Pitch Sequences

I felt like this would be a good discussion piece for you all. This is where my 4 dozen pitchers are headed in the next month as bullpens begin, and every pitcher should be formulating a game plan.


During the final practice before the game day, I get together an expected line up based on past experience with that team’s players, and look for opportunities to exploit weaknesses that existed in the recent past. See where their weaknesses and your strengths match up and vice versa to avoid trouble.

I review what pitch sequences worked for other pitchers and try to see what similarities exist with our staff. Where did the ball get hit and on what counts? Some of that may be hard to do if your team does not keep accurate or detailed books on your opponents. I have a list of players from Teeball division and have adjusted it each year as kids add or drop and we face them again.

Since the rosters in our town change 100% each year, I need to know who to select based on several years of watching them instead of 1-2 ground balls, pitches, or swings at a tryout.

Work on at least two or three pitch sequences that you want to try out. These don’t have to be individually specific to each batter, but I would have at least one of those sequences you’re working on apply to each hitter you expect to face. Use pitch sequences that have worked for you in the past against those types of hitters. Remember, the other team may be doing the same thing to figure YOU out before the game so make sure you aren’t predictable. You want to be unfathomable.

Young pitchers especially, don’t shelf a pitch just because it didn’t work in your bullpen the day before or even in warm-up. Very rarely does the side work match the game work if for no other reason that almost every practice mound you encounter will be horrible and even a majority of the game mounds will be different in some way. You might find that pitch you thought you lost once you get on the game mound. Besides you probably don’t have so many pitches that you can afford to not feature one of them. :oops:

A plan is essential, but it’s also very true that if you want to hear God laugh, make a plan. A game is very dynamic and your plan probably will not survive intact for very long. Use the plan as your framework for making necessary adjustments from pitch to pitch. Runners on base and the number of outs dramatically impact pitch selection and sequences. The bottom line is always staying focused on the hitters and throwing strikes, no matter what the base runner situation is.

Speak to your catcher throughout the game and decide if adjustments need to be made to pitch selection to avoid pattern development and work that out before you take the mound for the next inning. Even if a pitch is not working, keep mixing it in so hitters can’t exclude it sit on one pitch. What’s the score at this point? If your team is behind, leave nothing in the tank. Keep the score from getting worse and count on the other pitchers on your staff to do their jobs. Conversely, there is no need to strike them all out if you have a big cushion. What are your general plans for ‘contact’ counts and ‘take’ counts this inning? Maybe it’s an opportunity to get your pitch count down and allow the other team to move the ball around and keep your defenders in the game. Are you facing 6-7-8 next inning? Perhaps it’s a good time for a contact inning and save your gas for the next frame. What are your plans for the second time through the order? Is your breaking ball working well enough to pitch backwards to a few more hitters?

I guess the bottom-most bottom line is that planning is essential, but understand that it will need to be adapted continuously.

You must have talked to St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Howie Pollet at one time or another! He used to gather his pitchers and infielders for a pregame clubhouse meeting, and he would describe the opposing batters and tell what he would throw—and where. He was a master strategist who pitched in the late 30s, the 40s…and he knew whereof he spoke.
And Eddie Lopat used to tell his pitching staff that if they couldn’t remember, write it down and refer to it that way. He said that there are few things more frustrating to a pitcher than forgetting how he got Joe Zilch out his last time at bat!
And, of course, there was the great Greg Maddux… :slight_smile:

I think of certain pitch sequences like the openings in chess. There are many plays that can be made from each opening. Some hitters are susceptible to certain pitch sequences just like some chess players don’t know how to counter certain openings.

The result of the previous pitch should be primary indicator of what should follow, but it helps to have a plan going into the at bat. After making one or two more pitches, you may be able to get back on plan for that hitter.

There was one friend of mine named Eric that I grew up with and he slouched over the plate (sorry Eric)–and I always salivated when a hitter slumped over like that. I could always get him to back off the plate by throwing an overhand curve at his head yet still get a called strike. Then I could come inside and low on him and he couldn’t catch up, or elevate a fastball, or I could run a slider on the inside third that would freeze him. He was a pretty decent contact hitter, but for whatever reason he just couldn’t square me up.

No matter what your best pitch is, stay with it until the batter proves he can hit it. There were innings I would never throw a fastball. Some innings I would move to the right edge of the rubber and drop to the side and throw a sweeping slider that moved like a wiffle ball. It’s a bit disconcerting for a hitter to think the ball is behind him only to have it chase him across home plate and out of the box.

I think talking about strategies and pitch sequences is an important part of pitching, but to me it doesn’t make a lot of sense unless the person being taught about it is the person calling the pitches! Your point about Pitchers’ “Typical Tendencies” and “Tendencies on That Day” are very important indeed, but if the pitches are being called from the dugout, what good does it do for the pitcher to have that knowledge?

Like many young pitchers, my son went to a private coach who drilled him on exactly what you’re talking about, and when allowed to make the final decision on his own, rather than some coach calling pitches from the dugout, showed more success, no matter what the level. In fact, when he was forced to throw what came in from the bench, many times it caused a lot of frustration, not to mention mistrust.

