8 Tips For Pitchers Of Any Level
The position of the pitcher is unlike any other on the baseball field. It requires immense focus and concentration because it is the only position that is involved in every play that takes place on the field.
As a pitcher, one must be ready for anything; ready for when the batter chooses to bunt when a player decides to steal a base, ready to catch a fly ball, and plenty more.
While a pitcher must be fully aware of their surroundings, they must also be in constant communication with the rest of their team to keep every player on the field assured as to what’s to come from the following play.
Here are 8 tips to make you a pitcher ready to handle anything that comes swinging:
1. Velocity only matters if you can command it effectively
In today’s baseball history, velocity carries a large impact on the rise and awareness of baseball pitchers. While velocity is an important aspect of the game and pitching itself, full focus on the speed and velocity of the ball can distract the pitcher from their initial goal of providing stellar pitches.
When the pitcher's attention shifts from throwing a strike to how fast their pitch was or how high they can get it, their mindset switches from the true meaning of the game and can cause the pitcher to lose focus and ultimately, miss the strike zone.
While we understand effective command is a main aspect of the game, it is important to note that velocity does hold a large significance on the field. The General Manager for the Toronto Blue Jays, Ross Atkins states, “You’re right that [front offices] are obsessed with velocity, and the reason is that it works… It is the hardest thing to hit. It changes approaches, for sure. You can’t hit velocity without getting geared up to attack it.” Velocity can be efficiently used with the assistance of effective command to:
- Enhance pitch quality
- Allow you to miss ‘in the zone' more often because it misses the barrel of the bat
- Increases the gap between pitch speeds - making it more difficult for the player at-bat
Chris Young, a major league pitcher from 2004 to 2017 and is now MLB’s vice president for on-field operations states, “What’s important is finding a balance. You want velocity in today’s game, but we don’t want everyone to have extreme velocity. There’s an art to pitching, and we don’t want to get away from that, but there’s also something great about power and velocity. We want a wide range.”
The balance of velocity and command differs from player to player based on one’s overall ability, training process, strength, endurance, and most importantly, mentality. The strong mentality of implementing a pitch into the zone will drive velocity up with it.
2. Focus on accuracy and consistency
One of the most important factors, if not the most, is the ability to willfully and accurately throw a ball of a certain type along with the placement of the ball along with the plate.
A pitcher's primary duty is to consistently throw a successful pitch leading to a strike or allowing the batter to make contact with the ball on every release. In a typical Major League Baseball game, a starting pitcher may throw up to 100 pitches in a game. With this amount of tedious throwing, accuracy and consistency make a large dent in the number of pitches in a game leading to more strikeouts and more active plays.
Another reason accuracy is so important is when a play calls for the pitcher to step up and throw the ball to a baseman. Without consistency and accuracy, the play could be missed and allows the batter to reach the plate safely.
A pitcher must know how to correctly and consistently repeat the process of getting into placement, winding up, and releasing on every pitch or throw.
3. Perfect different pitch types and grips
Every player has a preference on different grips and placements of the ball. The most common pitching grips being the 4-seam grip and the 2-seam grip. Grips vary depending on the person, but the intent is for the grip to feel comfortable, or else the pitch won’t succeed.
Learning to perfect different pitching types as well as creating a recurring pitching lineup, is an amazing way to individualize your pitching and up the strike count.
Here are a couple of examples of the most common pitching types seen on the field today:
- Fastball: A four-seam fastball is gripped across the seams and allows the most control while the two-seam fastball is gripped along with the seams to give you the most movement. When releasing the fastball your palm should be facing the target and your wrist snaps with the palm facing downward immediately after the release of the ball.
Generally, the fastball is used to get ahead in the ball–strike count, to dispose of weak hitters quickly, to set up your off-speed pitches, and to establish you as in control of the game.
