After achieving command of your pitches, it's time to perfect your in-game plan. As I discussed previously in my Pitching Absolutes Guide, you have to take one pitch at a time and remember that every pitch has a purpose. Always take mental notes on why you are throwing the pitch and the result of it.
Making a game plan for what pitches to throw when can be very data-driven and sabermetrics focused. When pitches are lined up in a sequence, the amount of data to represent grows rapidly. However, you must keep in mind to be balanced as there are many factors that come into play to have a calculated and successful gameplan.
With that being said, I'm going to outline some good pointers on what I have found to be key throughout my lengthy pitching and coaching career.
Pre-game preparation is necessary so you can be prepared and confident going to your back-up plan to allow for varying situations.
Plan of Action (Calculated Game Plan):
- What is the score? How many runners are on base?
-You will be pitching differently than with no runners and 2 outs, etc.
- Plan of action to eliminate hitters with 3 pitches or less.
- Know when to pitch around a hitter to get to next hitter.
- If you fall behind in 3-0 count, don't give in!
- Make your pitches and take your chances with the next hitter.
- Is the wind blowing in or out?
- Which way is the sun shining?
- Are there shadows? Is it dusk? Etc.?
- Is the ballpark small or large?
- Is infield slow or fast?
- Are you home or away?
- Past history
- Hitters tendencies
- Pay attention to the Base on Balls to Strikeout Ratio
- Is the hitter hot or cold?
- If a hitter is swinging late on a fastball:
- Pitch the FB closer in on his hands so it will be harder for him to hit.
- If a hitter pulls a fastball:
- Throw an off-speed and pitch away from him.
- If a hitter has a slow bat/dive hitter (dives across the plate when he hits):
- Start off with a first-pitch breaking ball or pitch inside.
- If a hitter is a slap hitter (sprays/no power):
- Pitch the FB in, change speed, change pitch heights.
- If a hitter is taking the pitch down the middle, it could mean he’s sitting on a curveball or other off-speed pitch
- Start off with first-pitch breaking ball or pitch inside
Pitching Ahead in the Count:
Getting ahead in the count enables you to make the hitters chase pitches in and out of the zone and keeps them off balance. It puts hitters on the defense and keeps you on the offensive.
To be effective in pitching ahead in the count:
- Get early pitches over the plate while changing speeds to provide more room for error in your favor
- Pitches should move to the plate with a good angle down in the zone
- You must take advantage of a 1-1 count as a pitcher because the next pitch determines the benefit outcome and whether it goes to you or the hitters.
- Master 3 pitches to be effective
Behind in the Count:
Just because you are behind in the count does not mean that you can’t get the batter out. Develop an arsenal of effective pitches and know which ones to use and you will be able to get the batter out. Being on the same page with your catcher is key. This is where pre-game preparation and pitcher-catcher meetings are very important. It’s always good to confirm communication during the game when needed.
To be effective when pitching behind in the count:
- Pitch down and away or throw an off-speed pitch
- Use a pitch you can control and attack the zone
- Stay confident and trust yourself!
- Be aggressive and work quickly out of the wind-up, challenge the hitter, maintain a steady pace keeping it under 12 seconds in between pitches.
- Maximize the effectiveness by mixing up the effective velocity of pitches to keep the hitter off-balance.
- The plate is 17 inches. Use all of it!
Strategies for a successful game takes preparation. Pitchers should aim to master the skills to be able to make quick adjustments, in order to keep hitters off balance. Good hitters will notice the sequencing of pitches and make adjustments, so don't be predictable. Remember no matter the situation you always want to pitch to your strengths. Remain confident! Be unpredictable! Take it one pitch at a time!