Here's another baseball pitching tip...
Have as much command out of the zone as in the zone.
Two-strike hits are the leading cause of premature baldness
among pitching coaches. Nothing is more frustrating than
watching a pitcher tilt the at-bat impressively in his favor,
and then give up a hit because the two-strike pitch was too
This concept is summed up by the maxim, "Get ahead with
strikes, get outs with balls."
A two-strike pitch should be close enough to the strike zone
that the hitter has to consider swinging at it, but not so
close that he can get his bat on the ball.
This does not mean waste a pitch with the count 0-2.
Instead, use the 0-2 pitch to set up the 1-2 pitch.
Try for four-pitch strikeouts instead of three. Tempt the
hitter, but do not give him anything to hit. This all comes
down to throwing the ball where you want to, whether the count
is 2-0 or 0-2.
Very, very, very few pitchers in baseball can get
three-pitch strikeouts on a regular basis. But that's what you
should aim for.
Work on it!
Want to throw harder by spring?
Flying open early during the stride and cocking phase is a
common fault experienced by all pitchers no matter of age or
experience. Young high school and college pitchers have to
learn HOW to stay closed, and experienced pitchers must FOCUS
on staying closed until the stride foot plants.
Staying closed means that until the stride foot plants giving
the pitcher a stable base, the lead elbow, the shoulders, and
throwing arm stay aligned to the plate. The next action
(sequence) is for the trunk to powerfully horizontally rotate
to create angular velocity (torque), which is the major
source of power, arm speed and velocity!
The fault of "flying open" occurs when upper body,
shoulders, and arms open with the stride leg and front hip.
This is a natural tendency biomechanical, but this action
decreases rotational forces (angular velocity) and puts the
motion out of sequence, negatively effecting control and
velocity plus creating unnecessary stress on the shoulder and
"Flying open" causes the arm to drag because the stronger
& larger muscles of the legs, hips, and trunk have already
fired and are not available to create torque. Because of the
lack of torque, most of the pitch velocity has to come from
the shoulder and arm muscles, which will cause early fatigue.
Pitching is the most important aspect of the
A dominating pitching staff can make all the difference in
determining a team's success. Practice and mastery of the
physical elements of pitching will improve the mechanical
skills, but developing the psychological aspects of pitching
can improve the overall concentration of the pitchers. Pitcher
concentration is directly related to control, confidence and
The key psychological aspects of pitching include a thorough
understanding of personal pitching strengths and weaknesses, as
well as the development of the following areas:
The successful pitcher will continue to master his strengths
and work on his weaknesses in practice and during isolated
As a coach, become aware of what type of pitcher you are
dealing with. A power pitcher? A control pitcher? A breaking
ball pitcher? Once the type of pitcher is determined, start to
work toward strengthening and improving weak areas. For
example, a pitcher throwing in the low 80's is not going to be
a power-type pitcher. He is going to have to rely on having
good control, developing a good breaking pitch, and
establishing the ability to quickly change speeds with his
pitches. On the other hand, the pitcher who throws hard
(85-to-90 mph) will emphasize the use of his fastball more
often. He should also develop a breaking pitch or changeup.
When behind in the count, these pitches are used to set up his
fastball or to upset the hitter's timing.
Developing mental discipline
A pitcher must be able to control his thoughts, emotions and
actions throughout a game. Pitchers should stick with their
routine no matter what happens during the game. They cannot
work on things during the game, so they need to be under
control and have a clear plan on each pitch. The pitcher should
always be in control, since the hitter can only react to the
pitch being thrown. The pitcher cannot allow a situation to
become a factor of intimidation, but rather an opportunity to
pitch with self-control and confidence. Some examples of
distractions that can affect a pitcher mentally are:
(a) environmental conditions--rain, wind, heat, etc., crowd
noise, a poorly maintained mound;
(b) game situations such as a batter calling time out, a
baserunner who may be a stealing threat, the umpire missing a
few pitches, a teammate making a costly error, a poorly-thrown
pitch that results in a base hit and/or a trip to the mound by
These situations can affect the pitcher mentally and usually
will result in loss of concentration. The pitcher who is
prepared to handle these situations has already placed himself
in similar situations during practice and masters his own
mental approach. The pitcher should always be in control, able
to pitch in a variety of situations and under all conditions.
The ability to set goals and take the necessary steps toward
All athletes set goals for themselves, but the great ones work
harder at aspects that will assist them in reaching those
goals. While practicing, pitchers should establish specific
goals that they will try to accomplish. Pitching practice
should be more than just getting a workout.
Some specific goals may be:
working on rhythm and balance
working on a routine and release
working on throwing to a target
pitching from the stretch
pitching in different situations to use a variety of pitches
working on certain drills that emphasize visualization skills
such as shadow pitching
Setting goals before practice sessions will enhance practice
performance and assist in developing good work habits in
pitchers. Before games, pitchers should also set goals to
assist in maintaining concentration and setting the tone for
performance. Preparation for the game should consist of more
than just a time to get loose; it should be a time to get a
feel for accomplishing goals during the game. Setting these
types of goals and following through will eventually lead to
The understanding and positive approach for dealing with
adversity and/or success
Most pitchers are competitive by nature and must learn to deal
with success or failure by making adjustments and taking
responsibility for their performance. When pitching in trouble,
pitchers should not resort to throwing harder, they should keep
pitching with the same confidence and a smooth, tension-free
motion. Trying to throw harder tends to produce tension, and
pitchers usually lose control, lose the efficiency of their
motion, and slow down arm speed. Aiming the ball or trying to
make perfect pitches is another negative way in which pitchers
may deal with adverse conditions.
