Outthinking the Batter When Pitching In Baseball

by : Jimmy Cox

A boy may have a strong arm and know all the mechanics of pitching, but if he doesn't think about the hitter's weaknesses and strengths, he'll become nothing more than a "thrower" and will not help his team much.

A pitcher, even more than a catcher or manager, will know which of his deliveries the batter can or cannot hit. That is, if he studies the hitter constantly. This is just as true in Little League ball as it is in the Major Leagues. As a matter of fact, the younger the hitters are, the more faults they have. Thus, the young pitcher has a great advantage if he thinks about the hitters. Here are some general principles to follow.

Try to get "ahead" of the batter with the first pitch. That doesn't mean to groove the ball waist high and over the center of the dish. That means get the ball in the strike zone where you think the batter is weakest. If the batter stands so far away from the plate that his bat will not reach the outside corner, there is only one thing to do - pour that fast ball over the outside! If the hitter crowds the plate, fire it over his fists! Now then, if he looks strong at the plate and you know nothing about him, your best pitch is always low and outside or high and inside. Once around the league, the average pitcher should know something about the hitters. Don't worry about not learning all there is to know about every hitter. If you find one or two with weaknesses and can get them out consistently, you've made a good start.

The "situation" (as covered in Chapter 16) tells the pitcher a great deal about what to throw. If he expects a sacrifice, for example, he should pitch high, which will increase the possibility of a pop-up.

If a runner on 3rd streaks for home on a "suicide squeeze" play, he has to keep the ball away from the batter and put it where the catcher can make the tag. (Throwing at the feet of a right-handed batter is recommended; pitch-out if a lefty is at the plate.)

If the pitcher suspects a steal, he shouldn't throw a slow curve but stick to the fast ball.

When a pitcher has a 3-ball 2-strike count on a hitter, he should go to his best pitch. If his "best" is the curve, use the curve. It it's the fast ball, use the fast ball. Remember, though, that the "best pitch" may vary from game to game.

Try not to throw the same pitch twice in a row. Change speeds. Move the ball around the strike zone, always shooting at the corners. In doing this, your objective is to upset the hitter's timing. This is especially important when the pitcher faces the league's best hitters. The long foul, remember, is just another strike.

The pitcher who gets two quick strikes on the hitter should "waste" the next one by putting it where the batter can't possibly hit it.

Don't curve ball a weak hitter! Don't let up on a weak hitter! If the hitter is really weak, the fast ball can overpower him usually. If you throw the curve, you're throwing a slow speed pitch and it may be the only one this hitter can get his bat on.

If you're getting a hitter out regularly with one pitch, don't start experimenting with another.

If you're striking a lot of batters out and the game is going well for you, keep that pitching foot on the rubber and pitch as fast as the umpire will let you. On the other hand, if things are going bad, stall all you can to "cool off" the opposition.