12 year old pitching


#1

My son just turned 12 and he really is a good pitcher.He has a decent fastball,really good circle change-up,and has just started using the curveball some and it’s really working.My question is up till this year he was able to strike out most with fastballs then coming with the circle change.This year he didn’t walk no more than 2 batters a game(6 inning),but he got hit especially by the top of the line-up.I know that batters get better each year and that most of these kids have faced him for 3 years.It’s hard for him to understand that.What can i tell him to help his confidence and what can he do against the better batters?he’s very good at placing his pitch,but sometimes i think he forgets to work it inside and outside and mix it up.


#2

First, 12 is too young to throw a curveball. Wait until he’s 16 or 17.

Second, the key at this age, as with the pros, is keeping the ball down (and hopefully outside as well).


#3

Yeah, I would say stay away from the curveball for atleast a couple more years. It will allow for the arm to structurally develop before the stress of a curve is put on it, and it also generally makes players fastballs better, simply because they aren’t throwing curveballs often.

I would definatley have him work on a two-seam fastball if he doesn’t throw one already. I threw a couple in my LL days, and one got smashed over the fence, and that was the end of me throwing it. However, if your son gets movement on it he will be able to baffle hitters inside, and often keep those heart of the order hitters of balance. My recolection was that a lot of the big kids weren’t that fond of the tight and inside pitch, they would rather get the ball out over the plate.

With throwing inside comes hitting batters. Make sure your sons understands it is inevitable, and will often work in his favor. I hated hitting people in LL, and still not crazy about it or anything, but it can actually pay off, as a young hitter will move his feet easily, and will usually try and not get hit at all costs. This in the background of their mind will allow your son to be more effective.

Good luck, definately reconsider the curveball, yes it will be effective, but I have heard, and have friends that have experienced what a curveball can do to the elbow. And I also know guys that were star pitchers using a curveball, and will never even see the mound in High School.


#4

ty’s- dad
You’re on the right track with mixing it up. Chris is bang on also with down and away. Leo Mazzone insisted that his pitchers “own” down and away. Also, a change-up won’t help much if his fastball doesn’t have a bit of steam on it. I’m not talking blazingly so, but the difference between the two, when used strategically, will help. Also, quite often, a changeup thrown to a hitter who’s not getting around on your fastball will be just doing him a favour.

Also, some very good advice from centerfield2150 about the 2 seamer.

The curve is like a drug for kids at this age. They like it but, after a while, it doesn’t do what it used to all by itself.

Fastball speed and command. Keep it low and, many times, away. Be strategic with changeup use. Be aware of the hitter’s strengths and don’t play to them. Mix it up. Toss in the 2 seamer. Be aware of the count.


#5

Hey Ty’s Dad;
I’ve read your post and all the answers you’ve received back and everyone’s got an opinion and I’m not trying to be argumentative here but here’s my opinion for what its worth. A lot depends on how the hitter stands at the plate and his “hitting mechanics”(Pitchers have to ‘set up the hitters’)
I’ve coached baseball for a long time. I know everyone still preach’s " down and away" I pitched some semi-pro myself and was never taught owning down and away so I never really adheared to that thinking. I was told the down and away pitch is the hardest pitch to hit, cause its the point farthest from your eye, which I agree , BUT I was taught , and I believe in mixing your pitching spot (“climbing the ladder”) cause a lot of hitters have been practicing hitting the down and away pitch and this is what they are possibly thinking at the plate. I always taught climbing the ladder, Mixing spots and speed to upset timing. I done a two year survey at one time with my Babe Ruth team and found out that the high inside (letter high) pitch was a good strike out pitch cause it handcuffed the hitters and they were just plain not ready for it. When you watch the pro pitchers on TV even today, try to keep in mind the high tight fastball inside and see how many get strike outs that way, quite a few.
Anyway, thats my opinion, , and have your son watch the other teams hitting practice to see where the opposing team hitters favorite pitch is and go from there for location. (Keep the ball out of the hitters favorite spot!!) The curve is between you and your son, his growth developement etc… and I know not many would agree with me on that. Good luck, wish your son the best.
Bill


#6

I don’t have a problem with high and tight because it is a hard pitch to hit and can set up a down and away pitch by backing a batter off the plate.

