Baseball Magazine

Pitching: Using Both Sides of the Plate

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard
As pitchers move up through the various levels of baseball it becomes increasingly important to have command on both sides of the plate.  Hitting is a very difficult skill.  However, a pitcher who uses only half the plate – say the 8 ½ inches of the outer half – is making things much easier for the hitter because he only has to cover half of the plate.  Making the hitter be concerned about covering the entire 17 inches of the plate (especially the 8 ½ inches of the inner half!) gives more advantage to the pitcher.  

Pitching: Using both sides of the plate

Pitch to both sides during most of the game
but stay outer half late in the game.

However, there aren’t many absolute rules in baseball.  There is a timethat using mostly the outside part of the plate is best.  In the later innings of a fairly close game, more hitters are looking to drive pitches for extra bases and possibly homeruns.  Since most power hitters are better at pulling pitches to drive them, many will look for pitches on the inner half to turn on in order to drive in much needed runs towards the end of the game.  Even hitters without power change their strategy a bit later in games.  I have seen a number of high school hitters move right on top of the plate late in the game as a way of hoping to get hit by pitches so that they can get on base to start or continue a rally.
Keeping all this in mind, it is usually smart for pitchers late in the game to work the outer half of the plate more consistently.  This prevents the power hitters from easily turning on the ball and it also prevents batters from getting on base by getting hit by pitches.  When you stay away late in the game, more balls that are driven are going to be driven to center field which is the biggest part of the field.  A pitcher who uses this strategy is also tapping into the fact that many hitters will be over anxious late in the game in order to be the hero and as a result will try to pull everything.  Many times it ends up being a long, easy out to center field.
Of course, if the pitcher has not established throughout the earlier part of the game that he is capable and willing to throw strikes on the inner half, then staying away from hitters late in the game is somewhat meaningless since that’s how he has thrown all day.  In this case, chances are good that the pitcher will not be around to even be able to pitch in the later innings.
Successful pitchers have command on both sides of the plate but also know when to focus on one side or the other.

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