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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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Over Zone (O Zone)

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

The red area from approximately the hitters waist to shoulders is called the Over Zone or the O Zone.  This Zone can be dangerous but it also can be used to your advantage. It is generally dangerous  when your behind in the count and with off speed pitches but can be used successfully in a number of different situations.

The most common way the O Zone is used is when a particular hitter has trouble lying off of the high-heat at his letters.  After you see the hitter chase the high fastball you can throw the next pitch slightly higher to see if they're willing to chase it again.  Keep throwing the fastball slightly higher and higher to see how high the batter is willing to chase. This strategy of pitch-sequencing is called “climbing the ladder.”   Pitchers with good velocity are more likely to use this strategy more often. 

After throwing two or three high hard fastballs in the O Zone, hitters are set up for the off-speed, which translates to a change-up or breaking ball in the bottom of the Go Zone or 4 Zone. 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.

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 in the O Zone will change the hitter's eye level and timing.  Commanding the O Zone will give you a chance at a getting a swing, unlike the Purpose Zone, especially if the hitter has trouble laying off the high heat.

Once you command the O Zone the hitter has tracked and timed a high flat planed fastball.  They know they would need a quick bat and good fastball timing to hit that pitch squarely.  After the hitter tracks the high fastball they keep that timing for the next pitch, so it will generally be harder to time a change up in the Go or 4 Zone afterwards. They will most likely swing early or shift their weight forward early on a change up in the Go or 4 Zone.  This is called speeding the hitter's bat up.   

The O Zone is also very useful for pitchers who throw the 12-6 curveball.  Breaking pitches with heavy vertical movement, tilt, or top spin mostly break within the hallway of the plate to the pitching rubber.  That 12-6 breaking ball has to be aimed in the RB for the pitch to end in the Go or 4 Zone.  Once you command the breaking ball in the Go Zone, you can throw the fastball behind it from the same slot (O Zone) where the previous BB started to break.  Hitter's will see both the fastball and breaking ball in the same spot when the pitch is halfway to them.  This makes timing and pitch recognition difficult. 

There are times to use the O Zone instead of the Purpose Pitch.  You don't always want to throw an aggressive pitch inside off the plate towards the hitter in all situations.  When facing the bottom of the order and ahead in the count, facing a slumping hitter, or have the bases loaded, the O Zone can be used instead of a Purpose Pitch.  It will set the hitter up for an off speed pitch without taking a big risk of hitting them.  Game situations will have a big impact on how aggressive you should be with Purpose Pitches.  Know when to use the O Zone instead! 

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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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