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.