Sunday, June 9, 2019

Baseball 101: Pitch Sequencing with your Curveball

Yesterday, I posted about how to increase the effectiveness of your curveball.  One of the reasons I try to teach the curveball over something like a slider is the change of speeds.  Changing speeds is one of the most effective weapons any pitcher can have.  And the more dramatic the change, the more off-balance the hitter will be.  Of course, there is more to it than that, but let's leave it at that for the time being and talk about setting hitters up with your curveball.

First, quick quiz...

What is the most important pitch you can throw?

Answer: Strike One.

That's right.  Getting ahead on the hitter 0-1 is the best thing you can do, short of getting a weak pop-up or ground ball on the first pitch.  Statistically speaking, when the pitcher starts off 0-1 at the MLB level, batters hit the ball at a .285 average.  When the count is 0-2, the batting average drops to .120 (2016 MLB Statistics).  So as a pitcher, you want to be ahead in the count.

What is the first pitch a pitcher throws to a batter?

Answer?  The fastball.  Even at the big league level, over 80% of the first pitches thrown are fastballs.

So, what is the hitter looking for when they step up to the plate?

Answer:  A fastball!  First ball hitters in MLB (2017) hit .320 when they hit the first pitch fastball.

You should be working on your curveball so you can throw THAT for that first pitch strike!  That's right... here is a pitch sequence that will set you up for success every time.

First pitch: Curveball over the plate.  The batter is not expecting it and will either watch it drop in for a called strike, swing through it or hit if for weak contact.  We like weak contact.  Need to mix it up?  Changeup.  Don't have a good changeup you can throw for a strike?  Learn one!

Second pitch: Curveball, again!  Bring it back!  Start it out over the plate, and have it sweep outside the zone.  Most of the time the hitter will be off-balance and surprised.  If you drop it over the plate and have it tail down, it will still be called a strike but not be hittable.  Try to drop the pitch into the catcher's shinguards.

The count is now 0-2.

Finish him: The hitter is going to assume you are going to try to throw the next pitch by him because he hasn't seen a fastball yet.  Don't let him have it.  Throw a curveball in the dirt.  Most hitters will be so ready to swing that the bat will be off their shoulders before they realize you just throw another curve!  If you miss or he doesn't swing -- that's OK -- come back with a fastball away, he'll probably swing at that.

I always preach to my pitchers: throw your fastball!  Make them prove they can hit your fastball.  And that's true -- to a point.  If you develop a curveball that you can throw for strikes, and you aren't afraid to throw it as detailed above, it will speed up your fastball, confuse the hitters and make the job of your defense a lot easier!

Bruce holds degrees in Computer Science, Biblical History and American History from Temple University, Liberty University and American Public University.  He is a member of the Epsilon Pi Tau Honor Society, Golden Key Honor Society, Historical Studies Honor Society, and the Saber and Scroll Society.  He has worked in educational technology for over 25 years, specializes in building infrastructures for schools that work to support the mission of technology in education in the classroom.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  His baseball career spanned almost 15 years from high school, through Division I college ball and big league spring training.  He has coached players at various levels from ages 8 through 18.

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