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Monday, October 19, 2009

Effective Baseball Pitching Explained

By Chris Moheno

Baseball pitching is the antagonistic and complementary action to baseball hitting. Basically, the hitter wants to hit the ball with the bat; the pitcher wants to make the ball miss the bat, either by causing the batter to miss when he swings or by freezing him with a pitch that either the batter is completely unready for or he believes is a bad pitch when it's a strike.

This all sounds extremely simple, especially since we are so very familiar with pitching and hitting in the sport of baseball. Many among us tend to miss the finer, more difficult to master aspects of baseball hitting and baseball pitching because we think we've been there and done that--even though very few of us are good enough to be professional players. And one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated aspects of pitching is the mental aspect.

The complex technique of pitching a baseball to a major league hitter gets so much attention that the mental techniques get undersung. A pitcher must have a strong, supple, flexible arm and rotator cuff; keen vision; strong legs; and great hand-eye coordination. Of course, he must also have knowledge of how to throw different pitches; and even the young Nolan Ryan, who only needed two different pitches (a fastball and a change-up) to strike out more batters in one season than anyone else ever has, still had to have different PLACEMENT of his two pitches--sometimes throwing it higher, sometimes lower, sometimes inside or outside. But many people think that this is about the be all and end all of the pitcher's mentality.

For one thing, the techniques required for major league pitching are already far more complex than most would realize, and because of this they require a great deal of mental discipline and preparation just to practice and master them. Knowing how to stride, understanding how to leverage front side tilt to put maximum velocity on the ball, finding your natural arm angle, being able to recognize and repair problems with your pitching mechanics should they arise, and understanding how to practice to gain more control and variety over your pitches all require a certain mental approach to the art of baseball pitching.

The mentality of pitching begins simply with tenacity and discipline. Your natural abilities are nothing without these. Good pitchers are some of the world's greatest athletes, and nobody becomes that without seriousness and long, long hours of practice and fighting through frustrating obstacles or walls that seem to be holding you back from getting more accurate, getting faster, mastering that new pitch.

Beyond that, what does it take to be highly effective at baseball pitching? The pitcher must always keep in mind during games that he is the master of the game. Once he foots that rubber on the mound, the game totally hinges on him, even if there are runners on base. The pitcher must understand why he throws every single pitch, what he wants to accomplish with it and why he thinks it's most effective at that time. He also needs to see every pitch successfully into the catcher's mitt in his mind's eye, every time, no matter how bad his last pitch was or if the last batter hit a grand slam. Every pitch must be designed for one purpose only: to make an out (or outs).

The successful pitcher must always keep in mind not to waste any pitches. He must always have it in his mind to control the rhythm, to get ahead in the count, and to make every out with as few pitches as he possibly can. Another aspect of control is that the pitcher must demand that hitters prove to him that they can hit his "power pitch", which is the phrase for the pitch over which he has the most control and to which he can give the most movement. A successful pitcher always "brings it to" hitters with this pitch and gives it to them fearlessly.

But the pitcher also has to be able to win games without his best stuff, if he finds that his power pitch(es) is/are just not up to snuff today for whatever reason. This art can be mastered by never throwing what are called "hitter's strikes", not with the power pitch and not with any pitch. Every time the pitcher throws a strike, he is attempting to throw one that the hitter either is not expecting or has proven before that he has great trouble hitting. But a pitcher must never throw a ball unless he is attempting to make the batter swing at junk or set him up for an unexpected strike-out pitch next.

Related to this, the pitcher must know how to engage in "situational" baseball pitching, where what he throws has to do with the inning, the number of outs, the baserunner situation, and the type of hitter who is at bat. There are times when it's better to throw a pitch that attempts to get the hitter to hit into a double play than one that is meant to make the batter get a strike against him, for instance. All pitchers must always have it in their minds to: get three outs before any runs are scored, no matter what; prevent "big innings" for the other team; and shut down the other team's running game.

And on top of this, the pitcher must develop a delivery technique that enables him to be effective at holding runners on base, and always strive to better the playing relationship he has with his catcher--the man who is foremostly calling the game.

Chris Moheno has a long time passion for sports in general and for baseball coaching more specifically. His goal is to spread the word about effective non-fluff baseball training techniques for both more experienced and young baseball players, to help them perform better during the game. Discover more about baseball training on

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1 comment:

  1. can you believe a girl is reading about sports. lol :) i can't help it i love it!

    mandie reed


Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick