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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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Chase Zones 5, 6

Posted on April 15, 2013 by Stephen Stemle | 0 comments

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.

 

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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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