However, pound for pound the pitch down (and ideally away) is the single hardest pitch to hit well. As DM59 said, there’s a reason why Mazzone taught his guys to live down there.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it ignores the facts.

What you decide is best for your son has absolutely nothing to do with what his body can handle at the age. If you stick with this approach, then you are taking a risk and you should be aware of that.

I happen to think it’s a completely unnecessary risk (and as DM59 suggested might even be counterproductive to his development as a pitcher because it enables him to rely on a trick to get guys out rather than actually learning how to pitch).


#7

There’s more to pitching than strikeouts. That’s why down and away is the pitch to own. You’ll still want to be able to mix pitches up enough to keep hitters, especially at the higher levels from crowding the plate and looking for down and away.

I pitched against AA hitters and down and away even with a nothing special fastball and a so-so slider worked pretty well. What gave me problems was when I went up and in and got them to pop up. The problem was these guys could pop up and hit it out.


#8

Exactly.

It’s (virtually) impossible to turn on a pitch that’s down and away (because you have to lean over and/or extend the arms to get down there and that kills your batspeed). I say “virtually” because I’m sure Pujols will prove me wrong at some point (I know he can hit the he!! out of a ball that’s just down).

In other words, trying to hit a pitch that’s down and away will destroy 99% of hitters’ hitting mechanics.

In contrast, it’s possible (but admittedly hard) to maintain proper hitting mechanics when hitting a pitch that’s up and in. If a hitter has fast hands, and the assistance of an aluminum bat, he can get around on the ball.

I want my guys to throw pitches that are virtually impossible to hit well because to hit them you have to get away from solid (e.g. rotational) hitting mechanics.


#9

My take is to look into some stategy, I think axioms have a place in baseball, but…simply “pounding down and out”, is not going to win a whole lot (Professionals dominate with the outside due to setting up with purpose pitching, they can’t live out there without the batter knowing he’ll come in)…consider the quality of umping…is that possibly volunteer ump, saavy enough to realize that the kid is hitting the spot he intends and actually set-up to give the pitch, or is he going to think…humm “this kid can’t hit the zone”.
From what you have said, what your boy has is a situation where in the past he was able to go with the gas and get folks out (They will always return to what works under stress…thats why the statements about the curve)…i.e. just give it his best whup and watch the guy go sit down, well as we all progress so do the other kids, they learn to take what they don’t want and wait for the grooved pitch…thus the top of the order has success.
Have him watch some pro stuff on the tube, spend time discussing what the pitcher is doing to get people out, let him see that 100% dominance won’t ever occur again unless he’s up against inferior competition. I assure you that when he does go to the regular mound he will have a maturity to understand that his stuff won’t work unless he thinks about how to get a kid out.
I know this is long, but hey I’m verbose already…
Always remember that hitting spots is what it’s really all about, But first and foremost STRIKE ONE is and will always be the very best pitch in baseball, when you are ahead in the count you have the advantage on the batter no matter where you are in the order.
One last thing, So he knows how to throw a curve, ok, it ain’t a crime. But it is YOUR job as his dad to help him understand that it is of the utmost importance that he learn how to be responsible to his body and future. If baseball is his passion in life, then the long run matters…Don’t let him be a hero in some L.L. association at the expense of pitching in H.S. college or beyond.
Good Luck


#10

He needs to work inside and out, learn the two -seam fastball, and honestly if he is going to be competive he will need to start using the curve. Other wise he won’t have a chance unless he’s lights out with the fastball/change-up combo. Also if he uses the curve tell him only to use it as a strike out pitch and not to often.


#11

First, there’s no reason why a pitcher can’t be competitive without a curveball. I can name a number of major leaguers (e.g. Trevor Hoffman) who didn’t throw a curveball until they were in college and others who never threw a curveball.

Second, he’s certainly not going to be light-out with his fastball/change-up if he wastes his time on a curve.


#12

I wonder what Nolan Ryan would say to that Chris?


