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Baseball Pitchers: Average to Special
An average pitcher can get out average hitters by throwing strikes and staying ahead in the count.   To get the “special” hitters out, the average pitcher must do more.   He must: 1.   Command fastballs to both sides of home plate.   2.   Throw non-fastballs for strikes.
If an average pitcher throws strikes, stays ahead in the count, commands fastballs to both sides of home plate and throws non-fastballs for strikes, he can get out “special” hitters.
I’ve been asked before “Can an average pitcher become a ‘special’ pitcher?”   Aside from genetics, I thought about the necessary intangibles:   heart, desire, determination, moxie or mound presence, work ethic, the will to win and the will to learn.   My answer is “yes.”   An average pitcher can become special.
01.   THROW STRIKES
In order for pitchers to throw strikes consistently they must be mechanically sound.   Any kinks or wraps or loops or hooks in their transition will cause inconsistencies at release.   Any body movement not directed toward the target will also cause inconsistencies at release.   I make sure my pitchers have smooth throwing arm action from transition through acceleration and pitch in only one plane.
02.   STAY AHEAD IN THE COUNT
When I train pitchers to stay ahead in the count, I try not to pressure the first pitch.   Pressuring the first pitch strike leaves no margin for error.   Pitchers I train understand that it is important to hit with two of the first three pitches.   The goal is to at least get to one ball and two strikes.   This creates a different mindset in that a pitcher has room for error and can still achieve the objective.   Stressing a first-pitch strike leads to more pressure on the pitcher and many times a first-pitch hit.
A good example is when you have scouted a first-pitch fastball hitter.   We never throw this type of hitter a first-pitch fastball.   We will throw a non-fastball out of the zone rather than try to get ahead with a fastball in the zone.
I also try to ease the pressure of pitch location.   We divide the plate in half vertically and horizontally, rather than in thirds like you see on TV.   Pitchers should start horizontal-moving pitches toward the center of the plate and move the ball to the desired half.   If the pitch misses the zone, the area of relief or the pitcher is just off the plate on the desired half, instead of over the middle or on the other half of the zone.   The same thing holds true for vertical-moving pitches.   Pitchers should start these pitches at the midline and move the ball to the desired half.   Again, if the pitch misses the zone, the area of relief is just above or below the strike zone, not in the middle.
How many of you have been on the road and can’t get a corner called for a strike?   This is what we do.   We attempt to pitch horizontally early.   If we can’t locate or get a corner call or get hitters to swing then we move to the vertical plane.   We throw every pitch toward the center of the plate and move it up or down.   The hitter sees pitches that begin in the middle of the plate so they begin to swing the bat.   The umpire no longer has to call an inside or outside corner.   Pitchers now can throw the ball to the top and bottom edges of the strike zone instead of the inside and outside edges.   Once hitters begin swinging the bat and umpires start calling strikes then we move back to the horizontal edges.
03.   COMMAND FASTBALLS TO BOTH SIDES OF HOME PLATE
Pitchers must command fastballs to both sides of home plate.   Having command is a habit.   Pitchers that stand on the glove side of the rubber, step directly forward and land in the same spot over and over, will control fastballs to the pitching arm base side of home plate.   When they stand on the pitching arm side of the rubber, step directly forward and land in the same spot over and over, pitchers will control fastballs to the glove side of home plate.
My pitchers are trained to use both sides of the rubber.   If they want to throw fastballs to the opposite side of home plate, they need only to pronate their forearm a little more the wrist at release.   Everything else stays the same.
04.   THROW NON-FASTBALLS FOR STRIKES
Throwing non-fastballs for strikes provides two results.   First, hitters can no longer anticipate fastballs only.   Hitters have shown the ability to hit mid to upper 90 mph fastballs.   Second, non-fastball strikes add miles per hour to a pitchers fastball by causing hitters to slow their bats down.   People ask me a lot, “why do your pitchers throw so many non-fastballs?”   If you watch us pitch, you will see us throw many non-fastballs early in the game because we want to slow down opposing bats and take away big swings.   Big swings result in big hits.   By throwing many non-fastballs the hitter becomes less aggressive, the swings are smaller and we can play our outfielders shallow to reduce the size of the field we have to defend.
