Thinking Differently of The count -Strikes and Balls

[color=red]This contribution is NOT for youth or lower level varsity or even college
“club” ball.

As a pitcher, you have a tremendous amount of responsibility on your shoulders. As such you’re expected to prepare yourself in proper fashion, keeping your priorities in order and all that – off the field. When you arrive for a game, and you’re scheduled to part of that day’s game plan, so should you start maturing your mindset and objectives.

Start by knowing what’s working best for you that day with your pitch inventory. Get a firm handle on what you can do with what. Let your bullpen coach, your pitching coach, any coach who is in charge of managing your club know what’s what.

When you walk out and take your place – think professionally. Command your presence, know what you’re going to work with and why, what are the degrees or margins of success with what you’re about to send down range. Study each and every batter while you’re out there working, sense their tendencies, remember what they wanted the most, understand cold the batting order logic and adjust as sub’s are sent in.

Ok, now for the topic of counts – balls and strikes. First off, we’re going on the mental toughness that you know getting behind in the count, is not a good thing. BUT, refer back to my choice of words above, the phrase… think professionally.

When you see a batter’s tendency to reach out and chase, don’t concern yourself with hitting the back margin marker – deal a ball deliberately and let him chase. When you feel pretty strong about a guy that’ll chase high heat, burn-em.

Watch for batters that’ll actually strike themselves out. Yes that’s right, strike themselves out. A batter that stands in the box and takes a pose, is giving the plate umpire a mental snap shop in time, a reference marker if you will, that an umpire is going to judge strikes and balls with. So…. a man that dips way down to deliberately lower himself out of a verticle strike zone is easy pickens. A batter who has a habit of dipping his back knee on a pitch down and in, is easy pickens for the down and in pitch – even though in all cases the batter and his bench think otherwise.

Ok, so you get behind in the first two pitches. You know that what you did was for a reason. That reason was to work the batter because it made sense. Now, if you must adjust becuase of the plate umpire, early in the game is the time to pick up that observation and add that to your plan.

Any seasoned pitching coach and his skipper will understand. They understand that’s why you’re out there. They’ll also understand the learning curve that all pitcher’s go through - fans and others, not so much. So don’t concern yourself.

Now, if your plucked from a field position, given eight warm ups ( a contradiction in itself), you’re wasting your time. In short – you’re done before you even begin.

Coach B.

Please don’t take this in a negative fashion but if your post was not for amateur players, why post? I don’t think many professional arms are trolling LTP to find pitching advice.

There’s some great wisdom in that post Coach B

I don’t think he meant what he said. I think that was meant to pique interest and get people to read and say “Hey! I can do that too! Who says only pros can apply this?”

By saying that this is higher level advice I think it motivates people to get to where they have the kind of command to pitch this way.

It really is something to give thought. Thanks Coach B.!

I also appreciated the obligatory “club” ball mention :slight_smile:

The posting on this subject was primarily for highly competitive amateur ball. In as much as there was no exclusion, stating for pro’s only.

In that population of highly competitive amateur ball are numerous competitive levels of college, summer collegiate baseball leagues, travel clubs, Legion and other organizations.

In making that post, my intent was to offer a “thinking out of the box”, not necessarily qualifying what the box is, or should be. My apologies to you, Baseballthinktank, and anyone else for that matter, who came away with something different.

Scorekeeper set in motion an excellent topic about counts – balls and strikes, which in turn I got questions about deliberate counts as a result of baiting batters, pitching to tendencies, etc. Hence the topic and contents I posted here in response.

Coach B.

I see, hope you didn’t take my comment as being rude, that was not my intention

Actually, Coach B., your observations apply to pitchers at all levels, and I thank you for bringing them up. For this you can give yourself a pat on the back without breaking your arm.
I remember the day when my incredible pitching coach, Eddie Lopat, introduced me to strategic pitching by telling me a spy story. When he asked me if I knew why he told it to me, I replied that it had something to do with keeping the hitters off balance, and that was when he went into detail about knowing the hitters—their strengths as well as their weaknesses—and how to take full advantage of this. One of the keys to strategic pitching is this: You figure out what the batter is looking for—and you don’t give it to him. Lopat told me this: “Move the ball around—high, low, inside, outside, work the corners, CHANGE SPEEDS (most important) and STAY AWAY FROM THE MIDDLE OF THE PLATE (even more important).” Have you noticed that many home runs are hit because the pitcher left the ball down the middle or middle in?
And remember—the most important pitch in the game is strike one. You get that, you’re ahead in the count, and ahead in the game. :slight_smile: 8)

Coach, thanks for such insightful info. As part of my son’s offseason workouts, when he is throwing his bullpens we are planning to implements simulated game situations.
Do you have any advice on the beswt way to implement these? I have my ideas but would like to hear others as well.

