5 Secrets Hitters Don't Want Pitchers to Know
There are certain things that make a good hitter a good hitter, and for most of these, the pitchers in youth baseball do not know them. So as a pitcher, here are five things that will make you more successful on the mound, when you learn hitters’ secrets.
1. Hitters hate the ball in on the fists
Pitchers are taught to stay away from strong hitters. Everything is thrown on the outside corner. Consequently, good hitters learn to look out there all the time. How do you think they got to be good hitters?
Good hitters learn to drive the outside pitch to the opposite field. They adjust. What other options do pitchers have then? Any mistakes over the middle of the plate get crushed. Can’t do that. Any pitches ‘low and in’ get golfed. Pitches ‘up and in’ get tomahawked. Those locations aren’t much use.
But pitches right above the belt and on the inside corner are impossible to drive. Hitters can’t extend their arms. It’s frustrating to them. They have a choice: either pull their hands in and hit the ball out in front of home plate -- which usually results in a foul ball -- or extend the arms and get jammed. Either way, the pitcher wins. Want to frustrate a strong hitter? Pitch him belt high and in on the fists. It’ll make him furious.
2. Hitters hate to adjust to constantly changing speeds
Any good hitter looking for gas can hit it, regardless of how high the octane. Power pitchers never seem to understand this simple fact. Because they can get most hitters out with straight heat, they think that’s all they need. It becomes a macho thing. Wrong. Good hitters live for straight heat. The faster the better. So what do a lot of power pitchers do? They throw sliders, which are only about three to four miles per hour slower than fastballs. Hitters looking for gas can still adjust. The speed difference is not that great. Even those pitchers who add a big, off-speed curve ball aren’t that difficult to hit. Good hitters can double clutch and still poke a really slow breaking ball. But if every pitch comes in at a slightly different speed, good hitters are in deep trouble. Only the very best of hitters are quick enough to stay back on all pitches and still manage to catch up with high octane heaters.
With constant speed changes, the hitter not only has to judge location and pitch type, but timing on every pitch. A good hitter, off-balance, becomes a mediocre hitter, a confused hitter. Solid contact gets tougher. He’s more defensive in his approach. Vary the speeds on all your pitches — fastballs, curve balls, and change-ups — and good hitters will go home with an 0’fer.
3. Hitters hate to hit with two strikes
Let’s face it, umpires can be fickle. Strike zones sometimes wander. Good hitters do not want to rest their fate in what can be an unpredictable strike zone. That means with two strikes, good hitters go into a defensive mode.
They’ll swing at any pitch within one or two inches of what they know is a strike. They’ll expand the strike zone. The good hitter is less likely to be in an attack mode at the plate with two strikes. He is protecting against the strike out -- hoping only to put the ball in play -- not looking to drive the ball. That means more off-center hits, more jam shots, more end of the bat dinks, more misses. Want to succeed against good hitters? Find a way to get ahead. Throw pitches he can only hit foul. Even if the ball leaves the park, if it leaves the park in foul territory, it’s a strike. That puts you ahead.
Once you get two strikes, don’t throw over the plate until you reach a three-ball count. Make the hitter swing at something questionable. Stay an inch or two off the plate. Make him reach. You’ll lower his batting average and reduce your ERA.
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4. Hitters love pitchers who throw only strikes
Coaches constantly harp at their pitchers to throw strikes. It is very important to keep walks to a minimum. That doesn’t mean every pitch you throw should be in the strike zone, however. You always want to get ahead in the count. To do that you have to hit your spots carefully.
But what you really want is to throw pitches that start out looking like strikes, but move out of the strike zone or at least to the periphery. Greg Maddux won his Cy Young Awards with this approach. Pitchers with excellent control can often be “wild within the strike zone.” That means they throw too many good strikes — pitches a good hitter can and will annihilate. Smart pitchers hit the corners to get ahead, then tease hitters with pitches just off the corners to get them out. If a hitter knows every pitch will be hittable, he will literally drool while standing at the plate. This isn’t batting practice. Don’t let him get too comfortable up there. Show him some wildness. Make him think. Don’t let him relax. You don’t have to hit a batter to make him worry. Move him back off the plate now and then. Most importantly, never throw a pitch over the middle of the plate. With a good hitter, you’re sure to turn it into a souvenir.
5. Hitters feed on fear
If you nibble, if you seem afraid to throw strikes, hitters get more confident. They’re often ahead in the count. They look strictly fastball and clobber it when it arrives. Challenge hitters. Behave like you know you can get any hitter out at any time with any of your pitches. Never show fear. Get the ball and throw it. Don’t dawdle. Never give the impression you’re afraid to throw the next pitch. Look confident and decisive. It’s unsettling to the batter.
Want to dominate the best hitters in your league? Jam him. Change speeds. Get ahead. Stay off the middle of the plate. Act confident and pitch quickly.
Good hitters will still sometimes beat you. That’s the nature of the game. Just tip your hat and get him next time. But over the course of the season, if you’re smart you will win the battle more often than not. Let those good hitters feast on someone else.