Where do coaches come up with this stuff?
I am often amazed by the things I hear from my students regarding what their team coaches tell them. Sometimes the statements are just jaw-droppingly stupid.
Last night was such a case. I was working on the changeup with one of my students. She threw a real nice one, about thigh-high and well-disguised. I complimented her on it, and she told me one of her team coaches told her that “a good changeup should hit the plate.” Huh? I was stunned.
Why in the world would you want to make your changeup hit the plate? If you are throwing it well, one of the good things that can happen is it causes the hitter to freeze. If that occurs and the pitch comes in for a strike, well, you get a strike. If it hits the plate, it’s a ball. Why in the world would you not want to get a free strike?
I can only think of a couple of reasons a coach might make that statement. One is he may never have seen a real changeup and thus doesn’t realize what it’s supposed to look like and what it can do. Even if a changeup gets hit, if it does its job and fools the hitter it’s usually for a weak ground ball or pop fly. Of course, if you’re just slowing your arm down and giving it away you might want it to hit the plate so it doesn’t hit the grass behind the fence.
Another reason would be if the pitchers are throwing it too high. Asking them to try to hit the plate might be a cue to help them bring it down. It’s mechanically unsound and unlikely to work, but at least it’s well-intentioned.
The third reason, of course, is that the coach is simply speaking of things which he knows not. As Mark Twain once said, “Better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you’re a fool than open it and prove it.” Apparently this coach didn’t watch Taryne Mowatt lead Arizona to a WCWS championship by throwing changeups for a strike. A change that hits the plate is what you would call a mistake.
For this pitcher, I gave her my standard instruction for dealing with this sort of thing: say “OK,” or “I’m trying,” then continue to throw it for a low strike. In other words, save this coach from himself. Maybe someday he’ll learn.