For all those pitchers who aren’t strikeout queens

The popular view of pitching in our sport is that it’s critical to have a dominant pitcher — one who can strike out 10-15 hitters per game, every game.

While I agree that it certainly helps cover up other ills, and often makes coaches look better than they really are, not every pitcher is capable of such singular heroics. But the truth is, they don’t have to be. A pitcher’s job isn’t to strike everybody out. It’s to prevent the other team from hitting the ball well, so your fielders can help get the outs. Strikeouts are merely a bonus.

Don’t believe me? I just saw the stats on the Gold Medal game. Cat Osterman had nine strikeouts in five innings of work, while Monica Abbott had four in two innings. That’s a total of 13 strikeouts. In the seven innings she pitched, Yukiko Ueno for Team Japan had four strikeouts total. Her team won 3-1.

Mike Candrea is always saying that softball is an individual sport played in a team setting. That team part is the part a lot of people forget about. If you can play strong defense and scratch out a few runs you can win a lot of ballgames even if your pitcher isn’t throwing bullets by batters. Setting up hitters by changing speeds and moving the ball around can keep them off-balance enough to induce weak ground balls and simple pop-ups that turn into outs.

To a lot of people, a perfect inning for a pitcher is nine pitches, all strikes. To me, it’s three pitches/three outs. If you can do that you won’t have great personal stats. But you’ll take the heart out of the other team and rack up the most important stat — a lot of Ws.

So take heart all you undersized or less than gifted pitchers. You can still be effective. You just need to do your part and help the team. After all, they don’t hand out trophies for strikeouts.

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on September 6, 2008, in Pitching. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Well said! I know I’d take 3 pitches all outs over 9 pitches all strikes any day. Plus it’s more fun for the team.

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  2. Your comment regarding sacraficing stats for Ws got me thinking about how this is viewed by college scouts.

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  3. Any college scout worth his/her salt isn’t going to trust stats as much as what he/she sees. It’s easy to rack up tons of Ks if the competition level isn’t too keen. If you’re playing at a high level, I would guess being able to lead your team to victories would count for more than racking up good stats on a team that doesn’t win much. Of course, racking up great stats on a great team gets you the most notice, but there are only so many pitchers capable of doing that and only so many spots on teams that require it. Stats are often overrated anyway. Just look at what comes out of the NFL’s football combines each year. You can see how fast a player can run, but it’s a lot tougher to see how much heart they have.

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