Pitchers have pitches as if they were badges of honor – as if the one with the most wins. That couldn’t be any farther from the truth.
Do your pitchers a huge favor and help them do more with their best and less with the rest.
Growing up, pitchers love to get more pitches, and parents love to brag about how many pitches their kid throws. And by “throw”, I really mean signals and grips because once most pitchers release all these different pitches 90% of them do the same thing.
The only reason pitchers have different pitches is to prevent a batter from being on time or prevent them from accurately predicting the flight of the pitch. So, when is too many, actually too many?
Let me ask that question a different way. What if I asked you, “tell me a situation when throwing your 5th best pitch would help you?” My response would be that you can’t. In most cases, pitchers have 1 particular pitch that’s their strongest. It’s their best pitch because it has the most control, they feel the best about and as a result, they throw it the best.
Their #2 pitch might be close behind, but chances are their 3rd and 4th pitches are miles behind #2. The gap isn’t usually little, it’s usually Grand Canyon-like. So, to ever rely on a 3rd and 4th pitch that are basically, unreliable isn’t a recipe for success.
Instead, let me open your mind to a different way of looking at pitches – one that keeps your pitcher throwing her strongest pitch much more often while still allowing for zone control.
If a batter is trying to “be on time”, then the best way to hurt batters is to destroy their timing. Translation – changeup! Before pitchers add a 3rd pitch they definitely should master their changeup. I know it’s not a blazingly sexy pitch. It doesn’t sound impressive warming up your changeup the way it does to pop a glove with your incredible speed, but batters eventually hit speed – far.
So, my take on how to help your pitcher be much more effective while throwing less types of pitches is this:
- Be able to throw into all 4 Corner Zones reliably – this means reliably hitting zones 1, 2, 3 & 4 on the 4 corners of the strike zone. At first, they don’t have to be pinpoint, but simply hitting each zone with reliability will greatly improve your pitcher’s success. The more they practice this the smaller those zones will become.
- Be able to throw the Changeup into zone 5 reliably – too often I think we hurt our pitcher’s changeups by asking them to be too fine with their control. Throwing a changeup to the 3 zone might sound good on paper, but more often than not your pitcher will miss low and it won’t be believable to the hitter. Thus, wasting a pitch and falling behind. Instead, have your pitchers throw their changeups at the strike zone to zone 5. If they haven’t slowed down their motion or looped the pitch, then the batter won’t know it’s a changeup until they’ve started their swing. Give this pitch a chance and give your pitchers more room for error with this pitch by throwing it at zone 5.
- Take your pitcher’s Best Pitch and practice hitting another zone with it – let’s say your pitcher is right handed and her best pitch is a curveball. Instead of letting her throw it in between zones 1 and 3 (which is the belt high zone where balls are hard hit 80% more often than any other location), work with her to bend it down slightly to hit zone 3 and bend it up slightly to hit zone 1. This allows you to call the curveball multiple times in a row and lots of times within the game, without the pitch looking exactly the same every time. This is HUGELY important since too many pitch-callers avoid calling the same pitch in a row, which means they’re throwing their pitcher’s weak pitches a lot! Stop it by helping your pitcher practice changing her best and strongest pitch slightly so she can throw it multiple times in a row with it ever looking exactly the same.
- Use either the fastball, or the #2 pitch to reliably hit the other 2 zones – so back to our righthanded curveballer, until she gets comfortable throwing backdoor curves she still needs to hit zones 2 and 4 on the other side of the plate, so why can’t she use her fastball to do that? Sure, the fastball isn’t a flashy pitch and it’s gotten a bad name over the years, but a well-placed fastball will beat a crappy non-moving pitch any day! If your pitcher’s #2 pitch can reliably hit one of these zones then great, throw that, but you’re still going to have to hit the other remaining zone so don’t be too prideful or stubborn to hit it with your fastball.
- Eventually, see if your pitcher can throw an off-speed version of her best pitch by taking her thumb off the ball – this is more advanced, but once your pitcher has mastered her 4-zone control – and I’m not talking after a week of practice – then let her start experimenting with an off-speed version of her best pitch. Again, it’s her best pitch so it makes her feel her best, by taking a thumb off the ball she should be able to throw her best pitch somewhere in between its normal speed and her changeup, giving her 3 different speeds and making it even harder for the batter to “be on time”.
Instead of making pitching seem cooler by collecting different types of pitches, stay in your strength and collect wins by using your best pitch more often. Throw your best pitch to different locations and nail the control of your changeup. Pitching might be difficult, but that doesn’t mean we have to make it complicated.
If you need more help with your pitchers, check out:
- My latest eClinic The Comprehensive Pitching Blueprint: How to Understand it All – Or, if you’d like to get ALL these eClinics, plus TONS more – then become a member of our Vault Classic and start experiencing ALL of Cindy’s great instruction, today!
- Our college-level Pitching Summit Vault! Watch previous Pitching Summits, learn from the best college coaches in the country and get any new Summits we add during your membership period!