Baseball Magazine

You May Not Need a Breaking Ball

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard

I’d be rich if I got a nickel for every young pitcher who said they had 5 or more pitches.  I’ve even heard it from parents as well.  I don’t want to embarrass them with my response so usually laugh in

Throw it right and it may be all you need.

Throw it right and it may be all you need.

my head.  I laugh because in most cases the kid has 5 or more pitches and can’t throw a single one consistently for a strike.  So, in reality, he has no pitches.

Most young pitchers and their parents probably would not believe me when I tell them that most major league pitchers don’t have more than a fastball, breaking pitch, and a change up.  That’s three pitches if you’re counting.  They may say they have a two-seam and a four-seam fastball but in my book, a fastball is a fastball so it counts as one.

In 2009, I had the pleasure of coaching probably the best pitcher I had at the high school level.  We won a state championship that year and he carried us much of the way with his pitching.  And he had a grand total of … one pitch.  A fastball.  That was it.  And I’m not kidding.  If he threw 90 pitches in a game, at least 85 were fastballs.  He didn’t blow it up there in the mid-90′s either.  If fact, I doubt he got into the 90′s at all in high school.  All he did was throw his fastball to all parts of the plate.  And he won.

If you are getting people out with just a fastball, there is no need to throw anything else.  I think pitchers just think that if they take the mound there is some rule that says they have to have multiple pitches.  There is no such rule.

When I coach young pitchers, I use the following progression:

Throw your fastball below the thigh and in the strike zone 60+% of the time.  If they are hitting it, I’ll teach you a change-up.  We don’t go any farther until you show me that you can throw both pitches for strikes 60+% of the time.  If they are still hitting you, only then will I teach you a basic breaking pitch.

If you use that progression you might be surprised how many kids never have to make it past a change-up.  That’s because at the lower levels, two pitches for strikes is more than enough.

Heck, you may not even need to stretch far from a fastball if you can put it where you want.

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