More than likely, your first introduction to the broader aspects of pitching will come and go without you noticing it – unless of course your coach or coaching staff has set a preliminary itinerary, tempering the probability of the other clubs reactions to your game quality that day. And this aspect of your baseball experience will more often than not focus on a lot more than just how fast your fastball is, or how your other stuff is working.
Here’s what you can expect.
One of the first introductions to a game plan by both clubs during a game comes in the early portion – at the end of the second or third inning. And this is especially the case when you’re really hot with a 80% or better quality mix to your repertoire, location, etc.
Let’s say that in the first two innings you’ve burned through the 1,2,3,4,5,6 of the batting order and your feeling pretty sure of yourself. And unless otherwise told to the contrary – your pitching coach has said nothing to you that would change your perception of what’s going on.
However… in the dugout across from yours, you have not gone unnoticed with any pitch or motion that you’ve shown. No sir, you’ve been watched, noted, and studied more than you know. You see, the first three batters that you faced were in the box not only to challenge you … but they were also there to observe you and bring back their opinions of you. And collectively after each returned to the dugout their observations were communicated to their coaches and in turn a fair appraisal of who and what you are is being complied.
Now the bottom of the order steps up and you feel no challenge from these guys. After all, what the heck can 7,8, and 9 do to you. Just look at what you did to their best guys.
However, if you watch each of these batters … notice that they hesitate before stepping into the box… they take a serious study of the third base coach and they repeat this routine before and after every pitch. What’s going on here? Are they that intimidated? Are you really that over powering?
Nope and nope to both questions! These batters that you’ve just faced- 7,8, and 9 were there to validate the observations of those that went before them. And regardless of their at bat performance (7,8,9) what was really important is the picture that the opposing club has of you and any bullpen that follows. In short, the other club now has what’s called a “moving game plan” against you. And if your really sharp … if your coaching staff is really sharp, you’ll all notice a dramatic change in the tempo and the game experience that follows.
The strategy for dealing with this fine tuning by batting coaches is not to get too fancy with the bottom of the order. Which by the way, is a common mistake that rookie’s make. In other words, stick to the basics – your strongest suit and go right at – em! When they go back to the dugout … their only feedback is “ the guys hot … serious cheese.” And unless otherwise directed by your coach, serious heat is really basic stuff that blows right by that portion of the order.
Sometimes … and I’ve done it, guys batting 3000 will be deliberately sandwiched in around the 7,8, and 9th spot. But again, if you’re really playing top ball, with a club that has a serious competitive coaching staff … don’t let this part of the batting order validate your signature. And like most “moving game plans” in this sport, the key word is “… moving”, so if feedback is not quick and apparent … let’s move on to something else… let’s keep things flexible.
By the way, one of things that I’ve experienced is to have a batting coach set his batting order in a BP session to do just this against my pitching staff. Then, in a closed door meeting we’d compare notes. Unfortunately, for both the pitching staff and the other members of the club – we both have a darn good track record of the players under our charge… we both take with us when we move on. Hence, as players and coaches move around … so does the history of both, and the competitive pace for everybody squeezes out those that can not … or will not…… focus on the perfection of their craft … as true master craftsmen.
There are of course other aspects of the “moving game plan(s)”, but these plans and techniques vary greatly – among coaches and devoted resources.