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Lokator Pitching Target Overview

Posted on January 01, 2014 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments
Go Zone

The Go Zone 1/2/3 is Green to represent Passage.  Use the Go Zone to get ahead in the count 0-1. If you don't get ahead, the hitter can narrow down pitch possibilities and expect a fastball. They can wait for one pitch in one Lokation while in hitter's counts (1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 2-1, 3-1).

When you can throw an off-speed pitch in the Go Zone the hitter has to respect strikes with different speeds and movement. When a hitter knows you cannot command anything other than a fastball, they sit on the velocity and movement of a fastball. Then their averages and power increase because they have good timing on the pitch while expecting it.

Anytime you are changing speeds in the Go Zone on consecutive pitches, your chances of disrupting the hitter’s timing are better. The more pitches a hitter sees with the same speed and Lokation, the easier it is for him to time the pitch and drive it. If they consistently see fastballs while in hitters counts then they will expect the fastball and timing will be better.

Chase Zone 4
The 4 Zone is black to represent the bottom edge of the strike-zone and runs a close second in importance to the Go Zone. It is the most important edge of the strike-zone to command and is crucial to your success to miss down. If you're trying to throw a strike low in the Go Zone and you miss, you want to miss in the 4 Zone or below. It will be less likely to get hit hard and have a better chance of getting an out.

The 4 Chase Zone guarantees a downhill plane with any pitch you throw. Hitter's rarely hit pitches in the 4 Zone for extra bases. It is almost as important to miss in the correct Zones as it is to hit desired Zones. The name of the game in pitching is damage control.

Chase Zone 5/6
The Chase Zones 5 and 6 are black to represent the right and left edges of the strike-zone. Use the Chase Zones when the hitter is aggressive, which generally means they are behind in the count 0-1, 0-2 or 1-2. It's a borderline strike but too close for the hitter to take with two strikes. Even if the hitter decides to swing and makes contact on a pitch in a Chase Zone, generally they will not drive the pitch for extra base-hits or home runs. If they do not decide to swing, it is a perfect strikeout Lokation.

When facing a hitter that is not disciplined at the plate and likes to swing at everything, target the Chase Zones earlier in the count. There is no reason to throw a pitch down the middle of the plate if the hitter is willing to swing at Chase pitches in any count. One of the biggest parts of scouting reports is to know which hitters are impatient.

Purpose Zones 7/8
The Purpose Zones 7/8 are yellow to represent caution and designed to move the hitter off the plate. Once they back off, a bigger percentage of the outer-half of the plate becomes available, making your off-speed more effective. Without the purpose pitch the hitters get too comfortable. It's your job to keep them as uncomfortable as possible! Hitting the Purpose Zones and changing speeds in the Go Zone during sequences makes it harder for the hitter to time the pitch.

The arm-side Purpose Zone is a good place to aim a bigger breaking ball for the pitch to end in the Go or Chase Zone. Usually the slower the breaking pitch is, the bigger the break it has. Aim at the arm-side Purpose number from the mound if you have a bigger and earlier break on the curveball. This bigger breaking ball for a strike has also been called the "get me over" curveball.

Freeze Zones 9/10
The Freeze Zones are blue to represent the hitter being frozen or locked up. It's a huge advantage to execute off-speed pitches in the Go Zone. Older pitchers should focus on the change up and breaking ball while younger pitchers should stick with the change up only. Once you've proven you can command the Go Zone with off-speed early in the count, the Freeze Zones 9/10 open for the fastball while ahead in the count with two strikes. This is called pitching backwards.

The arm-side Freeze Zone is a good target to aim a shorter breaking ball for the pitch the end up in the Go Zone or Chase Zones. Understand how much your breaking ball moves when deciding where to aim. If you want to throw a short tight breaking ball in the 4 Zone or below then start the pitch in the Go Zone. Freeze Zones are also good targets to hit when you are attempting to jam the hitter. It takes very quick hands and a good swing to hit an inside Freeze Pitch and keep it fair.

Danger Zone
The red Danger Zone represents playing with fire as a pitcher.  Pitches in the Danger Zone have a flat plane and are better known as "hanging" pitches. This enables the hitter to recognize and react faster and raises batting averages and power numbers. It is much better to throw a borderline strike in the 4 Zone than a guaranteed strike in the Danger Zone.

