12U LHP What should we strive for?


#1

I was a basketball player and know very little about baseball but enjoying learning with my kid. We went to USSSA regional tryout and he was selected to be on their southeast region team. We didn’t go, purely financial. Anyways, the kid has exceptional control, throws a FB right or left up or down and can call it. Throws a split finger and knows how to hold runners with a glide step. He does not strike everyone out, unless the kid wont swing then he is disposed of very quickly. Should we strive to strike everyone out? He seems to be judged on his ability to strike people out. However I know the coach would rather not have anyone else on the mound because of the shiftiness of his pitches, it keeps the batters off balance and unsure where its coming from, the hits are normally dribblers or pop ups.


#2

It depends.

When facing batters that won’t swing, the strikeout is the only strategy. But, when facing batters who do swing, I like pitchers who get outs pitching to contact as the will usually throw fewer pitches to get their outs than do strikeout pitchers. It takes at least 3 pitches to get a batter out by strikeout while outs from pop flies or weak grounders can often be had in less than 3 pitches.

Your comment about the coach tells me you need to learn about proper pitch count limits and proper days rest so you can effectively monitor your son’s workload and make sure he doesn’t get overused and injured.


#3

Do I get a bit frustrated when I make a perfect ground ball pitch and the batter makes the decision to swing and misses the ball? YES! It doesn’t mean I’m not happy with the result. I just have to throw more pitches to get him out. The same thing applies to batters who foul off a lot of pitches. Call me crazy, but I’d prefer a 4 pitch walk to a 10 pitch strike out. They both get you out of the game at about the same rate!

Find out what the batter wants or expects and make him think you are giving it to him. We could talk strategy all day. I like to have smart pitchers and catchers and not “strike out” guys or “contact” guys. Smart pitchers entice batters to swing at their pitch and tend to get good results. Of course, control is a major factor in a pitcher’s ability to use that intelligence. It sounds like your son has at least average and probably above average control. I was not a power pitcher but I averaged more than 1.5 strikeouts per inning without focusing on striking batters out. I was a catcher more than a pitcher and had developed my pitching IQ that way. I would chart pitches whether I was scheduled to throw that day or not (I was mostly a reliever). To this day, I can not watch a game without automatically thinking about what pitch I would throw or wondering why the pitcher/catcher chose to throw that particular pitch…every pitch of every game.

Don’t have to rely on your catcher to “call” your game. I’m not saying don’t rely on him, I’m saying don’t HAVE TO rely on him. Two heads are better than one. Also, you may not always have the smartest catcher or coach as you move from year to year; team to team. Bring something to the mental table in that relationship.

As a coach, I will try to spend at least some time reviewing the critical at bats as soon as our defense comes off the field and at least talk about what we want to do with the next 3 batters coming up. When you first start doing it, it takes 2-3 minutes, but with experience, we always do it in about a minute. The pitcher and catcher go right to the book and have a bench “mound visit”. It’s the best minute you will invest in your success and your ability to go deeper into games.

Fewer shake offs leads to better rhythm and flow, which also will usually result in fewer total pitches.


#4

He’s a lefty. So he should have a great, deceptive pickoff move to first. If he doesn’t, that would be a great thing to work on, in addition to his pitches.


#5

Thanks for those points to consider.

Yes he does have a good pick off and we continue to work with it.

Most of his coaches were in fact college players themselves and I have been satisfied that he is not over taxed either in a given game or week to week.

Coach Paul: Unfortunately 12 yr old travel ball tends not to have a lot of scouting or advanced knowledge of tendencies of players. As we move into higher ranks I hope that kind of information is obtained and used, I could see the benefit.

As anyone was a pitcher how did you judge your personal performance in a game you pitched? Was it: I had 9 strikeouts that was a helluva game, we won or we lost! I had 3 strikeouts and my team was involved and they cleaned up when I faltered. Or I had a good game cause coach said I did! Those are extremes, I know I am just trying to derive a feeling for how people perceive a pitchers performance. Thanks in advance


#6

…the kid has exceptional control, throws a FB right or left up or down and can call it. Throws a split finger and knows how to hold runners with a glide step. He does not strike everyone out, unless the kid wont swing then he is disposed of very quickly. … He seems to be judged on his ability to strike people out. However I know the coach would rather not have anyone else on the mound…

Should we strive to strike everyone out?

I wish I had pitcher’s like that?

A pitcher that can control the tempo, pace and temperament at the plate is golden. With regard to pitch counts, figure it this way.

four pitches per batter
four batters per inning
going four innings gives you 16 pitches per inning, ending up with 64 pitches for four innings is solid pitching.

Your son’s ability to mix and match his pitches doesn’t give way to noting but the heater. Good control to tweak each batter and dominate is what opens the door for other opportunities. Experiment with the change-up, but sparingly at his age.

Besides, temper your son to controlling four innings, max. Let your son have his days off, rest, recoup. Do not allow your son to be the workhorse on any club. He deserves better attention - not for tomorrow, but beyond.

I wish there was talent of your son’s age in Western Massachusetts. Your son is worth time and coaching from someone who can groom those abilities.


