Development Question

My son (11U) plays the same team tonight that he played his last game against. He was shelled last time out pitching mostly change ups, but felt good about his pitching in that they were 1) strikes and 2) the hit balls were grounders right at the infielders.

Should he continue working on his change up and not worry about the score, or stay with the heat to win the game?

Factors:

a. Standard LL game with no significance.
b. His change up (knuckle-curve) velocity is about equal to the better LL 12U pitcher’s FB, and can very from the hanging “curve” to a 6" or 12" drop. He throws it with the same arm action as the FB.
c. He gave up a home run to the leagues best hitter(and BIG kid) in his last game on a hanging “curve.” The batter was looking FB all the way and barely got around on it and poked it to the opposite field. No way he gets around on the FB.
d. No significant bullpen sessions this year due to rain. Therefore, he hasn’t had the opportunity to work on the change up in non-game situation. Confidence in the change will help him as he gets to better levels of play.
e. Although he was shelled his last game, he would have been out of the 1st inning on nine pitches if there were not five infield errors behind him.

I’m leaning towards staying with the change and develop as a pitcher, and not to worry about what is not in his control (i.e. his team’s fielding).

Thanks

Who calls pitches on this team? Even in LL, in today’s game it “normal” for the coach to call the pitches. If that’s the case, it really isn’t up to the pitcher.

I don’t know about anyone else, but to me if a kid is put on the mound in a game, the only honorable thing to do is do his best to help his team win.

Here is the problem right there…

How crazy is that, the change is to keep batters off balance, keep them guessing. Fastball should be 70-80 % of all pitches, a good hitting fastball team can’t sit on a fastball if they don’t know it’s coming, a good change thrown “mostly” is just a slow fastball, easier to hit and ususally with less movement.

Get back to fastball 70% of the time, change 10 -15 % and knuckle curve 5-10% and he will get on top of it.

You’re correct about the CU and how it should be used, but this is exactly why I asked who calls the pitches on that team. Lots of people go on and on about how their kid does this or that on the mound, and how he changes speeds and makes the batter’s eyes change, but how many times does that pitcher actually have the freedom to call his own game?

W2E’s son definitely was using a horrible choice of pitches, but chances are, he’s got little or no control over what he throws. And if it’s the coach calling pitches, he’s got to be very careful about how he approaches him about it. If his son has compete autonomy to throw what he wants, then He and dad, or he and a private coach need to sit down and discuss pitching strategy as it relates to pitches and locations.

To keep the record straight, he calls his pitches. We talk about the opposing team before the game, but leave the choice to his catcher and him. Typically, it 98% +/- FB. When a pitcher throws mostly all FB, there’s not much the coach needs to call. The other day he wanted to use his change. His two seamer didn’t have the normal movement, so he went with his change up to put movement on the ball. Being “shelled” means the other team put the ball in play, instead of striking out. The were opposite field grounders hit right at our fielders.

He threw all FB tonight except one change up and challenged every hitter. Interesting, he dominated this game, even though the other team hit the same ground balls. This time we fielded every ball and made the outs. The change up was the one lone single.

It seems ironic. Game 1 he throws change ups, gets the batters to hit grounder right at the infielders, and he’s “shelled” Game 2 he throws the heat, the batters still hit grounders right to the infielders, but we field well and he “dominates.” Difference is in appearance. In Game 1, the opposing team feels like they can hit him. In Game 2, there’s fear in the batters. But both games resulted in opposite field infield grounders.

On the issue of “horrible choice of pitches,” if he were an off-speed pitcher instead of a power pitcher, would the choice of staying with his off-speed pitches that gets infield grounders be a horrible choice? None of the “hits” left the infield (except the homer, which was a mistake pitch. Even Major Leaguers make mistakes. :)). His knuckle curve, although only a few (5 +/-) mph slower than his FB, had just enough downward movement to keep the ball on the ground. He felt confident in it and used it to induce grounders. I don’t understand why it was such a “horrible choice of pitches” for an 11 year old, especially if he wants to pitch them?

I thought it was pretty gutsy to go against the best hitting team in our league using his second pitch.

p.s. On a side note, he’s not a paid professional. And he’s not pitching trying to impress college scouts. Just another 6th grader who likes playing frisbee and watching Sponge Bob.)

