When determining the best pitches to use in various situations, you and your players should be sure to consider the previous information. Also consider the following guidelines:
• Have pitchers pitch every pitch with a purpose, even the five warm-up pitches between innings. If a pitcher throws strikes during his warm-ups, the umpire senses that the pitcher has command over his pitches and is more likely to give him the borderline strike.
• Have pitchers establish the fastball early in the game to let batters know that they can control it and throw it for strikes. With that in mind, the batter will be looking for the fastball in counts that he thinks are in his favor. Then, if the pitcher can throw a curveball in such a situation, he will have an advantage.
• Have pitchers work the "L." This could best be described as the inside 6 inches of the strike zone, from top to bottom, closest to the batter and the 6 inches at the bottom of the strike zone from one edge of the plate to the other, as shown in figure 4.35 on page 95. If pitchers can locate most of their pitches in reasonable proximity to that L area, they will have success
• Consider asking pitchers to get two of the first three pitches in for strikes, instead of asking that every first pitch be a strike. This approach may alleviate the pressure that a pitcher puts on himself.
• Work toward having an average number of pitches per inning. For example, you may try to have only 15 pitches per inning. With that construct, some pitchers may challenge themselves further by working hard to have two or three 10-pitch innings or a certain number of ground-ball outs each contest.
• Caution pitchers and catchers to avoid getting into a pattern with their pitch selection such as two fastballs followed by a curve and then two more fastballs and another curve. Even if a pitcher has problems throwing a certain pitch for a strike on a given day, he must still use it to at least let the batter know that he has the option to use it. For example, if a pitcher’s breaking pitch is not working, don’t abandon it entirely. The pitcher should still throw it, but focus on throwing it to a spot where it can’t be hit. Eventually the pitch may come around and then the pitcher will be even more commanding.
• Consider having pitchers work on their least effective pitches when the team is either way ahead or way behind in a game. Nothing can substitute for game situations to make a pitcher more confident in a pitch. If you have decided to leave a pitcher in the game in a blowout, there is no better time to work on a bad curveball or a lousy changeup.
• The strikeout should rarely be considered part of team strategy for a pitcher. Try to convince pitchers that the perfect inning is three pitches. To strike out the side, he has to throw at least nine pitches, or six more than perfect. Persuade pitchers to make hitters hit the ball to a fielder.
• If the count is favorable for the batter-3-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-2-the pitcher is vulnerable and needs to be careful because he has to throw a strike, but not too good a strike, to avoid dire consequences. On the other hand, if the count is 0-1, 1-1, 0-2 or 1-2, the pitcher holds the upper hand and can afford to be delicate in his pitch location without fear of walking the hitter or serving up a room-service fastball.
• If the opposing team has runners in scoring position, pitchers should take more time and focus more than usual. In a squeeze bunt situation, for example, pitchers need to be deliberate and try to pick up any clue that may tip the other team’s hand.
• If a runner is on third with less than two outs, the pitcher should try to get a ground-ball out or a strikeout.
• If a hitter rips a fastball hard but foul, the pitcher’s next pitch should be a changeup. The hitter will be so eager after getting good wood on the previous pitch that he will be way out in front and will usually hit the ball weakly.
• If the batters keep their hands back, fooling them with breaking balls may be difficult.
This is an excerpt from Coaching Baseball Technical and Tactical Skills