Pitching to Strengths and Weaknesses


#1

One aspect of pitching strategy that is often explored is pitching away from a hitter’s strengths or pitching to a hitter’s weaknesses. This is very valid and can bring successful results. The side of this that is often neglected is pitching to the pitcher’s strengths. Perhaps a hitter struggles with a good slider, but you don’t throw a good slider. Don’t force a pitch that you do not command. You are better served by throwing pitches that you command–even if the hitter gets decent results against that type of pitch. Perhaps yours is better than the average that he faces.
Another good example of this is a hitter who is good at hitting a curve ball. Not to mention that there really are no good curve ball hitters only those who can hit bad curve balls. Maybe you have a great curve ball and the hitter might struggle with it, or perhaps those curve balls are hit in counts where he guessed curve ball properly or it was a pitcher’s tendency to go to his curve in those situations. All I’m saying is that a pitcher should not abandon a strength because it’s also the hitter’s strength. I’m not saying invite trouble, but maybe there is a good time to use that curve to set up something else. Whatever the reason, there is no valid reason to abandon a pitch that you have mastered and over which you have solid command.
Often a hitter’s strike zone heat map can yield incomplete information. What was the count? Perhaps that success with the curve is almost exclusively in 0-2 counts when the pitcher’s tendency was to throw that pitch. Perhaps a hitter can crush a curve ball up in the zone, but not the pitch that drops out of the zone or off the plate, or perhaps the hitter gives up on a front door curve?
Of course when your strengths as a pitcher align with the hitter’s weaknesses, that can definitely lead to a good situation for the pitcher, if he can put that information to good use. When determining pitch sequences, it’s best to have as much information as possible. Also, it’s great to remember which sequences were successful in the past against a certain hitter. Curt Schilling was always good at recording and reusing information about the hitters he faced. Have someone on the bench record the pitch sequences and results of the pitch/ at bat and use it as a reference for later in the game/year/career. Information is powerful only if it’s analyzed properly and ultimately used for a competitive advantage.