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Hit2win Newsletter - Oct. 2005
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Baseball Coaches Newsletter
From Nedco Sports
Nedco Sports
Helping Teams Play Better since 1999.
October 2005

We hope that you find the articles in this issue useful.
Have a great day!

The Staff at Nedco Sports,

in this issue
  • Experience The "POWER of PRACTICE"!
  • "Locating Pitches",
    by Keith Madison
    From Baseball Strategies
    by American Baseball Coaches Association
  • Specialty Period for Learning New Skills
    From The Baseball Handbook
    by Bernie Walter
  • Pitching "Cardinal Sins"

  • "Locating Pitches",
    by Keith Madison
    From Baseball Strategies
    by American Baseball Coaches Association

    Crucial to the art of shutting down hitters is the ability to locate pitches in the zone. At the advanced level of baseball, control is more than just throwing strikes. Control means being able to pitch to a scouting report and locate pitches.

    Location is more important than stuff. No matter how a pitcher feels any certain day, location will win for him. Most of the time, a pitcher will not be able to improve velocity or “life” during a game, but he can always fix the location on his pitches with a good mental approach and sound mechanics.

    God blessed each pitcher with a certain amount of ability to throw a ball. After a pitcher reaches a certain age, he will most likely not improve his velocity, but he can improve location, movement, and pitch selection. Not all pitchers were blessed with Roger Clemens’ ability, but everyone has 24 hours in each day and seven days in each week to improve and strive to perfect his game. Greg Maddux, with his 86-mile-per-hour fastball, will have the same amount of space in the Hall of Fame as Roger Clemens and his 96-mile-per-hour fastball.

    Locating the Fastball
    Ninety percent of all pitchers use the fastball as their basic pitch or setup pitch. In professional baseball, pitchers throw more fastballs because of the wood bat and their ability to throw in the low to mid 90s. Even with the use of the aluminum bat at the high school and college level, a good fastball located properly in or near the strike zone can be a pitcher’s bread and butter. A misconception many young pitchers have is that most hitters like to hit fastballs. Fastballs are straight and easier to hit, the pitchers believe, and therefore they are afraid to use their fastballs. Obviously, if a fastball is straight (no movement), then it becomes an inviting pitch for a hitter with good bat speed. But every hitter has a hole or a weakness in the strike zone that makes him vulnerable to a well-located fastball. The advantages of throwing a fastball are that it has more velocity than other pitches and is usually easier to control. In addition, despite what most hitters say, their biggest fear as hitters is getting a ball thrown by them or getting jammed and having their “manhood” taken away from them. The key is locating the fastball in the hitter’s hole. If a pitcher can do this, his job becomes much easier because the located fastball sets up all other pitches. Location, not velocity, is the most important facet of throwing a fastball. Next is movement, and last in importance is velocity.

    Pitchers can obtain movement by experimenting with grips and arm angles. The four-seam fastball (gripping the ball across the horseshoe, or wide seams) will give optimum control and velocity. The two-seam fastball (gripping the ball between the narrow seams) will in most cases give a sinking or boring movement with slightly less velocity. Actually, the four-seamer and the two-seamer can be like two completely separate pitches.

    To establish the inside fastball, the four-seamer is best because it is less likely to tail in to the hitter and give him a free base. If a good hitter becomes too comfortable in the box, the four-seamer can be used to keep the hitter from diving in and owning the plate. The pitcher should always feel as though he owns the plate. The four-seamer will help the pitcher establish the fear factor and repossess the plate. With no fear, the .330 hitter becomes a .400 hitter. By establishing the fear factor, that .330 hitter becomes a .250 hitter. A good aggressive hitter, if he is allowed to own the plate, will dive in and be able to cover not only the outside portion of the plate but also be able to hit a good pitcher’s pitch two to four inches off the outside of the plate. By coming in occasionally on the hands of the good hitter, the pitcher will keep the batter honest and prevent him from being able to hit the pitcher’s pitch on the outside corner. A coach should never advocate head hunting or throwing at hitters, but he should teach his pitchers to establish the inside fastball and occasionally pitch under a hitter’s hands. In that way, a pitcher can equalize the aluminum bat. Otherwise, the hitter could become the headhunter by hitting rockets up the middle.

    Pitching inside and throwing the ball beneath a hitter’s hands is an art that has been given a bad name by those that choose to head hunt and play the game in an unsportsmanlike fashion. Hitters in the new millennium have more protection (helmets with ear flaps, elbow guards, and so on) than hitters did in the past, and pitchers brush hitters off the plate less often than they did in the past. These developments are part of why offense has become more prominent in college and professional baseball.

    The two-seam fastball is a great pitch to use to get the ground ball with a man on first for the double play. With a man on first the pitcher must think ground ball as opposed to strikeout. Isn’t it more fun to get two outs with one pitch? The two-seamer on the knees or below the hands will most likely get that double-play ball for the pitcher.

    Locating the Breaking Ball
    One of the most effective pitches in any pitcher’s repertoire is the curve or slider low and away. In most cases the pitcher wants the breaking ball in one location. For a right-hander, he should try to throw the breaker down and away from the right-handed hitter and down and in to the left-handed hitter. The pitcher should practice this one location repeatedly in his bullpen workouts. Some pitchers have the ability to throw the backdoor breaking ball (a right- handed pitcher throwing the ball to the outside corner to a left-handed hitter and a left-handed pitcher throwing the ball to the outside corner to a right-handed hitter). Few pitchers can master this pitch, but those that do have a great pitch to use against a pull-oriented hitter.

