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Command Off Speed Pitches in the Go Zone

Posted on April 18, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

Commanding off speed pitches in the Go Zone behind in the count will expand the number of pitches a hitter has to protect against.  Hitters don't know what to expect when you are throwing two or three pitches in the Go Zone, this makes timing more difficult.  When a hitter knows you can't command off speed in the Go Zone they will expect fastballs when ahead in the count, timing will likely be good, and a more precise Lokation will be required to get the out.

If you can't command an off speed pitch in the Go Zone, then hitters can eliminate those from pitches they will swing at.  When you get behind in the count 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 2-1, 3-1 (hitter's/ fastball counts) and can't throw off-speed pitches for strikes, then you are limited to throwing fastballs behind in the count.  The fastball is exactly what the hitter is looking for while they are ahead in the count.  This will decrease pitch possibilities and make the fastball look slower (decreased perceived velocity) because the hitter is expecting it.  

The fewer pitch possibilities a hitter must think about, the more likely he will expect or sit on the pitch he is going to see. This helps a hitter's timing and pitch recognition. This is why it is important to have the ability to throw the change-up or curveball in the Go Zone when even (0-0, 1-1, 2-2, 3-2) or behind in the count. 

Ideally, a change-up looks more like a fastball's flight path, which is why we recommend mastering the change up in the Go Zone BEFORE the curveball. Why not master the pitch that looks the most like a fastball and doesn’t put extra stress on your arm first?  On average hitters do the most damage when you are behind in the count.  It’s not a coincidence that almost every starting pitcher in the Big Leagues has an off speed pitch they can throw in the Go Zone in any count.  

Older pitchers should work on throwing breaking pitches at two different speeds so the hitter can’t immediately judge the speed when he recognizes the breaking ball out of your hand.  A "get me over" breaking ball with less velocity is good to throw even or behind in the count because the hitter is probably expecting a fastball.  It doesn't need the velocity or sharp break in a fastball count.  But throwing that same "get me over" breaking ball ahead in the count when the hitter is expecting off speed, they would have a better chance at solid contact.

The slower type breaking ball is also a good backdoor pitch Lokated in the arm-side third of the Go Zone when facing an opposite-handed batter. It should start up and away from the hitter in the Purpose-Zone and end in the Go or Chase Zone away from the hitter. The faster breaking ball will generally be a sharper, later break starting in the Danger or Go Zone and breaking towards a Chase Zone or an opposite handed batters back foot, used more often with 2 strikes. 

There is no need to paint the corners with an off-speed pitch when you are even or behind in the count.  This translates to generally targeting the 2 or 4 Zones when throwing an off-speed pitch while even or behind in the count.  Aiming for the middle of the plate and down (2 or 4 zones) gives you room for error when you have to throw a strike because if you miss six inches to the right or left it's still a strike.  As long as the pitch is below the top of the Go Zone with good arm-speed, a downhill plane, and correct velocity, the hitters chance for solid contact decreases. 

Generally when throwing off speed pitches behind in the count, you can get away with less precise locations.  If you threw a change up in the Danger Zone in a 2-0 count, it would be less likely to get hit than a fastball in the same area, especially if the first two pitches were fastballs.

In another example, if you are behind in the count 2-0 and throwing a fastball you might have it throw a fastball to the 1 or 5 to have a good chance to get an out.  But if you were to throw a change up in that same count you could target a bigger area such as 1-4 to get the same result because the hitter it most likely expecting a fastball while they are ahead in the count.

Throwing off speed pitches while behind in the count will allow you to throw at bigger areas because hitters are looking for the fastball.  You need better Lokation on the pitch when the hitter is expecting it or has good timing.  You don't need the best Lokation when the hitter does not know what to expect or timing is bad.  Good timing makes Lokation more important and bad timing allows for less precise Lokation.  Commanding off speed pitches in the Go Zone will disrupt timing every time.

 

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Targeting K Zones

Posted on April 16, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

Fastballs in the K Zone are very effective ahead in the count.  A fastball in the K Zone could be a two or four-seam chase fastball away from a hitter or a  two-seam fastball inside to the hitter.  Practice using the 2 seam fastball on both sides of the plate. 

