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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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Why Purpose Pitches make Off Speed Better

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

The fastball at the 7 or 8 will prevent the hitter from keeping their front-side in on off-speed pitches, making it more difficult to track off speed pitches down and away. Purpose Pitches will also open up a bigger percentage of the outer Go Zone on ensuing fastballs. 

When you command fastballs in the Purpose Zones, you will be more likely to get away with a mediocre curveball in the middle of the plate because the hitter is seeing two pitches coming out of the same slot during the first half of the balls flight. The same slot refers to the numbers 7 or 8 that a bigger curveball starts to break during the ball’s flight before ending in the Go Zone. When you follow a Purpose Pitch with a pitch away from the hitter, it is much harder to hit.

If you can't execute fastballs up in the Purpose Zones, the hitter can recognize the curveball earlier because of the height of the pitch. If hitters aren't seeing fastballs in the 7 or 8 Zones, they can eliminate any other pitch in that slot and recognize the pitch earlier. Therefore, fastballs at the numbers 7 and 8 will make all pitches away harder to hit because the hitter has to respect the fact that you will throw a fastball inside off the plate. 

When a left-handed pitcher throws a fastball hard and inside to a right-handed batter, it becomes much harder for the hitter to adjust to the change-up on the outer-half of the Go Zone and vice versa with a righty pitching to a lefty. What is the opposite of a hard inside fastball?  It’s an off-speed pitch away. Changing speeds and locations will disrupt the hitter’s timing more often than not.

 

 

 

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When to throw the Purpose Pitch

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

Generally the best times to hit a Purpose Zone are when you are ahead in the count 0-1, 0-2 and 1-2.  Getting ahead will give you the option of throwing a ball in a Purpose Zone to set up an off speed pitch away.  You have more options of pitches to choose from while ahead in the count and the hitter has to protect against all pitches and the whole strike zone.        

There are situations to use this pitch earlier in the count. When a particular hitter has hit you hard earlier in the game the opposite way, pulls an outside pitch, or it is known they like to dive over the plate, it would be a good idea to run a pitch inside 0-0 or 1-0, 1-1, or 2-2, to send a message

Be careful throwing a really aggressive purpose pitch to weak hitters down in the batting order because of the possibility of hitting the batter. Base-runners are base-runners, and it can be especially costly if the runner has speed. It doesn't matter how they reached base when they cross the plate, it still counts as a run every time. 

A good alternative to the aggressive Purpose Pitch is a pitch around the letters of the hitter and over the middle of the plate.  You may be more likely to get a swing and a miss on this pitch compared to the Purpose Pitch.  Throwing the high hard fastball will speed the hitter's bat up enough to make them vulnerable to the off speed pitch down afterwards. 

Don't fall into a pattern of throwing a pitch away from the hitter every time immediately following a Purpose Pitch. Try following a Purpose Pitch with another inside fastball for a strike on the next pitch.  This is called doubling up inside on the hitter and it is a great tool to have in the bag.

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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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