12 THINGS WINNING HIGH-SCHOOL PITCHERS CONSISTENTLY DO
Posted by Josh Spence
Talent and “Stuff” aside as it’s easily distinguishable, I was thinking what true tangible factors comprise a ‘Winning’ Highschool Pitcher? I see a lot of young arms wanting to develop velocity (which undoubtedly plays a role in your success) but being able to manage the game is what can separate you and someone else with a similar skill-set.
1st Pitch Strikes: It's time tested, if you can execute (in the good part of the zone) early and often (with multiple pitches) you're going to place yourself in a good position too win the at bat. Getting ahead of the count changes the mindset and approach of the majority Highschool hitters you will face. Winning Pitchers find ways to compete in the zone during their even-counts (0-0, 1-1, 2-2) and seem to position themselves in a ‘leverage position’ each at bat.
Two out of the first Three Pitches for strikes each at bat: Can you consistently win the 1-1 count? Arguably the biggest count during any at bat. Once the count gets to two strikes, the batter must change their approach. if the count gets too 2-1, the batter doesn’t have to change their approach other than now they can essentially sit dead-red fastball (depending on how well you can locate your offspeed). As you get older and the strikezone becomes more true, the 1-1 count becomes magnified. The ability (can they put it on your scouting report?) to throw a secondary pitch consistently for strikes can play a huge role in this scenario.
Minimize 3-ball counts: They happen, but understand there’s a time and a place. With nobody on base they absolutely can not happen. Hitters are trying to time your rhythm, the more pitches you allow them to see in the box, the likelihood of them syncing with your rhythm increases.
Limit the 2-0 counts when there’s 2 Outs: You’re so close to working out of the inning, attack that strikezone. As a Pitcher, there’s not much more deflating things too your teams momentum than getting two quick outs, then going 2-0 to that third hitter. Pitching sets the tempo of the game.
Shutdown Innings: A ‘Shutdown inning’ is were your team scores, then the next half inning on defense you go put up a zero (a scoreless inning). The analogy I like to use is it’s as if you are running a race, when you score you move ahead. The more times we can keep moving ahead (little by little) out chances of winning increase. I also believe their is a mentality component as well, where by doing this the opposing team feels ‘a come-back’ is further and further out of reach.
Backing up Bases: This reveals a lot about how you handle adversity. Everybody is going to give up hits, now can you respond by getting to where you need to be? Take pride in how you back up bases, Pitching is about managing the game.
Controlling the Run-Game: Without diverting the attention away from executing your pitch, can you consciously keep the baserunners in check? This means varying your times from when you come set to when you start you delivery and with a runner on second can you differ your 'head looks’ so that the baserunner can’t begin an early secondary lead. It sounds very simple but takes time to master. I believe this process of controlling the Run-Game starts in their throwing program, can they start to mimic these principles then transfer them into the bullpen with the hopes one day in the game it will become innate.
1-out or 2-out Drill: Rather then sitting on the bench watching the game until the 3rd out is recorded, can you formulate a 1-out or 2-out drill? meaning when an out is recorded you start to begin your routine for the upcoming inning. Somethings may include, formulating your warm-up pitch sequence for the following inning (using feedback from the previous inning) too doing specific stretches or ballistic movements to re-activate your body.
65% or more Strikes consistently: This one is simple, can you compete in the strikezone for 65% or more of your pitches each outing? Nobody in the history of the game has consistently been successful throwing 60% or less strikes over the course of their body of work (at least that i’m aware of). What usually skews a young pitchers numbers is their inability to execute secondary stuff in the strikezone.
Limit the free-bases (BB,HBP and WP): Free bases will happen when pitching against their best hitter/s in scenarios where giving them firstbase and forcing the hitter behind them (in a more favorable matchup) to execute. Outside of this we can let them happen. As a highschool Pitcher, you’re unintentionally running your pitch-count up every time you throw a wild pitch with a runner on firstbase, no too mention placing a base running in scoring position.
15 or Less Pitches per Inning: Can you consistently work ahead and force contact?
No mound visits within the first three innings of your outing, can you turn the lineup over: Winning Highschool Pitchers have the ability to stay poised and control the 1st time through the lineup (executing their plan and sequences). Before the hitters can get a true read of the Pitchers DNA, we should be into the 4th or 5th inning. If you can go 5+ innings every outing (whilst keeping your pitch count low) you are going to eat up a lot of innings when you get older. If you can save those mound visits to the end, it may buy you an inning at times (or at least the opportunity the face the first hitter or two).