Getting Ahead of the Hitter
We work on so many different elements of pitching mechanics to improve our game and help us execute pitches. Our pitching goal is to end the at-bat in three pitches, but how can we make sure we get ahead of the hitter in the count?
To build an effective game plan, you have to leverage information about ourselves and the hitters to choose the correct pitch-type and location for each pitch in an at-bat.
There are three key steps to determining the best sequence of pitches in an at-bat:
Step 1 - Identify all pitch-types you have in your repertoire.
Step 2 - Identify your go-to pitch (a pitch when you need a strike).
Step 3 - Look at the hitter’s stats, if available (swing probability at the first pitch, OPS, GO/AO (ground out/assisted out).
Once you have all of this information, you can then choose the pitch locations which will be most effective. To help us decide where to throw the ball, we refer to a concept called “Boxing.” “Boxing” is made up of box pitches and half-box pitches.
Box pitch - a pitch thrown over the middle of the plate on a downward angle at the bottom of the strike-zone.
Half-box pitch - a pitch thrown over the outer-third or inner-third of the plate, on a downward angle at the bottom of the strike zone.
When deciding pitch location, if a hitter predominately swings at the first pitch, hits for power, and has a high OBP early in the count then we know we should throw a chase pitch or put-away pitch (half-box pitch) to try and induce weak contact.
For hitters who don’t often swing at the first pitch, don’t swing for power, or have less success early in the count, we could then start with a box pitch.
Step 4 - Develop your sequence and communicate it with your catcher
Pitch 1 - 1/2 Box Pitch (Change-up low out of the strike-zone)
Pitch 2 - Box Pitch (Fastball middle at the bottom of the one)
Pitch 3 - 1/2 Box Pitch (Fastball low and away)
Step 5 - Communicate with your catcher.
Your catcher is your target and you are the target-hitter. You both need to be on the same page so that your catcher sets up in the right spot.
Putting together a game plan can be tough and you may not get it right the first time due to lack of information or execution. Have fun with it, remember to communicate with your catcher, and lastly remember your why; why do you play baseball?