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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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Purpose Zones 7, 8

Posted on April 14, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

The Purpose Zones are yellow to represent caution. Throwing Purpose Pitches for a ball will be one of the most effective tools you can use as a pitcher.  It is equally as important to throw pitches off the plate inside as it is to throw strikes. Not every pitch has to be a strike to serve a purpose. This is a little known fact among coaches and pitchers alike.

Target Purpose Zones to keep hitters honest and prevent them from diving over the plate to reach an outside pitch. If the hitter recognizes a pitcher is afraid to throw in the Purpose Zone they can look for the pitch middle away, dive over the plate and actually pull outside pitches  This raises batting averages and power to all fields. 

Generally the pitcher owns the outer-half of the plate and the hitter has the edge on the inner-half. If you can't throw the Purpose Pitch, the hitter will begin to get comfortable in the batter's box. Once the hitter recognizes that you won't throw the Purpose Pitch they own both halves of the plate and they can reach a bigger percentage of the outer Go or Chase Zone.

                 

The more Lokations you command, the less likely hitters will anticipate what Lokation the next pitch will be in.  If they can eliminate Lokations they know you cannot command from their minds, they have better possibility of getting the pitch and Lokation they're looking for.  This will make timing better and pitch recognition easier. 

The object of the Purpose Pitch is to move the hitter's shoulders, hips, or feet backwards.   The illustrations shown below are ideal hitter reactions to each level of the Purpose Zone fastballs.

 

 High Purpose Pitch Reaction

     

 

Mid Purpose Pitch Reaction

 

Low Purpose Pitch Reaction

 

Targeting the Purpose Zones is not intending to hit the batter in any way. The goal is to throw in the open area between the inside corner of the plate and the hitter to keep them honest. Catchers should recognize this area and be able to set up inside off the plate to make it easier for the pitcher to get the fastball inside. Aiming for an umpire’s mask can also be a good target if he is between the catcher and hitter.

The lower the purpose pitch is the further inside it has to be. The higher it is the more towards the inside corner it can be.  This is why the Purpose Zones go further towards the hitter, the further down they go

A hitter generally will not move out of the way of a pitch that hits the inside corner of the plate at or below the waist. But if you raise that pitch from the waist to the elbows of the hitter, he's most likely getting out of the way.  If the pitch is from the hitter's letters to his belt on the inside black of the plate, the pitch should work, but when you go below the belt on the inside corner, the pitch has to be further inside off the plate to move the hitter's feet.

The most useful Purpose Pitches are at the numbers 7 and 8.  These move the hitter back off the plate and will stand them straight up so they are more susceptible to the pitch down-and-away later in the count.  

Older pitchers can work on executing the fastball through the arm side 7 or 8 Purpose Zones and then the curveball or change up in the Go Zone in succession during bullpens. If hitters know you will throw the Purpose Pitch it be more difficult for them to keep their front side in on a breaking pitch.  

Both the Purpose Pitch and Go Zone Curveball are in the same area or "slot" when the ball is halfway to the plate so it looks like the same pitch which makes it harder for the hitter to recognize the pitch.  It actually takes them longer to recognize the pitch making timing harder as well.  If you never throw the Purpose Pitch, then the hitter can recognize the curveball early in flight because it is the only pitch that spends time in the Purpose Zone.   

For younger pitchers a change-up in the Go or Chase Zones can be just as successful following a Purpose Pitch. After you throw the Purpose Pitch the hitters timing is geared up for the fastball, so the change up looks slower afterwards and you have a bigger percentage of the outer part of the plate to work with.  The opposite of high and hard will always be slow and low.  Disrupt timing!

 

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Freeze Zones 9, 10

Posted on April 13, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

Within each of the top corners of the strike-zone there are blue circles called Freeze Zones 9 and 10. They are blue to represent the hitter being "frozen" but they turn to Danger Zones with off speed pitches or with fastballs behind in the count.  If an off speed pitch hits a Freeze Zone it is called "hanging".  If a fastball is thrown there while a hitter is expecting a fastball it can get dangerous because the plane of the ball will be flat.  Flat planed fastballs while the hitter has good timing is asking for trouble.   

Freeze Pitches can be used:

  • as called strike
  • to aim a curveball for a strikeout
  • to aim a slider for a strike
  • jam the hitter in on the hands

When throwing off-speed early in the count (0-0) in the Go Zone, or getting a swing and a miss, a hitter generally looks for the same pitch in 0-2, 1-2 and even 2-2 counts. Whether they like it or not, in the back of their mind they remember the off-speed for a strike, and know they have to protect the plate with two strikes. 

Historically, 0-1, 0-2, 1-2, and sometimes 2-2 counts have been off-speed counts. This is when you have the opportunity to throw a fastball in an inside Freeze Zone. If the hitter is thinking anything other than fastball and you throw a hard fastball in the inside Freeze Zone for a called strike, the hitter ends up like a deer in headlights.  This sequential pattern has been coined “pitching backwards”.

When you can command off speed pitches in the Go Zone early in the count the hitter will generally expect that same pitch with in 0-2, 1-2, and 2-2 counts.  If they are looking for the breaking pitch or change-up, a fastball in a Freeze Zone will look much faster and give them less time to react.  We call this increasing perceived velocity. 

If the hitter has to protect against a number of off-speed pitches, an 80-mph fastball could look like 90 MPH.  If the hitter does not have to protect against off speed pitches then a 90 MPH will look more like 80 MPH.  Command off speed pitches in the Go Zone, get ahead in the count, and then utilize the Freeze Zone fastball. 

When facing a hitter a second, third or fourth time through the line-up after getting him out on an off speed pitch previously, the hitter is most likely looking off-speed again when behind in the count.  When hitters anticipate off speed, the best they can do is foul off a Freeze Pitch.  Afterwards they are set up for the off speed pitch again.

The Freeze Zones can also be dangerous. If you are ahead in the count 0-2 or 1-2 the hitter is usually aggressive. If you miss in the Danger Zone, between the Freeze Zones with a fastball, an aggressive hitter will usually take advantage.  It is extremely important to miss off the side of the plate you're throwing to so it will travel through the Purpose Zone. Its like a buy-one-get-one-free deal, if you don't finish the hitter it still gets them off the plate to set up something away to get the out. 

Be cautious of missing too far in when way ahead in the count. It becomes very frustrating to hit a batter with a 0-2 or 1-2 count. But when you do hit a batter ahead in the count, the rest of the team will have that in the back of their helmets when stepping in the box later in the game. This will open up a bigger percentage of the outside of the plate.

The Freeze Zones are useful targets to aim at when throwing a breaking ball with a tighter, later break such as a hard curveball or slider.  Aim hard breaking balls for a strike in the Freeze Zone of your arm side for the pitch to end up in the Go Zone. Start a tight breaking pitch for a strikeout more toward the Danger or Go Zone and let it break towards a Chase Zone in hopes of a swing and miss or a called third strike.  It is important to recognize how much a short breaking ball moves when determining where to aim it.

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