"Gathering Information"

I’ve been on this site, for well, about a year now, and I’ve noticed some great things. Ofcourse we have great posters. We also have great development of the mechanics section, as well as workouts and nutrition, and even a section on video clips. All are great! The one area I think we can improve this forum is on the mental side of the game. Today I will be posting on what I consider the most vital part of pitching, “Gathering Information”.

I’d first like to start off, by letting everybody know the importance of becoming a well-rounded pitcher. Yes, we all have our strengths, but it’s very important to work and improve on our weaknesses. Let’s say for example, that as a pitcher we feel comfortable in throwing our fastball to both sides of the plate, our changeup down and in between the catchers knees, and our breaking ball for a strike and a putaway when we want it. As a pitcher, if we can get to this point, our advantages become huge. If we can do what’s mentioned above, we can always pitch to a hitters weakness! This is very important as far as margin for error is concerned. If we can only locate the fastball away to a righty, and the hitter happens to be an extension guy, than we’re going with our strength, against his strength. Can we get the hitter out? Ofcourse. Do we have a big window open for error? Certainly not as big as if we felt comfortable pitching to the hitters weakness!

Ofcourse we all want to pitch to a hitters weakness, but how do we find it? This is where “gathering information” comes into play. When a hitter steps into the box, we should already have started this process! Where is he set up? Is he on the plate? in the middle? or off the plate? Hitters will tip their hand to you, we just need to pay a little attention. Now ask yourself a few questions. If he’s on the plate, why at one point in his career did he move there? Did he get on the plate because he couldn’t hit the inside pitch? Now that doesn’t make any sense does it? He got closer to the plate because he doesn’t like the baseball away from him! This is likely to be a guy with a short compact swing, who likes the ball close to them. If the guy is standing off the plate, he likes the baseball away from him, has a longer swing, likes to extend his arms usually taking a longer time to get to extension. If he’s standing somewhere near the middle, then we will have to gather information based off our first pitch.

So it’s an 0-0 count on the hitter, catcher puts down a fastball away, we execute the pitch, called strike one. What happened here? We threw a good pitch down and away and the hitter took it… So why did he take it? Because he didn’t want to swing at it right! For those of you playing against better competition or at a higher level, the first pitch of an at bat can tell alot of information. If in this case just stated above, the hitter took the pitch because he didn’t feel like he could drive that pitch. In this situation this hitter was probably looking for a fastball middle in. There, we’ve gathered information about the hitter’s “approach”. It’s very doubtful that we caught the hitter by surprise and froze him with a first pitch fastball away. Going off this information I would try to get my out with this hitter on something away from him. Can we pitch inside? Certainly. But I may throw a fastball in off the plate, just to keep him from diving over the plate.

Another situation. 0-0 count, pitcher throws the same fastball on the outer third and the hitter takes a very aggressive swing, fouling the ball straight back. This is a huge information giver. The hitter was very comfortable with that swing. He was looking to drive the baseball away from him into the right center gap. The only time I will be going out there again would be with something off speed, maybe a changeup. Time for me to get my out inside. Open invitation to a fastball hard in!

The whole importance of “gathering information” is to figure out what the hitter wants to do, or is looking to do. Ofcourse certain situations can dictate how we pitch a hitter, but I’m not going to get into that now. If we can find out what a hitter wants to do, they mine as well be dressed up outs with a stick in their hands!

We can also learn from a hitters “swing”. Ofcourse if he takes a good comfortable aggressive swing, then it might be a good idea to change location or speeds. As a goal for a pitcher, we would much prefer a swing that is “adjusted”. You see it on tv every night, when a hitter gets two strikes on them and their butt goes to the dugout, top hand off the bat on a slider breaking down and away. This is a beauty for the eyes to see! Anytime a hitter takes a swing like this, it needs to be noted. We want as many of these as possible because they dramatically increase are chances of getting an out on that particular pitch.

What other ways can we gather information. How about before the game even starts. For you college, or pro’s, and even some high schoolers, we can take a look at the stat sheet. As pitchers it’s important we look at a few categories. First and foremost, stolen bases. We need to know which hitters are capable of running on us. Secondly, we need to check out the base on balls category. We can learn a ton about a hitters approach just by looking here! If the walk total is low it tells us the hitter is very aggressive. Probably even strikes out alot. These hitters are free swinging and will swing if they see pitches that appear to be strikes. Our gameplan can be to start expanding the zone early in the count. These hitters are anxious and will often times get themselves out. Heck, on some we can expand the strike zone 0-0! If we were to fall behind a hitter like this, they can do alot of damage with a grooved fastball. When we get into a 1-0 count, in my head I’m thinking that this guy is an out if I can throw a changeup for a strike. Why? Because he is a guaranteed swing, and I’m just hoping he makes bad contact instead of completely missing the ball.

Now, if we see a big number in the BB column, you can see that this hitter has an idea of the strike zone, is selective, and has an approach, and knows what he wants to hit. Now we go back to the approach above to figure out what he wants to do at the plate.

