Pitcher’s Approach By Game Situations

By doconnell •  Updated: 07/23/14 •  7 min read

Baseball Coaching Tips for a Pitcher’s Approach

A pitcher’s approach will be determined by game situations and scouting of individual batters. Let’s take a look at some Baseball Coaching Tips for a Pitcher’s Approach By Game Situations.

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#1 Ahead in the Count

A pitcher’s approach is going to be very aggressive if they are ahead in the count. Aggressive meaning that the pitcher can choose a number of different pitches to throw and doesn’t necessarily have to throw them for strikes. The further ahead in the count that the pitcher is then the more off balance they can attempt to keep the batter.

#2 Behind in the Count

Being behind in the count means the pitcher is going to have some level of pressure to throw a strike and the pressure increases with the number of baserunners already on base. However, if the pitcher has good control but is just missing strikes then their approach might be a little different than the approach of a pitcher who is struggling to throw strikes. A pitcher could gamble behind in the count by throwing change ups and pitches outside of the strike zone provided they feel confident enough. A pitcher who is struggling to throw strikes may have to focus on simply attacking the “fat” part of the strike zone depending on how desperate the situation is at the time.

#3 No Outs

No outs and no one on base gives the pitcher the ability to be aggressive. The pitcher can attempt to set the tone for the inning and work on game planning for individual batters.

No outs with runners on base will be a little more complicated for the pitcher. A seasoned pitcher or just a pitcher who has their “good stuff” that night can still be aggressive but cautious with runners on base. Generally speaking, if there are force plays available a pitcher may want to pitch for a ground ball. This can be done by keeping the ball down in the strike zone. Keeping the ball down can also be the approach taken for when runners on scoring position.

#4 One Out

With one out, the pressure is beginning to shift over to the offense. Even with multiple runners on base, the pitcher could pitch to get a ground ball that could turn into in an inning ending double play. Even a sacrifice fly is not as damaging because despite giving up a run or a base, the pitcher has recorded the important second out of the inning. That’s why, mentally, it is so important for the pitcher to retire the first batter of every inning. This will not guarantee success but it does give the pitcher a huge mental advantage which will be up to them to capitalize upon.

#5 Two Outs

Well, if one out is an advantage then two outs has to be a huge mental advantage. It is but a pitcher must be careful to not become “too fancy” when pitching with two outs. Sometimes a pitcher will become a bit hesitant to attack the strike zone because they figure the batter will simply succumb to the pressure of there being two outs. This is not always the case and I believe the opposite to be true. Attacking the strike zone and actually putting the ball right over the plate might be the best strategy because a batter might just be up there trying to do too much knowing there are two outs. This pitching philosophy simply put is “let the batter beat you if they can but don’t beat yourself (the pitcher).”

#6 First Base Open

A pitcher can choose to pitch around a batter or batters if first base is open. For example, with the tying run at third base in the top of the second inning, the pitcher can pitch around the clean up batter to get to the next batter. This is different than just giving up an intentional walk. The situation is not dire but maybe the tying run gets stranded if the clean up batter swings at bad pitches or the fifth batter is a better match up for the pitcher.

#7 Sacrifice

A sacrifice bunt or sacrifice fly can move runners up which can cause a host of problems like runs scoring from third. Depending on the game situation a pitcher can attempt to allow the batter to sacrifice or they can pitch to prevent. For example, a good fielding pitcher may welcome the bunt because they feel that they can gun down the lead runner or the pitcher can choose to throw the ball up in the strike zone which makes it more difficult for the batter to lay down a good bunt. The pitcher can attempt to prevent the sacrifice fly by keeping the ball down in the strike zone. If the pitcher feels the batter won’t put the ball out of the park then they could choose to keep the ball up to induce the fly ball or maybe even a harmless infield pop-up.

#8 Power Hitters

A power hitter can be a very intimidating batter for a pitcher to face. They are usually bigger, stronger players with home run potential in every swing and at the very least an extra base hit threat. However, the pitcher must have the mentality of “the bigger they are than the harder they fall.” A pitcher can attempt to out think their powerful adversary by keeping them off balance by mixing pitches and location of pitches. Another way to sometimes out think a power hitter is to serve them up a “non-intentional, intentional walk”. Some power hitters will get so upset about being walked that it will negatively effect them for the rest of the game.

#9 Defensive Positioning

If a pitcher is taking a specific approach to a batter that will effect where the baseball might be hit then the defense should be made aware (by signal) so they can make a subtle shift or at least be thinking about where the ball might be hit. For example, if the pitcher is going to throw a steady diet of fastballs to the outside portion of the plate and to a right handed batter then the defense might want to be prepare for an opposite field hit.

#10 The Ultimate Challenge

There will be many situations that a pitcher will face during a game. At some point it will come down to the pitcher versus the batter in a pivotal game moment. For example, bases loaded with two outs in the last inning of a tie ball game. The proper approach in this situation is to simply compete and “may the best man win.” Win or lose, the pitcher must know that there will be another day. It is important that the pitcher not dwell too long on defeat or become to over confident in victory.

#11 Working the Count

Follow these pitching sequences to put yourself a step ahead of the hitter and other team! Please watch if you want to boost your Baseball IQ!

Final Thoughts

The pitcher has one of the most demanding jobs (both physically and mentally) on a baseball team. Pitchers will make mistakes and especially young pitchers. The successful pitcher will rebound from adversity and will always compete ferociously.

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