Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pitching to contact

I've enjoyed listening to Jim Kaat for many years as he used to be a member of the Yanks broadcast team. I appreciate his views on pitching, old school pitching. My father pointed out his latest blog posting (yes, Kaat has a blog, too) as it speaks to what Kaat views as a lost art: Pitching to the Scoreboard (his emphasis included).

Here's the catch (or the pitch!), someone needs to teach pitchers to pitch to the scoreboard and to the count. Early in the game, pitchers tend to be afraid of the bat and hitters making contact. Why? It has always been my strategy to gamble early in the play and early in the game. I wanted to try to knock out every hitter in three or less pitches and/or try to make him get hits on all of them. The great Sandy Koufax, a good friend of mine, said he was the most successful pitcher because he tried to get hitters to hit the ball, not miss the ball. Let's face it; the best hitters get three hits out of 10 at-bats. I remember times when I used to tell the catcher to call just fastball after fastball, and get as many out as possible in the early innings. Then when it came down to the last few innings, I could use my other weapons more effectively. Curveballs, sliders, and everything else I had in my arsenal. That was when it really counted.

Pitchers today should be less cautious early on, and try to throw as many strikes as possible to avoid long counts and keep hitters from seeing and deciphering too many pitches. When it's tied in the seventh, and the pitcher has not been more economical and the pitch count stands at 108, managers are forced to take him out. However, if it's the sixth inning and he's only thrown 75, he's got enough to finish the game.
Pitching is tougher these days. With smaller stadiums, a smaller strike zone, a tighter wound ball, and lighter, laminated, harder bats, there is little opportunity to keep hitters from diving into the ball without a fight, a warning or an ejection. And hitters are bigger and stronger than ever. Watch some of the World Series highlights on the MLB Network and check out the size difference in the players then and now. But, even with that said, sooner or later you have to throw it over the plate.
Now THAT is a good read.

Kaat began with a fun personal anecdote about this subject:
When I asked Robin [Roberts], "How do you pitch to Willie Mays?" he would answer, "Tell me the inning, the score and the count."
Kaat ends his spiel in a way not often read by players of the previous generation, noting that the players today are better than when he played, but they haven't been trained to pitch properly:
Pitchers are bigger, stronger and, quite frankly, have better technique than we had in days past. They just need to be taught to pay attention to the scoreboard and pitch to the inning, the score, and the count.

1 comment:

Ron Rollins said...

Throw strikes and you don't have to worry about pitch counts.

Wow, what a concept.