- Change up: More than any other pitch, the changeup is a matter of individual practice and personal preference. This pitch is frequently thrown as a circle change (tips of the index finger and thumb touch with the ball fitting in the palm of the hand), palm ball (ball rests in hand with four fingers resting on it but the fingertips do not touch the ball nor do the thumb tip), split-finger (index and middle finger on sides of the ball with the thumb underneath), a two-seam grip (throw the front of the ball, as you would a screwball, with a stiff wrist) and a modified circle change (ring and middle finger each lying on a seam with the pinky resting on the side of the ball and the thumb and index finger are not touching – put the ball a little deeper in the palm of the hand and put pressure on the ball with the thumb). It’s important to make sure that the speed of your arm is the same as your fastball to give the impression that you are throwing a fastball.
Use this pitch to disturb a batter’s rhythm and timing, to effectively set up the fastball, and make sure to keep it down in the strike zone.
- Curveball: The fingers grip the ball along the wide or narrow seam. Your fingers must stay on top of the ball throughout the entire delivery, your wrist is turned to the side with the pinky finger closest to the hitter and the wrist snap is done with the same motion as a “karate” chop ending with the thumb pointing to your target.
Use the curveball to disturb the hitter’s rhythm and timing, effectively set up the fastball, and throw it outside the strike zone to make it a good out pitch.
Learning the key differences and the importance these grips and pitching styles hold, is a huge step in upping your pitching game and overall performance on the field.
4. Field the position
One of the most important jobs of being a pitcher is being able to field the position. Fielding the pitcher’s mound isn’t only about rounding up ground balls or short pop-ups, it involves immense agility and focus.
A pitcher carries two other main responsibilities when the time comes to the field. First off, you must be prepared to cover first base on any ground ball that is hit to the right of the infield. When the first baseman goes after the ball, it is the pitcher's job to cover so the base isn’t left alone.
Secondly, the pitcher must also back up throws coming from the outfield to the third baseman.If the player at bat hits to the outfield and the ball looks to be going back to third, it’s the pitcher's responsibility to cover in foul territory halfway between third and home plate.
Keeping in constant contact with your teammates on and off the field can help make this transition of when and where to cover other bases easier 一 leading to better teamwork and even better plays!
5. Practice throwing from the stretch
Every pitcher needs to develop the ability to use a consistent and quick release of the ball when throwing from the stretch.
Pitching from the stretch is a technique used to shorten the throwing motion in order to allow base runners less time to steal a base.
With the pitcher's normal windup motion, they will start by facing the plate and will proceed with a sideways step as they get into the proper position to release the ball.
Practicing throwing from the stretch can help any pitcher gain and build a consistently powerful and fast-pitch to any plate
6. Study your opponents
Whether you are on or off the pitcher's mound, observing and learning the weaknesses of your opponents can be a great asset to any pitcher.
Studying the habits and stances of different players at-bat can give any pitcher a better insight of what to pitch and when to pitch it, allowing more control over the game.
See if the batter is diving toward home plate when swinging 一 if so, pitch the ball inside to throw them off. If the batter is opening up their hips too early, throw an off-speed pitch toward the outside of the plate. This will result in a late swing.
The more a pitcher takes advantage of studying and analyzing the different batters' stances and batting habits, the more prepared you’ll be to win the game.
7. Listen to your body to support performance
Probably the most important rule of all, taking care of yourself and your body is key to staying in the game. The importance of listening to your body and learning the correct ways to care for it after a game can be life-changing for any pitcher.
With the constant use of the arms and shoulders, stretching before and after the game as well as learning the best ways for after-game-care can double the amount of time a pitcher spends on (or off) the field.
In order to support your performance on the field, you must support your body and well-being off the field.
8. Join a throwing program
A definite way any pitcher or any player for that matter, can improve their throwing is by signing up for a throwing program. A throwing program can provide guidance and consistency with any throw, for any player.
Ryan Weiss’ throwing program involves 3 months of training, focusing on the increase in velocity and consistency tailored specifically to you and your needs of improvement.
This throwing program will go over the anatomy of throwing, a throwing schedule, conditioning work, important keywords to understand, and mobility work.