This instructable is designed to give you clear instructions on how to pitch well as well as how to manage a game from the mound. It gives instruction on how to read the situation, how to go through each motion, what pitches to throw and how to pick off runners. I also included a few tips and tricks that have helped me when I pitch.
Two things of note, for those who are new to the game:
1) When I say "offspeed", I mean any pitch that is not a fastball.
2) Inside means towards the batter and outside means away from the batter.
Step 1: Know the Situation
Knowing the situation is the most important thing a pitcher can do. The situation determines your motion, pitch selection, and even your pitching rhythm.
How To Assess the Situation:
1) Know the hitter:
-This may not be possible when you face a hitter for the first time but if you face the same hitter over and over again, make sure you study his/her particualr batting style:
a) If they swing at the first pitch a lot, throw something either off speed or out of the strike zone.
b) If they are a patient batter, try to get ahead in the count early.
c) If the batter crowds the plate, try to throw more inside pitches to both jam them or back them off the plate.
d) If the batter stays away from the plate, throw to the outside half of the plate to make them reach.
e) If the batter does not have a particular style, make sure you mix up the speeds and locations of your pitches.
2) Know the pitch count:
-Different pitch counts call for different pitches:
a) The first pitch should be a fastball about 90% of the time because it is the most accurate of pitches and a great way to get ahead early in the count.
b) If you have an 0-2 count throw something outside of the strikezone to try to change the batter's eye.
c) If the count is 3-0 throw a fastball straight down the middle. I say this because most batters will not swing on an 3-0 count and you need to throw a strike.
3) Know the baserunner situation:
-Whether or not there are runners on base will affect which pitch you throw as well as what motion you use.
a) If there are no runners on base, then you are free to pick which pitching style you are most comfortable with, either the wind-up or the stretch.
b) If there are runners on first or second base, use the stretch because it allows you to stop and attempt to throw out runners.
c) If there is a runner on third base, then you should stick with the stretch but you can use the wind-up if you wish because the runner is not likely to steal home.
4) Know the overall game situation:
-As a pitcher you are responsible for controlling the other team. You should know where the opposing team's best hitters are in the batting order. You should also know how close the game is and how far the game has progressed.
a) If the opposing team's best hitter is up in the latter half of a close game and there is no one on first, then you should intentionally walk him.
b) In the early game, look for teams to be playing aggressive "small ball". This will involve lots of bunting and base stealing. If they are bunting throw pitches with a lot of movement. If there are runners on base stay away from off speed pitches.
c) As the game goes on it becomes more and more important to allow no runs each inning because each inning that ends is one less that your team has to answer.
Step 2: The Wind-Up
Pitching from the wind-up is where most innings will start. Pitching from the wind-up is good because it is all one fluid quick motion which leaves you little time to think. This is good because 99% of the time thinking only impairs your pitching.
This step will teach you how to throw from the wind-up. It will take you through the motions from where your feet should start, to how you should be positioned at the end of each pitch.
1) The first thing you should do is stand on the mound both with both toes pointed towards home plate, the middle of your foot on the lip of the rubber, and your heels on the top of the rubber. Your glove should be up in front of your face with the top of your glove even with your nose. You should be holding the ball inside the glove with your pitching hand already holding the ball in the grip of the pitch you are going to throw
2) Move the foot of your glove hand backwards so that your toe is still pointing toward the plate but touching the back edge of the rubber.
3) Turn the foot of your pitching hand so that the outside of your foot is resting up against the rubber and bring the knee of your glove hand up to your belly button.
4) Step towards home plate, pushing off of your back foot, while at the same time pointing your glove towards home plate and bringing the ball back towards second.
5) Turn your upper body towards home plate while bringing your glove into your body so that the back of the glove is facing home plate and the glove perpendicular to the ground. While turning, bring the ball forward and extend your arm to home plate snapping your wrist when your arm reaches full extension. Also, make sure you are bending your back like you are trying to pick up a dollar off the ground.
6) After pushing off of the rubber, the foot of your pitching hand should be pointed towards the mound and you should be bent over ready to field your position not falling off to one side.
