Pitch calling — you have to mix it up

Just finished up a lesson with one of my high school pitchers. Understand this is a girl whom I recently clocked throwing 60 mph, so she has good speed.

Unfortunately, so far her team is 0-2 behind her. When I asked about it, she told me a  tale that’s all too familiar.

It seems her coach has been calling the pitches, and he’s apparently not to clever about it. She said he’s mostly calling low outside fastballs and drops. It works for a while, but eventually the other team figures it out and starts jumping on the pitches. Then the coach gets annoyed and wonders why she keeps getting hit.

Anyone who knows anything about the game can figure that one out. If you throw the same pitch at the same speed in the same location all the time, you’re going to get hit. It’s just like using a pitching machine. No matter how fast you set it, sooner or later everyone can hit it.

Now, this pitcher has an excellent change — 15 mph off her fastball with no loss of arm speed. She also has an excellent rise and a pretty good curve. Using those pitches, and moving the ball inside as well outside would help keep hitters off balance rather than letting them get zoned in. But for whatever reason this coach doesn’t seem willing to do that.

The real killer is both the pitcher and I consider the drop her weakest pitch. At best it’s competent, but it’s hardly reliable. But she can toss the change and the rise like there’s no tomorrow. Seems to me the coach needs to take a little time to learn what his pitcher can throw (and throw well) rather than calling what he likes.

The pitcher is quite frustrated by the pitch calling. She’s been trained on what each pitch is for and longs to use them properly. I told her perhaps she needs to take matters into her own hands a bit more. Like when the coach calls for the umpteenth fastball, throw a rise instead. Who will know? Or if the situation calls for a change, then throw it, get the out, and shrug your shoulders and smile saying “It seemed like the right thing to do.”

I hate to advise a player to go against a coach, but sometimes a stubborn coach has to be saved from himself. Maybe when he sees what she can do he’ll broaden his pitch selection a little more. We can only hope.

What about you? Have you faced this situation before? If so, how did you handle it/advise it should be handled?

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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 March 19, 2011, in Coaching, Pitching. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Absolutely! You have to mix it up. Good article and insight!

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  2. My daughter had a similar situation. As an 11 yr old she faced all the top 12U and even a few 14s, and was very successful. Her team fell apart over the normal travel ball politics, and as a 12 yr old she was on a better team, better defense behind her, and her results were much worse. After a while of trying to figure out what was going on, she made some comments in our father/daughter workouts, why should I work on my drop or my curve, all he throws is the fast/change… Her change is average, fastball gamespeed is @55 change is @48, so average change at best, and if she leaves it up, its toast… After talking to her coach, and asking him to mix in the other pitches, so she still wants to work and get better, her strikeout totals have went back up, and ERA back down around 1-2… Moving inside, outside, and changing eye levels, as well as speed changes are all ultra important in calling pitches…

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