Pitching Around Gaps in the Field--

It’s the end of the fifth inning and your club just came off the base path due to one of your teammates hitting into a double play. As you come out of the dugout you notice your shortstop limping slightly as he goes into the dugout to get his glove then takes his spot on the infield. His limping was due to a sprain he incurred while trying to beat out the double play. But, he says he’s fine and the coaches decide to leave him in the game. As the infield tosses the ball around during your warm up, you see that his range of movement is limited by this injury.

Here’s your dilemma:
1.) You know the apposing team’s bench is not blind – in fact they spot the weakness in your infield’s defense immediately.
2.) You’ve gone five innings against this batting order and their good, — I mean real good. Their patient, deliberate and the entire order are peppered with power and contact hitters.
3.) You’ve only had three strike outs against these guys – all the rest have been put away with fielding plays. Sixty (60) percent of those fielding plays have been 1-2-6-3 !
4.) The batter your now facing looks directly at your limping shortstop and you know he’s thinking to himself….” Get ready little man – you’re going to be scooping dirt !”
5.) You don’t see anyone in your club’s bullpen – and why should there be, your pitch count is low, you seem to be in command of things.
6.) As luck would have it, every batter that your about to face is right handed and aggressive. These are the same guys who –when they saw your shortstop limping, started a dugout list to see who was going to break their club’s all time record for the most consecutive hits in one
game.

Your thinking…”maybe I can make it to the parking lot…if I could just hop that eight foot fence”, but no… you’ve got to focus on the game.

Situations like this are common – more so than you think. As pitchers, you’ve got to examine your options with respect to fielding support. When there is a weak spot in your defensive posture on the field you’ve got to PITCH AROUND THAT WEAKNESS!!!

So, as you work on your repertoire (pitch selection), consider how each pitch can and will be hit – and wear that hit will go. The PROBABILITY of a pitch being hit for a fly ball, a line drive grounder, to left field, right field, center, all depends on your pitch and the characteristics of each batter’s stance -hand position – body language… making contact with that pitch.

During this off season, try and watch as much baseball video of the last season as you can. Take note of each batter’s style and the resulting hit based on what was delivered. Even better yet, start a NOTEBOOK of your observations. This will be invaluable to you next season. In fact, if you see enough of one particular style of batter – and a pitch or combination of pitches that work well against that kind of batter, then you’ll know what to pull out of your bag of tricks. You’ll leave less to guess work and more to skill.

Coach B.

Great situation Coach B!

My first thought was:

Hard inside to move their feet, Hard away, Curve ball in the dirt, Change low and then Hard low and away. Hoping to get a grounder to the opposite side.

But that would only work for so many batters, before they adjust to you.

After they adjust I’d put everything in either on or under their fists. Trying to get weak grounders.

My gameplan is based on my strengths and the hitters weaknesses. Based on that I’ll go on to execute as many pitches as possible. If that hitter is trying to hit a ball in the six hole, good luck to him.

We have nine guys out there trying to make a play, I’m not going to try and pitch away from our weakest player. You will get exposed. You have to trust every fielder behind you, especially at the higher levels.

The ball will find you.

However, I do believe in situational pitching… But I will trust my defense, even the weaker players.

In the 1986 World Series – game 6, Boston was at Shea Stadium. The Sox replaced pitcher Calvin Schiraldi with Bob Stanley to face Mookie Wilson. Bill Buckner, who was usually replaced in the later innings at first, due to his chronic bad ankles and knees – stayed in the game. Mookie stayed in the box surviving pitch after pitch. A pass ball tied the score and Stanley had to come up with a pitch that would challenge Mookie’s at bat with a pitch down and away. Mookie adjusted himself and the down and away pitch went “ crack” off the tip of the bat and headed down towards first base – and Buckner. The rest was a heartbreak for the Red Sox.

The down and away to Mookie was the right pitch – with the highest probability of being hit by a left hander to the third base side of the mound for an easy out. But, that wasn’t going to happen this time. As fate would have it – the quickness of Mookie’s bat, his adjustment in the box ,— and probably a dose of good ole dumb-duda-luck, Buckner couldn’t be one of those nine players to be depended upon.

Wales Diesel hit it precisely. Evidently he’s been there.

Coach B.

[quote=“Coach Baker”]
The down and away to Mookie was the right pitch – with the highest probability of being hit by a left hander to the third base side of the mound for an easy out. But, that wasn’t going to happen this time. As fate would have it – the quickness of Mookie’s bat, his adjustment in the box ,— and probably a dose of good ole dumb-duda-luck, Buckner couldn’t be one of those nine players to be depended upon.

Wales Diesel hit it precisely. Evidently he’s been there.

Coach B.[/quote]

And maybe a little curse :twisted:

Anyways, I would avoid pitches that can be hit to the shortstop pretty much.

If you could post more situations like this or anything you can think of I’d like that.

