Learn more about effective pitching by debunking these common misconceptions
1. Pitch name vs. Pitch action.
There can be a big discrepancy between the name of a pitch and its actual intended action. For instance, a “sinker” is the same as a two seam fastball. When thrown properly, a two seam fastball will tail and tilt downward as it reaches home plate. The late downward action is what gives this pitch the title “sinker.” There should never be any arm slot or mechanical manipulation to achieve the intended action on this pitch. Proper fastball arm slot with good mechanics and the correct grip will allow this pitch to do its own sinking.
Some other commonly misinterpreted pitches are the curveball and slider. The curveball is a pitch that, when thrown correctly, should break downward with top spin. This pitch should break straight down from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock. It’s effectiveness is achieved by having the same arm slot and arm speed as a fastball but with a curveball grip and correct spin. To a hitter it will look like a fastball then starts to break as it reaches home plate. The slider is a pitch that falls somewhere between a fastball and a curveball. Its break is smaller and more horizontal. The speed of the slider is faster than a curveball and about 5 to 10 mph slower than a fastball. Once again, there is no change in mechanics or arm slot. With a good slider grip and spin, the pitch will maintain its path until it gets closer to home then dart slightly down and sideways.
2. 27 Strikeouts vs. 27 Contact outs
The strikeout is commonly perceived as the ultimate show of dominance in a pitching performance. However, a strikeout takes at least 3 pitches per batter to achieve. Which, taken through the course of a game can make your pitch count add up quickly. Don’t get me wrong, strikeouts are always fun, but true dominance is being able to induce weak contact by using less than 3 pitches per batter. That, taken through the course of a game can minimize your pitch count, keeping you in the game longer and keeping your arm healthier. On the mental side, going for strikeouts can lead to “over throwing” , which can lead to bad mechanics, which may cause arm injury. Another positive side to getting contact outs is that it allows your team to stay involved by making plays and wanting to play behind you.
3. Arm Strength vs. Arm Size
This is a popular issue right now in the game of baseball. Some seem to think that the more weight I can lift then the faster I can throw. That is not the truth at all. The mass building style of weightlifting does nothing to help you throw a 9 oz. baseball. The most important thing to know is that arm strength is what matters in pitching and not arm size. Getting the small muscle fibers in a pitching arm strong is what gives pitchers the ability to gain velocity and endurance. Working out the small muscles takes repetition of light weight exercise and the correct throwing motion. Long toss can also strengthen the muscles as well as keep them loose. Lifting heavy weight can hinder the “range of motion” in a pitchers mechanics. Remember, think small and strong not big and wrong.
4 Big Arsenal vs. Sniper Ability
Every pitcher dreams of being able to throw every pitch ever invented . Sometimes, even inventing their own. Perhaps the more important thing is not whether you can throw 12 pitches but can you throw all 12 for strikes. At the professional level most pitchers try to master 2 pitches and throw in a third pitch to make the other 2 more effective. By master I mean, they can throw a fastball for a strike and an off-speed pitch for a strike in any count in any situation. For some, that second pitch may be a curveball, for others a slider or changeup. As a pitcher it is extremely important to be able to throw your fastball for strikes. It is the pitch that will be thrown a majority of the time. Then you should also be able to throw another pitch for a strike to help your fastball to be more effective. If a pitcher has multiple pitches like more than 4, it starts to defeat the purpose, especially if he can only throw 1 for a strike. It is always more effective to pitch with 2 pitches that you can command, those 2 pitches can even start to look like more than 2 pitches. For instance, If I am able to throw a fastball away, then a fastball in, then elevate a fastball. I just threw the same pitch in 3 different locations so they look like 3 different pitches. Same with the off speed. Our fastball should have more than one speed. If you can change speeds and locations with your fastball then you have plenty to work with. The goal is to induce weak contact from the hitter by throwing pitches in the strike zone and out of the strike zone only when you want to.