05.   IDENTIFY HITTER TYPES
We identify hitters as loopers or level bats and push or pull.   If a hitter maintains a high elbow, they are usually a looper.   Low elbows usually mean level bats.   Push hitters usually stand away from the plate and dive in.   Pull hitters usually stand close to the plate and pull off.   Identifying the hitter-type determines the pitches that will get him out.   My number one goal when I scout an opponent is to identify the hitter-type of every player.   How can we identify hitter-types when we don’t scout them?   We watch batting practice.   We watch them swing in the on-deck circle.   We see where they stand once they get in the batters box.   We make note of what they do during their first at bat.
06.   THROW BOTH TWO AND FOUR SEAM FASTBALLS
Pitchers must throw both two and four-seam fastballs.   When we identify a hitter as a looper, we know he hits low pitches well.   I hear people say all the time when a big guy comes to the plate, “keep it down on this guy.”   If he is a looper, he will make you pay.   We should seldom throw low or sinking fastballs.   Two-seam fastballs sink.   When we identify a hitter as a level bat, we know he hits high strike-zone pitches well.   We should seldom throw high or riding fastballs.   Four-seam fastballs ride.
07.   THROW FASTBALLS AND NON-FASTBALLS THAT MOVE TOWARD EACH SIDE OF HOME PLATE
Pitchers must be able to throw pitches that move to each side of the plate.   When we identify a hitter as a push hitter, we know he hits middle-away pitches well.   We should seldom throw pitches that move away from this hitter-type.   When we identify a hitter as a pull hitter, we know he hits middle-in pitches well.   We should seldom throw pitches that move toward this hitter-type.
08.   ADD MIDDLE-SPEED PITCHES TO CREATE EXTREME OPPOSITES
Pitchers must add middle-speed pitches.   I use a radar gun to determine the differences in velocity of our pitches.   Ideally, we want a twenty mile-per-hour difference between our fastballs and our curveballs and changeups (-20).   This leaves room for our middle or starter pitches such as the slider and sinker.   We should throw these “middle-speed” pitches at minus ten (-10) and only for strike one.
09.   LEARN TO THROW 'QUALITY' CLOSING PITCHES
Pitchers must learn to throw quality closing pitches.   Quality closing pitches are fastballs with life to either side of the plate and (-20) non-fastballs with late break that move to either side.
10.   RECOGNIZE WHAT IS AND ISN'T A QUALITY CLOSING PITCH
Pitchers must recognize a quality closing pitch.   When a pitcher can get swings and misses with two-strike fastballs and (-20) non-fastballs, even though the hitter knows what’s coming, they then have quality closing pitches.
11.   PROPERLY SEQUENCE HIS PITCHES
We use basic sequencing patterns to approach unknown hitters.
A.   We start unknown hitters with middle-speed pitches like sinkers or sliders to get first-pitch outs or strike one.   We determine a hitter’s bat speed with our strike one pitch and throw fastballs or (-20) non-fastballs for strike two.   We then throw extreme opposites for strike three.   In other words, if our strike two pitch was a fastball in, then our strike three pitch is a non-fastball away.
B.   Since most hitter’s look for a middle-in fastball first pitch, we start unknown hitter’s with outside fastballs.   The strike two pitch will be an inside fastball followed by a (-20) non-fastball away strike three pitch.   We stick to these basic sequencing patterns until the hitter shows or tells us how to get them out.
12.   DEVELOP PITCHING INTELLIGENCE
In order for a pitcher to become special, along with everything else, he must develop pitching intelligence.   Pitchers become extremely intelligent by quickly learning what a hitter is trying to do, and not allowing him to do it.   For example, a hitter stands with his feet close together.   The pitcher recognizes this, knows that he is timing fastballs, and throws non-fastballs until the hitter spreads his feet.   At this time, the intelligent pitcher throws a fastball on his hands.
When average pitchers are able to master the above twelve steps, what happens next on the pitchers mound will be truly special.
When I coached baseball at Henderson State University, I advertised for a graduate assistant baseball coach.   John Maley answered that ad.  The school paid for his Masters Degree and I taught him how to coach baseball pitchers.   Since he played infield when he played college baseball, it made sense to me.   As a result, he became my pitching coach.
For the past dozen or so years, John Maley has trained baseball pitchers with great success.   No pitcher he trained has suffered any pitching arm injury and his pitching staff earned run average always ranks in the top ten.   He has won a National Championship.   I have had the pleasure of teaching several of his pitchers.
He belongs to a college pitching coach association which has internet discussions.   Until recently, he just read their comments about the towel drill and other similar nonsense and just laughed.   However, when someone ridiculed what I do, with almost fifteen years of work with me, he decided to try to educate them.   He wrote what you read above.