If you're throwing a fastball behind in the count, the Freeze Zones turn to Danger Zones. Generally if the hitter is expecting a fastball, the flat planed pitch is more dangerous than when you're ahead in the count. But when the hitter is behind, they can't expect a fastball, opening up the Freeze Zones. It is much easier for the hitter to match their bat plane with the plane of the pitch when it is in the Danger Zone.

Over Zone
The red area from approximately the hitters waist to shoulders is called the Over Zone or the O Zone. It is generally dangerous when your behind in the count and with off speed pitches but can be used effectively to change the hitter's eye level and timing with fastballs.It is better to practice aiming at the top half of the O Zone around the hitter's chest. This is one of the few instances where it can be dangerous to miss down. 4 seam Fastballs are the most common pitch used for the O Zone.

Off speed pitches in the Go or Chase Zones will generally be more effective if the hitter has seen a fastball in the O Zone. It can also be an effective pitch against hitters who have slow bat speed or like to swing at high fastballs. The opposite of high-and-hard is low-and-slow. Using this sequence is an example of changing speeds and Lokations on consecutive pitches to disrupt the hitter’s timing. It can also be called speeding up the hitter's bat.

Under Zone

The grey area under the Chase Zones (4, 5, 6) and the Purpose Zones (7, 8) is called the Under Zone or the U Zone. It shares many of the same qualities as the Chase Zone 4 other than you will rarely get a called strike call from it. When a hitter sees a fastball in the Go Zone they recognize what the pitch looks like while the ball is in flight. If you can follow that fastball with an off speed pitch starting in the same spot of the Go Zone, the hitter will be more likely to swing after tracking the flight of the previous Go Zone fastball.

Whether or not you use a breaking ball or a change up, the off speed pitch starting in the Go Zone will most likely end up in the U Zone instead of Go Zone, making the pitch more likely to be swung at. To get swinging strikes in the U Zone it is crucial to command the Go Zone with your fastball. Hitters who have trouble with the breaking ball are very good candidates to fish for the curveball or slider in the Under Zone, especially when they are behind in the count looking to protect the plate.

Use the Lokator to visualize Zones during games. Communicate with coaches and catchers about pitch sequencing and your game plan by using numbers associated with the spots you want to hit. Use the Lokator in practice to work pitch command and to call pitches in game situations. Use the pre-made bullpen pitch sequences in the free Lokator Bullpen App to ensure getting the most out of your time and effort. Then, when game day comes, you will know that you've put in all the preparation and hard work it takes to be a successful pitcher.

 

 

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Go Zone 1, 2, 3

Posted on April 17, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

Zones 1, 2, and 3 are collectively called the Go Zone.  They are green to represent passage and should be the first Zones you get comfortable throwing in.  Pitches that hit the Go Zone are quality strikes no matter what pitch you throw. The 2 Zone is not as tall because it is easier to hit a pitch high in the strike-zone over the middle of the plate compared to a pitch in the 1 or 3 Zone (the inner or outer-thirds of the plate). Every pitcher wants to stay away from the belt-high pitch in the middle of the plate. 

To command pitches in the Go Zone, you must have a downhill plane on the flight of the baseball to reach the bottom two-thirds of the strike-zone.  When a pitch is thrown on a downhill plane the hitter is more likely to hit the top of the ball, producing a ground ball or a swing and miss.  Its more difficult for the hitter to recognize the velocity of the pitch and the pitch type when pitches are in or below the Go Zone. 

If the pitch is flat, or ends up above the Go Zone and below the letters, it is much easier for the hitter to square the ball at contact.  The objective of the hitter is to put the bat on the plane of the ball for as long as possible. When a flat pitch, or a pitch with horizontal movement, crosses the plate, it stays in the hitters bat path longer than a pitch with a downhill plane.

Flat planed pitches move horizontally early in ball flight compared to the short late movement of pitches with a downhill plane.  The earlier the ball moves out of the pitchers hand the more time the hitter has to recognize and time the pitch.  

Use the Go Zones to get ahead of the hitter in 0-0 counts, getting ahead puts the hitter in a defensive mode and makes them protect the plate.  Getting ahead in the count also gives you more pitch-choices a hitter is willing to swing at. As you get ahead in the count, pitch type, pitch Lokation, and sequence possibilities increase for the hitter. If you are unable to command the Go Zone in 0-0 counts and hitters get ahead in the count, the odds of them seeing a fastball go up.  

