Young pitchers can learn a lot by watching some of their favorite pitchers go about their work. Pitching, just like any other aspect of baseball, can get as complicated as we allow. However, if we hone in on some basic principles, we can simplify what the MLB pitchers are doing, and try to emulate them. If you look at the majority of the better professional pitchers, there are a few parts of their game that are very similar no matter if they can throw a fastball 100mph or 85 mph.
- Fastball command: This is where it all starts. Everything starts off of your fastball, no matter how hard it is. A hitter has to respect it. A well-located fastball is still the most difficult pitch to hit. It will also be your most reliable go-to pitch. Most types of pitches need multiple things to go well in order to be effective. On a bad day, your curve ball may not curve and your changeup may hang a little too long, but the only way to mess up your fastball is to miss location. When you’re having a rough day, sometimes simple is what you need to fall back on. Finally, if we are able to command the fastball, all of your other pitches will be a little better and look a little sharper. This is because any pitcher with a dangerous fastball means the hitter has less time to make a decision about what he is facing and how to react to it.
- Throw strikes: Staying ahead of hitters puts you in control. Justin Verlander goes after hitters and attacks the strike zone. In 251 innings pitched he only has 57 walks, which works out to 2.0 walks per 9 innings. Consistently getting strike one and staying ahead of the hitters makes it a lot more difficult to hit. For example if you have a 1ball and 1 strike count, and you threw a strike (so you are now 1-2) the mlb hitters’ average with a 1-2 count is .178. Now if you were to throw a ball in the same 1-1 count the hitters average spikes to .338 in a 2-1 count. Hitting is hard enough, but keeping a hitter guessing about what may be coming and not allowing him to be as picky as he wants, by looking for a certain pitch in his spot, makes a pitcher difficult to hit.
- Work Quickly: Every pitcher interprets “work quickly” a little differently but, understand that your defense (the guys you rely on to get you out of the inning) make less mistakes and are more alert when the pitcher has a nice rhythm. There are going to be times where you need a little more time to gather yourself for a big pitch. But if you are taking 45 seconds in between each pitch, come the sixth inning you might have put your defense to sleep and that big play you were hoping for out of your team, might not happen. Also sometimes we can get “paralysis by analysis” and if we think too much about every pitch we can make more mistakes. Find a comfortable rhythm that you and your defense can benefit from.