Should a 12 year old be able to shake off a called pitch?

My son just joined a travel team this year. (He is 12.) Last year he played Little League. In Little League the coaches did not call the pitches. Actually few pitchers had more than one pitch.

But this year the travel coaches “call” all the pitches. In his first outing with his new team my son “shook off” a couple of the calls. He was told to never do that again and to follow the calls exactly.

I actually never thought of this scenario before and I wondered what you thought about a 12 year old having the authority to shake off a pitch and throw what he feels most comfortable with. I suppose I can see pros and cons to either side of this but I wanted to know what others think. Since we have never played travel ball I am wondering what other coaches do.

Also, I am told that the teams we are now playing are in a league we have not played before so there is no existing prior knowledge of any of the batters.

This very same topic was recently discussed in another section - here’s the link:

http://www.letstalkpitching.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=15144

Thanks for the reply Structuredoc. I looked at the topic and it was quite interesting.

When I asked around a little I was told that all the travel teams around here call pitches. And I asked a neighbor who pitches in high school and he told me they call all his pitches. At the time I did not inquire if the pitcher had the opportunity to shake off a pitch.

My main issue/question is if the pitcher (albeit very young in this situation) should be given the opportunity to shake off a pitch and go with something he is more comfortable with at that specific time in the sequence.

Some travel coaches want to control everything and think they know everything. And maybe they do. But if I’m a 12u pitcher looking in at 6’ #4 batter and coach calls for a belt high fastball on an 0-2 count, I’m shaking that off and throwing the duece.

I manage a LL Majors team and my own kid shook off a couple pitches last time out. It’s no biggie until it becomes a pattern, or until the pitches he decides to throw cost us runs.

BTW I usually let the catchers call pitches when we scrimmage and it’s interesting to see what they call. They call for a lot of inside pitches, which is 100% opposite of my philosophy, which is that 90% of LL hitters have no idea how to handle a low outside pitch.

Maybe with a nine-year-old the coach can call the pitchers, but age 12? That’s overdoing it. And, as you said, a lot of coaches think they know everything—when the fact is, they don’t. If a pitcher is not comfortable with a particular pitch, he should shake it off and throw something else—and very often he knows something the coach doesn’t.
Here’s a prime example, from the major leagues. It was the ninth inning of the third game of the 1951 Dodgers-Giants playoff series, and Brooklyn manager Chuck Dressen—whose knowledge of pitching you could put on the head of a straight pin and have room left over—called for Ralph Branca to pitch to Bobby Thomson with two men on base. What Dressen had forgotten was that Thomson owned Branca, had homered off him several times during the season. A better choice would have been Clem Labine, but Labine was in the doghouse and Dressen wanted nothing to do with him. So Branca came in, and on the 0-1 pitch, BLAM, over the left field wall…
It’s essential that the pitcher, at whatever level of play, study the hitters and know their strengths and weaknesses—know how to pitch to them. 8)

Unfortunately, it’s quite common for coaches to call pitchers. I don’t like it though. I think the kids learn better when they get to make mistakes and think about what might have worked better in different situations.

The way I see it, if a kid shakes off a pitch, he’s probably thinking and that’s good - it’s part of the learning process. Folks who call pitches claim the pitcher and catcher will learn from what’s called by a coach. Maybe. Or maybe it lets them be drones who don’t think for themselves.

I say let the kids call their own pitches during the game - teach them between innings.

One last point… It’s often an effective strategy to shake off pitches to get back to the first called pitch while making the batter think he’s getting something funky.

Definately if he has the confidence to throw the pitch he wants. Confidence = Success!

[quote=“Roger”]Unfortunately, it’s quite common for coaches to call pitchers. I don’t like it though. I think the kids learn better when they get to make mistakes and think about what might have worked better in different situations.

The way I see it, if a kid shakes off a pitch, he’s probably thinking and that’s good - it’s part of the learning process. Folks who call pitches claim the pitcher and catcher will learn from what’s called by a coach. Maybe. Or maybe it lets them be drones who don’t think for themselves.

I say let the kids call their own pitches during the game - teach them between innings.

One last point… It’s often an effective strategy to shake off pitches to get back to the first called pitch while making the batter think he’s getting something funky.[/quote]

I totally agree and do this with my high school team. They call their own game. I provide feedback and advice between innings and after the game. We also work a lot on pitch count strategies and analyzing hitters in practice and bullpen sessions.

