Changeup Speed

My son is a 12-year old pitcher with pretty good speed. He throws 2-seam and 4-seam fastballs, and a 3-finger changeup. We’ve not had his pitching speed checked with radar, but the changeup is noticably slower. However, his coaches keep telling him to slow it down more; the coach’s son is also a pitcher, and that child’s changeup is more of just a slowly pitched ball that, when understood, gets hammered by batters (it is really, really obvious).

So what to do? I don’t want to teach him to lob the ball in; it’s an imprecise pitch, and when he started doing that in the last game the other team hit three home runs off of him. (Don’t get me started on my thoughts on changing pitching mechanics mid-game.) However, his coaches are insistent that he develop a slower changeup.

I don’t want him to develop bad mechanics throwing an incorrect changeup. So what is the best way to get him to slow the pitch down; should he move to a 4-finger delivery? Or work on a breaking ball as his alternate pitch?

Has he tried a circle change?

My son’s three finger change up also was not much slower than his four seam fastball. He now throws the circle change, which is significantly slower. Try it: http://www.thecompletepitcher.com/pitching_grips.htm

I’ll have him work on that; I guess I was thinking hand size might be an issue, but it is easy to forget that he has grown since he started pitching a couple of years ago.

Here’s how I’ve handled this situation: The pitcher’s objective is to get the hitter out by either throwing the heat past the hitter or getting the hitter to swing on a pitcher’s pitch for an out. The pitcher’s objective is not to throw the ball so the hitter can hit. Therefore, throw the heat. Get the out. Don’t listen to the coach in this situation. Fortunately, I’ve kept good relations with the coaches through the years and they understand I manage my son’s development. So I can nicely explain to the coach to lighten up (i.e. be quiet) and let the kid pitch.

This happened early in the season. The coach was telling my son to throw it easy. He figured it would be easier for the catcher. He walked a batter and went three balls on the next. I was furious as his delivery was all messed up as he was trying to throw easy pitches. I went out to the mound, told him to throw strikes. Forget velocity, just rear back and throw the ball. He finished striking out the hitter and everyone else during the game. Result was the coach realized that the catcher’s job was earier with the heat thrown as strikes than with the slower pitches that were missing. Haven’t had the conversation since.

worthj1970,

Before you change anything, don’t you think its wise to consider the coaches might not be giving him the best advice? If its true that the other boy’s CU is slower but gets hit hard, that tells me whoever taught it to him did a pretty lousy job, so why would you want to listen to that oaf?

You need to assess the situation logically, not just take what clichés people throw at you, before you act, so let’s try to do that. 1st of all, let’s forget about the coach for a few minutes. Before you answer this, you need to have a firm understanding of what you believe success is for a pitcher at that age. When your son pitches, what kind of success is he having? I.e., is he getting pounded like a drum, or is he generally having average or better-than-average success?

Here’s a series of question that kinda go together.

Who calls pitches?
How many CUs does he throw a game.
What’s his overall strike percentage? (an honest estimate is ok)
What’s his strike percentage for CUs? (an honest estimate is ok)

Now that we are fairly sure about your boy, let’s change gears. How does he compare to the other pitchers on the team if you evaluate them the same way?

Now let’s try to figure out why the insistence that his CU get slower. What has been their rationalization for that? What have they done, other than throw a bunch of clichés at you to show his CU isn’t successful? Please tell me they haven’t thrown out the 10 mph difference rule of thumb, and if they have, without even having a gun to check it!

CUs don’t work because of their velocity alone. They work because for all intents and purposes, they look like a FB to the batter, and their velocity relative to the last pitch is slower. IOW, it would be kinda stupid to throw 4 CUs in a row to the same batter. Also, its velocity is “relative” to a FB, and therefore could be different depending on the FB.

FI, a player who throws 75 doesn’t need to throw a 65 mph CU for it to be effective, and a player that throws 55 doesn’t need it to be 45. It should be measured in time, not MPH. A ML player who throws 96 and who’s CU drops 10MPh has a about a 10% difference and a change of right at .05 seconds in time. But let’s look at a kid throwing the same relative velocities at 46’. That would be about 74, and to get the same time difference, the CU would have to be about only about 66. So the 10MPH rule of thumb isn’t really a good one to try to push kids into.

But be all that as it may, depending on the answers to the questions I asked earlier, why on earth would you want him to change his grip? A circle CU isn’t inherently slower than a 3 finger change, and never has been. The ball definitely moves differently, but the velocity is controlled by other things such as finger placement, finger pressure, arm velocity, amount of pronation, stride length, and many other things as well. Before you have him change grips completely, do some serious thinking! There’s nothing wrong with the circle change, but like every pitch, its not what’s best for all pitchers. :wink:

Good luck.

[quote=“scorekeeper”]worthj1970,

Before you change anything, don’t you think its wise to consider the coaches might not be giving him the best advice? If its true that the other boy’s CU is slower but gets hit hard, that tells me whoever taught it to him did a pretty lousy job, so why would you want to listen to that oaf?