I’ve rambled for a bit here, but the goal is to make the hitter adjust to you and do something he’s uncomfortable doing. If we figure out his approach and find his weakness, he will have to adjust, and when a hitter is uncomfortable, we will get our bad contact!

Now, let’s think critically. I want to leave you guys with a question. You’re pitching. Nobody out, top of the seventh, 0-0 ball game, leadoff hitter just singled off you, two hole is stepping to the plate. As the pitcher, what is your next move?

Great post, Hammer!

re: “…what is your next move?”

----The hitter in this situation is probably being ordered to bunt by his 3rd base coach and the runner will be trying to take an aggressive lead.

First, a fastball high in the zone–let’s see if we can pop that bunt up. If he pulls back, it should still be a strike (or close to a strike).

Second, without ever appearing to look at the runner, make your best pick-off move to first. (Rationale: In a nail-biting game like this one, the 3rd base coach and the runner at 1st will usually want to see at least one delivery from the stretch, before any attempt to steal is made. Once they have seen it, they may be ready to try a steal on the next pitch–especially if you appear to neglect the runner. The trick is to watch 1st base runner only out of your peripheral vision. While facing the plate, you should be able to detect the runners’s position until he is 10 feet off the bag…when he disappears from your peripheral vision, it’s time to nail his rear-end with your best pick).

Let’s assume that the pick-off move rattled the runner, but didn’t actually get him. He will likely stay closer to the bag than before but, again, if he gets out of your peripheral vision–throw over as much as you need to.

Third, by now you definitely know whether there is a bunt on–if “yes”, give the hitter another FB high in the zone. If “no” the opposing manager is probably crazy…

If you finally get that hitter to an 0-, 1-, or 2-2 count, throw a fastball low and away to find out if he is swinging. If “yes”, your 6th pitch of the AB is a change-up in the zone. If he is still bunting, give him a fastball inside under the hands–he’ll probably foul it off for strike 3. If he’s kidding you and swinging after all, it still might be a swinging strike 3–after all, he’s seen mostly high fastballs so far, then one low away to find out what he’s up to, so its not that easy to adjust to the last FB inside-middle.

------Any AB can get really wiggly, with lots of different approaches and outcomes, but that was fun to think about.

Stimulating post, Hammer. I very much like the major underlying point of your post, that is: “Believe, plan, do”.

Lots of guys see the events of baseball as being so random and uncontrollable that they may decide that planning is a waste of time. That’s a huge mistake–it’s all about planning, testing your plans with action, refining your old plans according to the results you get with them, and making new plans.

Good post Flippin’!

Good job handling the situation I layed out. You can act a couple of different ways, and certainly yours is viable.

What you see sometimes on tv, and what you’ll see the next few days in these playoff games is ordered pick moves from the manager hiimself in the dugout. The pick will usually come before the pitcher even throws a pitch. The coaching staff and the rest of the infielders besides the first baseman won’t be watching the throw to first. They’ll be watching the hitters hands. Usually the hitter will tip his hand and show everyone involved that he is in fact bunting on the next pitch to the plate. This again, is “gathering information” and will allow the fielders to cheat a little bit to ensure they get into proper position. Equally effective would be the inside move with runners on first and second in a clear bunting situation. Give that good inside move if you want to know if he’s bunting!

Again, good post on deciding what to throw to a hitter that’s bunting. And remember, always get an out!

Wow everyone here has made a great post.

A big part of my pitching is when a batter swings and misses, did he miss because I threw a good pitch at the right time? Or did I just get lucky?

Also do I really want to throw a splitter or change up to a lefty who has a natural uppercut to his swing. If he is notorious for swinging under the ball do I want to risk him getting lucky and hitting a pitch that sinks?

Also if I see a hitter crowding the plate do I try to make him reach for balls away from him, or do I pound him inside until he backs off?

All these thoughts need to begin as the batter steps to the plate. This thought process really needs to develop during the early years of high school.

A pitcher needs to go with their gut instinct, if your catcher calls for a fastball and you know that you got lucky the hitter didn’t hit the last one outta there, you need to shake off that pitch and call for another one.

I watched Cole Hammels be absolutely masterful today against the brewers. And it’s hard for me to say that as a Mets fan. He threw almost all fastballs and change-ups. He completely baffled hitters with his pitch selection. By the second time through the order the Brewers were second guessing themselves, and by then the game was already over

Hammer, you have just sent me off on a trip down memory lane. It was many moons ago, and I was working with a most incredible pitching coach (Ed Lopat, one of the Yankees’ Big Three), and from time to time he would talk to me about strategic pitching, which is what this is all about. For me this was one of the most pertinent aspects of pitching, because I didn’t have a fast ball to speak of and had to go to the breaking stuff from the beginning and become a snake-jazz pitcher.
Lopat told me about working off my best pitch, which was a slider I had nicknamed “Filthy McNasty” (after a character in a W.C. Fields movie), and how to use my other stuff to set batters up for it. He told me about such things as pitching “backwards” and how to throw pitches that looked like strikes…
Beautiful post. I enjoyed it immensely. 8) :baseballpitcher: