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Lokator Target Zone Blog Introduction

Posted on April 18, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

Welcome to the Lokator® Zone Blog.  Entries will consist of general descriptions of all Zones and explanations of how to use them.  It is crucial for pitchers, catchers, and coaches to recognize what Lokations, pitches, and patterns work best for each individual.  It is more important to understand yourself as a pitcher than it is to know the hitter's scouting report.   

Radar guns are more accessible than ever.  As a result, pitch command has been underrated recently in favor of velocity.  Anybody can read a number off a gun and call a pitcher the next superstar, but if they can't command the strike zone what good does it do?  The art of pitching is commanding Lokations, changing speeds, and applying movement to the ball.   

There is no question good velocity can help pitchers get away with Lokation mistakes and may even get weaker hitters out on a consistent basis at younger levels. But pitch command, pitch selection and proper sequencing are necessities when striving for consistent success.

Knowing which Lokations to target and when to throw specific pitches are the first steps in learning how to get a hitter out.

The Lokator® System will teach where and when to throw the correct pitch. Whether a pitcher has blazing velocity or not, with good Lokation, movement, and pitch selection, they can get outs on a consistent basis.

Many pitchers must learn pitch command and selection the hard way, by getting hit around and knocked out of games.  Confidence is such a big part of pitching and giving up hits and runs makes it more difficult to challenge hitters and get ahead early in the count.  Use the Lokator® System to gain confidence in practice and find yourself as a 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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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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