“…….when he is throwing his bullpens we are planning to implements simulated game situations.”
I’m not sure if my suggestions would be of benefit to the amateur, but here they are.
 First and primary is knowing what tools you’re bringing to work that day. Your tools are the pitches that make up your pitch inventory, or repertoire. Fastball, slider, curve, off-speed, and so forth.

 Second and just as important is how well are these tools working, and where?
For the fastball, location is the key that’ll crack even the toughest nut. But how effective in the quadrants, is the big question?
Upper right, lower right, upper left, and lower left all have to have quality %’s that a pitcher settles into, and stays there during his bullpen run. Low percentages, quality wise, are signs of trouble. Even more troublesome, to the bench coach and the head coach, is trying to put defensive witness
to what’s going to happen next in real time while play is in progress.
For the slider and other breaking pitches, their typical characteristics based on historical patterns are the bench marks to go with early. Again, history should prevail with how well a man works in the pen, coupled with factors like is he a starter, reliever, or a closer, what batting order is he facing when goes in, and other things.
 Third, is his bullpen duty showing any signs of fatigue, sprains and soreness, irritability, lack of focus, personality conflicts, etc. If so, this pitcher should be scratched. A one-on-one meeting with the pitching coach is expected.
 As far as game situations are concerned, “the plays at the plate”, is the tempo to shot for – sort of speak. Hone the degree of dependability of each pitch and remember it. So, more often than not, the backstop that a pitcher will meet right out of the bullpen will not have the benefit of catching said bullpen. Going in with … “ here’s what I got right now and with these tendencies…” is a conversation between the battery mates – short, sweet and simple.”
 When a pitcher enters a game from the pen, the bullpen coach has not been napping. (Well, maybe I nodded off there for a while…) But this coach has been studying the bullpen progress of each pitcher that got up, and calls in his observations to the bench as to what to expect from this man who’s entering the game. This way, everyone is on the same page at the beginning of the pitcher’s first inning of work.

As far as other “game situations”, all a pitcher has to do is to follow the signals that are given to him, batter by batter, and let the coaching staff do their job of rationalizing the pitching and defensive effort on the field.

There are other in-real-time considerations, of course, like shaking off signs, and pitching to the double play, the bunt, etc. However, those cannot be considered bullpen “prep”, so I omitted them here.

Did I address your questions? I must admit up front here that I am not qualified to address the amateur youth game at all, and with even less awareness of what the amateur game qualifies with as far as coaching expertise, resources and player development and use. Therefore I tried to tailor my remarks to fit your environment and the mindset that a youngster may find useful. If not, please advise me of what I missed.

Coach B.

Good advice Coach, lots there that I think can be incorporated into the amateur level.

I have to agree with Wales, Coach.

I’m not sure about youth travel ball applications, But I do think that alot, if not all of your advice does indeed translate to Varsity HS.

In fact I think more HSV pitching coaches should take your advice and implement your suggestions. I know I will. As far as preparation goes, how can a HS pitcher not benefit from prepping as the pros do.

When it comes to game situations, we have to get out of the bullpen and onto the playing field itself, and for this we need several players to be infielders—and even a couple of outfielders with strong arms. Simulating such situations won’t work here—they have to be set up in context. Let me tell you what my pitching coach did one afternoon.
Eddie Lopat had told me that it would be a good idea to get in some PFP—pitcher’s fielding practice—and so one day he showed up with some guys who would be infielders, another one with a bat, and a couple of strong-armed guys to roam the outfield. We spent that whole afternoon doing things like fielding bunts, handling comebackers (including some sizzling line drives), throwing to this base and that, bang-bang plays at the plate (the catcher had to wear his full equipment), pickoff moves, all the things that pitchers and others do in the course of a game. It was a terrific workout and a lot of fun, and believe me, I got more out of that one afternoon than most pitchers get in a whole season. I recall how I had to move faster than I had ever dreamed I could do, and I had no time to think; I just executed the plays, backed up at third and home to cut off a run—you name it. The guys in the outfield had to do things like handling a carom off the wall and fire quickly to the infield, and I’ll never forget how one of them fired a strike from deep left-center field straight into the catcher’s mitt to cut off a guy trying to score. No simulations—we were working on the real thing.
Afterwards, something occurred to me, and I asked Lopat, “Those guys you had out there—they weren’t kids, were they?” He replied that they were not; they were several of the Yankees’ second-line players, and he figured that I would get a kick out of taking part in one of their usual practice sessions. Believe me, I did. And what I learned that afternoon I put to very good use in subsequent games I pitched. :slight_smile: 8)