’s basically two or three.
Brian Cain: Brandon had a question. [00:52:42] He said, “Corbin, what is it you do when you’re behind in the count or if you’re having a bad outing, the red, yellow light outing, to refocus?
And I know you had mentioned kind of going to the cleat cleaner and hitting your release. [00:52:52] But is there anything you kind of say to yourself or something that you go to to help you turn it around when maybe the outing’s not going how you want it to?
Corbin Burnes: Yeah. I mean you’re going to have those days where— I mean I just had one the other day. They’re stringing together five hits, they’re finding holes that you can’t do anything about. It’s really easy to get frustrated and try to start blaming on this, start blaming on that.
Basically you have to go back to what you do best.
Maybe the first two innings , three innings you’ve kind of gotten away from something that you do really, really good because maybe your change up is not working that day or this team is really good at hitting sliders but you’ve gone away from it because you don’t want to get lit up. So that’s something you got to know.
You really have to know what you do best and know a way to get back to that.
Even if, hey, things aren’t going well but this is a good slider in the team … hey, things are already aren’t going well so you got to go back to who you are and what you do best.
Red, yellow lights will help get you back to do that but also knowing what you do best is something that you should be able to stick to and get you out through tough times.
Brian Cain: Yeah, I think knowing yourself as a pitcher and going back to you saying hey, these are my strengths and if my strengths happen to be what your strengths are as a hitter, let’s get after this thing and find out who’s better on this pitch on this day.
Two more questions that came in here Corbin. [00:54:13] One of them was, “If you could go back and teach your younger self one concept of mental performance, what would it be?”
Corbin Burnes: I think it would just be controlling the things you can control. The controllables.
I think there’ so many times I think back to high school and college getting frustrated and getting upset because umpires missing calls, or there’s an air made behind you or balls are just dropping in.
The biggest thing and biggest part of growing up is controlling the things you can control and knowing what the controllables are, knowing what the uncontrollables are.
Brian Cain: Awesome. And our last question here comes in from Gary Tiger, who’s a mental performance coach out at Connecticut. [00:55:05]And he says, “Corbin, now that you’ve gone through the 30-day athlete’s course and you’ve got all this solid routine and process in place, what’s the benefit of continuing to work with a mental performance coach like Brian Cain once you have all these things established?
Corbin Burnes: I’ve been working with Brian since, I think, September of ’19 was when we first started working together.
You always think hey, at what point where you’re going to hit the end? Are you ever going to hit the end? Well, there’s new things you want in everything.
And the thing with being in the game of baseball is there’s things that happen every day that you still have never seen before at the game. It’s something that you have to constantly learn from.
Brian has the knowledge from– He worked with Arrieta when he won the Cy Young Award. So he’s gone through years of a guy being at the top of the game. And so if I want to be at the top of the game I need to continue to not only work with Brian but to go work on my mental side of the game.
It’s very easy after 2020 I could have been hey, I was good, thanks for working with me for a year and I’ve got everything put in place and we’re just going to move on. But for me it was… I can always get better at certain aspects of the game. Maybe I get to the point where my pitching routines, my signal lights– things just aren’t just clicking the same as they used to so we have to go back to the well, of hey, okay let’s try this.
So it’s always a game of when things don’t go well, okay, we have these things to try.
And having the experience of Brian working with other sports and other athletes, that they all have… there’s hundreds and hundreds and thousands of different routines and different things that they can go to that he knows off, he’s got notes of. So if something stopped working for me, that I immediately have a new routine that I can try and go to.
Brian Cain: My answer to that one, hopefully, that it’s a process. It’s constantly evolving.
You’re in a way different place than you were in 2019. Now there comes different stress, right? In 2019 the stress is man, I got to get this thing going. And now the stress in 2021 is—
John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez, these guys in the MLB Network, said that they were looking at me as the best pitcher in baseball. That’s a compliment. At the same token, that creates added pressure, it can create added stress, it can create added adversity.
[00:57:27] Corbin, my last question for is obviously you’ve— if people watched the interviews of you –
I try to take every time there’s an interview and I put it on my twitter @BrianCainePeak just because I think the way that you handle this success and the way that you handled 2019 and the humility and your ability to make things sound so simple – I’m just out there trying to execute a pitch and I’m trying to get to my next day in my routine- like you obviously have some tools that are working for you and I think sharing those tools, man, I want to thank you on for coming on the podcast and talking about what you’re doing because it’s not every day you get somebody who’s performing at the highest level in the world that will come on and talk openly about the things that they do to help them to prepare.
So I want to commend you and thank you for doing that.
[00:58:11] But if there was one thing that you’d say okay, this is how I handle success, this is the message that I want to send to people about– whether it’s the low of the low or the high of the high, this is the last message I want to share with people.
If I could remove the skull cap and plant a seed inside of their brain (pitcher, pitching coach, parent – whatever), this is the one message that Corbin Burnes wants to leave them with.
Corbin Burnes: Everyone likes to ask… talking about the streak I’ve got going and… No one wants to talk to you when you’re that guy that’s gotten the streak the other way around. You’re not punching anyone out. No. You’re walking everyone. No one wants to talk to that guy. Everyone wants to talk to you when you’re the guy on top.
So for me it’s approaching everything the same way, whether your highest high or your lowest low.
For me, that’s led to this process and this routine of hey, as soon as something good or bad happens, we flush it and move on to the next.
It’s very easy to stay upset when hey, I gave out 10 hits yesterday and now I got to go watch the film after the game and count the execution I made. And I executed like five pitches.
That’s very easy just to let yesterday drag in to today and drag in to tomorrow in your bullpen and be like, oh, I’m doing the same thing over again. You pity yourself and woe is me and things will just never come to the end.
At some point you have to have that barrier, that break of hey, doing this over and over again is not going to work. You have to have something new to stop it and start over and get on a good run.
So for me it’s having the ability to try to stay even keel as possible even if it’s a good day or a bad day.
If you have a bad day, okay flush it. It’s the next day. If you have a good day, great. Flush it. It’s the next day.
I’ve heard so many stories of a guy like Craig Kimbrel who was one of the best closer in baseball. Somebody will say his last two years he’s haven’t done well but when he comes in the clubhouse the next day you would have no idea that he gave up the game the day before. He just had 30 consecutive saves – whatever it may be.
It’s all about being the same guy as when you’re going good and being the same guy when things are going bad so that eventually things will get back on track.
Try to stay as even keel as possible.
Brian Cain: Kobe Bryant echoed that same thing, where he said whether you win or whether you lose, the process remains the same.
You’re asking yourself what will I do well, what do I want to do better, how am I going to do it. And that that’s something that you mentioned earlier.
People listening to this, you’re going to have to go back and let’s do it a couple times because there’s so many nuggets that were dropped.
But Corbin talked about identifying what I do well, what I want to do better, how am I going to do it.
Well, Corbin, I want to be respectful of your time, man. Thank you for joining us here today at The Mental Performance Mastery podcast and sharing a little insight into kind of how you work the mental game.
For anybody who’s listening, please check out and engage with Corbin on instagram @CorbinBurnes. You can see some of the things he’s got going on there and kind of stay up on his career and follow on him because not only is he a great pitcher, he’s even better off the field, man.
And when we’re talking about somebody who’s classy, somebody who’s humble, somebody who cares about not only his success but the success of other people and wanting to grow the game.
So, Corbin, thanks for being with us man. Looking forward to watching your continuing success and your continuing progress in the game of baseball brother.
Corbin Burnes: Yeah. Awesome. Thank you guys and thanks for your questions and thanks for having me on.