Before you read this post, you must understand that the majority of time time pitchers should focus on executing the pitch and hitting the target. If you do that, you will get outs and you will prevent hitters from teeing off on pitches over the middle of the plate. If you want to see some examples of executing pitches, just search for any Braves game from the 1990s. The could run arms out there everyday with pinpoint accuracy, especially HOFer Greg Maddux.
There are times, however, when you need a strikeout. In a close game with a runner at 3rd and less than two outs, a fly ball out does you no good. The following strategies can help you work toward getting the K when you really need it.
1. Pitch Inside with your fastball-pitching inside can get you A LOT of strikeouts in two ways. Hitters must begin their swing earlier in order to hit the inside pitch. This means they have less time to make a decision about whether to swing or not. When you get a hitter down 0-2 or 1-2, if you have already established the inside fastball you will have an advantage in this situation because hitters must be prepared to hit the inside fastball and they will be unable to sit back and hit the away pitch. Hitters FEAR getting beat with two strikes on a fastball in and just the fact that hitters know they have to defend this pitch will open up both sides of the plate for you.
3. Expand the strike zone in pitchers counts
This is especially important for pitchers with average fastball velocity. The sequencing you use prior to this out pitch is key. For example, the count is 0-2. Use the 0-2 pitch as a set up to get the out on the 1-2 pitch. Some examples on how to do this are:
0-2: Fastball Up 1-2: Curveball Down
0-2 Fastball Out 1-2: Fastball In
0-2 Curveball in the dirt 1-2: Fastball Up or Fastball In
0-2 Fastball Up 1-2: Changeup Down
Changing speeds and using the effective velocity theory are both used in the examples above. In addition, it is important to get a feel for the hitter and pay attention to his tendencies. If you know he will chase breaking balls in the dirt with 2 strikes, be sure you don't throw a fastball up when you get in that situation.
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Coach Mike Grady
Coach Grady has 10 years experience working with pitchers of all ages through private and group instruction, including 6 years experience as a college pitching coach. This blog is dedicating to helping pitchers of all ages improve their game.