Velocity vs. accuracy


#1

Hi everyone-

I’m coaching 9-10 year olds and need to develop some pitchers. My feeling is go for accuracy/mechanics first and worry about velocity later–you can’t catch a walk! I’ve worked with one kid who’s never pitched before and (at least in bullpens) he throws strikes. Thing is, he doesn’t throw that hard, and I’m concerned that if I run him out there he’ll get pounded and lose confidence. Yeah, I know, work on defense!
How would other people handle this? This is a rec league, not travel ball, but there are still some hitters.


#2

“The fastest way to ruin a young pitcher is to make him a pitcher.” - Paul Nyman

I’ll let you chew on that one.


#3

My experience has been that you always have kids that want to try pitching. You take the ones that want to and you work with them to throw strikes. Forget the velocity for now.

And before the kid goes out on the mound you have that talk with him. “Hey we’ve practiced. You know you can throw strikes. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is. Once the pitch is gone, don’t worry about what happens. If this was easy…everybody would be doing it. Now have some fun.”


#4

I wouldn’t worry about the velocity right now. I think that what’s more important is the accuracy—the ability to throw strikes, to put the ball where you want it to go. The velocity—the speed—can come later.
Let me tell you what I did as a little snip. I would get a catcher, and either he would mark off a home plate and a pitcher’s rubber with chalk or if we could get to a playing field I would take the mound and he would get behind the plate—and we would play a game we called “ball and strike”. The purpose of this was to sharpen up my control, and to this end the catcher would position his mitt in various places, high, low, inside, outside (everywhere but standing on his head! ( :lol: ), and I would work on getting the ball right into the pocket of the mitt. Ah, what a good satisfying “thwack” when I was able to do it. I did this with the couple of pitches I had—curve ball, knuckle-curve, palm ball, and at different speeds; later on, as I acquired more snake-jazz, I continued to work on this with my catcher. It was more than just a drill; it was a good solid workout and a lot of fun besides. I can’t think of a better way to get one’s control under control!


#5

I’ve been the de facto pitching coach for our LL team for a 3d year now…kids now 10-11…and here are my thoughts

Too many coaches say just play catch with the catcher. I think this advice is wrong…I want to get even a beginning pitcher throwing THROUGH the catcher’s mitt, not TO the catcher’s mitt. You shouldn’t get a kid to baby a pitch in there just to hit the catcher’s glove or else he will develop bad mechanics and the lack of follow-through. That being said, especially at the start, you want to avoid a kid trying to throw so hard that he is out of control.

Once a pitcher can throw 70%+ strikes, then you can start working on two things…location and changing speeds. I am in this area with 3 of my pitchers right now. I am trying to get them to own the inner half of the plate with fastballs, especially the upper inner part. When they are ahead in the count to good hitters I let them try a change-up, primarily just stuffing the ball with a 3 finger grip and not snapping their wrist. If they’ve established that inside part of the plate, a change-up low and outside can make a batter look pretty silly. The tough part is to get them not to baby the arm motion on a change-up…it weakens the follow-through. The arm motion should be close to what it is for a fastball…just the grip and snap of the wrist (or lack thereof) is different.

I am having trouble getting them to have enough confidence to throw the fastball inside right now, so it is a work in progress. Our #1 guy likes to go outside and low with everything, and while it worked last year, this year guys are stepping into it and hitting it. What is interesting is that we have one guy who is very mechanical with his delivery and throws strikes, albeit soft ones…I call it an “unintentional change-up”. Amazing how well it works, though…it has some of the best hitters completely off balance.


#6

Thanks for the advice. You all have basically confirmed what I was thinking in terms of how to teach pitching. I will say that I’m amazed how many coaches will put a kid out on the mound just because she/he has a strong arm, regardless of whether or not the kid can throw strikes. But I guess that worked for Randy Johnson!


#7

with accuracy your unstoppable. look at cliff lee. velocity you can do anytime


#8

At that age, ACCURACY! Way too many “coaches” focus on velocity at that age. If they throw strikes, then fine. But if they throw 60 mph to the back stop, it won’t work. The batters will start looking for walks and a walkfest will result. He’ll also throw 2x as many pitches because every count will work to 3-2.

Will the slower pitcher get “shelled.” You betcha. More likely than not in rec. ball your defense will be less than desired. You’ll need to talk to the kid to keep is confidence up. His job is to get batters out – which you can’t do with walks. You can only do it with ground balls, fly outs, and Ks.