    A pitcher should strive to achieve command of two different breaking balls—one to throw for a strike in any count (the control breaking ball) and one to use as a kill pitch that he can throw on or below the knees with a sharp downward break. The kill pitch is useful with two strikes against the aggressive hitter.

    Locating the Change-Up
    With the fastball, a pitcher can pitch in the L (up and in, low and inside, or low and away) with success. The curve or slider can be thrown low and away or backdoor to a hitter. The pitcher should always throw the change-up at knee level or below. Ideally, the change should be thrown low and away to coax the hitter into pulling off or thrown below the zone to get a groundball. The low inside change, although not an ideal location, can be effective because the batter will most likely pull the pitch foul for a strike.

    While throwing the change, the pitcher must trust the grip and allow the grip to slow the pitch. He must try to maintain his fastball arm speed, delivery, and follow-through. Quality arm speed and a good follow- through increase deception. Again, location is crucial. An average change-up on or below the knees is much better than a great change-up that is up and out over the plate. A change-up that creates deception, changes planes, and is thrown to the proper location is a wonderful pitch for a hurler at any level. A good change-up is usually 10 to 12 miles per hour slower than the pitcher’s fastball. The change-up is a great pitch in itself, but it also enhances the fastball, making it appear quicker than it really is.

    Specialty Period for Learning New Skills
    From The Baseball Handbook
    by Bernie Walter

    The specialty period is the time for teaching and learning new skills by working in small groups. By creating small learning groups you can concentrate on the individual skills of specific positions (e.g, pitchers, catchers, infielders, and outfielders). Or by grouping several different position players together you can work on some team plays. For example, pitchers-catchers first baseman could work on fielding ground balls and covering first base, the middle infielders could practice the double play at second base while the third baseman and outfielders take batting practice in the hitting tunnel. This allows for a very efficient use of practice time by focusing the instruction on only those players who need to learn a specific skill or technique.

    Pitchers are the center of the infield, therefore most of the action starts with them. Use these skills to prepare pitchers for the action.

    --Fielding ground balls and throwing to first base.
    --Fielding ground balls and throwing to second base while catchers drill on pickoffs.
    --Fielding bunts to the first-base line and throwing to second base or first base.
    --Fielding bunts to the third-base line and throwing to third base or first base.
    --Working on wild-pitch and passed-ball defense with the catcher.
    --Practicing rundown plays with the infielders.
    --Fielding fly balls.

    Catchers are known as the coach on the field, therefore their presence and skills must be sharp and ready at all times.

    --Dry framing
    --Live framing
    --Blocking pitches
    --Shadowing another catcher to develop quickness
    --Throwing to first second and third bases for pick- offs and steals
    --Fielding bunts near home plate and throwing to the bases
    --Catching pop flies
    --Sweeping and punching out the runner on the tag play
    --Wild-pitch and passed-ball defense
    --Tennis-ball catching with the bare hand
    --Force-play double play (1-2-3)

    Infielders must move quickly and be constantly alert to any situation. The following points are great things for any infielder to practice.
    --Stationary stances
    --single-handed catching of ground balls
    --two-handed alligator technique midline
    --backhand catching of ground balls
    --forehand (glove-side) ground balls
    --Practicing the funnel technique by incorporating the feet and throwing - funneling the ground ball with two hands to the belly button while moving through the ball to throw
    --Playing the short hop or big hop while fielding ground balls, thereby avoiding the in-between hop that leads to errors.
    --Making the play on a slowly hit ground ball.
    --Bad-hop drill, seated - dead, rolled, and bounced.
    --Diving for ground ball drills - from the prone position glove side, from the prone position with the back hand, from the knees, and from the standing position.
    --Catching fly balls.
    --Practicing the double play.

    Outfielders have to be patient in waiting for a play but nevertheless their positions require them to be constantly watchful and prepared as any hit might be hit to them.
    --Stances and drop steps.
    --Mass drill - with the following coaching.
    commands, "Ready, go back, move in to catch, two hands, a high-knee crow hop, simulate a throw to home plate, then finish with three hops."
    --Catching fly balls - left and right.
    --Wrong-way fly balls - deliberately turn the wrong way and adjust.
    --Line drives (hard and soft) off a fungo bat.
    --Sliding catch sit-downs.
    --Fence packages (fly balls, CNN Catch of the Day, ground balls off the fence, three-ball drills, two-man drills).
    --Fielding ground balls - the infield technique for safety when runners are not advancing, the all-or-none technique when the runner must be thrown out, the down-the-line technique when throwing the runner out at second base.
    --Cutoff throws to infielders.
    --Relay throws to either the shortstop or the second baseman.
    Batters initiate the offensive play once the pitch has been thrown. Try these exercises for making every at bat the best shot for scoring as possible.

    Hitting in batting cages for batting practice.

    Team Defense Practice running defensive plays in small groups.
    --One-throw rundown play.
    --Bunt defenses.
    --Pickoff plays.
    --First-and-third defensive plays.
    --Forced balk defense.
    --Wild-pitch and passed-ball defense.
    --Fly-ball protocol.
    --Pitchout with the slide step.
    --Cutoff plays.
    --Relay plays.

    Pitching "Cardinal Sins"

    There are certain things that pitchers should never do!

    1. Walk the lead-off hitter!
    2. Let a hitter go from a 0-2 to 3-2 count.
    3. Allow a 0-2 hit.
    4. Allow 2 walks in an inning.
    5. Allow a walk with two outs.
    6. Go 3-ball-count on any hitter.
    7. Show negative emotion!
    8. Question a Call!
    9. Not knowing whose covering second in a DP situation.
    10. Not getting over on a ground ball hit to the right side.

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