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What Pitches to Develop Next

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by Gerald Warner, Softball Pitching Instructor

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You have been pitching for a few months and are asking "What comes next?".  You are past the "beginner" stage, have a good grasp of the fundamentals, and have pretty good control of your fastball.  Hopefully, your mechanics are smooth and are feeling more routine each time you practice.  So now you feel like you want to start throwing some different kinds of pitches.


Here is our best advice: Don't try to go too fast!  Too many promising young pitchers (and their parents) get lured into trying to learn how to throw a curve, a screw ball, or a rise ball long before they are ready.  At virtually every tournament we run into some parent or 12-year old pitcher who brags that she has five different pitches.  But in the game, all her pitches look alike...and most disheartening is that she has 45mph fastball that she doesn't control very well.

Just because you saw a video, or a pitching coach showed you how to grip and release a pitch does NOT mean that you have mastered it.  Rise balls don't rise when they are thrown at 45mph (unless you throw into a gale-force headwind).

Before she is comfortable enough to throw a newly-learned breaking pitch (drop, curve, screw, rise ) in a game, a typical young pitcher works on it for months...usually requiring several thousand practice pitches.  It is fun to have something to brag about, but bragging about a repertoire of pitches that don't work is harmful to a pitcher.  Learn everything there is to know about a new pitch, practice it one pitch at a time, and don't use it in a game until it works (it breaks, is thrown at the right speed, and goes over the plate in the intended location) at least 70% of the time.

We encourage our students  to get into a new pitch ONLY if and when they are ready.  Although it can vary for each student, here is our typical list of pitches to learn and perfect one at a time:

(1)  Learn...and develop...a GOOD change-up
A good deceptive off-speed pitch can be your best weapon.  It is great to have a pitch that is a dramatic change from your fastball, but most important a change-up is a controlling is your psychological tool to use with a batter.  Regardless of the speed of your fastball, a well-thrown change-up can increase your effectiveness more than 50%! 

The speed of the change-up should be about ¾ (70% to 80%) of the speed of your fastball…which means at least 12 to 15 miles per hour slower.    There are several ways to throw a change-up (stiff wrist, circle change, flip, knuckle, etc.) each with your normal motion and arm speed.  Grip the ball far back in your hand.  You need to release it with NO wrist snap…keep your wrist locked. The idea is to not let the batter know the ball will be coming in slower.  Your facial expression and your windmill delivery need to look exactly the same as your fastball.  Make certain your coach and your catcher don't always call the change-up only when you have two strikes on the batter.  Mix up your pitches…sometimes use the change-up on the first pitch… sometimes on a 2-ball, 1-strike count, etc.

Count on a minimum of 4 months to learn to throw a deceptive change-up.  As we said before,    any new pitch that you learn… a change-up, a drop ball, and a rise ball…might each take up to 10,000 pitches before you get it working right.   Be patient.  Work hard to make each pitch work the way it supposed to.

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(2)  Develop a drop ball.  Then consistently work on it to make it REALLY drop every time. 
A good drop ball can be very effective because it drops below the batter's bat, making her either hit only the top of the ball for a grounder, or hopefully, swing totally over the ball.  You need to give the ball a fast top-to-bottom spin as it goes toward the plate. 

There are two basic ways of releasing a drop ball:
PEEL DROP - Throw it like your fastball, but keep your upper body over your toes when you release it, "peel" or snap it up, off the tips of your fingers, to create the fast forward spin.
ROLL-OVER DROP - This one requires good wrist action to release the ball by "snapping" it over  to create the fast spin.  Depending on the student and her physical ability, we generally start teaching the roll-over only with pitchers near or at high school age.


(3)  Learn to throw one more pitch that works…a curve, screwball, or rise.
A curve ball can be effective if it is really deceptive, and really curves.  The primary problem with a curve is that it is thrown on the same level as the batter swings.  Even if it curves a little, it is still "hittable."
A good rise ball can be your most effective pitch…provided you can make it work every time.   Thrown right, it will rise just before it gets to the plate, forcing the batter to swing under it…popping it up, or missing it altogether.  If it doesn't work right, you will give the batter a fat pitch up in her power zone.  It will take a lot of practice…many months…to develop a good, effective rise ball.  Even many college pitchers cannot throw a good rise that works consistently.
A screwball is a pitch, that when thrown by a right-handed pitcher, curves IN on a right-handed batter.  It looks like it is coming across the heart of plate, then it moves in toward the batter's hands.   It IS possible to throw a screwball that also rises.

(4)  Make all of your pitches look the same to the batter.
A batter should not be able to tell what kind of pitch you are going to throw.  Keep the ball hidden by your glove.  Don't show your grip until you start your backswing.  Don't "telegraph" which pitch you are going to thrown by using a certain facial expression or a different motion.

(5) To gain confidence, throw 600 (or more) pitches each week. 
Never let more than 2 days go by without practicing your fastball, offspeed, and breaking pitches.  Practice alone doesn't make perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect.  Throw every practice pitch one pitch at a time.  With each one, work to make it better than the last.

(6) Learn to stay cool;  show batters YOU are in control. 
Never let them see you sweat


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If you have questions or need more information
E-mail us
, or call Pitching Instructor Gerald Warner in Colorado at (720) 200-4575





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