You may be surprised to learn that our instruction as coaches can take the simple concept of throwing a strike and blur it past the point of recognition.
Read on to discover 4 ways we make it hard for our pitchers to “just throw strikes”.
Throwing strikes seems easy. After all, isn’t that all a pitcher really has to do?! Yet, no matter what level of game you watch, you’ll no doubt hear someone tell a pitcher to “just throw strikes”. And while it’s certainly something the pitcher is aware of, and trying to do, it’s also all the casual fan knows to say.
But a coach isn’t a casual fan, and our knowledge of pitching should go beyond simply that of the average fan. We should know details and information about pitching that can help our pitchers improve overall, which also means helping them throw more strikes. But sometimes in our zest to help our pitchers, we go overboard and our information starts working in reverse. So instead of helping our pitchers throw strikes, we actually make throwing strikes harder.
I know it sounds crazy, but I think there are 4 things we do as coaches that really make it tougher for our pitchers to throw strikes. To me those 4 things are:
1. Complicate the Motion – This is by far #1, and could even be #2 AND #3. We confuse the importance of pitching with the need to make it complicated. Because something is really important doesn’t mean it needs to be really complicated. We don’t do our pitchers any service when we feel the need to over-complicate pitching. This over-complication only serves to confuse your pitchers, not help them, and confused players are not good players.
Here’s an idea of the things we say to over-complicate pitching and make it difficult for our pitchers to “just throw strikes”:
- “Should my pitcher try the IR or the Hello Elbow method of pitching?“
- “Some people in our area throw an “open style of pitching.” I teach a “stride and drive” style – which one’s right.“
- “Do you teach the same style of the pitching as the coaches in our area?“
- “Do I need to start teaching more “open style” instead of having them closed?“
- “Several fact sheets have been written about Internal Rotation, should I teach my pitcher that method?“
These are just some of the things we say to help confuse our pitchers and make it harder for them to focus on “throwing strikes”. Putting too much attention on picking styles or changing styles or anything about styles simply takes the pitcher’s focus off the ultimate objective – which is pitching the ball – and puts it on an objective that makes it harder for the pitcher to throw strikes.
This type of over-complicated, confusing pitching info doesn’t have to be coming from you, it could be coming from one of your coaches, or the pitching coach your pitcher goes to, or even a parent. Wherever it’s coming from it’s not helpful for your pitcher. You want your pitcher to throw strikes? Then simplify things for her instead of making pitching seem like landing the Rover on Mars would be easier!
I get these style types of questions all the time, and the more I work with pitchers, the more I’m convinced that we complicate things to make us look smart, instead of simplifying things to make our pitchers good!
To help simplify the pitching motion check out our eClinic:Pitching the Fastball Basics
2. Too Many Pitches – It seems like I shouldn’t really even have to list this but having too many pitches is a big reason your pitcher can’t throw strikes. It seems like the first thing a pitcher, her parents, and even her pitching coach want to do is throw a million different pitches – the more the better. In fact, coaches will encourage this by asking a pitcher, “So Cindy, how many different pitches do you have?” Ever heard that before? To be an effective world-class pitcher you don’t need a million pitches. In fact, you don’t even need 5 pitches. Pitchers at the top international and collegiate levels only have 3-4 pitches. That’s it! It’s not the number of pitches that make them so good; it’s how good they are with the pitches they have!! Let me say that again – it’s not the number of pitches that make them so good; it’s how good they are with the pitches they have!
To help your pitchers throw more strikes, trim down the number of pitches she throws and concentrate on no more than her top 3 (including a change up). This will ensure she starts to master these pitches and can control them whenever she needs them, and use them to throw strikes. Allowing your pitchers to have a million different pitches might sound cool, but it’s a sure-fire way to make it hard for her to throw strikes.
3. Speed, Speed, Speed – Sure speed matters, but so does control. I’m not saying we want to slow our pitchers down or quit emphasizing speed, but I am saying we need to quit freaking our pitchers out by telling them they have to throw at least 60mph or else. Well, ok, maybe lots of top division I pitchers throw in the 60’s. Fine, but there are also lots of good pitchers in all divisions that don’t. A pitcher that can throw 58-59 mph pitches that are superbly controlled is better than an overly tense and out-of-control pitcher trying too hard to throw 60+. Pitchers throw much faster when they’re relaxed and all this talk about “you’ve got to throw at least 60” doesn’t help. If you can’t teach them exactly how to throw faster then maybe you’re better off just getting your glove out and catching during practice. Sure, having a pitcher that throws extremely hard is a great benefit, but it doesn’t mean that all pitchers can throw that hard, or that our entire focus should be on speed. If we can get our pitcher to be more relaxed during her pitching motion, and focus more on exactly what her hand is doing during the release then her chances of throwing faster increase, and her accuracy and movement will increase as well.
4. Pitch Calling for Dummys – OK, I know this title isn’t the most positive, but sometimes, the way we call games as coaches is just plain dumb. Here’s an example of what I mean – I was working with a pitcher who had really struggled throwing strikes in a recent game. I was trying to help her figure out the specific reason and she said she was really struggling with her screwball. I reminded her that she didn’t even have a screwball and she said she knew that, but the coach kept calling it. That’s what I’m talking about. How can you yell at your pitcher to “just throw strikes” when the pitches you’re calling don’t allow her to do that?!
I’m not suggesting that calling pitches is easy. But I am saying that we should always do it from a position of strength for our pitcher – meaning, instead of always thinking about the batter’s weakness when calling a pitch, think first about your pitcher’s strength. Sure, a batter will hurt you the least if you attack her weakness, but too often, pitchers can’t throw that pitch well enough so it either misses for a ball, or it misses for a hit. Either way, it doesn’t help your pitcher and it makes throwing strikes that much harder. Here’s a link to a previous article I wrote on this exact topic titled – 3 Keys to Better Pitch Calling.
For more help with throwing strikes, check out the following:
- eClinic: Critical Counts: How to Stop the Walks
- eClinic: The Art of Calling Pitches: All the Things You Need to Know to Call a Great Game
- Book: The Complete Book of Pitching
- DVD’s: Pitching Clinic Series 4 DVD Set
- Vault Classic™ – Get ALL of our eClinics, eDrills, eSkills and ePractices at one low price – BEST VALUE!