This is an excerpt from Baseball by Kenny Thomas & DJ King.
The pitcher must always be aware of the situation. For beginners, being aware of every situation is difficult. Teaching awareness really happens by trial and error. By reviewing actions that happened, good or bad, a player can more easily correct the action the next time. The difficulty for beginners is being able to process the amount of information that goes into every situation, all while trying to pitch to a hitter. So let’s look at how a pitcher can filter the information and still be able to execute a pitch.
A pitcher must be aware of the following list of factors at all times. Although it may seem like a lot to filter, at the professional and higher collegiate levels, this list will grow even bigger. The question format is designed to illustrate the thought process that a pitcher may go through between pitches.
- Who are the good runners and hitters in the opposing lineup?
- What inning are we in?
- What is the score?
- How many outs are there?
- What is the count?
- Are runners on base?
- Is the runner a steal threat?
- Is this a time they might bunt or try to create action?
- Where do I go with the ball if it is hit to me?
- Has a defensive play been called? What is our defensive setup?
- Who is at bat, and where is he in the lineup?
- Where are the outs?
- Is the hitter in a situational at-bat?
- What is the hitter trying to do?
- Has he adjusted his position in the batter’s box?
- What pitch sequence have we used or are we using?
- What pitch are we trying to get to based on my strengths and the hitter’s weaknesses?
Executing the Pitch and Evaluating the Information
- Is a runner on base?
- How can I control the base runner from the set position?
- Did I execute the pitch to the location?
- What reaction did the hitter have?
- Was there action with the base runner?
- Did I feel a mechanical adjustment that I can make to execute the next pitch better?
- Reset and refocus.
- How has the situation changed?
For a beginner, this cycle has an abundance of information that can be difficult to process without slowing the tempo of the game. In time, many of these specific questions will become part of the pitcher’s natural process between pitches. A pitcher who is capable of understanding the situation and can cycle through this information quickly will have a higher baseball IQ and a greater feel of the game and the way in which it is played.
For those who can do this, most of the answers to the questions in this breakdown will be stored subconsciously, thereby allowing the pitcher to focus on three major factors. The three major factors for a pitcher to focus on help determine the answers to the other questions in the breakdown. The advanced pitcher will quickly adjust the answers to the other questions. Here is how it works.
The first major factor that a pitcher focuses on is the delivery itself. Given all the other information that the pitcher must process, he must make only minimal mechanical adjustments during the game. One goal of practice, or throwing in the bullpen, is to find those minor mechanical adjustments that the pitcher can feel and that he can use during a game.
What Is the Count? Pitch Sequencing
The count on the batter determines many aspects of how a situation is played. The count affects the running game, the hitter’s approach, and the decision on what pitch is called. In turn, it can affect the defensive setup. For the advanced pitcher who is self-aware, the count encompasses all of these factors and plays a big role in pitch selection.
The cat and mouse game for a starting pitcher begins with his looking at the entire lineup. Each hitter is different, and the pitcher must figure out what weaknesses he can exploit in the lineup by using his strengths. As the game is played, the pitcher should note the sequencing he used to get hitters out. The goal is to keep the offense off balance by creating soft contact. The pitcher can do this by establishing the fact that he can command the fastball.
Working off of the fastball, the pitcher can mix in secondary pitches. Throughout the course of a game, the sequencing of pitches within each at-bat will factor into the sequencing of the next at-bat for each hitter, but the pitcher must be conscious of not getting into a pattern with the sequencing. If the pitcher throws a first-pitch fastball to every hitter, the offense is likely to notice and make adjustments, so the pitcher must be able to throw secondary pitches in every count. This unpredictability will keep an offense from getting accustomed to a specific pitch sequence.
Learn more about Baseball: Steps to Success.