The further behind in the count a hitter falls (0-1, 0-2, 1-2), the more likely they will expand their strike-zone.  This means they will swing at a higher percentage of pitches toward the edges of the plate or under the strike-zone (4, 5, 6 Chase Zones).  It gives the hitter a sense of urgency.  They are more likely to protect the plate and expand the strike-zone while behind. Statistically this will reduce the hitter’s batting average and power numbers.

Getting ahead in the count 0-1 puts you on the offensive and gives you more control of the at-bat. Getting ahead puts the hitter is in a defensive mode and you have more options of pitches and Lokations the hitter will swing at. While behind, they must protect the plate and defend against more pitch possibilities.

If the hitter is behind in the count with two strikes they must protect the entire plate including the corners. That adds up to nearly 24 inches of space to defend. And if they must also consider two or three possible pitches in multiple Lokations, they're timing will generally be at its worst. This is why hitters are taught to shorten their swings with two strikes, so they have longer to recognize a pitch before putting a swing on it.

If you consistently get behind in the count, 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 2-1 or 3-1, which are called hitter's counts, you must throw strikes to avoid a walk. When the batter is in a hitter's count, they can be very selective and look for the perfect pitch because they understand you have to throw a strike to avoid a walk. This narrows pitch Lokations and possibilities a hitter has to take into consideration and makes timing easier. 

When you are forced to throw a strike, the percentage of fastballs usually increases. When a hitter expects a fastball and gets a fastball, their timing is at its best.  This is when the fastball actually looks slower to the hitter than it actually is because timing is good.  We call this decreasing perceived velocity. 

When a hitter is ahead in the count they can look for one pitch in one area. This limits the areas they have to protect against and the number of pitches they are willing to swing at.  In a 2-0, 2-1, 3-0 or 3-1 count, a hitter can cut the plate into sections and decide beforehand which pitches he is willing to swing at. A fastball is the most common pitch a hitter will decide to “sit on” or expect.  Most professional hitters use this approach to some extent.

 

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Chase Zone 4

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

The 4 Zone is the most important edge of the strike-zone to command.  It is black to represent the bottom edge of the strike-zone and runs a close second in importance to the Go Zone. It is crucial to your success to miss down. If you're trying to throw a strike low in the Go Zone and you miss, you want to miss in the 4 Zone or below. It will be less likely to get hit hard and have a better chance of getting an out.  

Hitting the 4 Zone guarantees a downhill plane on the pitch. This will lead to more ground balls and swing and misses. It will also make it more difficult on the hitter to perceive the velocity of the pitch. When you miss targeted Lokations and throw above the Go Zone, the hitter will be more likely to get his bat on the plane of the ball for a longer period of time.

It is better to throw borderline strikes in the 4 Zone than to throw a sure strike above the Go Zone. It is as important to miss in the correct Lokations as it is to hit the spot your targeting. The closer the pitch is to the hitter's eyes, the easier it is for them to measure up the pitch and get the bat on the plane of the ball. This results in balls being driven in gaps and out of ballparks.

The two-seam fastball that starts in the bottom of the Go Zone will often end up in the 4 Zone. The late movement of the ball makes it dive below the Go Zone after the hitter has already made up his mind to swing. This pitch comes in handy in many situations including:

  • a double play situation
  • a man on third with less than two outs
  • throwing a fastball in a fastball count  
  • first pitch to any hitter

In these situations, you can think about the 4 Zone as the catcher sets up and gives the target. 

Be aggressive early in the count and work in or below the Go Zone, get as many one-pitch outs via ground balls to an infielder as possible. Roy Halladay has been very successful at throwing the sinking fastball in the 4 Zone to induce groundballs early in counts. It keeps pitch counts down, fielders in the game, and also produces the highest double-play possibilities. 

The 4 Zone is also a good place for curveballs and change-ups at any point in the count, any pitch that ends in the 4 Zone has spent time in the strike-zone during flight. It is impossible for a pitch to hit the 4 Zone and be called a hanging pitch. Hanging pitches are pitches that are easy for the hitter to recognize and make contact with. Hangers are usually above the Go Zone with little movement (Danger Zone) just waiting to get crushed. 