Pitchers need to be taught that they do not need to strike
batters out, but instead throw off the hitters timing to get
the desired results. Coaches need to watch for these signs and
emphasize to their pitchers the importance of making good
pitches, hitting the target, and committing to the pitch they
are about to throw. Successful pitchers will not need to be
reminded of these examples; however, they will always need to
be reminded that they should never be satisfied with a
performance. The successful pitcher will always try to improve
by seeking to learn more and always looking for that better way
of throwing a particular pitch.
Preparing and developing a game plan
Getting pitchers ready to pitch is an ongoing process that
requires a focused approach to their job. Pitchers should think
about a game plan before the game. Coaches should meet with
pitchers to review scouting reports, hitter tendencies, and how
to pitch in a variety of situations. Reviewing specific
defenses and pickoff plays will also assist in this
While in the bullpen, the pitcher should go through his pregame
routine by preparing the body to throw--warming up, stretching
and short distance drills. Pitchers should also use this time
to practice what they are going to do on the mound--getting
used to their pitches, finding a comfort zone, concentrating on
staying back, using a good explosion and following through.
This routine is further accomplished by insuring that the last
few pitches of the warm-up are thrown at game speed or similar
to the first few pitches of the first inning. Visualizing
mechanics and release point will further assist in the
preparation and reinforce total concentration on the pitching
Develop a confident approach to pitching
This approach is accomplished by concentrating on the execution
rather than on the results. A positive approach to pitching is
essential to any good performance. Being able to take it from
the bullpen to the game is one of the biggest factors to a
pitcher's success. A successtul pitcher will be able to take
his best stuff out to the mound and pitch with confidence. He
should not have any doubt, tension or fear. This approach is
accomplished by being totally confident in all of his pitches
and his ability to win the battle. A pitcher should believe
that he has warmed-up properly and has had ample opportunity to
prepare mentally for the delivery of the first pitch. Pitchers
do not always need their best stuff to be successful. In fact,
most pitchers can get hitters out with poor pitches, since most
hitters go up to the plate overly aggressive and swinging at
the first pitch. The key, as discussed earlier, is being under
control and pitching with confidence.
Be aware of the pitcher's rhythm
Rhythm is a primary objective when trying to develop
consistency in a pitcher's timing, balance and control. Most
pitchers will get into trouble when they begin to work too fast
or start to allow situations to bother them. Once a coach
senses a loss of rhythm, it is time for a trip to the mound or
time to get a reliever loose. Losing rhythm is usually the
first sign of trouble.
The use of visualization skills
To be successful, pitchers should learn to visualize their
mechanics, rhythm and control. Visualizing before throwing each
pitch is an important step for all successful pitchers. They
have to be able to see themselves throwing the pitch before
they actually throw it! Pitchers have to learn to make
visualization a part ot their routine, so it needs to be
developed and mastered during practice. This skill can be
accomplished in a variety of ways. Bullpen work is an excellent
time to work on visualization skills. The coach can ask the
pitcher about pitch selection, location and target for each
pitch being thrown. This response will give the coach some
clues about whether the pitcher is developing the necessary
Development and use of relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques improve performance, concentration and
confidence. Learning to relax is a useful tool in the pitching
process that facilitates necessary adjustments needed
throughout a ballgame. Using controlled breathing, stretching,
or just taking time out to gather thoughts are techniques that
will assist in the relaxation process. Key words or phrases
used by the coach are valuable starters for a pitcher to begin
using relaxation techniques while pitching. "One pitch at a
time ," "smooth and easy," "nice and loose," "stay within
yourself," "just let it happen," "see the target and let it
go," are some suggested phrases that have been used by coaches.
These phrases are also repeated by the pitcher as a means of
relaxation, further facilitating the process and assisting the
pitcher in gaining control of himself.
Develop a technique for evaluating performance
This aspect will assist in teaching pitchers to constructively
evaluate what they are doing, either in practice or during
games. Most pitchers have a difficult time evaluating their
personal performances in a way that will assist them in
improving their game. It is not uncommon for pitchers to only
see the good things and the results, such as ERA, hits given
up, walks and number of strikeouts. These results do not give a
clear picture of what happened during the actual outing and the
events that transpired leading to these results.
Most pitchers see themselves as pitching well and the "rest" of
the team making mistakes, errors or not scoring runs as the
primary reason for their lack of success. Coaches should be
aware of these situations and plan a visit or sit down with the
pitcher between innings to discuss what they want to occur
rather than what has been happening. A good pitcher will be
able to evaluate all these things and gain control of his
emotions once he has developed a plan of learning to make
Pitching is a difficult task, and learning to pitch with a
positive attitude and well-established pitching psychology are
important factors in predicting success. These key areas will
enable the coach to develop practice situations to gain the
desired outcomes during a contest and assist in recognizing
certain points of emphasis that can assist in this success.
Coaching pitchers on the psychological aspects will greatly
enhance development and peak performance.
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