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Pitching - Strategy

When you get on the mound, have you thought through how you are going to pitch to the opposing team?
You may have a plan for certain hitter, but you must also have an overall plan that you can use throughout the game. You need to think through your strategy and have a basic philosophy that you can modify for each game.

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The main purpose of the plan is to keep the opposing team off balance. They shouldn't step into the box and know that the first pitch is going to be a fastball, or if you get ahead in the count you usually throw an off-speed pitch. You want them to off balance and not sure what you are going to throw in any given situation.

So what are some things you can add to your basic pitching strategy?

Once you have a basic pitching strategy, then you can adapt that for each game. Why would it change from game to game? The primary reason will be the type of stuff you have on a particular day? Each day is different and you need to be prepared to battle on days when you don't feel like you're throwing the ball very well. One day you may have all your pitches and you can throw them all for strikes. On another day your fastball may be average and your having trouble throwing your off-speed pitch for a strike. Days like that are going to test your mental toughness. Can you battle on those days and still be successful and give your team a chance to win? Mentally tough pitchers will.

Game Day Strategies

We'll lump these into two categories, you either have it or you don't. You can figure out the variations on your own.

You Have It

On the days you have good stuff and are throwing strikes things can seem pretty easy. When you have it, concentrate on your pitching strategy. These are the days that you can really keep the hitters off balance because you can throw any pitch at any time. The biggest problem you can get into on days like that is over confidence and lack of concentration. Have you ever seen a pitcher throw shutout ball through 4 or 5 innings and then start getting drilled? It happens at every level. It may be that he is tired and has lost velocity, but it may also be that he has been so successful that he has lost his concentration and fell into a pattern that the hitters have caught on to. Here are some ways to avoid losing your concentration during a game:

You Don't

These are the tough days, but they can also be the most rewarding if you're successful. Here are some things to think about when you don't have your best stuff.

Individual Hitters

Now were down to the level of a hitter stepping in the box. How do you go about pitching to him? First, use what you know about the hitter to try and give you an advantage. If you've never faced him before, watch his practice swing. The practice swing will tell you what location he likes the ball. If a left-handed hitter comes to the plate and he takes a practice swing at what would be a low inside pitch, you can bet that's the pitch he likes to hit and will be looking for. Try to start him out with a fastball out and up.

When you have faced the same hitter more than once, you will have some experience to draw from. How does he handle my fastball? Does he have trouble adjusting to off-speed pitches? Does he have a tendency to chase pitches out of the strike zone?

Good hitters adjust very quickly to a pitcher. If you always throw your fastball with 2-seams and it always breaks down and in to a right-handed hitter, you may get the good hitter to miss it once or twice, but he will learn the action on the pitch and adjust to it. It's much more effective to have a 4-seam fastball, a 2-seam fastball that breaks in and a 2-seam fastball that breaks away, and be able to use them all. That way you can give that hitter 3 different looks with just your fastball.

Goal: Make the hitter uncomfortable.
Approach:

The following are some strategies that you can use with a particular hitter:

Visualization

It takes practice to become comfortable with your pitching strategy and how you are going to handle game time situations. One tool you can use to help prepare yourself is visualization. The night before a game (or anytime for that matter), sit in a quiet spot and simulate a few innings in your mind. Imagine different types of hitters coming to the plate, go through the lineup a few times and see how well you can remember how you are handling the opposing team and each hitter. This exercise while only in your mind will help you prepare for the mental part of the game. Make sure you picture yourself being successful. It doesn't mean you need to throw a perfect game, but put yourself in difficult situations and then visualize yourself successfully handling those situations.


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