Step 3: Pitching From the Stretch
Knowing how to pitch from the stretch is of absolute importance once there are runners on base. The stretch motion allows you to stop before you deliver the ball and step off the mound so you can attempt to throw out runners.
This step will take you through the motions of the stretch including what you can and cannot do at each position. In this step, I will refer to your the foot of your glove hand as your front foot and the foot of your pitching hand as the back foot
1) Place your pitching foot so that the inside of your foot is touching the back edge of the rubber. Stretch your glove foot towards the mound so that you are balanced and bend towards the plate so that you are looking into the catcher's sign. I recommend holding the ball behind your back and resting your glove on your knee.
a) At this stage, you are able to move around on the mound as much as you want.
2) Move the foot of your pitching hand forward so that the outside of your foot is leaning up against the front of the rubber. At the same time, move your glove foot back so that you are standing straight up and down with your feet shoulder width apart and move the glove and ball so that the ball is in the glove and the back of the glove is pointed towards home plate. This is called the set position.
a) At this stage, you can turn your head from side to side but you cannot move your shoulders.
b) In order to check the runner behind you (if there is one), or attempt to pick someone off, you will need to move your back foot behind the rubber again without moving any other part of your body (other than your head).
3) Here you have one of two choices, if you are sure that the base runner(s) is/are going to steal, you should use the slide step make your motion shorter and get the ball to the plate quicker. If the runner(s) is/are not then you can use the more traditional method or the slide step which ever you prefer.
a) The Slide Step:
The slide step is very simple to do but it is still a good idea to practice it before using it in a live situation. What you do is from the set position, you move your front foot only about an inch off of the ground towards the plate while breaking apart the glove and ball in one simultaneous motion. When your front foot lands is when you begin your throwing motion.
b) The traditional method:
In the traditional method, you bring your front knee up to your belly button, and then move your front foot towards the plate with the same throwing motion you used in the wind-up.
i) When your knee is up around your belly button, you can instead move your leg towards the base that you are facing instead of the plate. If you do however, you must throw over to that base.
ii) You can only do this in the stretch, and only if your leg goes directly to the base and in no other direction first.
iii) I am not sure you can do this at all age groups however so make sure you can before you attempt to throw someone out like this.
4) You should end up ready to field your position just like at the end of the wind-up motion.
Step 4: Throwing Out the Runners
Now that I have covered how go through both pitching motions, I want to give you some instructions on how to throw out baserunners. These are the most common scenarios in which a pick off attempt might be warrented.
1) If there is only a runner on third, you should not to try to pick them off. This is because if either you or the third baseman makes a mistake, the runner will score. If you are a left-handed pitcher this is doubly true because you have to take your foot off of the mound and make the long turn around.
2) If there is only a runner on first, you have a much better chance of picking them off.
a) For left handed pitchers, it is simple, but not always easy, to decieve the runner. Since you are pitching from the stretch, all you have to do is move your front leg towards first while looking at home and the runner may be caught off guard. The trick to doing this is to look like you are going to throw home but you acutally throw to first.
b) For right handed pitchers, it requires a little bit more skill. You are going to have to move your back foot off the rubber, then turn around quickly and throw the ball. The fraction of a second that it takes to turn towards first gives the runner a bit more of a chance to get back.
3) If there is only a runner on second base, both left and right handed pitchers need to step off of the rubber in order to throw over so it is left up to the pitcher to decide whether or not they want to try in that particular situation.
a) To come to a decision, you should use all of the details about the current situation you observed using Step 1.
4) If there are runners on first and third, then you can use a little trick to try to get the runner. Righty pitchers are better suited to this pick off move because they are facing away from the runner on first.
a) For right handed pitchers: when you have your leg raised, move towards third base like you are going to throw over there but instead, when your front leg lands, move your back foot off of the rubber and turn towards first. Chances are, the runner will have either started moving or will be far enough away that you have a chance to pick him off.
b) For left handed pitchers, it is probably better to not attempt because the runner on first will be wary of your attempts to trick him and so will not move far off the base until you have pitched the ball.
Step 5: Choosing a Pitch
Now that you know how to prepare to pitch, by knowing the motions, the count, and the overall situation in the game, it is time to determine what you should pitch. In this section the term outside means pointing away from your body and inside means pointing toward your body.
