My last session of the day yesterday was with two of my High School students. Both are great kids, both are talented pitchers and both have the ability to play past HS, if they so desire.
As they were playing catch, I was chatting with their parents I came to learn that they both had walk rates, during their seasons, that needed some attention.
After they were done with their mound work, we sat down for a few minutes and dug a little deeper into the topic. I wanted to hear what their approach is with every pitch. Is their catcher moving around, side to side, too much? What is their thought process in 2 ball counts? What is their intent with the first pitch to each batter? Are they looking to get contact or trying to get swing and misses?
A pitcher’s #1 job is to throw strikes. The goal is to do this 65% of the time. In my book, a pitcher has two counts where he can purposely throwing a pitch, out of the zone, to get a swing and miss. 0-2 and 1-2 counts. With that said, there is nothing better for a pitcher than getting a punch-out on 3 pitches, especially when you freeze the hitter with a fastball in an 0-2 count. This is proof that you are in the dome, you have them thinking too much and you have out thought them.
Besides those two counts, EVERY SINGLE PITCH should be thrown with the intent of inducing weak contact on the ground. Too often, young pitchers are pitching to get swing and misses. When we do this, pitch AWAY from contact, we WILL throw more balls than we should be. Remember, our job is to throw strikes. Nothing drives me more crazy, than seeing a catcher set up a foot off the plate, trying to steal strikes. This is not efficiency and this is not development.
Very few youth pitchers have the ability to hit the corner 6-7 times out of 10 pitches. With that understanding, catchers need to be using more of the plate, to give their pitchers a little wiggle room when they miss, some, side to side. Unless it is an 0-2 or 1-2 count, have them sit thirds of the plate or just stay middle. If you do have a pitcher who is advanced with their command of the baseball, then sure, keep them progressing in their development and learn how to work the strike zone.
Two ball counts are a huge count for pitchers. One of our main goals should be to do what we can to stay away from the dreaded 3 ball count. Staying away from these counts will allow us to stay away from those free bases. There is nothing worse than giving the batter first base for free. We have to make them earn it. A mentality of Pitching To Contact, will most definitely, help us achieve this important goal.
They first pitch to each hitter IS the most important pitch of the at bat. I don’t have specifics, but there is a HUGE difference in a hitters batting average when they start the count 0-1 vs. 1-0. The first pitch to a hitter NEEDS to be thrown with the intent of getting contact, preferably, on the ground. Focus on executing the pitch down in the zone. Getting an out on one pitch can’t be done if we don’t throw a first pitch strike.
Pitchers, learn to trust your stuff and throw pitches with the goal of the inducing contact. Coaches, help your pitchers and catchers understand this. Help them keep their pitch count down which will allow them to give you more innings.
“PITCH TO CONTACT”