I’m a 48 yr old adult and I watch Mr. Squarpants now and then.

The problem with your post is, as an earlier poster touched on, is practicing a pitch during a game. It’s commendable that he’ll work on the change, but there’s 8 other kids on the field. It’s not their fault bullpen time has been limited. I guess you could make the argument it gives them the opportunity to work on defense, but…it does come across a little self centered.

Now, get up by a few runs and that’s different.

People are going to view any given situation differently. If your going to post on a bulletin board don’t be surprised when other don’t agree.

Talk about working on a pitch during a game!
Jim Brosnan, in his entertaining book “Pennant Race” which details the trials and tribulations—and triumphs—of the 1961 Cincinnati Reds who suddenly found themselves battling for first place in the National League—tells of the day when pitching coach Jim Turner, who had become enamored of the slow curve, insisted that his pitchers all practice it. During a game when they were all getting shellacked. This is a situation which can and does occur at all levels of the game. Maybe Turner was getting old.
In the case of the kid who was getting “shellacked”, I think that this would be an excellent time for him and the pitching coach to have a long talk about strategic pitching—about knowing the opposing team’s strengths and weaknesses and how to take advantage of them. My pitching coach of long ago—an active major league pitcher who doubled in brass as an extra pitching coach for the Yankees—told me that there is a lot more to pitching than just throwing the ball and daring the batters to hit it. It doesn’t matter what level of the game is being played; the fundamental thing is to get the batters out. That also includes the positioning of the fielders—particularly the outfielders who have no idea if a fly ball will come their way and who have to be ready for anything. 8) :slight_smile:

[quote=“SomeBaseballDad”]

People are going to view any given situation differently. If your going to post on a bulletin board don’t be surprised when other don’t agree.[/quote]

Agree. Actually took Scorekeepers advice and went with the fast ball.:slight_smile:

Has this discussion with my son and the catcher. Went through the lineup, batter by batter, and concluded that none of them could get around on the FB, so just throw the heat. The #3 hitter is a 1st strike hitter, so keep the ball on the edges. Rest of the line up looks at the 1st pitch, so throw the 1st pitch to them for a strike. And challenge the #4 hitter. He can hit monster shots off of most 12U kids, but we felt he couldn’t get around on the FB. Certain batters we knew would make contact, so we made sure our corner fielders were ready to play. Game played out as we suspected.

This really is the point of the thread - becoming a pitcher and not just a thrower. “The fundamental thing is to get the batters out.” With average fielding, his 2nd pitch - the knuckle curve - would have gotten the batters out. At this level, it seems apparent that his 1st pitch - the two-seamer - will get the batters out. I keep thinking that the older players have caught up to his FB and he needs a 2nd pitch to keep them off balance, but as evident in the last game, this may not be true. It appears he can go another year with just a FB, and then next year, possibly being the biggest kid at 12U, the FB will be all he needs to “get the batters out.” But my understanding is next year when he does more travel, the FB is not enough, and a 2nd pitch is beneficial to keep the hitters off balance.

I’m perplexed on what to do - pitch to get the batters out and stay with the FB, or go with a 2nd pitch and take the knocks were they come. A friend who also coaches one of the elite 12U teams in the region said that for the elite 12U travel teams, they all have one or two pitchers like my son who throw 72 to 75 mph, and they all have hitters who can hit that speed. At the elite 12U level, the off-speed pitch is needed to keep them off-balance.

I don’t need any answers today. I think his next start is in ten days or so, and it’s against one of the weaker teams, so whatever he throws in that game will be sufficient.

Thanks for letting me rant.
[size=9]
p.s. I’m not saying my son throws 72 mph+, that’s just the observation of a 12U Travel Team coach.[/size]

It sounds like you want your son to develop a better change up but don’t have the Bullpen time needed.

Confidence is so key. The CU works when players are catching up to your FB. If they can’t catchup to the FB the CU just becomes a slower FB that they can hit. Cu’s benefit the batter that can’t catch up to the FB.

Game time stick with the heat until teams start to figure out the timing. I would leave the CU in my back pocket.

Learning to throw the CU. Coach your son to practice it during warm up. When ever he is playing catch he can work on grip, release point, and control. He doesn’t have to wait for bullpen time to get a feel for the pitch.