#7

Thank you coach!
That is what I was looking for and I understand those numbers are fluid and roll with the flow of the game. But it gives us something to base things on.

One clarification isn’t the splittter an off speed pitch? We have learned that pitch and employ it in lieu of the circle change up. It has been much more effective and almost, in my sons hands, behaves like a slider


#8

There is so much in baseball that is random, so it can be misleading to gauge performance based mostly on a few metrics without context. A really important piece of context is the strength of opposition.

For example, my 12-year-old son was on a medium strength AA team this summer that improved to become a strong AA team by the end of the summer. But occasionally we played against much stronger AAA teams, and they would easily beat us with a mercy rule kicking in after 4 or 5 innings.

Normally, AAA hitters would have their way with our pitchers. My son (also a lefty) was one of the better performing pitchers on the team in general. One time against a AAA team he did terrifically, because he had everything working for him that day - his control, his secondary pitches, etc. as well as his pitching smarts. So . . .

He noticed that most players on the AAA team stood far from the plate. So he’d throw the first pitch to barely catch the outside corner. Second pitch the batter would scoot closer to the plate. So he’d throw high and inside for a strike. And he mixed in his football curve here and there.

He issued no walks. Did they hit him? Yes they did. In 2 innings of work they hit maybe 5 or 6 balls into play, only one of which was a solid line drive, the rest of which were fieldable. His teammates made a lot of errors behind him and a few runs scored, but that didn’t affect his pitching (not being bothered by the errors behind him was another reason I thought the outing was a great success).

These 2 innings of pitching were arguably his best 2 innings of pitching this summer but you wouldn’t know it from the stat line. The context of playing against a really great team (that won every game at the tournament, mostly by mercy rule) and having fielders not do much for him that day made the stats look bad, but his control, command, composure, and smarts were all very much in evidence.

Over time, the stats become meaningful as some of the random elements and contexts average out. So after 25 or 30 innings, those things like K/BB ratio, WHIP, etc. will end up reflecting performance. But for any given inning or even any given weekend, you don’t want to evaluate performance purely based on stats.


#9

FilterJoe,
You posted a quote of mine, then posted a capsulation of your 12 year old. Could you explain what followed my quotation and how it related to my quote?


#10

The splitter, for a 12 year old, can be a bit difficult to label. Hand size, strength and a ton of other stuff all play into the mix.

The one thing that I did notice in your narration of your son - location control. Location control , up/down/left and right, is outstanding and the reason why your son’s coach looks to him as he does.

As your son moves along in upper ranks and the competition gets better and better, location control will be a staple of his repertoire.


#11

Quote was an accident at first but then I left it there as I thought my anecdote illustrating good performance despite a lackluster stat line illustrated tempo, pace, and temperament to some extent (though it illustrates other things as well).

I’ll remove the quote as you want as it’s a stretch.


#12

That’s a good question. I judged how well I did by how much relative stress I pitched under. For example, if it’s harder for me to focus on the next pitch, then things are not going so well and I need to focus and block things out. If the need to handle those feelings is at a minimum, then I’ve had a good day. There are times when the defense isn’t helping you. That is not within your control and can never be allowed to upset your frame of mind. It will serve no productive purpose. As I got to be 15-16 I finally had that fully under control. I wish I had been able to conquer that beast earlier. I would have enjoyed myself more. When I played for school teams, it wasn’t really an issue. Playing for LL or recreational baseball, it used to drive me crazy.

As a coach, I really can’t impact a player’s mechanics from the bench, so I try to stay focused on the pitcher’s mental state and do what I can to support a positive outlook. No team will ever beat you faster than you can beat yourself.


#13

No need for the deletion.


#14

One last question which only pertains to my son. He is left handed only. He is right footed and right eye dominant. It called cross dominance. Dexterity tests in his hands say he his ambidextrous. Anyways this I have seen earlier has lead to much confusion. Bats right throws left, kicks right. Does this create issues pitching which he has not encountered yet. Having to do with footwork. What should we pay attention to, also batting? Anybody with similar experience?z


#15

I’ve never ran into this dexterity thing that you mentioned - but, my curiosity got me wondering about your question. So I called two coaches that I knew and asked them, basically the same question that you asked. Both had pitchers that were southpaws, batted right, and so forth. Neither had issues with the situation. Now I’m talking about matured men in their late 30’s, not pitchers of your son’s age and older.

For what it’s worth, one of the coaches has a sister in law who is a Chiropractor ( I have no idea how that adds to my response) but in any event, he ran your question by her and came back to me with - as humans develop and mature, so does the motor skills and associated coordination aspects of movement and control. So, I take that to mean - the kids gonna do just fine.

I must qualify myself here. I asked those that I thought had experience with the situation that you asked about. None of these people, I suspect, have the in depth formal education and expertise to qualify your question in medical or scientific terms that I would understand. So, if you have concerns, perhaps a specialist - whatever they’re called , may be helpful.


#16

Not sure how significant this is but pitchers who bat and throw with opposite arms are more susceptible to shoulder injuries because the followthrough of a swing is a joint-loosening activity for the front shoulder which is the throwing shoulder.