This could be a big year for your baseball pitching. This could be the year that you learn that new pitch, smooth out your delivery, improve your control, develop more velocity. Are you willing to work at it?
Here are 10 simple pitching strategies that can help you become a more successful pitcher in 2008. Put them to practice.
- 1) Develop sound pitching mechanics
Not every pitcher has to pitch the exact same way to be
successful on the bump. In fact, what I've found in my career as a former pro in the Chicago Cubs organization is that the pitchers who are the
most successful are those who are able to consistently repeat their pitching
delivery and stay injury free.
Take my former teammate Dontrelle Willis of the Florida Marlins, for instance. Willis' pitching delivery is certainly not "orthodox." Some might say they're not even that good! But they work for
him, and he's successful with them.
My point is this: work on your pitching
mechanics, but not from a standpoint of fitting into a cookie-cutter mold. You don't have to pitch like the next guy.
Instead, work to have a repeatable delivery that enables you to pitch
- 2) Throw first pitch strikes
Get ahead, stay ahead. Plain and simple.
First pitch strikes
will enable you to be 130 percent more successful against hitters than if you fall
behind 1-0 on the first pitch. First pitch strikes will enable you to execute a
game plan, reduce your walks up to 316 percent (according to a 2001 study by the Chicago
Cubs), and they'll allow you to win. Period.
- 3) Display mental toughness
You have to control your emotions on the pitcher's mound or your opponents will
get the best of you. Be stoic out there: Show no emotion. Be like Mariano Rivera. You can never
tell what's going on in his mind when he pitches. This enables him to maintain a mental edge
over his opponents. He's mentally tough. Are you?
- 4) Make effective pitches while your ahead in the count
I don't like to see pitchers waste pitches. That's not a
good pitching mentality. Every pitch should up the next one.
Don't waste any pitch. Get the hitter out with as few pitches as possible.
And when you get ahead in the count, put the hitter away. Make effective pitches when
you're ahead in the count. Go right at the hitter. Challenge him.
Work quickly on the pitcher's mound. After you make a pitch,
stay on the dirt in the front of the rubber to get the ball back from you
catcher, and get right back on the mound. Working fast often allows you to
pitch more effectively (you develop a rhythm) and it will keep your fielders in the game.
- 6) Get hitters out before "ball three" pitch counts.
Aim to get hitters out on just four pitches. Here's why:
12 pitches an inning x 7 innings = 84 total pitches
12 pitches an inning x 9 innings = 98 total pitches
True, you're not going to be able to get every hitter
out on four pitches. But if you aim for four, it will enable you to pitch deep into games and pitch complete games. It also will also give you
the ability to save your arm and pitching velocity throughout the course of a pitching
performance, so you can have something left in the tank for those late-inning matchups.
- 7) Focus on concentration
You must concentrate every pitch in order to be a
successful baseball pitcher. This is especially true at the higher levels of the game,
where one swing (for a homerun) can change the dynamic of the game.
can give a away a few at bats because he'll still get a few more. (Most hitters
get four at bats a game.)
Pitchers don't have this luxury. One bad pitching location or
one bad pitch because a you're not concentrating, and it could be the
difference between winning or losing a game.
Successful pitchers command their fastball. That's because
they know that a good fastball sets up every other pitch.
make your change-up more effective? Command the fastball. Want to draw garbage
swings on your curveball? Command the fastball.
You get the point.
is the single most important pitch in baseball. Command of the fastball may be
a pitchers most dangerous weapon!
- 9) Commit to proper preparation
It takes three weeks to learn a good habit. It takes just
five days to learn a bad one.
Make sure that every time you pick up a baseball
to throw, it's with a purpose. Long toss on a line; take a crow hop
when throwing beyond 90 feet, to get your hips involved with your throws; never throw before doing some light running and dynamic stretching, etc.
How you prepare
for a pitching performance will ultimately be reflected in your pitching performance.
The key to winning pitching is becoming a complete pitcher.
To become a complete pitcher, you must work on all aspects of
pitching – which includes backing up bases, covering the first base side on all
baseballs hit to the right side of the infield, etc.
Greg Maddux is "Greg
Maddux," one of the greatest pitchers in baseball, because of the other things he does – such as fielding his position. Maddux has
won more Gold Glove Awards than any other pitcher in the past 15 years.
Start thinking about these pitching strategies now, during the off-season, when you have the time. They'll help you get better at pitching. And if you'd like to plug into a proven professional pitcher's strength and conditioning program, get my new workout manual on Amazon.com here.