Coaches Corner - Pitching Vol.2
The main job for a pitcher is simple: to deliver pitches that are hard to hit. The art of pitching gets infinitely more complicated from there. Pitchers and coaches can easily over-complicate young pitchers by adding breaking balls and two or three different types of change-ups. While every different type of pitch has their advantages that make them essential to polished pitchers, it is easy to overlook the value of changing speeds. Change-ups and slow curves are the obvious pitches that come to mind, but you can also change speeds with your fastball by changing the location.
One of the first things any hitting coach works on is the different points of contact between inside pitches and outside pitches. In order to make solid contact with an inside pitch, you must hit the ball further out-front (closer to the pitcher). Similarly, you would make better contact on an outside pitch by letting it travel longer and making contact deeper (closer to the catcher). This difference in timing creates a perceived difference in velocity. For example, two pitches traveling at 85mph will feel like they are traveling at different speeds if one is inside and the other is outside. The inside pitch will have an accelerating effect making the perceived velocity (PV) closer to 90mph, while the outside pitch will have a decelerating effect making the PV closer to 80mph. Height has a similar effect as well given that high pitches are perceived as faster while low pitches are perceived as slower.
This effect can be multiplied by complementing the perceived difference with an actual difference of velocity (AV). Where pitchers can run into trouble is by offsetting these effects. This is the reason why outside change-ups and curve-balls are more effective than inside off-speed pitches. Lets continue with the prior example. The same pitcher who throws the 85mph from the first example also throws a good -10mph change-up at 75mph. While taking into account the accelerating effect of an inside pitch the PV becomes closer to 80mph. On the other side of the plate, the PV goes to 70mph. If our example pitcher tries to complement an inside fastball with an outside change-up he is getting a 20mph difference in PV. The opposite pairing of inside change-up and outside fastball both have a PV of 80mph!
This guideline is specifically helpful when trying to establish sequences and a game plan. Game situations, individual strengths and weaknesses, and strategies will differ so do not try to survive by this technique alone. Outside fastballs and inside off-speed pitches have their place and can be very important, but understanding this dynamic can really add another dimension to a pitchers arsenal.
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