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The Uncomfortable Truth About The Number of Pitches Pitchers Have

As a coach who faces this conversation regularly with clients and parents, I found this write up by Lori Cook Baird, a pitching coach for 30+ years to be extremely relevant and helpful in conveying an important, but brutally honest message.

I can’t stress it enough, pinpoint location of pitches on command is what makes for an effective pitcher, not the number of pitches.

I'm here to speak the uncomfortable but necessary TRUTH.

I am speaking to you as an experienced ASA umpire who is frequently warned by coaches before the game starts about the pitcher's 7 pitch arsenal (only to discover that said pitcher has ONE spin and she just locates it in 7 different locations).

I am speaking to you as a 30 year pitching coach who will meet a new client who believes she has 7-8 different pitches when in reality she really only has one spin and she cannot locate the pitch on command. Maybe two if you count the change-up that also doesn't work consistently. And frequently these pitchers have form issues which are already beginning to cause pain in these pitchers.

I am speaking to you as a former catcher who has had to call pitches for pitchers who believed they had 7-8 different pitches when I could tell they were all spinning the same way and were not moving or breaking. Unfortunately, many catchers think that they are just not able to "read spin" and start believing that the pitcher IS actually throwing 7 different pitches but something is wrong with them because they just aren't able to "see" these 7-8 breaking pitches.

I am speaking to you as a coach who has had pitchers on my teams who have been led to believe by their pitching coaches that they have 7 different pitches when really they only have one spin. One pitch. And it gets hammered.

This grand delusion of pitchers, catchers, parents, and coaches is an epidemic. The amount of money exchanging hands for pitches that don't exist is hard to wrap my head around. It's unethical. Each breaking pitch takes anywhere between 18 months and 2 years to develop. If your daughter learns them all in a short amount of time-RED FLAG. Find a new pitching coach.

I'm here to tell you that a low ball is not a drop ball. All balls eventually move downward due to gravity. An outside pitch that eventually moves downward is not a drop curve. An inside pitch is not a screwball. An outside pitch is not a curve ball. A high pitch is not a riseball. True breaking pitches have SPIN on the correct AXES OF ROTATION and will have late BREAK in the direction of the SPIN.

Rule of thumb: If you "think" the pitch moved, it didn't. If you "know" it moved, it DID. When it happens, it is undeniable. No question. I love the reaction of an experienced catcher the first time she sees a ball that truly breaks! The excitement is palpable and her eyes light up! One catcher passionately and aggressively two bounced the ball back to the pitcher that delivered the most beautiful breaking pitch! This is how it should be!

A great pitcher needs the following:

1) A fastball with four seam top spin rotation that she can locate anywhere. By this I mean pinpoint location! She must have SOUND and SAFE MECHANICS that will allow her to pitch faster than 55 mph someday. In my experience, poor form tops out at 55 mph. This pitch may eventually leave the pitcher's arsenal once the riseball and dropball are mastered. However, it is the starting point for all new pitchers.

2) A great change up. This is the second most important pitch. This pitch must be able to be thrown on a 3-2 count with CONFIDENCE. It needs to be 9-11 miles slower than the fastball. And most important, it needs to be SOLD. Your changeup is never finished. It can always be improved upon. Made More surprising...More wicked...More nasty.

3) An awesome drop with tight topspin that the pitcher can locate anywhere and has the ability to change speeds to keep the batter off balance. My pitchers eventually convert their FOUR SEAM topspin FASTBALL into a peel DROP. But they can control break and shoot it for a deep non breaking fastball when needed.

Once the pitcher has perfected these three stages (and not until then), she is ready for her up pitch. And then the hard work begins. Spin, spn, spin. 10,000 spins before the snap is ready to insert into the motion! 😊

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