You need to assess the situation logically, not just take what clichés people throw at you, before you act, so let’s try to do that. 1st of all, let’s forget about the coach for a few minutes. Before you answer this, you need to have a firm understanding of what you believe success is for a pitcher at that age. When your son pitches, what kind of success is he having? I.e., is he getting pounded like a drum, or is he generally having average or better-than-average success?

Here’s a series of question that kinda go together.

Who calls pitches?
How many CUs does he throw a game.
What’s his overall strike percentage? (an honest estimate is ok)
What’s his strike percentage for CUs? (an honest estimate is ok)
[/quote]

The pitches are called by the head coach, via the catcher. What bugs me is that the “coaches” have not really “coached” pitching; I am not a pitching coach, and I pay for lessons as much as I can, but baseball is increasingly becoming an expensive game. My coaches taught me my positions, how to hit, etc.; things changed by the time my kid started.

He is strong on the corners of the plate, typically with a high percentage of strikes. The biggest thing going against him is that he’s on a team of pitchers; he’s pitched 7 innings all season, with 14 Ks.

[quote=“scorekeeper”]
Now let’s try to figure out why the insistence that his CU get slower. What has been their rationalization for that? What have they done, other than throw a bunch of clichés at you to show his CU isn’t successful? Please tell me they haven’t thrown out the 10 mph difference rule of thumb, and if they have, without even having a gun to check it! [/quote]

This is fundamentally my problem. There has been little pitching coaching. I’ve paid for lessons when I can, but that gets expensive.

[quote=“scorekeeper”]FI, a player who throws 75 doesn’t need to throw a 65 mph CU for it to be effective, and a player that throws 55 doesn’t need it to be 45. It should be measured in time, not MPH. A ML player who throws 96 and who’s CU drops 10MPh has a about a 10% difference and a change of right at .05 seconds in time. But let’s look at a kid throwing the same relative velocities at 46’. That would be about 74, and to get the same time difference, the CU would have to be about only about 66. So the 10MPH rule of thumb isn’t really a good one to try to push kids into.

Good luck.[/quote]

I have taught my son that a changeup should be around 20% slower than the fastball; that’s approximately what most major league pitchers throw (90mph fastball = 72mph CU). So if he’s around 60mph, his CU would be around 48. I’ve been much more focused on his pitching accuracy rather than velocity over the years; he has an excellent catcher this season who can set up inside/outside depending on his feel of the batters.

Thanks!

John

Well, welcome to the club. Sounds like you’re doing what you can to help your boy, so if I had to choose between listening to a 12U team coach and a private instructor, I’m sorry but I gotta go with the private guy. Of course that assumes you didn’t hook up with just anyone.

I wouldn’t make any guesses about where he throws the ball. What’s important, is that he stays around the strike zone. As for being on a team with lots of pitchers where he doesn’t get to throw a lot, trust me, he’s a lot better off that way than throwing a lot now, when it really doesn’t mean a whole lot. He’l have plenty of time to throw lots of innings as he continues.

Don’t get frustrated. What you’re going through is normal.

Actually, that’s a lot greater difference than I’ve seen in most pitchers, but at least you’ve got the right idea that it’s a percentage of the FB velocity, not some arbitrary number like 10MPH.

As for being focused more on accuracy than velocity, that can certainly be a double edged sword, depending on the philosophies of the coaches he happens to play for. Some coaches like to see the kids throwing hard, assuming they can be taught control later on. Others would like to see great velocities, but understand that that’s not necessary for success. Still others don’t give a care at all about size or velocity, and want to see a lot of contact because it generally means fewer pitches and keeps the defenders focused, which means better defense.

All you can do is try to say in some kind of “sync” with the coach, and work from there.

Please stick with the pitching coach and his advice. A lot of youth coaches, while good intentioned, are not knowledgable enough to coach pitchers.

I’ve seen too many youth pitchers lob a ball in to the catcher and call it a change up. This is NOT a change up. If your son isn’t getting enough velo differential, ask his PC or have him adjust his grip, ie. choke the ball deepeer in his hand, more finger pressure, add the pinky finger to the grip.

Unfortunately, that can easily happen at any level, but the chances are great the lower you are. We have a HC and 4 assts on our HSV team, and not even one of them has ever pitched more than a token amount. That shouldn’t disqualify anyone for teaching pitching, but there’s a lot of things that can’t really be understood unless you’ve been there and done it. Our coaches realize they don’t know a lot about pitching, so they don’t try to teach a lot, and let the pitchers take care of that on their own. Sometimes the best thing you cann do is not ruin what’s already there. :wink:

The real problem is, just because a CU doesn’t work, it may well not be because of its velocity, but the observer ASSUMES it is. There’s a lot of reasons a CU doesn’t get the desired results. It could be velocity, but it could just as easily be the pitch it follows. FI, velocity won’t mean a whole lot if its thrown after another CU or some breaking pitch. That’s when location means more than velocity. A CU doesn’t tend to work very well if its “UP” either, unless its following a blazing FB.

I agree on both points.
Fortunately there are coaches like the ones you mentioned. These guys back off rather than give bad information. I am lucky in the fact that my kids HSV coach actually corresponds with his pitching coach. My son is a low 3/4 guy and his HS coach often defers to his PC on mechanical issues.

Concerning the CU, very true about location and pitching sequences. Again, is there coaching issues.