Monday, February 28, 2011

Throwing a Bullpen or To Live Hitters

I find it fascinating that players can throw perfect pitches in a practice bullpen, but struggle when facing live hitters. If your approach is the same, shouldn’t the results? 

I understand there is a difference between a hitter standing in the batter’s box ready to hit any mistake you throw and pitching to a catcher with no real hitter. There is no real pressure because there are no consequences. If a pitcher throws a fastball down the middle of the plate, there is no one to hit it in the gap or over the fence. 

But why do players that throw excellent practice bullpens struggle in a game? Many pitchers are scared of contact. 

Recently, one of my players struggled with his command when throwing live to hitters. But he threw an outstanding bullpen where he showed great command of his pitches. I already knew the answer to my question, but I asked him his thoughts. 

Sure enough, he said that he gets a little more timid with him pitches when a batter is standing in the box.
As a pitcher, you have to try to eliminate the hitter from your mind as you are ready to pitch. While you have to take the hitter into account when choosing what pitch to throw and in which location, once that decision is made, remove the hitter.  Think of yourself as throwing a bullpen to the catcher. 

If you throw a pitch where you want it, three things will happen. The hitter will take the pitch and it will hopefully be called a strike. The hitter will make contact, but because the pitch is where you wanted to throw it, he will get out. Or he will hit a ball over the infield that may fall in for a single. 

The worst thing that can happen if you execute the pitch is a single. And while this isn’t scientific, I would guess that happens about five percent of the time. 

Good things happen when you throw the pitch you want in the place you want. 

Again, I understand that it is easier for me to say these things than to put them into action. But they can be accomplished. 

Focus on every pitch. Remove the hitter from the at-bat. Welcome contact. Three things to help improve your accuracy, cut down your walks and allow you to pitch deeper into games. Three things to make you a more successful pitcher.

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