In today’s adult game of baseball, it seems that velocity has dominated the conversation about what makes a Pitcher good. This concept has worked it’s way down to the youth level, to a point where developing players who do not have the velocity are no longer chosen by programs to pitch or develop further simply because “they don’t have what it takes”.
What makes a Pitcher effective, no matter what level of play they are involved in? To us, we see effective pitchers having at least two of these three attributes on their pitches:
Youth Pitchers tend to develop velocity at different stages, some right out the gate have been able to throw hard, and some need years of development of those throwing mechanics, muscles surrounding the shoulder and elbow, or just the intent to throw harder. So while some may come with velo, and some may not, it’s been our mission to help concentrate on the other two areas while the velocity gains are a work in process.
Command of the strike zone is incredibly important to Pitchers of all ages. Being able to throw “quality strikes” – those pitches that flirt between strike and ball – is vital to offsetting a hitter’s comfort level at the dish. It doesn’t matter too much whether those pitches come in at 60 or 70 mph, if they are quality strikes they will produce positive outcomes. On the flip side, if you struggle with command and end up throwing pitches center-cut, it doesn’t matter if you throw 60 or 70 mph as at some point both speeds will get crushed. Command is extremely important for developing pitchers.
Movement is often attributed to offspeed pitches like curves and sliders, but it doesn’t only apply to those pitches. Having good movement on two-seam or sinking fastballs, change ups, or tail on cut fastballs all can produce quality outcomes while being taught at younger levels of play. Once players have developed command of at least one fastball and change up, Pitchers in our program can start tinkering with other movement pitches.
We’ve seen a number of young athletes struggle with their command, or not have much movement, and rely only on velocity with very mixed results. Typically, the first time through the batting order hitters are “blown away” by the velo the Pitcher has. However, as the game progresses and the hitters start to time up the pitches better, the results change and change very quickly.
Likewise, we have seen Pitchers with good command and movement carve up hitters the first time through the order, only to lose command and/or movement later in the game and start to get crushed as well. Again, it takes at least 2 of 3 in order to be effective.
Our program works hard at developing all three areas with a number of drills, competitions, and data points that provide feedback on the effectiveness in each area. This allows our Pitchers – with or without velocity – to continue their development without being passed over because of misconceptions about what makes a Pitcher effective.