#9

[quote=“RSMBob”]I’ve been the de facto pitching coach for our LL team for a 3d year now…kids now 10-11…and here are my thoughts

Too many coaches say just play catch with the catcher. I think this advice is wrong…I want to get even a beginning pitcher throwing THROUGH the catcher’s mitt, not TO the catcher’s mitt. You shouldn’t get a kid to baby a pitch in there just to hit the catcher’s glove or else he will develop bad mechanics and the lack of follow-through. That being said, especially at the start, you want to avoid a kid trying to throw so hard that he is out of control.

Once a pitcher can throw 70%+ strikes, then you can start working on two things…location and changing speeds. I am in this area with 3 of my pitchers right now. I am trying to get them to own the inner half of the plate with fastballs, especially the upper inner part. When they are ahead in the count to good hitters I let them try a change-up, primarily just stuffing the ball with a 3 finger grip and not snapping their wrist. If they’ve established that inside part of the plate, a change-up low and outside can make a batter look pretty silly. The tough part is to get them not to baby the arm motion on a change-up…it weakens the follow-through. The arm motion should be close to what it is for a fastball…just the grip and snap of the wrist (or lack thereof) is different.

I am having trouble getting them to have enough confidence to throw the fastball inside right now, so it is a work in progress. Our #1 guy likes to go outside and low with everything, and while it worked last year, this year guys are stepping into it and hitting it. What is interesting is that we have one guy who is very mechanical with his delivery and throws strikes, albeit soft ones…I call it an “unintentional change-up”. Amazing how well it works, though…it has some of the best hitters completely off balance.[/quote]

I think this is very solid advice. At this age, it’s location, location, location. High velocity pitcher -even kids who have control- throw a lot of pitches and few innings. Add a decent change-up and mix it in with the fastball. I’m sure its been said many times before, but the only difference between a FB and a change up at this is the grip. Arm speed and pitching mechanics should be the same.


#10

BINGO! That’s what I’ve been saying all this time—accuracy is the most important thing. Speed can come later. And if the kid doesn’t have the velocity, don’t worry about it; just work on control and command, location of pitches, throwing strikes (or what looks like strikes), getting the batters to go after what you WANT them to hit. Very often it’s the finesse pitcher who lasts longer, because he doesn’t throw so many pitches—he lets the batters get themselves out. :slight_smile:


#11

Working on accuracy will work on all defensive parts of the game that involve throwing, some pitchers don’t just pitch, they play the field and need to throw there too and the more acurate those throws can be the better. Velocity comes with age, body development and time.


#12

Buwhite, you have hit on a very important point. When a pitcher steps off the rubber s/he becomes a fifth infielder and has to be able to do all the things infielders do. That is why pitchers’ fielding practice is such an essential part of overall workouts. My old pitching coach showed up one day with a bunch of guys whom he had assembled for this purpose—they would be infielders, and another one would hit grounders and line drives, and we spent a terrific afternoon on all phases of this fielding practice, including holding runners on, pickoff moves, starting double plays and just about everything else. Believe me, I got more out of it in that one afternoon than most pitchers do in several months! (By the way, that “bunch of guys” turned out to be several of the Yankees’ second-line infielders, and my coach told me he had an idea that I would get a big kick out of taking infield practice with them.) :slight_smile: 8)


#13

i think everybody is pretty much in agreement on accuracy first velocity later. when i was younger i ran into a problem that i’m sure is replicated in many youth leagues around; i threw really hard for my age group when i was 11-15, too hard for most kids to get around on, since we were all there “to have fun” many umpires started shrinking the strikezone on me, if the batters weren’t swinging the bat the ball had to be right down the pipe. It ended up helping me work more on throwing hard strikes, instead of just throwing hard.


#14

[quote=“ddmcn”]Hi everyone-

I’m coaching 9-10 year olds and need to develop some pitchers. My feeling is go for accuracy/mechanics first and worry about velocity later–you can’t catch a walk! I’ve worked with one kid who’s never pitched before and (at least in bullpens) he throws strikes. Thing is, he doesn’t throw that hard, and I’m concerned that if I run him out there he’ll get pounded and lose confidence. Yeah, I know, work on defense!
How would other people handle this? This is a rec league, not travel ball, but there are still some hitters.[/quote]
I guarantee you that when he goes out to the mound in a game he will (1) throw slower than in the bullpen, and (2) throw with less accuracy than in the bullpen.

This is par for the course with kids this age, as most spend all their practice time in a bullpen throwing to an old fat guy sitting on an inverted bucket.

I cannot stress enough the need to practice pitching (a) on a real mound, (b) to a live catcher, and © to a live batter.


#15

Very true observation. Throwing harder seems to mean a postage size strike zone to “even” the score