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Pitcher, Catcher, Coach Communication

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

What is the best way to communicate a game plan?  Before every series in Major League Baseball there is a meeting between all the pitchers, catchers and pitching coaches.  Usually some position players sneak in if they have played previously for the opposing team or they play a middle infield defensive position.  With the current defensive shifting trends of today I wouldn't be surprised if the whole infield attends. But the most important relationship is between the pitcher and catcher.

In my experience the meetings consisted of the pitching coach going down the list of opposing hitters and reading a sentence or two about what the scouting department thinks is the best way to get each hitter out.  Then other pitchers or a veteran catcher will generally chime in about which pitch Lokation, selection, and sequencing that had been successful in the past.  

Sometimes there are some pretty vague terms being thrown around the room at some pretty high levels of baseball.  Some of the phrases coaches say are like "hard in, soft away", "will chase behind in the count", "pull hitter", "likes first pitch fastball", "will chase breaking ball", etc.  

Before I invented the the Lokator System, sequences had never been spelled out and named.  Instead of coaches talking about just pitching a hitter away, they can now easily distinguish between outer third of the plate in the Go Zone and the edge of the plate in the Chase Zone.  

Inside off the plate in a Purpose Zone is different than inside for a strike in a Go or Chase Zone.  Catchers can call pitches in the bottom edge Strike Zone in the Chase Zone 4 when the count calls for more aggressiveness on the plate or in a double play situation.  It is easy for catchers to communicate Freeze Zones when calling pitches to hitter's with a slow bat compared to a pitch lower in the Strike Zone.

Coaches who call pitches from the dugout can decide sequencing, pitch selection, and call a Lokation number when communicating a spot to hit.  Once the pitcher, catcher, and coach get familiar with the Lokator System, there won't be any confusion between where the catcher is giving the target and where the pitcher is aiming.  

It is also a good practice for catchers to relay the number of the Lokation of a hard hit ball to the coach after the at bat so coaches can make a note of where the hard hit pitch was.  It is so important to recognize whether the pitch was a mistake or whether it was a good pitch in a hitter's hot zone.  Recognition of your own strengths and weakness is the most important scouting report to learn, but to execute that, you must be on the same page with your catcher and coach. 

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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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Breaking Ball

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

The Curveball Grip shown here is one of the most commonly used grips among professional pitchers. However, it is important to experiment with different grips that may work for you.  This particular grip has your middle finger and thumb with the majority of your total hand pressure. Your index finger should have little to no pressure on the ball with your thumb on the seam underneath.

Just before releasing the curveball, concentrate on pulling down on the top seam with the pressure of your middle finger while pushing up with the thumb on the bottom seam. This creates a higher percentage of top-spin, tilt, and depth on the ball for more vertical movement. The vertical movement you create will keep the ball off the plane of the bat and will look more enticing to hitters because the break stays on the plate instead of breaking sideways and off the plate.

As with all off speed pitches, it may take some time to get comfortable with the grip that works best for you.  Whichever grip you decide on, make sure you do not tip the hitters off by doing something like wiggling your glove while you secure your grip every time you throw an off-speed pitch.  As you move up the ranks in the game, hitters will pay closer attention to you movements and body language so they can get a better idea of what pitch is coming next.

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4 Seam Fastball

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

Generally the four-seam fastball is a straighter pitch with a 1-2 mph increase in velocity over the two-seam. When throwing opposite arm-side, righty away from righty or lefty away from lefty, you have the option to throw the four-seam straight fastball to avoid the ball moving back over the middle of the plate. The four-seam fastball opposite of arm-side is a good lock in pitch early in the count.

To execute a lock in pitch, you must have good extension and a good release point to get the ball to the other side of the plate. Once you find that release point and are “locked in”, you can begin to throw your other pitches in relation to the four-seam fastball release point with extension.

It is important to note that it can be very beneficial to be able to throw the two seam fastball in Zones 1-6.  The 4 seam opposite arm side will help keep the ball straight if you WANT it to stay straighter.  If you would rather have more movement then it would be a good idea to practice the 2 seam in all those Zones.

The 4 seam fastball is generally used when you need to elevate the ball to the top of the strike-zone (Freeze Zones) or above the strike-zone (Purpose Zones, Red Box). Some pitchers prefer to use the 2 seam fastball when throwing the arm-side Purpose Pitch so the movement of the ball helps get the pitch inside.  But others have found that the 2 seam can move too far inside and hit the batter.  Experiment with the 2 and 4 seam fastball in all Zones so you know what you do best.

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