It's all about how you got there
Paul Reddick He is the Director of the Yogi Berra Baseball School, co-author of the Picture Perfect Pitcher and many other books, and the creator of the 90mphclub.com. We know young guns who have followed Paul Reddick's ideas and instruction and you will seldom meet ballplayers more pleased with their progress. (Click to close.)
Who is up at bat?
That should be question number one...
- Just what type of hitter are you facing?
- What have you just thrown the guy?
- What pitch sequence are you working on?
- What do you know about his history?
- What's the game situation?
- Is the tying tun on third or
- Do you have a 10 run lead?
- Is it early in the game or late in the game?
- How many outs are there and are there runners on base?
- Who is up next?
All of those kind of things are factored into the decision of what pitch you're going to throw in different counts.
"You simply cannot be a predictable pitcher and succeed..."
There isn't a single magic pitch to throw just because the count is 1-2, 0-2, or 3-2. Really, that's not a great approach because one of the worst things a pitcher can be is predictable. You simply cannot be a predictable pitcher and succeed long-term in this game.
That brings up the 3-1 count
"I'm worried about walking the guy”
I will ask pitchers, “Is a 3-1 count bad?” And the vast majority of the time they are going to say “Yes.” I've done this with thousands of pitchers and they don't miss a beat or a second in saying “Yes, a 3-1 count is bad.” And then when I ask them “Well, why is it bad?” I usually hear a couple of things come out of them. Sometimes a guy will say “Well, because I'm worried about walking the guy” or “I feel like I've just got to put one over the plate.” Those two common answers, if you really think about them, are rooted in two things. Number one is fear. If it's a 3-1 count, and you're afraid to walk the guy, you're focusing on the wrong thing. You're focusing on not walking him.
Your brain only hears “Walk him”.
There’s an old psychological joke that goes “Don’t think of pink elephants.” And of course if you try to do that, what's the first thing that pops into your head? A pink elephant, right? And that is exactly how this works. If you're thinking I don't want to walk him, your brain does not hear “I don't want to walk him.” Your brain only hears “Walk him”. You're never going to succeed trying to avoid situations.
It's kind of like trying to win a basketball game by only playing defense. You need good defense to win but you still at some point have to put the ball in the bucket. As pitchers, we still have to get the hitter out. So as pitchers, our focus can’t on avoiding a walk, it has to be on getting him out.
"...I have to throw a fastball right down the middle.”
When I say to a pitcher “Are you afraid of walking him?” and they came back and say “Yeah”. And that brings us to the second most common answer I get from guys, because most pitchers will say “Well I feel like I have to throw a fastball right down the middle.” Well, even my Grandmother knows a fastball is coming down the middle. Certainly no element of surprise there.
That's the problem with it, because pitchers are afraid of the walk, they feel like they are locked into throwing this fastball right down the middle of the plate. And the hitter knows it, the opposing coach knows it, your coach knows it, and everybody knows it, which is why pitchers tend to fear 3-1 counts.
The nature of the game
Here is one thing I try and do with my pitchers to get them to understand that for one, you're going to walk guys, that's just the nature of the game. How many times do you see a pitcher go through a game and not walk somebody? It's going to happen, at the high school level, college level, and at youth levels it's even more prevalent. You rarely see a guy go through a major league game without walking someone, let alone lower level games.
"I don't want my pitchers to pitch in fear."
You simply have to understand that it's part of the game. And I would much rather have my pitcher throw the right pitch, maybe with some movement over the plate, and if he makes a bad pitch, fine, he walks the guy. But if my pitcher is going for it and trying to make the right pitch, then I believe that's a good thing. I don't want my pitchers to pitch in fear.
Throw the right pitch and fail...I’m fine with that.
Never throw the fear pitch.
Options on 3-1
There are a lot of other options in a 3-1 count...
- You can throw a change-up over the plate.
- You can throw a sinker over the plate.
- If you have good command of your curveball, you can throw that over the plate as well.
"The thing to remember is you're not locked into one pitch."
But here's the issue, in order for your catcher or coach to call a sinker, change-up, or curveball, the pitcher has to demonstrate command over the pitch. If you really want to get out of a 3-1 count while in the position of being afraid of walking a guy, and you're fearful of throwing a fastball, you must develop command over a sinker, change-up, curveball, or cutter, or find another pitch that you can locate over the plate.
Pitch of choice
My pitch of choice in a 3-1 count would be a sinker. So instead of sizzilin' a fastball to a hitter who is sitting on it, throw a sinker right over the plate. You don't have to use it as an out-pitch, you don't have to throw it perfectly; but at least it gives you a little bit of movement in the zone. That's my two cents on this topic and I hope that it helps you make the right pitch when you're in that situation. Never make a pitch to avoid a situation, make the pitch that is going to bring you closer to what you want to achieve.
Make the right pitch.
Never The fear pitch.
For more ideas from Paul Reddick, click here.
If there's one question I hear more than anything else from coaches, parents, and pitchers, it's “What pitch should I throw in X-X count?” Well, first of all you have to consider a few important points...
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