In a double-play situation, a two-seam fastball could be thrown at the arm side third of the Go Zone and break to the K Zone after the hitter has already decided to swing. When throwing a two-seam fastball opposite arm-side, backspin is crucial to promote downward movement.  If the catcher's glove is set up in the K Zone and you hit the mitt, you have a great chance to get the strike call even if the hitter doesn't swing  

Hitters sometimes hit inside sinking fastballs at the K on the top of their foot or the inside of their ankle.  If this happens the last thing a hitter wants to see on the next pitch is the same pitch in the same spot.  Keep this in mind when a facing a hitter who fouls one off their lower body.

While ahead in the count, throwing a shorter, tighter, breaking ball, the pitch should generally start in the Danger Zone above the 2 Zone and break towards the K Zone.  Where to aim always depends on the size of the break on the off speed pitch.  

The K Zone is a great “backdoor curveball” Lokation.  This is typically a slower type breaking pitch that is thrown from a RHP to a LHB or vice versa.  This breaking ball is designed to end up on the outer part of the plate to the hitter and seemingly break around the strike-zone.  It's typically a slower breaking pitch has more break and has a better chance to start high and far enough outside of the strike-zone for the hitter to make the decision not to swing (give up) early in the flight of the ball.  Then it breaks over the outer Go or Chase Zone late in flight.

A change up in the K Zone should generally start in the outer-third of the Go Zone through the first half of the ball’s flight, and when the hitter has to make the decision to swing, the movement of the pitch will take it to the K Zone. Backspin, gravity, and natural movement will help the pitch break to the K Zone.

The K Zone can also be used opposite arm-side with the change-up although it is a much harder pitch to execute. Backspin is very important because a change-up with sidespin opposite arm-side can end up flat and in the middle of the plate just as the fastball will.

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Recognize Breaking Ball Movement

Posted on April 16, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

When commanding the breaking ball in the Go Zone it's very important for you to recognize how much it you're breaking ball moves. Some pitchers have a tighter, shorter break compared to the bigger, slower break of others.  Once you become familiar with the movement of your curveball, you can determine where you need to aim the ball for it to end up in a Go or Chase Zone. 


For bigger breaking balls like a slow curve to hit the Go Zone, aim those pitches at the arm-side 7 or 8 Purpose Zone.  Start these pitches outside of the strike-zone and let them break back to the Go Zone.  For a smaller breaking ball like a slider to end in the Go Zone, start the pitch in an arm-side 9 or 10 Freeze Zone.

 

 

 

Strikeout breaking balls that end up in a Chase Zone or Under the 4 Zone should look like a strike to the hitter when they are making the decision to swing.

They should generally start in an arm side Freeze Zone and break to a Chase Zone or off after the batter has started to swing.  This means you will generally aim in the Danger Zone for bigger breaking balls to break to the Chase Zones or Under.  Aim the shorter breaking ball somewhere in the Go Zone to get the desired break towards a Chase Zone or Under. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Change Up

Posted on April 16, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

After learning to command the fastball in all three sections of the Go Zone with the two and four seam fastballs, it's now time to work on the change-up in the Go Zone. We have included the change-up grip that has proven most successful among pitchers we've taught. 

The change-up grip is a loose grip without any of your palm touching the ball.  It's a feel pitch. It takes touch, almost like a basketball shot. You can't have a basketball in your palm with tight fingers gripping the ball and expect to drain a 15-foot baseline jumper. Hold the ball softly with your fingers and use touch so you can get the shooters roll.  It's the same concept with a change-up. 

Hold the change-up with your middle and ring fingers with or across the seams. Your thumb is directly under the ball between your middle and ring finger. The index finger and pinky are resting on each side. Try to always keep the pinky above the height of the index finger on the other side.  This will keep your change-up from cutting like a curveball. 

Create backspin on the pitch to promote vertical downhill movement rather than flat horizontal movement. If you imagine a straight line from the middle of the rubber through the middle of the plate, and concentrate on taking your hand down through that line before release, it will create good backspin and vertical movement on your change-up. 

There are three parts of deception to a good change up, fastball arm-speed, a downhill plane on the pitch, and 8-12 MPH decrease in velocity from the fastball.  It is important to recognize that as long as the pitch is down in the Go or 4 Zone, it will be a quality pitch.  It does not have to be on an inside or outside corner to be effective. 

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