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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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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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