Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

5 Must-learn Pitching Strategies

Pitcher Freddy Garcia of the New York Yankees winds up during a game against the Boston Red Sox, on July 7, 2012.
Pitcher Freddy Garcia of the New York Yankees winds up during a game against the Boston Red Sox, on July 7, 2012.
Winslow Townson/Getty Images

Ask some baseball fans what they love about the game and you'll get a lot of different answers: home runs, exciting defensive plays, managing match-ups, or just the moderate pace and summer atmosphere of a game. Long-time fans will tell you, however, that baseball boils down to the showdown between the pitcher and the batter. It's a one-on-one confrontation filled with tension. Can the pitcher throw an accurate, but difficult-to-hit pitch? Can the batter connect and get a base hit, or even knock one out of the park? There's psychology and strategy, history and technique, luck and skill, all within a span of 60 and a half feet (18.4 meters) and happening at about 90 miles (145 kilometers) per hour.

The pitcher isn't just trying to fire fastball after fastball over the plate, though. With an arsenal of different pitches at his disposal, the pitcher's goal is to outwit the batter. It's a mental contest as much as a physical one. There are a lot of variables to account for, like runners on base, the score, how many outs there are, what inning it is, how many pitches you've thrown today, whether the batter is a lefty or a righty, how well the batter is known to hit certain types of pitches, what pitches you've been throwing well today, even where the batter is standing right now in the batter's box. Luckily, your catcher will be helping out and signalling which pitch he thinks you should throw next (he has the best view in the ballpark, after all), but you have the final say, and that's still a lot to take in when you're on the mound, fans are yelling and your teammates are counting on you to deliver. It's probably a good idea to learn some strategy ahead of time.

Luckily, if you're a young pitcher trying to work all this stuff out, you're not alone. Baseball is well over 100 years old, and old-timers through the ages have discussed and written about pitching strategies. There's a lot of expertise on the subject to draw from.