There are many different types of pitches and I personally know 5. Of these 5, one of these should not be used by anyone under the age of 16.
1) 4-seam fastball:
-This is the first pitch that every one is taught when they start throwing. It is the fastest and most accurate way to throw the ball. Those two reasons are why the fast ball is the prefered pitch to get ahead in the count. To throw the 4-seam fastball is very simple all you do is as follows
a) Take the ball and turn it so that the stitches make a horse shoe pattern pointing towards your glove hand.
b) Place your index and middle fingers across the stitiches so that your index finger is closest to the curve of the horseshoe and your fingers are slightly spread. your thumb should be on the bottom of the ball pointing up to your fingers
c) When releasing the ball snap your wrist and put more pressure on your fingers tips to give the ball more spin.
2) 2-seam fastball:
- This pitch is slightly slower than the 4-seam fastball, however it moves more than the 4-seam which makes it a good pitch if you do not have overpowering speed.
a) Take the ball and turn it so that the curves of two horseshoes are visible and are side by side.
b) Orient the ball so that your index and your middle fingers are on top of the seams and they are pointing towards the plate.
c) When releasing the ball, throw it like a normal fastball but I like to put more pressure on my index finger to make the ball tail to the outside.
- This pitch is good when you want to change speeds without letting up on your fastball. There are many different varations of how to throw this pitch mine may seem a little unusual but it has served me well.
a) Take the ball and orient it like you would for a 2-seam fastball.
b) Instead of placing your index and middle finger on the seams you should place your middle finger as well as your ring finger on the seams. Your thumb should be on the bottom of the ball pointing up towards the split between your fingers.
c) When throwing this pitch, you need to keep your the ball in the same orientation until you release it.
- The slider is a great pitch to get an out on but it takes a larger toll on your arm than either the fastballs or the change up so it should be used sparingly. This pitch is definitely less intensive than a curveball so it can be used at a slightly younger age.
a) Take the ball and orient it so that the horseshoe pattern is on top of the ball and the curve of the horseshoe is pointed away from your palm.
b) Grip the ball so that your thumb is on the bottom inside seam and your index and middle finger straddle the upper outside seam.
c) When throwing this pitch your fingers should be pointing towards your body and just as you are about to release it, you should snap your wrist down like you are pulling down a shade.
- The curveball is qute possibly the most dangerous pitch that is used regularly today. It is dangerous in the sense that when thrown correctly it is almost unhitable but it is also dangerous in the fact that it can be severely damaging to your arm. This is why this pitch should not be thrown by anyone under the age of at least 16.
a) Take the ball so that the horseshoe pattern is on top of the ball and the curve is pointed away from your palm.
b) Nestle your middle finger up against the inside of the upper outside seam and your index finger up against your middle finger. Your thumb should be on the center of the lower horseshoe curve.
c) When throwing the ball, use the same motion as when throwing a slider.
Step 6: Tips and Tricks
Here are a few tips and tricks that I have learned that will help you be successful as a pitcher.
1) Do not aim just throw. Trying to aim the ball more often than not will end up with the ball going where you want it. It will most likely end up very far from where you want it
2) Mix up speeds and locations. If you fall into a predictable rhythm where you throw the same pitch in the same location time after time, you will be hit no matter how good your stuff is. To throw off the batter you need to mix up your locations try going up in the zone and then going low on the next pitch. Changing speeds is also a great way to throw off a hitter's timing. Even if it is one change up in a series of fastballs, it will throw off the batter.
3) If a pitch is not working avoid using it. There are going to be nights where one of your pitches just is not going to work. Rather than trying to force the pitch to work, and potentially end up with a disaster, avoid using that pitch and rely more on your others.
4) Up and in then low and away. This is one of my favorite pitching strategies because it always throws the batter off. On an 0-2 count, what you should do is throw a pitch high in the strike zone close to the batter. On the very next pitch you should throw it low in the strike zone and on the outside half of the plate.
5) Find your personal rhythm. This is quite possibly the most important thing you can do as a pitcher. When you are in a rhythm, you tend to throw your best because you are in a comfortable mindset and you do not need to think. Everyone has a different rhythm some like to work quickly and some like to work slow it is up to you to determine how you pitch best.