This all goes back to confidence. If he came off the mound thinking they shelled his CU than he will lose confidence in the pitch and second guess it when it’s needed. Set your son up to succeed with the pitch and only use it when needed.

[quote=“real green”]It sounds like you want your son to develop a better change up but don’t have the Bullpen time needed.

Confidence is so key. The CU works when players are catching up to your FB. If they can’t catchup to the FB the CU just becomes a slower FB that they can hit. Cu’s benefit the batter that can’t catch up to the FB. [/quote]

I guess that’s what I need to know.

[quote=“real green”]Game time stick with the heat until teams start to figure out the timing. I would leave the CU in my back pocket.

Learning to throw the CU. Coach your son to practice it during warm up. When ever he is playing catch he can work on grip, release point, and control. He doesn’t have to wait for bullpen time to get a feel for the pitch.

This all goes back to confidence. If he came off the mound thinking they shelled his CU than he will lose confidence in the pitch and second guess it when it’s needed. Set your son up to succeed with the pitch and only use it when needed.[/quote]

He’s not pitching this week, school is out, and the weather is warm so we’ll get some bullpen in. He needs some bullpen time to find out why his two-seamer isn’t tailing into the right handed hitters.

Thanks

[quote=“West2East”]To keep the record straight, he calls his pitches. We talk about the opposing team before the game, but leave the choice to his catcher and him. Typically, it 98% +/- FB. When a pitcher throws mostly all FB, there’s not much the coach needs to call. The other day he wanted to use his change. His two seamer didn’t have the normal movement, so he went with his change up to put movement on the ball. Being “shelled” means the other team put the ball in play, instead of striking out. The were opposite field grounders hit right at our fielders.

He threw all FB tonight except one change up and challenged every hitter. Interesting, he dominated this game, even though the other team hit the same ground balls. This time we fielded every ball and made the outs. The change up was the one lone single. [/quote]

Well, him calling his own pitches is a refreshing change from what is “normal” today. Just out of curiosity, does he signal the catcher, or does the catcher signal him and he accepts or declines?

I won’t say that “98% +/- FB” is either right or wrong, but I will say that throwing only 1 or 2 other pitches out of 60 is likely why he’s having such a difficult time getting proficient with any other pitch. Also FWIW, using a knuckle curve for a CU probably isn’t the best idea. Using it as a braking ball makes sense, but compared to a standard change, I’m afraid decent hitter will find it much easier to distinguish from the FB.

In my experience and understanding, the main thinking behind a CU isn’t movement, its making the pitch look as exactly like a FB as possible, but at a slightly shower velocity.

You used a poor choice of descriptive words. :wink: In my mind. shelled is what all pitchers at higher levels strive for, because they know that the higher the level, the less likely the K will be the main source of outs.

Your use of the word challenged also conjures up something in my mind that doesn’t jive. To me and most of the people I talk baseball with, a pitcher challenging a hitter doesn’t mean he’s throwing FBs up there to see which is the better “man”. Rather, it means throwing a pitch in the strike zone designed to either have the hitter not swing because he THINKS its not a strike, or not hit it hard because of some kind of placement or deception.

That’s a “normal” experience at the low level he’s at right now. I assure you though, that unless he’s gonna be one of the superstuds throwing 85 at 13, fewer and fewer batters are going to have any fear what-so-ever because they eventually all learn that the easiest pitch to hit is a FB.

Well, I’m sorry if I misinterpreted “mostly changeups” as being say 31out of 60 pitches. 1st of all, I had no idea he was throwing a KC instead of one the standard CU’s. 2nd, in my mind the main idea behind a CU is to “deceive” the hitter into swinging at the wrong time to make solid contact. Most of that deception comes from being unable to recognize the pitch as a CU. It doesn’t matter what pitch it is, if its thrown enough, hitters, even poor ones will recognize and time it, thus making it lose a lot of its deception value.

That shows your and his inexperience. As time goes by, you’ll undoubtedly learn that the best hitting teams almost invariably have more trouble with “thumbers” than power pitchers. OS and breaking pitchers are harder to hit.

Good! I hope he stays that way because he’ll enjoy the game a lot more if he does. :wink:

Thank you. Catcher calls the pitch. They’re learning to be ball players.

His strike % for the game he threw the knuckle-curve was 66%.

