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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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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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2 Seam Fastball

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


The grip on the seams of the baseball will determine the airflow around the ball while it is in flight.  This will effect the movement of the ball on the way to the plate. The two-seam fastball will have more movement than the four-seam. To get the best sink or vertical movement on your fastball, the spin on the ball should also be vertical instead of horizontal. Vertical spin is the same as direct backspin.

Sidespin on the ball will create a flat plane while backspin will create a sinking fastball. The two-seam generally moves down-and-in to a right-handed batter when thrown by a right-handed pitcher and two-seam thrown by a left-handed pitcher generally moves down-and-in to a left-handed batter.

The two-seam will be responsible for many of the ground balls you will induce. It will also help the downward plane of your fastball. When throwing a fastball in a fastball count, more times than not, the pitch should be two-seams to promote movement.

Whenever you aim for the 2 Zone with a fastball, it should be thrown with two-seams. If you ask a hitter whether he would rather see a pitch in the middle of the plate that was straight, or one that had movement, every hitter would rather see the straight pitch.  

One of the most important qualities of the 2 seam fastball is late movement.  The later in flight the ball sinks, the less time the hitter has to react to the movement of the pitch.  It doesn't take a lot of sinking action on the ball to move from the bat's sweet-spot to the bottom of the barrel, but it will take late movement. 

If the pitch has big and early movement (horizontal spin) the hitter will be able to recognize the pitch earlier in flight, time the pitch easier, and match the plane of the swing with the plane on the ball. Strive for short and late movement compared to big early movement on the 2 seam fastball.

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