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.