Great Mechanics? Check!
Can hit my spot, at least 90% of the time with my highest velocity fastball? Check!
My changeup buckles the knees of every hitter I face? Check!
If a pitcher can answer the three questions above in the affirmative, then we are ready to move into the world of breaking pitches. What pitch should come next? There will be some debate about this, but to my way of thinking I want a ball that goes down in the zone before I want a pitch that goes east or west (side to side) through the zone.
I want every pitcher I work with to understand the most fundamental thing about pitching: Their job is to get outs, not strikeouts. They are both a sign of success for a pitcher but one is much more efficient and leads to extending a pitcher’s longevity. The perfect inning to me is three pitches, three weak ground balls and three outs!
Unfortunately for too many pitchers, parents and pitching coaches, the K is the thing, more than the out. In the words of the great Crash Davis in “Bull Durham,” ground balls are more democratic. We need to help our pitchers understand the true measure of pitching success isn’t just how many strikeouts they record.
Which leads us to the drop ball.
What is a drop ball? It’s a pitch that has top spin. That spin forces it to break down as it moves through the zone. You can think of the top of the ball passing the bottom of the ball with a 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock rotation.
Why is the drop ball the first breaking pitch a pitcher should learn to throw? Balls down in the zone lead to ground balls and weakly hit balls! A ball down in the zone is much less likely to be driven out of the park, which also allows a pitcher to gain confidence in her ability to spin the ball.
There are two ways to throw a drop ball:
The “peel” drop has the pitcher pull up on the seems of the ball to create top spin.
The “roll over” drop has the pitcher force her hand over the top of the ball, again creating the desired spin.
Much more on the techniques of the pitches later.
The drop ball can be thrown to both the inside and outside parts of the plate to either a right or left-handed hitter. It can be simply moved inside or outside by slightly changing the angle that the pitcher delivers the ball.
When do we know a pitcher has mastered the drop ball? They have the ability to spin the ball with the correct spin every time they throw it and they can adjust the location to either the inside or outside part of the plate.
When a pitcher adds the drop ball to their arsenal to go along with the fastball and change up they now have THREE pitches!!
And make no mistake about it, an inside drop and an outside drop are NOT two different pitches, ever!
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.