#13

Ty’s dad. You know what seperates the good pitchers in HighSchool to the not so good pitchers? The good pitchers in Little League and Pony threw their fastballs and developed a fastball strike. They rarely threw curveballs and even though they got hit they had a good reliable low and away fastball. I am speaking from experience here and not relying on MikeMarshall or Dick Mills to speak for me.

My son threw nothing but fastballs when he was 12 years old. At the 0-2 count I told him to try and blow it past the hitter. Basically he was locating his two seam and four seam fastball. Towards the middle of the year we worked on the change up. Guess what, the kids hit the change up and not the fastball. At 48 feet or whatever the distance is in little league I feel, and this is my opinion, that a good fastball low and away and up and in will destroy hitters. This is not to say , " dis the change up" because it will be important in HighSchool and at 60’.

The curveball is a gimmick pitch at this age and all the kids who threw it in Little League didnt focus on the fastball. Guess where they are at now? They aren’t playing baseball. The son did have a karate chop curve with no door knob action. HE probably threw it towards the end of the year and during all stars about 4-5 times a game just to show them he had one and had them thinking.

The fastball will develop arm strangth and coaches love a kid with a live arm who can bounce back from start to start. Good luck and make sure you get plenty of throwing between starts! Long toss and tubing are the way to go !

Good luck!


#14

For any 12 year old, developing a fastball with movement and locating it is all they need. You say your son is around the plate and not walking a lot of hitters, but not striking out kids at the top of the order? Oddly enough that sounds like he’s probably not pitched all that much to this point. The progression of LL pitchers that I normally see is one where overpowering hitters actually preceeds control. Coaches are prone to tolerating walks and unearned runs while anxiously waiting for a kid with a live fastball to put a string of strikes together. One of my son’s freinds has been working out with us and he can throw batting practice better than I can. But whether it be inexperience, mechanics breaking down, or physical ability, he struggles when really trying to bring it.

My suggestion is to work on mechanics (lower body) and the 4 seamer for velocity and develop a 2 seamer down and w/ a little movement. Very difficult to get a curve ball to break effectively AND consistently until kids move to 90’ diamonds anyway. If he’s down about how the top of lineups are putting his fastball in play, having the bottom of the lineup teeing off on hanging curve balls isn’t going to make him feel any better.

Also, I have been reading a lot of preaching about down and away - be careful with that mentality. Nearly every kid I’ve ever coached has truly believed that they could be a pitcher and only use half the plate. They don’t like pitching in because they don’t like hitting people. Then they end up throwing less strikes, lose confidence, and still hit a lot of batters. If my son isn’t in the area of the inside black early in the count - he’s running until I get tired!


#15

First - NO curveball until he’s 18. As others have stated, it’s dangerous and it hinders development of the fastball and changeup. I like the one person calling it a “drug” — that’s a great comparison…

Second — as Kevin Costner stated in Bull Durham — “Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls - it’s more democratic.”

As wonderful as it is to be a 12-year-old dominating less-developed batters, it will not last forever. The sooner your son understands that winning is about nine ballplayers playing together, the better.

Yes, strikeouts are great, and at this point in his life they’re probably the most reliable way to get a batter out. But strikeouts are not necessarily the measure of a good pitcher. If he works on controlling the fastball, hitting spots, making it move a little, and changing speeds, he will be a successful pitcher over the long haul.

Long haul = many years of happiness … as opposed to peaking in little league and being a has-been at age 15.


#16

I disagree, my sons orthopedic guy said 14 1/2 when the outside tendon can handle the stress . Thats for true curveballs and not sliders which I agree 17 is about the minimum.

My son has always been taught to throw a two plane breaking pitch. 12 is definately too young.

I also counted how many he threw both in practice and the game, as I did for all my pitchers. In our leagues, where you can be spoting guys a couple of years, your tool kit needs to be fairly complete, so Fastball-both 2 & 4 seamers, change-ups, and curves are a necsessity -IF YOU WANT THE OPPORTUNITY TO PITCH AT ALL!
otherwise you’re playing shortstop…Ian


#17

A curveball causes medial, not lateral, stress and that growth plate does close until 16 or 17.


#18

Not what his Doc said, It was the outside tendon of his elbow whatever ligamant or tendon it was. MRI showed inflmation but no growth plate damage. Had to take 2 weeks no baseball, 2 more no pitching, and shelved curve til he turned 14 1/2. He has been fine since then.

