A Pitcher's Pre-Pitch Preparation
How pitchers should prepare before they throw the pitch
Pitching is one of the most difficult skill sets for amateur players to master. It’s a position that requires both physical repetition and mental fortitude on each and every pitch. More than any other position, a pitcher must be able to live pitch-to-pitch, quickly moving beyond errors and turning their attention to the next delivery. A good pitcher will learn over time to minimize any distractions and focus on the task at hand.
Before every pitch, the pitcher should develop an efficient pre-pitch routine prior to starting their delivery. This can be as simple as taking a deep breath once they receive the ball back from the catcher from the previous pitch. The goal here is to clear the result of the last pitch and focus back in on making the next one. Once the next pitch is selected the pitcher should visualize themselves executing that pitch as they have done in practice so many times before. It’s important that the pre-pitch routine be adequate enough to prepare for the next delivery, but not so elaborate as to slow down the pace of the game and put your defense to sleep.
KNOW THE GAME SITUATION
Being aware of the game situation and being affected by the game situation are two very different things. At all times the pitcher must maintain composure, especially as the game seems to speed up in trouble spots. A variety of scenarios come into play when approaching the next hitter: what inning is it, what’s the score, how many outs are there, are there runners on base? A good catcher and coach can help manage these variables, but at all times the pitcher should be in command. The game stops and starts on your cue – know where you’re at, have a plan and execute.
KNOW YOUR HITTER
Knowing a hitter’s tendencies is also worthwhile. This can be difficult for younger players at the youth level who don’t always experience this kind of repeated exposure. That being said, as the game progresses, many hitters will show certain patterns. For example, is he a pull-hitter? Does he only go the opposite way? Does he always take the first pitch? Figuring out the hitters’ tendencies helps a pitcher determine pitch type and location. For more advanced pitchers, it also enables better development of a planned pitch sequence.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO GET HIT
One of the easiest ways to create trouble for your own team is for the pitcher to attempt to pitch away from contact. Nibbling at the edges of the plate from the first pitch of every at bat is a good way to run up pitch counts and lull your own defense into a less focused approach. The barrel of the bat isn’t all that big in comparison with the size of the strike zone, so you’re going to get your swings and misses – hitting is hard. The reality is that most balls that are put into play result in outs, especially if you can pitch to a hitter’s weakness. Attack the bottom half of the strike zone and more often than not, good things will happen.
WORK AHEAD IN THE COUNT
As complicated as pitching can be at times, keeping track of the count is very straight forward. The further behind a pitcher gets during an at-bat, the more limited his pitch selection tends to be. When forced to throw strikes, pitchers usually fall back on their best control pitches, typically a fastball, in a more hittable part of the strike zone. As the ball-to-strike ration goes up, so too does a hitter’s batting averages, walk percentages and virtually every other measurable offensive category with them. A hitter’s job is difficult, don’t make is any easier on them.