Friday, February 27, 2015

Have a Plan

                                                          (Photo credit: maxpreps.com)

Frequently hitting coaches talk about having a plan. We mention scouting reports and discuss "being committed to a pitch," but what does that mean? What does success look like when a hitter has a good plan?

Let's imagine that we have just discussed a scouting report with our team. Said pitcher is 84-86 with an above average slider and above average change up. He throws all three for strikes, including terrific off-speed command. He throws 50% off-speed pitches!

If you believe "the best way to hit the off-speed is to not miss the fastball..." you are disabling your hitters.

At the highest college levels, pitchers can flat pitch. We are talking mid-range and low-level velocity guys. In D1 this would equate to RHPs who are 86-88 (or lower) with plus off-speed command, or LHPs at 84-86 (or lower) who command multiple pitches.

When pitchers can locate sliders and change-ups down in the zone on both sides of the plate, and they have decent to good movement, it doesn't matter if your fastball command is average. Hitters cannot succeed swinging at fastballs that are balls and taking off-speed pitches for strikes. Every at bat the hitter will find himself 1-2 or 2-2.

When advanced college hitters have a plan, their execution of that plan can be seen in the body language with which they take pitches. A hitter takes a fastball for a strike with strong body language, and then he rips a single on an 0-1 slider away? Probably was sitting on the slider.

Wipe-out off-speed is thrown for strikes in the big leagues, especially from aces and shutdown relievers. In college, pitchers throw shorter breaking sliders and change-ups that they can command and simply get off of the barrel. When a college staff has only 4-6 good pitchers, that coaching staff wants to ride their horses deep into games. To pitch into the seventh and eighth innings, pitchers develop off-speed pitches that they can command, not just control, just enough to get hitters confused, caught between pitches, or to get the ball off of the barrel.

It takes toughness to beat pitchers who can really pitch. A hitter's body language is contagious. Attitudes need to be worth catching.

A hitter with a good plan, aggressive to an off-speed pitch, doesn't kick the dirt when he takes a fastball. Even when he "guessed" incorrectly, he calmly and aggressively sets his sights on another pitch, or timing or rhythm. Perhaps he is looking for a fastball, or perhaps for the off-speed again, since pitchers rarely throw two quality fastballs in a row (unless they blow smoke).

Mid-range and low-level velocity guys have to PITCH. If you want to merely eat mediocre pitchers alive and then get carved up by the good ones, sit on fastballs until you die. 

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