BTW playing against guys 1 to 2 years old than he is really sucks!One year is bad enough, but 2 is just a lot to over come.


#19

Chris,
Most of the curveball argument I think relates to a converging of what I am becoming convinced are a few ingrediants that combine to “push” the young arm over the “verge” from healthy recuprative arm, to a “sick” arm that is inhibited in it’s ability to “heal”. I don’t have a orthapedic degree, or physiology related degree, but what I have is experience over years. I have seen a few pitchers and kids over a solid 35 years of truely being around and attempting to learn about it.
I have seen the advent of lowering the mound and the strike zone shrink by half. Iver seen the common method of pitch delivery change, in some ways significantly. So for what ever that may be worth…

1st is lack of knowledge. Throwing from a mechanically flawed platform to me is the first “key” , it is not only an ingrediant it is an accellerator. It would seem logical (Disclaimer on science to back this up), that if you throw in a harmful way, to continue to do so will speed the onset of negative ramifications (Speed injury).

2nd is over use. I’ve never heard anyone that claims knowledge or expertise on the subject, suggest the insane amount of innings that kids today pile up (Travel ball, spring, fall AllStars for 8 year olds or 7 or 6). Children are not built for repetitive stress in that way (Again with a disclaimer) and I don’t think a thoughtful person needs a degree to expect that this assumption is correct. To do so would make you take the opposite or neutral point (Either it’s detrimental, It isn’t detrimental or it has no effect) which IMO is logic a “reasonable” “rational” person could find no “reasonable” argument for. When mixed with the first “key” factor I would guess that injury potential has been increased.

3rd is the failure of the kid to get proper rest between outings and to take proper periods of time to “rest” up. What I’ve heard described at the college level as “Active rest” and what I like to term for pre-pubescent children as “being kids and having fun” (Disclaimer for science). Well combined with one or two I think a reasonable person stops considering the possibility of injury into the speculation as to severity and treatment of whichever problem manifests first.

Ian may have a plan in place, and he may be very careful and conservative in his approach. Does that assure his sons or kids he coaches no injury? As a student of history and success, I can see that pitchers have thrown curves and never sustained any injury, some have barely made MLB and had to go under the knife, some didn’t make it out of puberty before they got the scar. Throwing one type of pitch unless thrown for a prolonged period with no allowence for recuperation, wrong mechanically, does not nessecitate injury but each of those factors mentioned speed the onset.

To sum it up, Ian’s boys or my sons won’t become crippled for throwing a curve, but if each wants to throw it into the future they have a responsibility to themselves and their future to do it “right” or they will suffer negative consequences.
One other thing I do disagree with you directly on is the amount you need to practice throwing it to be effective with it. My son has what is termed a “plus” curve, I’ve heard it described by others as one of the best in Florida HS, he learned it by simply standing a couple of feet away and learning what the arm motion was by flipping it back and forth with me (Fastball motion until out in front, then down). We would work it in to our nearly daily playing catch until, on flat ground he could effortlessly toss it to a spot, this was done at 50-60% just tossing and messing. Never on a mound. We have never workied the amount of reps you said it would entail to perfect. We never made it a “big” deal it was just another part of warming up he didn’t do “bullpens” of up to 60 pitches until Jr High and his curves in that totaled maybe 7/8. I decided instead of travel ball he would spend the hot parts of summer after AllStars going to camps at UNF (4 weeks, actually less than daycare would have cost), where he got more understanding of the responsibility to his body, he also got to swim and play these really great rubberball games in a softball field for fun, hanging out around college level players and learning from them, instead of grinding through the summer pitching back to backs at tourneys. With the contacts I made there I was able to get our association to do some clinics with UNF, which was great for the kids, but much “better” for the coaches who learned that they needed to learn and also started to understand mechanics. Anyway I don’t think he has ever thrown 500 pitches practicing any of his pitches…maybe in 12 months, until he was a sophmore.
Now as a Junior he has the “vitality” to last year have 10 HS level CG’s. (JV and varsity combined including summer hs ball).
Sorry so long