[quote=“Coach Baker”]Wales Diesel hit it precisely. Evidently he’s been there.

Coach B.[/quote]

I’ve been there, and I’m pretty sure everyone else has been there at some point in time when they’ve been pitching.

When I was playing 15U Ball we had a great kid (subsequently was a SS) who was one of the smoothest fielder’s I had played with, he could make a play on anything within a fairly large range, then part way through the season he couldn’t catch anything hit at him, so we had to learn to make that adjustment. A few of us did, most of us didn’t.

Me too! I’d love it.

I think you guys are missing my point.

I’d rather first pitch to a hitters weakness or my strengths. If I’m trying to pitch around my hobbled shortstop but the hitters strength is a ball away from him, what are you going to do? My strength personally is the fastball into a righty, so am I going to give in to the hitters strength and my weakness just to hope to avoid him hitting a groundball to the SS? Good luck with that, you’ll be backing up bases all game if you pitch like that. Especially if you advance higher into the game. You have to relish and take advantage of the moments where a hitters weakness is one of your strengths. If your going to throw a third element in there like a weak defender, better get your priorities straight, otherwise you’ll be leaving the game with a hurt neck.

Point well taken, HAMMER. Good post.

Coach B.

I think your point is a good one too Coach, especially if it works right into your gameplan. As pitchers, it’s just important to know what’s going on around you. We need to be able to take advantage of strengths and weaknessess of the defense as well as the hitter and our personal arsenols. Certainly plenty of variables to think about without even bringing up baserunners and situational pitching. But whenever we can use one of these variables to our advantage without giving in to the hitter, it’s a must do!

I’m against anything that smacks of “defensive” pitching…at that point you are owned. I am with Hammer. I advise attacking the batter, not protecting the shortstop. The Mookie, Billy Bucs incident is I think more of the reason you can’t play baseball with a slide rule…sorta like take a 3/4 lame old fart off the bench in the last inning against the number one closer of his era and he (Kirk Gibson) jacks it. What of The Ecks pitch selection (Had him reaching as I recall)?..the reason it’s so cool (The game/the art) once in a while it’s you against me and who has the leprichan (sp?) on his shoulder. I think that Becketts 14 fastballs were just as against the odds as anything but he was throwing lightning and the Rockies just sat down…another day 14 fb’s in a row would have got him an early shower (If you remember Beckett was giving up alot of homers just the year before).

When a lineup knows there’s a weakness on the fielding team, there going to exploit it – regardless of whether the pitcher “smacks” of defensive pitching or not. In essences, the batter’s stance, hand and body posture is gunning for THAT weakness. This fact is basic baseball and we’ve all done it. So when a Pitcher “goes after” a batter with his best stuff and cranks-em down 1-2-3, in reality he’s “defensive” pitching. In fact, that’s his job. A debate on terminology is academic. Call it aggressive… going after-em……defensive…etc…

However, if the world were flat and pigs did fly — every pitcher would go after every batter and 1-2-3 would be a given. But, none of the above is a given all the time. A lot has to do with what a guy brings to the park that day and what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes – in the real world, mediatorca pitching is all ya got to work with. In fact, at many levels this is fact more than most would want to admit. So, when you got a club that’s firing all only seven cylinders and your best stuff just isn’t cutting it – and you’re on the hill for the next four Innings … pitching to the batter’s weakness is always your first approach. And in turn you’ll have the greatest opportunity for keeping the play away from the other two cylinders that aren’t up to par that day. Remember, about 65% to 75% of a clubs defense is in the hands of the pitcher. So, it’s all about probability and sometimes good ole dumb-duda-luck. But when your good stuff is not on and your left with no other option – reach into your bag of pitches and pick the one(s) that’ll do the least amount of damage. IT HAPPENS - smack or no smack.

Good post’s jdfromfla and HAMMER.

Coach B.

[quote=“Hammer”]I think you guys are missing my point.

I’d rather first pitch to a hitters weakness or my strengths. If I’m trying to pitch around my hobbled shortstop but the hitters strength is a ball away from him, what are you going to do? My strength personally is the fastball into a righty, so am I going to give in to the hitters strength and my weakness just to hope to avoid him hitting a groundball to the SS? Good luck with that, you’ll be backing up bases all game if you pitch like that. Especially if you advance higher into the game. You have to relish and take advantage of the moments where a hitters weakness is one of your strengths. If your going to throw a third element in there like a weak defender, better get your priorities straight, otherwise you’ll be leaving the game with a hurt neck.[/quote]

Hammer, I totally get your point, it’s a solid point and I agree with it especially “you’ve got to relish and take advantage of moments where a hitters weakness is your strength. You should always pitch to your strengths”

But if like in this scenario your guy out there is hurtin’ you best make sure that not too many balls go his way, otherwise it too could be a loooong outing for you.