Thank you for all the great input. I know I will never convince the coach to allow the kids to call any pitches. There really is no attempt whatsoever to explain his choices or strategies to the kids. But there really is no alternative to going along with the coach.

Under any circumstances I wish my son were given the opportunity to shake off a pitch. Usually he has a good reason for wanting to throw a certain type of pitch at a certain time. We bought Steve’s book on pitching strategies and it a very complete and useful guide for us. My son and I have reviewed this and he is trying to learn to apply the principles and ideas that Steve has rendered. This is a great guide and if he had the opportunity to apply it I think he would learn valuable lessons. But this is the way it goes sometimes and ultimately I have told him that this is the policy of this team and he must abide by it.

I saw the three occasions when he shook off a pitch. On two of the occasions his pitch choice yeilded a swinging strike and on one it resulted in a ball. The coach remembers the ball and not the swinging strikes.

Another question I will pose is this: When calling for a fast ball is it common to differentiate between a four seam and a two seam fastball. My kid almost always tries to throw the two seam in because it has a tendency to tail that way and sink a little. (When facing a righty - he is righty also.) But the coach just calls for a fast ball. Therefore my son tends now to throw only the four seam. The coach said he did not want to differentiate and I have no idea what is common. Under any circumstance I will suggest to my son that he start throwing his 2 seam again.

Thanks for the great response all you folks have contributed.

I teach that you throw 2 seam fastballs when we call it down the middle or on the arm side of the plate. If it’s a glove side pitch, we want a 4-seam. Reason for this is that at the age I’m coaching, the 2 seam typically doesn’t have the command to start off the plate and run back, more often than not it’s ran over the middle.

I know that some kids mature more quickly physically and mentally. If the pitcher has matured and is confident then he should have the confidence to shake off a pitch if it isn’t in the ball park of what he wants. Here is a point, last year one of our pitchers was given the sign for a 3rd curve to a prolific 4 spot hitter and he went and jerked it out of the park, the pitcher after the game disagreed with the pitch selection and thus it wasn’t his fault the pitch got jacked it was the coaches. Pitchers can’t make catchers/coaches/other player responsible for what they knew they shouldn’t have done, they have got to be educated through understanding how they can set hitters up and how to get them out. Have a gameplan, not just throw a pitch, and then go with that gameplan and if they are smart enough and confident enough to shake off a pitch then do it, the worst thing that could happen is a visit to the mound and take some greif, they will get that in the future anyway.

It’s surprising, what one can pick up when going back into the archives…
There’s a term in baseball, the “rock”—it’s something a player does that both he and the manager know he shouldn’t have done. Okay. But what if it’s the manager or coach who pulls that rock? Reading buwhite’s intelligent comment on the subject I immediately flashed back to the game of September 17, 1951 between the Yankees and the Indians—a crucial game, because both teams were battling it out for first place (although the Yankees were actually in first by three percentage points).
In this case, it was Cleveland manager Al Lopez who pulled that rock. With one out and the Yankees having runners on first and third, he ordered Yankee third baseman Bobby Brown walked intentionally. Of course he didn’t want to pitch to Brown again, not after that fifth-inning double and the ensuing single that had given the Yankees their first run. Also, he felt that with Phil Rizzuto, who was no power hitter, up next, the Indians could go for the double play and get out of the inning and go to the tenth. And that was Lopez’ second rock; he and his team had forgotten one vital thing about the Scooter.
Philip Francis Rizzuto happened to be one of the best bunters in the majors. And the Scooter, collaborating with Joe DiMaggio (the runner on third), executed the most exquisite suicide squeeze in baseball history, which scored DiMaggio from third and gave the Yankees a 2-1 win in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Coaches, let that be a lesson to you. Know your situations, and be aware that very often the pitcher knows what he’s doing when he shakes off the catcher’s sign. 8)

