By Jon “Jonny Baseball” Bouza
How I Got Started:
About 3 years ago I decided to get back into baseball after I stopped playing just before the start of High School ball. Pitching just comes naturally to me and I love it. However, ever since I hurt my shoulder in Little League I struggled to keep my arm in a comfortable three-quarters which was why I decided not to play in High School. So I decided to throw sidearm for a little while because even prior to hurting my arm it felt natural, even though I always got yelled at for doing it, which is why I, and a lot of other kids didn’t. By the way, if anyone reprimands you for throwing in a way that is comfortable and natural for your shoulder, tell them to bite you (respectfully of course). However, always be coachable and open to suggestions.
Almost every pitcher at some point in the season will struggle with his/her command. It seems inevitable. A multitude of factors come into play and not all of them are the pitcher’s fault. I’m here to provide tips to prevent this from happening to you. I believe command comes from two basic factors: repetition, and confidence.
As a pitcher, you need to feel comfortable on the mound. If the grip(s) you’re using aren’t working for you, feel free to experiment and find one that better suits you. If you don’t feel confident throwing or gripping a pitch, how can you expect to be successful with that pitch? Confidence, in general, is something no pitcher should lack. You need to have a belief in yourself that you can throw the next pitch exactly where it needs to be located.
As far as repetition is concerned, it takes practice and repetition to gain the aforementioned confidence. You can’t expect to have thrown a curveball ten times and walk into a game being successful with it. Improving command of a pitch comes from throwing the pitch to the desired spot over and over again. For example, if you have a problem throwing your change up to your arm side, then throw that pitch over and over again. This will teach your brain a new pattern to which your body will adjust. Practice, practice practice. If you wanted to learn how to dribble a basketball, you would practice dribbling, right? Pitching is no different. There’s a reason the more you practice a task, the better you get at that task. All of your bullpens should be blocked bullpens. For example, your bullpen should look something like this: 3×10 FB arm side, 3×10 FB glove side. Same for all off speed pitches. It takes this repetition for your brain to realize the pattern and make adjustments.
Also, repetition is needed from your mechanics. If your delivery is inconsistent, you can expect your location to be inconsistent as well. This is where the importance of videotaping your bullpens becomes important. I’ve had countless pitchers ask me why their curveball is flat or why they can’t locate their curveball consistently. I’ll watch their video and, as usual, their elbow drops or they open up too soon. It’s this inconsistency in your mechanics that leads to your inconsistency in location. Even if your mechanics are terrible, you can consistently locate with REPETITION. Be sure you’re videotaping your bullpens to identify any inconsistencies in your delivery, then work to correct the flaw. All the while working on your command in your bullpen sessions.
In closing, having confidence in yourself and repeating your delivery are the keys to command. Hopefully this post taught you something new or gave you guys some ideas. Let me know what you think! Good luck this season!
Controlling the running game is a vital aspect to pitching. I’m sure most of you have several pickoff moves, ranging from the checking throw over to your best move. The issue most pitchers have is when to use each pickoff move. There is no definitive answer as it depends on the flow of the game. Obviously you wouldn’t use your best move in the 1st inning or with a base runner you know isn’t going anywhere. I suggest using your best move when it’s needed most. You really only get one shot, better use it wisely. Another strategy to consider is to repeatedly throw over. Throwing over several times in a row not only will make the runner think twice about stealing, but also gets him leaning back to the base expecting the throw. That little lean can create a double play and/or preventing the runner from taking an extra base. As a pitcher, if you can mix up the amount of time you hold the ball while being set, keep a pickoff move in the runner’s head, and be quick to the plate, you will give your catcher a chance to throw out a potential base stealer and control the running game. I hope this post helps with any of you struggling in this department. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me here or on twitter at @PitchMechanics