It’s important to command breaking pitches in the 4 Zone because it usually means that the pitch has good "tilt" or "depth". Tilt is the top-spin or vertical movement of the curveball while it is crossing the plate. A breaking pitch with good tilt will look more appealing than one with very little tilt. One with no tilt (flat) will go from side-to-side and move off the plate earlier for the hitter to recognize. This will make it easier for the hitter to take the pitch or get his bat on the plane of the ball if he decides to swing. Many pitches in the 4 Zone will result in a ground ball, a called strike, or a swing-and-miss. 

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Chase Zones 5, 6

Posted on April 15, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

The Chase Zones 5 and 6 are black to represent the right and left edges of the strike-zone.  Use the Chase Zones when the hitter is aggressive, which generally means they are behind in the count 0-1, 0-2 or 1-2.  It's a borderline strike but too close for the hitter to take with two strikes.  Even if the hitter decides to swing and makes contact on a pitch in the Chase Zone, generally they will not drive the pitch for extra base-hits or home runs. If they do not decide to swing, it is a perfect strikeout Lokation.

Targeting the Chase Zones ahead in the count it is making the hitter swing at a pitcher's pitch. As pitchers, we try to use the hitter's aggression to our advantage. Therefore, we try to expand the plate when the hitter expands his strike-zone (pitches he is willing to swing at).

The Chase Zones can be utilized to their fullest when ahead in the count. It wouldn't make sense to go for the Chase Zones every pitch because the margin for error is so small. This can lead to high pitch counts and walks if command isn't percise.  Targeting and missing Chase Zones too often can result in fielders losing concentration and ultimately making more errors. High pitch counts also mean shorter outings in terms of innings pitched. 

It can be harder to find a rhythm between pitches if you’re constantly dealing with base-runners and deep counts on the hitter (ex. 2-2, 3-2). The more base-runners you have to deal with, the less you can focus on the hitter, and the more opportunities they have to score. Get ahead in the count with the Go Zone and then expand to the Chase Zones after your ahead while the hitter is aggressive. 

When facing a hitter that is not disciplined at the plate and likes to swing at everything, target the Chase Zones earlier in the count.  There is no reason to throw a pitch down the middle of the plate if the hitter is willing to swing at Chase pitches in any count.  One of the biggest parts of scouting reports is to know which hitters are impatient.

When you prove you can consistently command the Go and Chase Zones, umpires generally will give called strikes more often on pitches in the Chase Zones.  When you are erratic and cannot command the Go Zone, the umpire will normally be less likely to call the Chase Zone pitches strikes.  Show them you can command the Zones and they will reward you with strike calls more often than not.  Umpires can find a rhythm calling strikes when you show them consistency in the Zone. 

With all pitchers, there will be some days where fastball command is very good, and some days where fastball command is a struggle.  It is important to recognize what type of command you have each day and aim accordingly.  For days that you have good command, target Chase Zones more often.  For days that command is a struggle, target more of the plate in the Go Zone. 

Below we have listed a few situations that may be good times for you to target the Chase Zones earlier in the count.  It is not always beneficial to aim for the Chase Zones early in the count but it is important to understand when it can work to your advantage.

  • A Free Swinger 
  • A Hot Hitter
  • A Base Open Late in a Tight Game
  • You have Great Command that Day
  • Umpire has a Big Strike-zone 

Too many pitchers fall into the habit of targeting Chase Zones in hitter's counts.  We also see pitchers aiming at the Chase Zones with pitches they do not have a lot of confidence in when in reality it should be the opposite.  If you don't have confidence in the command of your change up, then you should be aiming it in the middle of the plate and down (2/4 Zones) and letting a miss take it to a Chase Zone instead of aiming the pitch there.  There is little margin for error in the Chase Zones 5 and 6 because they are only as wide as the ball, while the Chase Zone 4 is 18 inches wide should be targeted more often with off speed when even or behind in the count.

 

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K Zones

Posted on April 12, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

The K Zones represent a true pitcher's pitch and obviously stand for a strike or a strikeout.  When the hitter is behind in the count they will expand their strike-zone to the Chase Zones and especially the corners of all three Chase Zones.  Hitting the K Zones make it even less likely the hitter will make contact if the pitch is swung at.  If the hitter does make contact, the possibility of them hitting it solidly is small.  

