Typically, when a pitcher is getting ready for the season, or when he is throwing on the side, he works on his power pitches. As he works on those pitches, he usually works on keeping them down and on the corners. Every pitcher has an idea as to which pitches are strikes and which ones will be called balls. He gets used to the umpires usually calling his best pitches strikes. So what does a pitcher do when he has spent so much time working on keeping the ball down or throwing to a particular corner of the plate and he gets into a game where the umpire doesn’t call his bread and butter pitch a strike?
This can be terribly unsettling for a pitcher unless he is prepared for it. I had a pitcher who had been pitching extremely well for us this year, who all of a sudden, started throwing everything down the middle of the plate with predictable results. After I took him out of the game, he said the umpire wasn’t giving him any low strikes or any pitches on the outside corner so he felt he was forced to throw the ball down the middle. In looking at the videotape of the game, I noticed that his pitches were all over the place in the middle of the strike zone, which gave the umpire no consistent pitches to call. I always tell my pitchers not to expect to get a call if their pitches are all over the place. What had happened was that this particular pitcher allowed the umpire to frustrate him to the point of being ineffective. So what could he have done to give himself a good chance to be successful?
The first thing a pitcher must realize when the umpire’s strike zone is small or when he isn’t calling his corner is that it is imperative that he pitch ahead in the count, (0-1, 0-2, 1-2), and that if the strike zone is smaller, he must rely more on changes of speed. A good way to accomplish this is for him to use his curve or slider or change up to get ahead in the count. Once he is ahead in the count, the hitters are more apt to swing at his pitches on the corner or low even though the umpire may not be calling them.
The second thing is that a pitcher must stay consistent with his pitches. Even though an umpire may not call a particular pitch at the beginning of the game, if he sees that a pitcher is consistent with it, many times, he will start to call that pitch a strike. Umpires like to see consistency along with a pitcher that knows where he is throwing the ball. It also helps when a pitcher has a catcher that is continually talking to an umpire on his behalf, letting him know that he relies on that particular pitch.
All in all, if a pitcher can keep his cool and adjust his plan a little, he can be successful when an umpire starts out being tight in the strike zone. The key is to keep his composure and to adjust his plan to maximize his ability to get hitters out. Using the suggestions listed above can go a long way to turning what starts out to be a frustrating situation into a winning situation.
By Geoff Zahn
Former Head Baseball Coach University of Michigan and 12 Year Major League Veteran Pitcher

October 15, 2014 | Featured, Strategy | 0

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>