That was 10 years ago, and in the intervening time I’ve talked to many many pitchers who feel exactly the same way. Sometimes I don’t think coaches understand that no matter how much they say the call is on them so they’ll take the heat, the next day’s paper doesn’t list the coach’s name as having made the bad call that gave up a game winning home run. It isn’t the coach walking around school the next day and having fellow students point out he gave up the game winning blow.

I pitched and caught many years and went against the coach’s pitch calls thousands of times. Eventually he stopped trying to call the games and just offered suggestions. As a catcher, if I wanted something else, I’d give the sign for the pitcher to shake me off, then put down the sign I wanted. The coach would assume the pitcher shook him off. Since pitchers are ultimately responsible, coaches never got too worked up about it.

I guess I’m saying as long as you can control side to side movement of your skull, you are in charge!

[quote=“CoachPaul”]I pitched and caught many years and went against the coach’s pitch calls thousands of times. Eventually he stopped trying to call the games and just offered suggestions. As a catcher, if I wanted something else, I’d give the sign for the pitcher to shake me off, then put down the sign I wanted. The coach would assume the pitcher shook him off. Since pitchers are ultimately responsible, coaches never got too worked up about it.

I guess I’m saying as long as you can control side to side movement of your skull, you are in charge![/quote]

That’s very true in just about any “REASONABLE” situation, but as I’m sure you know, not all situations are reasonable. :frowning: In my boy’s case, he learned in a big hurry that the 1st time he “shook”, the coach would come and visit, and the 2nd time he’d be pickin’ splinters out of his backside. Thankfully that changed as he proved he was capable, but many lesser skilled pitchers never got the ok to shake, unless the shake was called from the bench.

Like I said, in “REASONABLE” situations, a lot of things are possible, but I’m sure a lot of potentially successful pitchers are lost because what’s reasonable to the coach isn’t reasonable to the players.

I know my son and his catcher would very often ignore what came in, and would simply make some excuse, but more often than not, the coach wouldn’t know his control was only in his mind, and I’m sure that happens more often than some would like to believe. :wink: My problem though, is that shouldn’t be necessary.

See what happens when coaches micromanage—call pitches from the dugout—think they know everything and refuse to even listen? DISASTER. And this has happened again and again. I was going to say, when will they ever learn?—but instead I say, will they ever learn? Or do they have sawdust in their heads where their brains ought to be? Thinking about this, I was reminded of a poem by e.e. cummings that goes like this:
"Here is little effies head
"Whose brains are made of gingerbread,
"And when the day of judgment comes,
"god will look and find six crumbs."
Whoever said that most coaches at the lower levels of the game stink on hot ice was absolutely correct. :shock: :roll:

A coach that pulls a pitcher to show dominance is a moron. There aren’t so many pitchers that he can just pull from an unending supply. There certainly wasn’t a catcher he could sub for me without things going sideways in a hurry.

Once the game starts, the coach really has no control of action. He can only control what happens before or after the action.

I can’t see a coach pulling a kid having success. The parents would flip out if he took out a performer for a schlub. His tires would be holding a lot less air after the game as well. :twisted:

And this happens at all levels of the game. Including the major leagues. Case in point—there was a relief pitcher who wasn’t a very good one; he went 8-12. As a pitching coach—yecccchhhh! He was the kind who went out to the mound after just about every pitch, and he would harangue and harass the poor fish on the hill. As a result he was fired from one team after another because he did this all the time. Where is he now? or is he still in the game?
The guy you mention, the one who will yank a pitcher who has been getting the batters out just because he’s the boss, is another example. A few years back I did a presentation on pitching coaches for the Jack Graney chapter of SABR in Cleveland which was very well received. In this presentation I devoted part of it to a trip to the zoo, and I divided the coaches into four zoo specimens. Part 4 consisted of the pitching coaches who couldn’t do anything except make things worse, and it resonated with some of the attendees who had pitched at one time or another and had had to deal with those morons such as the one you describe. I would be very happy to join you in deflating the tires—all of them—on his car! :evil:
I was talking to Eddie Lopat, my wise and wonderful pitching coach, one day, and we were discussing just those misbegotten creatures. He said that he’d seen enough of them that he could write a book on “How Not To Coach”. I wish he were still with us; maybe he would have written such a book—those folks who are looking for a pitching coach need to know who and what to avoid like the plague. :wink:

Believe me, I concur with your assessment. In fact, I told that fellow he was a moron myself, and for that reason. Didn’t make any difference though. He didn’t change until several years later after he’d been fired for doing that and other things equally as moronic, and gained a lot of experience, both as a coach and in life in general.

Well, I’ve seen it happen, and to more players than my son, and by more coaches than his coach. Remember, everyone has a slightly different managing “style”. There are still some fools who believe in the “My way or the highway” style. And the line between the different styles is very thin and depends on a whole lot on things other than winning/losing, or success/failure.

I didn’t mean to imply when my son or anyone else got yanked for such things, they were replaced with a “schlub”. But even if they did, that schlub has parents too, and its likely they aren’t nearly as concerned with the team’s success as they are of seeing their kid get some playing time.

The PM has been sent.

Excuse please…I was mistaken when I called that pitching coach a moron. He was a complete idiot. Even a moron has some sense of right and wrong, and that coach definitely does not. :roll: