By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
One of the worst things a pitcher can do is walk hitters. A walk gives the opposing team a free base runner, which gives them a better chance of scoring. Being able to have great control is a necessity for a good pitcher. The difference between a pitcher and a thrower is whether you have good control and command of your pitches.
If a batter is walked to start an inning, 4 times out of 10 he will score. This is a fairly high statistic that a pitcher must be weary of. This is why throwing a first pitch strike should be an important goal for a pitcher. Getting ahead of the hitters allows you more freedom with what you can throw to them, and will decrease the chances of walking the hitter. At my high school, we had a goal of 60% or better first pitch strike. That means for every 10 hitters, we wanted to throw a first pitch strike to at least 6 of them. The games that our pitchers met this goal, the total runs scored was significantly lower than the games when the pitchers did not meet the goal.
Having good control can help a pitcher throw a complete game. It seems the magic number for a pitcher is 100 pitches. After this amount, a manager will often turn to his bullpen. In a typical 7 inning high school game, a pitcher can only throw 14 pitches per inning to remain under 100 pitches in a game. There is no way you can throw 14 pitches per inning if you start walking hitters. Being able to hit your spots and make the hitters get themselves out is the best way to throw a complete game.
Working on your control is something that may seem difficult to do. “Control” is such a wide spectrum of variables attached to it, that it might seem hard to focus on exactly what you need to work on. The biggest thing to improve overall control is to achieve excellent command of all your pitches. Being able to throw an off-speed pitch on any count is crucial in order to have good control. Having the ability to spot your fastball anywhere in (and out) of the strikezone is a sure-fire way to achieving success on the mound.
Control is something that can be overlooked by pitchers. Sometimes they worry too much about velocity or movement, and forget about their control. The reality is that without control, it doesn’t matter how hard a pitcher is throwing, or how much his balls move. Being able to locate your pitchers consistently is what being a pitcher is all about. Set some goals for yourself. Try to achieve a 60% first pitch strike average. Work on getting ahead of the hitters and minimizing your walks. Work on it!
Related Pitching Materials
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