Targeting Your Pitches
Let’s start off by asking ourselves why? The answer to that questions starts off by witnessing the place where our pitches have to go and moreover the minimal space that we’re afforded - called the strike zone, which remains fairly stable horizontally, but can changes noticeably vertically. And if that weren’t enough, influencing the ball with movement depending on the physical and mental endowments of the pitcher on any given day deals another card in the deck that really gets things interesting.
So, here’s how I coach – taking the elements that I mentioned heretofore:
I know that every pitcher has to deal a pitch that must cover a distance of 60’6” , plus.
I know the “Margin of Error” ( a miss) for a right handed pitcher is about four –five inches from right to left…… and the Margin of Error” a left handed pitcher is about the same only from left to right.
After the customary pre-game conditioning (warm-ups) I start a pitcher throwing – not pitching, to another fielder/catcher while both are standing about forty (40) feet apart. The pitcher will start with a four seam fastball grip and will TARGET the right side of the fielder’s face if he’s a right handed pitcher, or the left side of the fielder’s face for a left handed pitcher. One third game speed for as many throws as the pitcher deems necessary, until he feels his throws are on target.
Next, he moves down to the collarbone on the same side and works that location with the same degree of accuracy.
Next, down under the chin, then over to the other side of the fielder’s collar bone, the up along side the fielder’s face to complete the targeting routine.
By the end of this routine the pitcher should have a pretty good idea of his accuracy rate and how his body acts and reacts to his adjustments – up/down/left/right. If not – we stop things right there and find out why! Notice we haven’t even started a pitching workout – and with good reason!
Once the pitcher has resolved any control issues with the throwing drill, he then takes five steps back and starts the exercise all over again- but this time he goes through his windup and set motions, again, one third game speed. His pitching inventory is demonstrated at 1/3rd, and 2/3rd game speed. His targeting is adjusted for each increase, pitch selection and so forth.
The final adjustment is locating spots on the catcher – NOT THE CATCHER’S MITT, for each pitch. Working the corners of the plate up and inside may require targeting the catcher’s shoulder and working the corner of the plate down and inside may require targeting the catcher’s knee protection. And so on with other pitches. Why not target the catcher’s mitt? The next time your watching a game, notice where the mitt is held – it’s either right smack-dap in the bat’s sweet spot or down so low it can force a pitcher to throw in the dirt.
Remember the reason for targeting your pitches is not only for the sake of location, but it also gives your coaches a fair idea of what to expect from you with regards to the degree of probability of fielding plays, shifting the outfield, playing the bunt, etc.
Why so tight of a target –right side of the face/collar bone/left side of the face? Do this simple exercise by holding one of your arms straight out in front of you, make a fist, then point your thumb straight up to the ceiling. Now close one eye and with the other eye focus on your thumb nail.
Believe it or not, from over sixty feet away, that’s the distance up and down, from left to right, that you have to hit. (no …not the thumb nail!!) The picture that you’re going to see from the pitcher’s mound of space that you must put the ball in is about the same visual experience. Next time your around a ball field, try it out.