It’s surprising, what one can pick up when going back into the archives…
There’s a term in baseball, the “rock”—it’s something a player does that both he and the manager know he shouldn’t have done. Okay. But what if it’s the manager or coach who pulls that rock? Reading buwhite’s intelligent comment on the subject I immediately flashed back to the game of September 17, 1951 between the Yankees and the Indians—a crucial game, because both teams were battling it out for first place (although the Yankees were actually in first by three percentage points).
In this case, it was Cleveland manager Al Lopez who pulled that rock. With one out and the Yankees having runners on first and third, he ordered Yankee third baseman Bobby Brown walked intentionally. Of course he didn’t want to pitch to Brown again, not after that fifth-inning double and the ensuing single that had given the Yankees their first run. Also, he felt that with Phil Rizzuto, who was no power hitter, up next, the Indians could go for the double play and get out of the inning and go to the tenth. And that was Lopez’ second rock; he and his team had forgotten one vital thing about the Scooter.
Philip Francis Rizzuto happened to be one of the best bunters in the majors. And the Scooter, collaborating with Joe DiMaggio (the runner on third), executed the most exquisite suicide squeeze in baseball history, which scored DiMaggio from third and gave the Yankees a 2-1 win in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Coaches, let that be a lesson to you. Know your situations, and be aware that very often the pitcher knows what he’s doing when he shakes off the catcher’s sign. 8)

Would you expound on how you work on pitch counts, but especially how you go about analyzing hitters. In HS, its very seldom that you get to see any individual hitter more than one game a season, and even those you see 3 games a season, they’re only getting maybe 4 AB per game. Are you charting every pitch against every hitter, or are you basically going by memory?

When Whitey Ford first came up to the Yankees in 1950, Eddie Lopat (and what an incredible pitching coach he was) sat him down on a bench in the dugout and went over every batter on every team in the league. He talked about, and analyzed in depth, those guys’ strengths and weaknesses. He spoke of good and bad low-ball hitters, good and bad high-ball hitters, the plate crowders and the ones who hit with the foot in the bucket (pulling away from the plate as they swung), the dead pull hitters and the ones who went to the opposite field, the Baltimore choppers and the uppercutters, the ones who could bunt and who couldn’t—even the ones like Yogi Berra, about whom it was said that the only way to pitch to him was to throw the ball under the plate! And Ford listened—which was one reason he went 9-1 his first year and continued to build on and expand after returning from military service. Memory, yes—but mostly years of experience; Lopat had been making an exhaustive study not only of pitchers and pitching but also of hitters and their strengths and weaknesses, formulating ways and means of sending them back to the dugout grumbling and grousing about strikeouts and weak dribblers to the first baseman.
Lopat also did the same thing with me. There were occasions when I would be facing a team I had seen before but had never pitched against, and on those occasions we would go over the opposition lineups. And I too listened, and I formulated strategies for dealing with those guys. This included, from time to time, shaking off the catcher’s sign—going around the horn and coming back to the first pitch I wanted to throw. That was the point: to further confuse and discombooberate the batter and set him up for my hard slider, complete with the crossfire which I had so fallen in love with that I used it just about all the time. It was all me and the catcher, no coaches or other people telling us what I had to throw!
So—if a twelve-year-old shakes off a catcher’s sign and wants to throw some other pitch, nineteen times out of twenty s/he knows exactly what s/he is doing. That coach who insisted that the kid throw a fast ball belt-high on an 0-2 count, which resulted in a home run, should be ashamed of himself!!! That is NOT how one wins games. :slight_smile: 8)

By the time guys get to HS they likely know or at least have seen of the hitters they are going against. Would they have enough information to know what to throw and when, probably not. But, what they should have is a general idea how to pitch a hitter based on how he sets up at the plate and his order in the lineup.

Well—maybe not. And then again, maybe. If the kid has a savvy pitching coach who can go over the opposing lineup with him and tell him what to look for, odds are he’ll be able to do just that—shake off a sign or two and go with a pitch he’s sure he can get the hitter. :wink:

My son is eleven and plays select baseball, he played spring and fall tourneys and fall with a league team to help them out. At first he hated having his pitches called for him, but now he loves it. The league coach didn’t call his pitches so I did, and he shook me off a couple of times. I think a coach calling pitches takes pressure off of him and all he has to do is execute.

But on the other hand, if a pitcher shakes off a catcher or coach, whats the worst that can happen? Long fly out of the park, right?

Look at it as a learning experience. I’ll bet he will remember the pitch and probably the one he shook off, and will strive not to make the same mistake.

I’ve seen many coaches call the wrong pitch. Shaking off works both ways and since it’s the pitcher who has to execute, he should have a say in the pitch he throws.

Pitching with confidence is sometimes more important than what you throw, pitchers should throw what they are confident in. If they are confident in their coach or catcher then they won’t shake off a pitch, if they arn’t then they should go get the pitch they want.