Possibly. The concept is his 2-seamer tails in on the right handed hitter, the slider tails outside and the knuckle-curve tails down slightly, hopefully inducing ground balls that leads to outs and a lower pitch count. He’s tried the circle change and palm ball but has never felt comfortable about these grips.

But, when thrown hard, it doesn’t act like a breaking pitch.

Reasonable. The knuckle-curve when thrown hard comes in like a FB, with slightly slower velocity, and tails down a little at the end.

I don’t follow, but that’s OK. But I do understand that the K is less likely to be the main source of outs at higher levels; therefore, the reason to pitch to induce grounders.

I probably watch to many games on TV. I rarely get the true meaning of “challenge” from TV analyst. TV analyst seem to always be saying that the hard throwing pitcher is just “throwing it down the middle and challenging the hitter.” I apologize for poor word usage.

Agree. Eventually, the hitters will catch up with the FB and it’ll be the easiest pitch to hit.

Theoretically, of course. As mentioned previously, the KC has the ability to induce grounders, which is a reason to throw a CU.

A liitle bit assumptive, but point taken. My older son, who is 13, has no problem with power pitchers. But, he doesn’t see many FBs. After one swing, he will only see breaking pitches. Odds are when he hits the BP it will not go as far as the FB will go, and more likely will be a grounder or a pop up. I understand your point.

I’m hoping so.

He’s enjoying throwing the splitter that is similar to Lincecum’s split finger fastball/changeup, and when I’m catching him he seems to have fairly good command of it. With a little more work, he’ll have proficiency at the 2-seamer, slider, KC and the splitter. Knowing my son, I wouldn’t put it past him to pitch a game using mostly split finger fastballs when he gets comfortable with the pitch - just to see if he can command it. He pitched an exhibition game early in the spring using only the slider. I have no idea if he’ll ever put the four pitches together in a single game.

[quote]Good! I hope he stays that way because he’ll enjoy the game a lot more if he does. Wink
[/quote]

So, you cannot take the game seriously, even very seriously, and enjoy it to?

If at some point you don’t take it seriously how long will you get to enjoy the game period?

About the kid’s putting all four of his pitches together—don’t be surprised if he does. It won’t take long before he learns how to mix them up and how to change speeds on all of them, and when that happens he’ll be almost unhittable. This is an aspect of strategic pitching I learned long ago—move the ball around, high, low, inside, outside, change speeds, and stay away from the middle of the plate. I didn’t have a fast ball to speak of, so I went in the other direction and became a finesse pitcher—and a very good one.
And I have no quibble with the idea of both enjoying oneself and taking the game seriously. It’s those people who take themselves too seriously, and those are the ones who aren’t really enjoying playing the game because they’re too focused on winning at any cost, or impressing a coach or a scout or whatever. Look at Robinson Cano, the Yankees’ second baseman. He has lots of fun playing the game, and it shows, and at the same time he takes the game seriously. Someone elsewhere on this website asked, regarding those kids (and adults as well) who play the game with gritted teeth and elevated blood pressure, “If they aren’t enjoying themselves, why are they playing the game?” 8)

[quote="SomeBaseballDad"
So, you cannot take the game seriously, even very seriously, and enjoy it to?

If at some point you don’t take it seriously how long will you get to enjoy the game period?[/quote]

I assume the question is rhetorical and not specifically aimed at anyone, but I will respond to provide a little insight. A few games back our outfielders didn’t do so well, letting singles drop and allowing singles into doubles. My sons response was, “Dad, let me play the outfield -all three positions at the same time- next game I’m not pitching. I’ll guarantee no hit touches the grass.” We enjoy the game, and still take it very serious.

You might not have quite gotten what I was saying. You said earlier he was throwing 98% FBs. If that’s true, let’s say he threw 80 pitches for the entire outing. That means he could have only thrown at most 2 pitches the whole game that weren’t FBs. I’m not trying to make you look silly here, but rather only trying to point out that perceptions and fact don’t usually match.

People throw numbers out all the time claiming them to be what’s “normal”. FI, a pitcher should normally throw 70-80% FBs. That sounds like a lot, but in fact it isn’t. If it were, that would mean only 16-24 pitches in an 80 pitch contest would be something other than FBs. In a 6 inning stint, that would mean only 3-4 pitches in an entire inning not FBs. Do you see how that makes absolutely no sense? More likely, even for the most overpowering of pitchers, its probably more like 50%FBs and the other 50% split up among the pitchers outer pitches.

