Hitting your spots (9u) -- pitch strategy 101

Hi folks.

My son is eight years old and playing on a 9u rec team. He has good velocity and control.

I’ve never pitched and don’t know anything about it except what I’ve read and seen with him. I believe that the first objective for a youth pitcher is to throw fastballs for strikes. I think my son has accomplished this: he’s pitched nine innings this year and given up only one walk. Even when he throws a ball, it’s usually close to the strike zone – very few wild pitches.

The next objective, I believe, should be to gain command of the fastball – to learn to hit spots with it instead of just throwing it over the center of the plate. I’ve been working with my son on this, but I feel like I don’t know enough to really teach him.

One thing you hear pros talk about a lot is “keep the ball down”. I think most kid batters have a harder time with a low pitch than a high one, so I advice him to keep it down. But I think there’s a limit to that – at some point you want to give a high hard fastball, right? You want to keep the batter off balance, right?

Is it true that low and away is the best place to throw a strike, generally? What pitches compliment the low and away fastball? When should you pitch inside?

What do you think are the most fundamental truths about pitch location and strategy? What are the first lessons to be taught along these lines?

Thanks!

I think you’re asking all the right questions, but I also think at that age its a little young to start getting into all of this, it could just be me, but I’d rather see a kid at that age with good or improving mechanics and the ability to consistently throw strikes, regardless if he’s moving the ball in and out and up and down.

Moving the Target around is the best way to improve locating the ball, so in practice or when you’re playing catch with him I’d get him to throw a series of pitches in various locations. Repetition is the biggest factor.

I’d think most kids at that age would actually have the problem with the high Fastball since most kids don’t swing in a direct path to the ball at that age they either tomahawk it or golf at it, but you’re right in wanting to keep the ball down in the zone.

Traditionally the low and away Fastball is the hardest pitch to hit hard and drive. On most occasions the low and away Fastball results in weak off the end of the bat hits resulting in groundballs or cheap pop ups.

You generally want to go inside when you think the hitter is looking away or leaning out over the plate. Same with going high you want to change the hitters eye level when you go upstairs or if you can blow it by the hitter.

A solid change up and the ability to move the pitches around even being able to throw a waste pitch help compliment a low and away Fastball.

A good sequence would be low and away, away low and away inside and then back away, or some variation of that.

Hope this helps.

One of the problems with sequencing a younger guy doesn’t have anyting to do with him but the quality of umping. I’ve seen bad umps get deep into the heads of quality pitching…simply by not knowing the zone…lack of experience or any number of factors.
Now is the perfect time to start him down the road to how to overcome umps that…well are less than the quality hoped for… :roll:
One of the techniques I use/d was to “adjust” the ump. If he isn’t getting that perfect at the knees outside corner fb, all the sequencing in the world won’t over come an ump who isn’t aware. So when he lays in that beauty and doesn’t get it…return to the exact spot next pitch…drill it in his head, make it automatic and if he doesn’t get it, have the catcher visably move in a couple of inches…hit that spot (fb outside at the knees isn’t going anywhere unless it’s just a stud who is going to hit anyway). Also as he warms up, make certain the catcher is “showing” your boy hitting his spots. Be very pronouned on it and act as if he’s a surgeon…might not sway all of them but I bet you get a higher percentage of calls and your boys accuarcy will improve just by “creating” the persona for himself. A side product will be on umps that do know there stuff…he will slay. Just you talking with him about these stratgies should help him.

The quality of the umping has been quite variable…

In our league, 90% of the time, the ump is very generous to the pitcher. So I try to teach my son to adjust to the zone the ump is calling. In his first game this year, a lot of ankle-high pitches were being called for strikes, and he was able to exploit that very successfully.

I’m not sure if he’s really good enough to establish a spot in the ump’s mind. Also, the catcher isn’t calling his pitches – catcher always sets up in the middle of the zone – so I think that keeps him from being able to influence the ump much.

I only remember one game from last year when a real tight zone was being called. This was frustrating for him, but his team was still able to pitch fewer walks than the opposing pitchers, and so they won. But it sure was a boring game!

I wouldn’t guess he’d be calling the pitches, but consider the op, you want to locate, the catcher setting a good target is key so even if he isn’t calling pitches he can move to one of 3 locates; inside, middle, out, him framing the pitch will get accuracy also. You do want to keep it simple but introducing the thoughts will get him (In a way that a 9yr old does) to strategize also…that gives confidence, which translates to command and it dominos from there, getting first consistancy to the target allows for any sort of locate sequence from there after.

Thanks for the help.

On this team, there’s really no coordination between the catcher and the pitcher; the catcher just sets up in the middle of the zone (hopefully) each pitch. I’m not sure it’s time yet to be teaching that coordination; maybe it is.

Still, good points about how to mixing up location.

Right now, the only pitches he throws in games are fastballs and a “slider” that is just an off-centered grip on a fastball (I think it would be properly called a cutter). We have played around some with other pitches in practice, but I think learning to locate fastballs to different spots has higher priority than adding pitches to mix up the speeds. Once he has really mastered the fastball, it will be time to add another pitch; I expect the batters will have advanced to where a changeup is more effective.