A pitchers choice or their mistake may sound like a little cornball, but a pitcher has more important things to focus on than striking out. There is some reasoning behind this bold statement that goes against all the training a pitcher has ever received. Bear with me and I will do my best to provide the logic and reason for such a contradictory statement.
First, let’s define the concept of a team. A baseball team is made up of nine defending players. Should the pitcher be the only defensive player on the team to win a game?
The answer is obvious. No, it’s not. Let’s stop trying to make the pitcher be or do something that is virtually impossible by winning the game by striking out every batter who comes to the plate.
Talk to any professional-level coach, player, or team owner about true baseball strategy, and most will agree that middle fielders are the glue that makes most of baseball’s defensive plays. They are the money players, straight up, middle, catcher, pitcher, second baseman, shortstop and center fielder. Play well here as defensive stalwarts in these spots and your winning percentage will improve.
The pitcher starts the play, but must be allowed to depend on him, the backup teammates defending the field, to deliver the goods by making consistent plays for outs.
There’s infield talk when you talk to your pitcher that goes something like this: “Make him run.” The interpretation of this is, “we’re going to pitch, put it in there,” make it hit the ball, we’re here to make the outs. For God’s sake, don’t walk the batter by allowing him a free pass.
A pitcher needs to fix firmly in his mind and mental structure the permanent thought that there will be a tomorrow.
What will a pitcher gain by being the hero just today and striking out batter after batter during this game? Longevity in his trade with superb to excellent victories in his career? Pitch control, not this flash and neon lights of strikeouts, is where his mentality should be instead of the worn-out pitching arm that will soon come trying to make every hitter a strikeout victim.
A strikeout hero for our modern age game is great, but to be brutally honest, unless he becomes the all-time strikeout king, he really won’t do any good. Do you want to know what really counts in the long run?
Win and loss is all that matters when the scouts finish with their scout report? They do not record game by game the number of strikeouts. They report things like a strong body, a live fastball, controlled curve balls, etc. etc. and the bottom line reads Won xx Lost x with y ERA of x.xx while the number of strikeouts will be relegated to nothing more than a footnote on the report.
The win-loss column for a pitching record is what buys the groceries.
Do you have any idea how that win/loss record and good ERA report was achieved? Well, call me and hit me right, but I’m here to tell you that the team is the one that provided that win-loss record.
One of the best pitchers to ever step on the mound was Walter Johnson, he was absolutely phenomenal and his win-loss record defies logic because he pitched for the Washington Senators one of the worst winning percentage teams of any team in professional baseball. Walter Johnson won game after game, but his fellow defenders were, by all accounts, dismayed at best.
If you use the case of Walter Johnson to defend the mentality of writing them off as the best option for a pitcher, then maybe I should eat my old straw hat and close up shop.
Modern-era control pitchers that support my thesis are like Whitey Ford of the Yankees, Tom Glavine of the Braves and the Mets and now again with the Braves, and Gregg Maddux of the Braves and now the Padres. Again, not to be totally one-way with a plot like “Rapid” Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians and Nolan Ryan of Texas fame and all-time strikeout ace pokes some holes in my strikeout deal premise .
This longevity thing for all young pitchers should be a primary consideration along with accepting the game as a game of teammates and teamwork.
Choosing a pitcher comes down to honing his pitching game to use pinpoint accuracy or control to place the baseball at the plate in the most underprivileged spot, taking advantage of the weak hitters ability to get a good lick up the pitch. ball. Accuracy or control of the shot is more important than the overwhelming fireball the stickout attempts.
The critical and most important thing for a pitcher is to have complete command of CONTROL where his pitch crosses home plate. to the top of the knees, which is about 30 inches.
This box or window, 17″ by 30″, is where the pitcher needs to control each pitch and get the ball into that box or window as close to the corners or outside edges of that imaginary window as possible.
A pitcher’s mindset and thoughts should be a pure focus on pitch control and placement (forget the strikeout mindset). Strikeouts will come in the bushels when based strictly on pitch control.
A boy or girl, with the sparkle in their eyes, wanting to be a thrower, needs to train with the concentration of a monastic monk with a total fixation on the art of putting that ball to the edge of that box/window. The trained habit of body movement, the movement of the arm and the body in synchronized action, must always be in perfect harmony with the reach of the arm and the kick of the leg.
If the cardinal rule for pitchers is CONTROL, then the next rule is never, never aim the pitch. A pitcher is only a pitcher if he has the ability to throw that ball using his trained body action to routinely swing back, forward, and let the apple find its way home.
In essence, learn to get into the rhythm with a natural and consistent use of your legs, your full body weight, and the full extension of your throwing arm that allows the action. launch control we so desperately seek.
One little tip is to learn to flick your wrist just at the precise second the ball leaves your fingertips. What did you say to do? I said move your wrist. Since my launch experience is limited, it escapes me to be definitive on the nuances of the launch; however, I have been led to believe that the quick movement of the cocked wrist at the time of release adds to the speed of the ball.
Relentless, repetitive throwing practice day in and day out to gain body movement fixation and concentration for a powerful and precise swing of the throwing arm, while reaching and extension with an accurate throw of the ball will make it all happen .
I have now painted a word picture of what the purpose of the pitcher should be. Practice to the point where each pitch consistently enters that imaginary window. There’s no talk of throwing 90+ miles per hour or making the ball curve, slide, drop, or do any of the other things we hear so much about.
The true art of pitching is in the ability to control where the pitch ends up across the plate. A pitcher with mastery of throwing control of every pitch in his arsenal of talents is a guaranteed winning pitcher. Throwing what we call smoke and dippy making curveballs is part of the arsenal that the launcher uses from their ammo cache.
So many words to get us to this point that is the heart and soul of every good pitcher. CONTROL CONTROL CONTROL. Everything else is just the beautiful icing or icing on the cake.
Now come back with me to what we used as the title of this lesson Strikeouts: It could be a pitching error. A pitcher who is on the pitcher’s mound touching the rubber, pitch after pitch, with control of every pitch at his disposal doesn’t even need to think about striking out the batter. Throwing with control puts the pitcher ahead of the batter. The batter in the batter’s box only has a fraction of a second to figure out where in the window the little white baseball is going to go. The pitcher knows where he wants his pitch to be.
The place where the pitch will be thrown is always in the studied weak area of the standing batsman in the batters box. Coaches, catchers and the pitcher have observed and studied the habits and hitting ability of most of the players they face in games. The end result is that the pitcher has handcuffed the hitter by throwing strikes at the hitter’s weakness.
The batsman often hits the ball into play, but does not smash the ball and hits the blue darts. He will more consistently hit lazy popups or easy ground balls that the fielding defense handles with ease.
Now you see that the wisdom of a pitcher using his concentration and pitch control is worth more than thinking about strikeouts. The cardinal rule of any sport game is that it is a team effort that leads to victory.