Strategy Ideas

My 9yr son is a strong pitcher. Very accurate and throws hard. He plays in a very competitive league on a minors team and competes against 9,10, and 11’s. He has been very competitive but we are looking for some more strategy to his pitching.

He currently throws 4 and 2 seam fast balls with movement. He also throws a lob ball that is fun to watch. His true change up seems to be more of a weak fast ball that just helps the batters.

He wants some more advice on pitching to the stronger hitters. Current game plan consists of 1st pitch strikes priority number one. Catcher setting up dead center plate and throwing 4 seams. We keep the catcher centered until he has 1 strike and less than 3 balls. If he has less than 3 balls and 1 strike catcher sets on the edges.

The problem comes from the true hitters (2 or 3 on a team). They know he is accurate so they are not intimidated by the speed. They end up digging in and playing pepper more or less. It hasn’t hurt us yet - but they are hitting the ball hard more than he would like. A real short swing through the zone, kind of just dropping the bat head onto the ball.

We have tried working on the high fastball in practice, but he struggles keeping it up high enough. It just comes up to the belt instead. I tell him to throw it at the arm pits.

Working on a change up and it just ends up being a weak fastball. The lob came out of the change up work and has been very effective.

I believe in the KISS theory. Down the middle until you have 1 strike, on the edges until you have 3 balls than back into the middle.

Another thing a don’t quite understand. He gets very few swings on pitches outside of the strike zone. I watch a lot of LL, and these kids swing at bad pitches all the time. When he is pitching, the kids (good and bad hitters) seem to shrink the zone down. The bad hitters hardly swing at anything. It’s very hard for him to get kids to swing at his pitches off the plate.

Long ago, my pitching coach told me: "Figure out what the batter is looking for—and don’t give it to him."
One aspect of this is what he called pitching backwards. This means throwing something the batter is not expecting. Say the kid has been throwing fastballs and has the count 0-and-2 on the hitter; now’s the time to throw an offspeed or a breaking pitch—and vice versa. If he’s been throwing offspeed stuff, then come in there with a fast ball. But that’s just part of it. You say the kid is nine years old, and he doesn’t have all that much stuff—who does at that age?—but if his changeup is coming in there looking like a weak fastball, now would be a good time to work on another pitch, such as a splitter, which is a first cousin to a forkball but a lot easier to throw because it doesn’t require the extreme grip the forkball does. You grip it like a two-seam fastball but with the index and middle fingers just off the seams, and you throw it like a fastball. Other possibilities would be a palm ball (my first changeup, and very effective it was too), or a modified circle change: assuming his hand isn’t quite large enough to form the complete circle, you could have him go to a half-circle (a backwards “c”), and perhaps use an offcenter grip.
As far as the “good hitters” on the opposing teams are concerned, it’s important to study them—how and where they stand at the plate—whether they do something like hit with the “foot in the bucket” (pull away from the plate as they swing at the pitch), which indicates that you can get them with an outside pitch. One thing you do NOT want to do is come right down the pipe with a pitch, middle of the plate or middle in, because that’s exactly what the hitter is looking for. Interestingly, I once said to my pitching coach something about his approach to pitching to the hitters, and I asked, “Kind of like judo, isn’t it?” He replied: “You could say that. The principle is the same—using the batter’s power against him. You make the hitters supply their own power. You don’t give them anything they can hit. You take their power and turn it back against them.” Sounds like pretty advanced stuff, and indeed it is—major league, in fact, which was how I learned—but if the kid can learn to do this, use the hitters’ power against them, he can get them out consistently. There’s a lot more, but I think this will do for a start. 8)