Home' Junior Baseball : March-April 2014 Contents March/April 2014 • www.juniorbaseball.com • 17
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.
4. Hitters love pitchers who throw
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
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