When to introduce off-speed pitches


#1

My son is finishing up his 9U season. He throws strikes and appears to do so with relatively good velocity.

He does appear to experience a large amount of two-strike hits though and I am curious what/when others would recommend teaching him a two strike approach that differs significantly from ‘throw fastballs for strikes’, which is what he does now.

Thanks for your advice.


#2

At this age, he needs a changeup. My son is a lanky, featherweight 12 y/o lefty that doesn’t throw hard but is quite accurate. The first two grips he learned were four-seam fastball and the circle changeup.

For a while, I couldn’t tell the difference in velocity between the two, but everyone always said, he has a nice changeup, to which I would often gripe to myself in my head, yeah, but you can time his throws with a sun dial. :slight_smile: Now that circle changeup is visibly slower, and he locate it pretty well. It can get kinda filthy.

I guess the point I’m making is that at 9-10 work on a FB and a changeup. Let him see the havok a well timed changeup can induce. My son smiled from ear-to-ear everytime someone lunged and looked stupid not being able to stay back on his.

You can then gradually introduce more grips. Since our pitching journey began he has integrated 2-Seam, Cutter, Slider, and Beginner Curve grips. He hasn’t really used the last two in games, but he is working on locating the Slider this summer for that special batter you need to get out but can’t over-power.

Edited to add:

Perhaps the reason he’s encountering a lot of two-strike hits is that he isn’t varying his effort and therefore his speed. Pitching is an art too. While it is commendable he’s throwing his hardest all the time, I know my son didn’t, and probably still doesn’t, a pitcher has to know when to take a bit off or put a bit more on when it looks like the hitter is zeroing in on his timing.


#3

This is something we see all the time in the upper echelons of the game…the batter going after the first pitch, or going after a two-strike pitch, because more often than not he’s looking for it. And more often than not it’s a nice juicy fastball. What needs to be done is the introduction of one or more offspeed pitches early on, from 11 years or so, because by that time the opposing batters have gotten the idea of what’s coming and can set themselves for it. A pitcher really does need a third pitch, and also s/he needs to work on changing speeds more often—and on learning to read the batter.
I remember how I used to go to ballgames and watch the pitchers, and I noticed how they would change speeds more often than I would change my socks. Those pitchers would actually keep book on various hitters, so they could determine when one of them would be looking for a particular pitch and work accordingly. I recall something Eddie Lopat, my wise and wonderful pitching coach, told me when he was discussing keeping batters off balance; he spoke of how to deal with a batter you got out twice earlier in the game but then came up for the third time, as in the seventh inning. He would say, “Watch him. Is he doing anything different in the batter’s box, perhaps something he hadn’t done earlier in the game?” And he would comment on how even the slightest twitch in a hitter’s swing, or starting to swing and then holding up, might indicate that he was looking for a particular pitch. The fact is, there is no set time, no earlier age, to begin talking about and implementing certain aspects of what we know as strategic pitching. And that includes introducing one or two offspeed deliveries. :baseballpitcher:


#4

A youngster that age that can deliver strikes with a high percentage is a very, very good thing. Command the strike zone at this age is perfect.

As far as hits are concerned, his fielding team has the responsibilities after that. In fact, a good way to develop an entire team is to get them into the act. Placing all the before-n-after on the shoulders of the pitcher isn’t fun nor is it fair for the rest of the fielding unit, in youth baseball.

I see nothing wrong with adding inventory to your son’s pitching - off-speed and the like.

However, if your son can hit the strike zone with a high degree of accuracy, if I were coaching him, I’d work on placement first. In other words - down and away, up and away, then nibble at the lower ends of the zone … just at and just below the hollow of the knee. But notice - sometimes this kind of location can be self defeating for the very young, not to mention to on-again off-again tendencies of the plate umpires for that level.

Good location at a young age is a priceless asset that can open the doors to many opportunities later on. In addition to other pitches in his inventory.


#5

Thank you for the suggestions. I will begin a more serious conversation with him, and his teammates when I am coaching, about changing speeds and location.

We have spoke about a circle change and the purpose of a change-up. He successfully threw a change-up in a game on his own that froze the batter for strike three. He also dialed up a couple/few MPH on two strikes. Again on his own.

FWIW, he does not throw as hard as he can in games. I have let that slide as part of the process of learning to pitch and be comfortable doing so.

It is very hard in youth sports to not want your kid to throw as hard as he can due to the very strong peer comparison - made by us parents and coaches! But I am trying to let him learn on his own.


#6

It is very hard in youth sports to not want your kid to throw as hard as he can due to the very strong peer comparison - made by us parents and coaches! But I am trying to let him learn on his own.

I honestly wish this was plastered on every youth baseball fence, dugout, sponsors fence board, etc.

You’re the best friend your son … any son or daughter could have in youth baseball.

My congratulations and … “way to go dad!”

When your son gets to the age where he’s going out on his own, maybe starting a family of his own, take a moment to say … " Son, remember when you were playing baseball as a kid … and you and I didn’t bend to the pressures of others … let you learn at your own pace there…?"

You’re one in a million dad.