Well, to be perfectly honest, it really doesn’t make a lot of difference at this stage of the game. I guarantee that the pitches he throws and the way he throws them now will not be the same when he’s 16. What’s really important is, he learns and understands the concepts of what he’s trying to do.

Perhaps not your idea of a breaking pitch, but it does mine. As you know, pitches can “break” in 3 basic directions. To the pitcher’s glove hand, to the pitcher’s throwing hand, and down. While every pitch thrown breaks down to some degree because of gravity, it’s possible to add to that with ball rotation and velocity.

But no matter what the pitcher does, its rotation is 180 degrees out of phase with a FB. In order to make a pitch “break” down using ball rotation, the ball has to spin basically in a 12/6 rotation. A FB rotates exactly opposite because it rolls off the ends of the fingers.

At 11, most hitters don’t have the experience to pick that up, but that will change. When he gets to the big field, there’s a lot more time to pick up such things, and the hitters will generally be much better. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but rather that it will not stay that way for much longer. If he were a student of mine, I wouldn’t have him stop anything he’s doing, but I would have him working on a “standard” change now, so when he needed it, it wouldn’t be a foreign thing.

[quote]I don’t follow, but that’s OK. But I do understand that the K is less likely to be the main source of outs at higher levels; therefore, the reason to pitch to induce grounders. [quote]

“Shelled” generally means the hitters are hitting balls hard, all over the field, and they aren’t usually grounders.

No need to apologize! What you’ve seen is pretty standard from announcers on both TV and radiddio. Usually an analyst will be an ex-MLr, and he’s likely gonna use terms he heard and used when he was playing. What’s bad is, he won’t likely explain what he means when he uses those terms because it wouldn’t occur to him that anyone wouldn’t have his same understanding.

If you ever get the chance to listen to Tom Seaver, Steve Stone, or Bert Blyleven. They generally do a pretty good job of keeping the listener up to speed on what they’re talking about, about pitching. But someone who was a fielder doesn’t really have that kind of thought process.

But what will seldom if ever change is, it will always be the easiest pitch for the pitcher to command, and therefore the pitch that will likely be the pitch all other pitches work off of.

Well, I think we have different ideas about why certain things are done, but that’s ok. We have totally different experiences in the game, so its not likely we’ll interpret things the same way. As I’ve said, as long as he’s getting batters out, it really doesn’t mean a lot right now because things will change for him.

I wasn’t trying to insult you, but rather to just note that very likely when you’re 64 and have been messing with the game at various levels for more than 55 years, you’ll probably change your thinking some. :wink:

You might not have quite gotten what I was saying. You said earlier he was throwing 98% FBs. If that’s true, let’s say he threw 80 pitches for the entire outing. That means he could have only thrown at most 2 pitches the whole game that weren’t FBs. I’m not trying to make you look silly here, but rather only trying to point out that perceptions and fact don’t usually match. [/quote]

Remember, in question were two individual games. Game A he threw a majority of KC, in which 66% were strikes. Games B he threw all FB except one pitch. And 2 CU out of 80 pitches is the norm for him at 11 - as well as last year at 10 and the previous year at 9.

Understandable. Yet, at this stage, 3 or 4 pitches in an entire game not FBs is the norm. And at some point in the near future, the number of non-FBs will increase as he becomes a complete pitcher.

[quote=“scorekeeper”]
At 11, most hitters don’t have the experience to pick that up, but that will change. When he gets to the big field, there’s a lot more time to pick up such things, and the hitters will generally be much better. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but rather that it will not stay that way for much longer. If he were a student of mine, I wouldn’t have him stop anything he’s doing, but I would have him working on a “standard” change now, so when he needed it, it wouldn’t be a foreign thing. [/quote]

What “standard” change would you recommend? Now that the weather has heated up and school is out, we will get several bullpen sessions in this week. Because he’s had success and likes the idea of throwing Lincecum’s split finger fastball/CU, I’m planning on incorporating it into the bullpen work along with the 2-seamer, slider and KC, which gives him four pitches. I’ll also have him try the circle change again, but in the past this one hasn’t felt good for him. Any other suggestions? Thanks