In-Game Pitching Absolutes
Every player wants to perform at a high level on game day. Great players are always looking for that extra edge to dominate their competition. While hard work and commitment often lead to great performance, another key is having knowledge of what approach will work best.
Previously, I outlined Pre-Game Pitching Absolutes that help guide players in preparation for a solid game day performance. Today, I will outline the In-Game Pitching Absolutes that can help you reach your top in-game performance.
My lifelong career in professional baseball has been influential to the development of the Pitching Absolutes. In part two of this three-part series, I will review the following five In-Game Pitching Absolutes
First Pitch Strikes
Rhythm and Tempo
I. First Pitch Strikes
The first In-Game Pitching Absolute is to throw quality first pitch strikes. Yes, this sounds simple enough, right? But, as I stated previously when discussing Pre-Game Absolutes, pitchers have to prepare and do their homework. You will need to know what pitch to throw to each individual hitter. You should take time to identify your strengths and what pitch is working that day and trust it. While throwing a quality first pitch strike is a physical movement, much of the game is mental. Two vital pieces to being a successful pitcher is having a short term memory when making bad pitches and a strong ability yo visualize good pitches.
Your focus should be on attacking down in the zone with a quality first pitch strike, in order to yield your best pitch to your best locations. To do so, pitchers should think and visualize your pitch down in the zone, so you can capitalize on first pitch strikes. Mentally, you should be visualizing the pitch you want in your head prior to throwing it.
Pitchers should gather information from each batter as the game progresses. This includes being mindful of how the hitter swings, as well as acknowledging the results from the previous pitch. This will help you determine what to throw next. Essentially, the goal, as a pitcher, is to always remain one pitch ahead of the batter.
II. Work Quickly and Efficiently
The second In-Game Pitching Absolute is to work quickly and efficiently. At Pitching Coach Pro, I teach our pitchers to be the aggressor by working to set the pace of the game. You want to be offensive and attack the hitter with your best pitches. The one thing you do not want to do is be on the defensive. One method to avoid being on the defensive is to never allow any more than 15 seconds between your pitches.
Cole Hamels is a great example of a pitcher who executes effectively while working quickly and efficiently. During my time working with Cole, he always had a game plan in place. He pitches efficiently, which keeps his games moving fast. For the most part, Cole was able to get his defense off the field quickly, which benefited the whole team.
III. Work Ahead
The ability to work ahead is another In-Game Pitching Absolute. Working ahead forces hitters to swing the bat, hit the ball, and put the ball into play. In situations where you find yourself with an even count, it is extremely important to throw a strike. Ultimately, you need a strike. However, you should work to put yourself in favorable counts where the batting averages go down. Thus, the importance of first pitch strikes.
As a pitcher, you want to make the hitter put the first two out of three pitches into play. This will force you to throw strikes while keeping your pitch count down in the inning. Working ahead and pitching efficiently can allow you to be able to continue pitching deep into the game.
IV. Pitch Inside
The next element of the In-Game Pitching Absolutes is to pitch inside. Pitchers should not be afraid to be aggressive with your fastball. You should take control of the situation by executing your pitch on both sides of the plate. You should be pitching inside for the effect of grabbing batters out of the way. Essentially, this means that pitching inside will cause a reaction and the batters’ feet to move. Throwing strikes inside will also help you to earn the hitters’ respect.
V. Rhythm and Tempo
The final In-Game Pitching Absolute is rhythm and tempo. Rhythm is found in your delivery and tempo involves the time between pitches. The key to good rhythm and tempo is to learn how to execute at a controlled pace.
Rhythm comes with allowing your delivery to work smoothly and efficiently. There are several phases of your pitching motion. Rhythm requires you to coordinate your pitching motion allowing it to come together to make the motion as effortless as possible.
There are many factors that can affect the rhythm of your game. Any lapse in tempo can disrupt the pace of the game, as well as rhythm. Overthrowing can disrupt your rhythm. As can rushing to get more on a pitch than what your body is physically capable of. Like I’ve said before, it is important to be unpredictable. As a pitcher, you have to put yourself in a position of advantage to be one step ahead of your opponents, even before you step on the mount.
Tempo is another primary tool a pitcher has during the game. A pitcher should learn when to slow down versus when to speed up. When things are going wrong in a game, slow down and reevaluate in order to make corrective adjustments. On the flip side, when things are going well maintain a good, quick pace. You want to make the hitter call time out. Ultimately, the goal is to maintain pressure on hitters with a fast tempo. The pitcher is in control of how fast the game moves. To maintain this control, you can vary your load and go or slide step times, and quicken your stretch delivery, among other strategies. By maintaining both rhythm and temp in-game, pitchers have to opportunity to maintain overall control of the game.
The Next Step
In today’s blog, I have briefly outlined five In-Game Pitching Absolutes. In next week’s Pro’s Pitch, I will go through the Post-Game Pitching Absolutes. My intention in sharing these is to share insight that I have gained through my years spent in professional baseball in order to help you grow to be the best pitcher possible. The Pitching Absolutes are designed to be applied as strategies to help you grow now, and continue to use throughout your pitching career.