By Steven Ellis former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
1. Pitching control
Control is all about getting the right pitch to the right spot at the right time. It's your ability to move the baseball around the strike zone with complete confidence -- iin and out, up and down. When you have to throw a pitch on the outside corner of the plate for a strike, you must have the control to get it there.
The difference between having control and not having control is this: When a pitch needs to be on the outside corner of the plate for a strike, you've got to be able to execute it on the outside corner of the plate. To be effective at pitching, you've got to be able to throw the ball where you need to throw it — when you need to get it there. Having good control will allow you be effective on the mound. You can't just chuck and duck at the higher levels of the game and expect to be successful.
2. Pitch movement
Movement, movement, movement. The higher you advance in baseball, the more "pitch movement" becomes necessary. At the highest levels of the game, you'll need fastballs, sinkerballs, curveballs, changeups, and sliders that sink, cut, dart, and dance. They've got to be pitches that break horizontally and vertically. Trust me. I've been there as a player and now as a coach. Movement is essential.
That's because at the higher levels of the game, every talented baseball hitter will finally catch up to 90 mph fastballs — even 100 mph fastballs.
If you can't throw something that forces the hitter to see a different speed or a change in movement, you may get the hitter in the first inning, but you won't get him in the fifth or eighth innings. (And the latter innings are often the innings that are the most important in determining the outcome of a game.)
3. Changing speeds
If you want to make a 90 mph fastball look like a 95 mph fastball, throw a changeup at 75 mph. If you want to frustrate a hitter who is waiting on your 85 mph fastball, throw a "batting practice fastball" at 78 mph, and see what happens. If you had nothing other than one pitch at three different speeds, you'd be better off than one pitch at 100 mph.
Hitting is all about balance. Pitching is all about unbalancing the hitter. You've probably heard that before, right? So how to unbalance the hitter? Change pitch speeds, get the ball to move, locate your pitches, and pitch smart by pitching to spots that are difficult to hit.
4. Pitching velocity
Let's face it. Pitching velocity is exciting. Everyone talks about it: Coaches talk about it. Pro scouts talk about it. Players talk about it. "Throwing hard" simply works because it reduces a hitter's reaction time. Pitching velocity forces the hitter to have to speed up his pitch recognition and swing-decision processes. Velocity also is intimidating: If you throw hard and command the inside part of the plate, for instance, you can effectively intimidate hitters.
Another aspect about pitching velocity is that it actually enables you to get away with being a little more wild (less accurate). It's true. At the lower levels of the game, high pitch velocity allows you to make more mistakes — and to get away with them.
Even at the big league level, baseball hitters will chase more pitches (especially up and in) if you're really bringing the fastball with good velocity. But, to survive in the big leagues and in college as a pitcher, it takes more than just velocity.
How to put it to practice You only have to master three of these four pitching essentials to become a great baseball pitcher. This means that if "throwing hard" isn't one of the essentials you're good at, you should work on the other three.
No one essential is more important than any of the others. But you must have at least three to pitch at the highest levels of the game.
Work on it!
Related Pitching Materials
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