Change It Up
If there's a single, overriding, all-encompassing Golden Rule of pitching, it's this: Never be predictable. This supersedes every other rule, strategy, guideline or piece of advice. For instance, you never want to throw a ball as the first pitch of an at-bat, but you definitely don't want to throw a fastball every single time either. Batters will sniff out a pattern like that and know what to swing at before you ever start your windup. Don't alternate pitches either (fastball, curveball, fastball, curveball). Your advantage in the pitcher/batter showdown lies in the batter's uncertainty. You've got to keep him guessing.
There's a specific pitch that perfectly exemplifies this strategy – the changeup. A changeup is a pitch that looks just like a fastball from the windup through the release, but it's about 15 to 20 miles (24 to 32 kilometers) per hour slower. It's accomplished by making a small mechanical adjustment to the throw, like reducing the stride, not pushing off the rubber as hard, or holding the ball with an extra finger to increase friction [source: Schlossberg]. The point of the changeup is not that it's a 75 mile (120-kilometer) per hour pitch; it's that the batter is expecting a 90 mile (185-kilometer) per hour pitch. That's a huge part of pitching strategy – set the batter up to think you'll do one thing, then do something else.
Author's Note: 5 Must-learn Pitching Strategies
I've been a hockey fan most of my life, and didn't start following baseball until two or three years before I wrote this article. It can be intimidating to write something like this when you know there's a deep well of experience and a dedicated fan base that's spent decades thinking (and writing) about it. I actually learned a lot while researching this, and I feel like I'm even more of a fan now than I was when I started writing it.
- McFarland, Joe. Coaching Pitchers. Human Kinetics, 2002.
- Schlossberg, Dan. Pitching. Simon & Schuster, 1991.
- Wynn, Early. "My Pitching Secrets." Saturday Evening Post, April 9, 1960. http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=6afd2544-b28b-4e66-a69e-ef8a0a1aa15e%40sessionmgr12&vid=2&hid=4
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