Commanding the K Zone doesn't rule out the possibility of a called strike if the umpire is in rhythm with the pitcher or has a generous strike-zone. If the catcher sets his target at the K Zone and you hit it, the chances for a called strike are much better. If the catcher is set up in the middle of the plate or on the opposite side and has to reach across the plate to catch the pitch in the K Zone, the umpire is less likely to call the strike.

The K Zone can be targeted for

  • Strikeouts in 0-2, 1-2 or 2-2 counts.
  • Fastballs Ahead in the Count
  • Off Speed Ahead in the Count 
  • Ground Balls
  • Impatient Hitters
  • First Base Open

When throwing a short breaking ball to the opposite arm-side K Zone you should generally aim the ball in the Danger Zone above the 2-Zone.  This will give the hitter the illusion that the pitch is hittable and in the heart of the plate while they are in an aggressive mode.  If the pitch has good tilt and depth it will break from the Danger Zone to the K Zone. This will make the hitter more likely to chase the pitch because the ball starts in the middle of the plate when the hitter is deciding whether to swing and breaks towards the K after the hitter has started their swing.

It is important to know how much you're breaking ball will break before initially aiming the pitch. If you throw a slider with a tighter, shorter break, you might start the pitch in the Danger when commanding the K Zone. If you throw a shorter curveball with more tilt and break then start the ball at a Freeze Zone to command the opposite arm side K Zone. A cut fastball may require you to start the pitch in the outer Go Zone for it to end up in the K Zone.  Understand how much your breaking pitches move so you can aim accordingly.

Generally arm side change ups that end in the K Zone are spending time on the plate in the Go Zone in flight.  This effect will entice swings from the hitter.  Change ups that end in the opposite arm side K Zone normally start out in the opposite side Purpose Zone before breaking back towards the K Zone and hitter's are not as likely to swing.    

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.  After two consecutive pitches in there they are set up for something in the outer Go or Chase Zone.

While ahead in the count and 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 an advanced pitch and much harder 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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Under Zone (U Zone)

Posted on April 10, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

The grey area under the Chase Zones (4, 5, 6) and the Purpose Zones (7, 8) is called the Under Zone or the U Zone.  It doesn't have outlined dimensions like the rest of the Zones but it still very important area to understand and use.  Often times when a pitch is swung at in the U Zone the results are a ground ball or a swing and a miss, but the key is to realize how to get swings at pitches in the U Zone.      

The U Zone shares many of the same qualities as the Chase Zone 4 other than you will rarely get a called strike call from it.  It is a safe place to miss when you are targeting Go (1, 2, 3) or Chase Zones.  It is almost as important to miss in the Under Zone as it is to hit the Zones you are targeting.  The U Zone guarantees a downhill plane on the ball and makes it difficult for the hitter to match the bat plane with the ball plane, this will reduce extra base hits and home runs.  Damage control is a huge component of the Lokator System.   

Hitters who have trouble with the breaking ball are very good candidates to fish for the curveball or slider in the Under Zone, especially when they are behind in the count looking to protect the plate.  Most breaking pitches that end in the U Zone have good tilt or depth, meaning there is most likely vertical movement on the pitch as it crosses through the hitting area.  This will always make it harder for the hitter to make solid contact.            

When a hitter takes a fastball in the Go Zone they recognize what the pitch looks like while the ball is in flight.  If you can follow the fastball with an off speed pitch starting in the same spot of the Go Zone, they will be more likely to swing after tracking the flight of the previous fastball.  Whether or not you use a breaking ball or a change up, the off speed pitch starting in the Go Zone will most likely end up in the U Zone instead of Go Zone, making the pitch more likely to be swung at.  To get swinging strikes in the U Zone it is crucial to command the Go Zone with your fastball.

For older pitchers who throw a split finger fastball, the U Zone can be the most important strikeout area of the Lokator.  A splitter that starts in the bottom of the Go Zone and has a late tumbling action towards the U Zone can promote a ton of strikeouts.  Pitchers with split finger fastballs should also concentrate on commanding their fastball in all three sections of the Go Zone and  following them with splitters in the same slot finishing in the U Zone.     

 

   

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