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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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2 Seam and 4 Seam Fastball Charts

Posted on May 13, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

               RHP SEAM CHART                         LHP SEAM CHART   

       

When the catcher throws down the old number one and calls for a fastball there are a few general rules to be aware of when deciding whether to throw a 2 or 4 seam.  As you advance in the game your catcher is more likely to have a 2 seam fastball sign and a 4 seam fastball sign but when you are throwing to the Lokator you need to experiment with both fastballs to see what you feel most comfortable with.

As we learned in previous blog posts, the 4 seam fastball is generally a straighter pitch with a 1-2 MPH increase in velocity over the 2 seam.  The 2 seam or sinker generally has more movement than the 4 seam.  Some pitchers throw all 4 seam fastballs while others throw predominantly 2 seamers, but we believe pitchers should throw both.

Whenever you are trying to elevate the ball in the Red Box (RB) or in an opposite arm side Purpose Zone (7/8) a 4 seam is more likely a better option because you want to keep the ball up.  When you are throwing an arm-side Purpose Pitch there are a couple different factors to think about.  A 2 seamer could give you more movement and help you get the pitch inside further but you also take the chance on the ball moving too far in and hitting the batter.  On the other hand some pitchers feel more confident throwing the straight 4 seamer in there and taking movement out of the equation.

A 2 seam arm-side Freeze Pitch (9/10) is more likely to get inside on the hitter and has a better chance of jamming them, but it could also sink or move more than you expect and cause you to miss the Lokation.  An opposite arm-side Freeze pitch should generally be a 4 seam fastball for pitchers who are not yet learning advanced pitches.  If a beginner tried to command the 2 seam in the opposite arm-side Freeze Zone the ball would be more likely to move back over the plate and end in the Danger Zone.  You have to be very careful with movement of the ball in the Freeze Zones because both of them border the Danger Zone.

When targeting the Go Zone (1/2/3) it is our view that any pitch thrown down the middle of the plate (2 Zone) should have movement and this translates to a 2 seam fastball.  If you ask any hitter whether they would rather see a straight fastball down the middle of the plate or one with movement, every hitter would rather see the straight pitch.  The general rules say to throw the opposite arm-side Go Zone (1/3) with the 4 seam to keep the ball from moving back over the Danger Zone and throw the arm-side Go Zone (1/3) with the 2 seam to promote movement towards that side of the plate.  I personally threw 2 seam fastballs to the 1, 2, and 3 but I was a sinker ball pitcher, figure out what works best for you.

The same general rules apply for the Chase Zones 5 and 6.  Most pitchers throw the 4 seam to the opposite arm-side Chase Zone to keep the ball from moving back over the plate and on the outside edge.  It is more common to see pitchers throw the 2 seamer to the arm-side Chase Zone because the natural movement of the pitch will take it towards that edge of the plate. The Chase Zone 4 is best suited for the 2 seam fastball because the downward sinking action Under the Go Zone will be a huge weapon in many situations.  See the blog post "Benefits of the Ground Ball" for more information.

An easy way to start experimenting is to throw the 4 seam in higher Lokations (7-10) and Red Box to keep the ball up, change the hitter's eye level, and keep from getting more movement than you want.  Also keep opposite arm-side fastballs 4 seamers to make sure you can command that side of the plate without getting too much movement back over the plate in the Danger Zone.  Use the 2 seamer for the 2 and arm-side Go Zone along with the 4 and arm-side Chase Zone to promote movement towards that side of the plate.

Once you get comfortable with the general rules shown above it is very important that you experiment with both fastballs in all Lokations.  We emphasis working on throwing the 2 seamer in Lokations 1-6 and to the arm-side Freeze and Purpose Zones.  Most hitters would rather hit a pitch 1-2 MPH faster compared to one with more movement. We will revisit this topic in a later post to describe a few more variations and strategies involving the 2 and 4 seam fastball.  See you there. 

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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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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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