My son, 16yo LHP has been a starter on varsity since freshman year (now a junior). Leading up to HS he was a 2 seam/change up pitcher. Was very successful living on the outside. Once he got to high school, the awesome umps in our area really started to squeeze him. Seems to be a real problem with calling the glove location. So he’s had to adjust, throws more 4 seams and just does the best he can with staying low and using the change. So last week he goes to a showcase and a D1 coach tells him he loves his mechanics but needs to learn to use the river more. Here’s the dilemma. What the coach described was who he really is as a pitcher but with the umpires he gets if he stayed true to his identity he’d have so many walks he couldn’t get through an inning (this has happened). He had excellent control, the D1 coach even said that its like his control is actually too good. My first inclination was to tell him to just be himself but after I thought about it I don’t know if that’s the best advice because multiple walks doesn’t keep you in the game. What’s a good mind set to deal with this? What should his mindset be going into his junior year?
I apologize, but I don’t understand these statements.
I know this is a poker term, but not sure how it applies to pitching, sorry. It’s not a term I’ve ever heard applied to baseball.
Does this mean he calls the glove and not the ball? Sounds like your catcher needs to learn how to catch the ball and control his glove movement to stick the pitches.
These seem to be important if I’m going to issue any advice.
Adjusting to each umpire’s strike zone is a real thing to some extent. The only difference here is that it’s not a strike zone that if often called both ways when one pitcher is high velocity. Boiled down–you only have to adjust to how the umpire is calling YOUR strike zone. Make those adjustments and you will be successful.
I do have some understanding about umpires who squeeze the kids who have above average velocity. A slow pitcher is given up to 6 inches of extra plate-- to each side! A fast pitcher needs to actually throw a strike to get the call. This is not unique to your geographic location. Another side effect of slow vs. fast is that hitters offer at pitches outside the strike zone much more often for slow pitchers because they feel they can hit the ball. These same hitters do not have the same confidence level when facing a fast pitcher.
Ultimately, this extra challenge will precipitate one of two outcomes. The pitcher will either improve his control, throw strikes, and survive; or he will not improve his control and pitching will eventually no longer be an option. Decide whether or not he wants to invest the effort necessary to continue to have success.
I can’t often turn a slow pitcher into a fast pitcher. I can make him faster, but not necessarily “fast.” I have much better results working with kids to greatly improve control. Keep dialing in your son’s control. I made a recent posting about structured bullpens where I recommended tracking deviation from the intended target for each pitch, then comparing these deviations over time to track improvement in accuracy. I also highly recommend bullpens that have concentrations of one or two pitches to one location done in blocks of 10-20 identical pitches. This type of bullpen really helped me pinpoint my control.
By river I was referring to the alley or area between the plate and batters box. The coach giving him feedback was saying as a lhp with average velocity and good movement he needed to be able to work 2-3 balls off the plate. The frustration with that statement is that that’s exactly what he does when he’s staying true to his identity but due to poor umpiring in our area he normally is lucky to even get a call a full ball on the plate. His evaluation at the showcase rated him above average for control. Average movement (because he’s learned he had to be straight in order to get calls) and average velocity. My question is regarding identity. Do you stay true to yourself, play the corners with movement And suffer the negative consequences or give in and learn bad behaviors so you can survive a game.
Thanks for the information. By reading the response, it gives the impression, though it may be false, that he avoids the plate more than necessary. A pitcher can’t be afraid to challenge hitters, even if he doesn’t possess overpowering velocity. The changes of location and velocity from pitch to pitch can be as effective within the zone as it can be outside the zone.
When batters are behind in the count they will be forced to expand their zone. This is the best time to take a trip “down the river.” The umpire is never forced to expand their zone. The only way to get your share of calls off the plate is to hit the mitt in such a way that the catcher doesn’t have to move his glove or reach for the ball. Even then, umpires will generally only allow 1 to 1.5 balls off the plate, not the 2-3 balls off the plate. Three balls off the plate is in the other batter’s box
Getting these calls can be less about the accuracy of the pitcher and more about the positioning and framing skills of the catcher. Setting up off the plate works well if the intention is to entice the batter into chasing after a pitch. Don’t expect an umpire to ring him up–even if you hit your spot. If you want a call to go your way off the plate, the catcher needs to be set up almost entirely in the zone and the catch needs to be made out in front and stuck, not caught too deeply into the catcher’s body, and the glove can not be drifting away from the zone during the catch. The more glove in the zone, the better your chances for a favorable call. At no time should a catcher ever drag a ball back into the zone. The umpire does not want to be made to look like a fool. Even if it’s a true strike, dragging the glove makes the umpire look bad if he calls it a strike. Catch it where it is and let the chips fall where they may. Another key to getting a few extra calls is to have the catcher as low in the zone as possible, it gives the umpire a better look and allows the catcher to handle the lowest part of the zone without turning the glove.
I appreciate you’re thoughtful response. I get what your saying. I’m a college catcher coach (softball). The question I was posing for the sake of discussion is strategy related as opposed to tactically related. His control is good, “above average” according to this D1 coach. “Being true to who you are”. On one hand, college coaches are telling him to get off the edge, which is where he wants to be, that’s who he is and who he wants to be as a pitcher. On the other hand, umps are giving him conflicting feedback. They are telling him “get back in here”. The nitpicking in me is that the umpires in our area really struggle with horizontal movement. Put it this way. .and I’m not comparing my son to Mariano but. …what if Mariano could never get his cutter to be a called strike even if it really was catching the corner? Would he continue to throw it? Should he? Having good stuff is one thing, staying true to himself, my son has good stuff. When he pitches against bigger schools or in travel he gets the calls because the umps are more experienced. On an average day in high school however, if he continued to throw the way he wants, he’d be the opponents leading rbi man. So I pose the question. …should my advice be “just do you” or do I say " all those walks won’t look good so make the adjustment?"
My frustration is that what the college coach told him to do is what he normally does but he didn’t show case that because he’s been taught that he can’t be successful doing that so he’s developed the habit of being straighter and more over the plate.
Pitch as you need to in order to give the best chance to retire the batter. That takes into consideration variables including the umpire. MLB keeps stats on umpires because they impact games. Apply your own style given that objective.