All great pitchers are confident in their ability. There are many ways for a pitcher to demonstrate her confidence. None is more important than their willingness to challenge hitters by attacking the zone!
The days of umpires calling the pitches that start on the edge and move off the plate strikes, are long gone. Pitches in the river between the edge of the plate and the batters box that used to be called strikes are never called strikes anymore. This forces pitchers to change their approach if they want to be successful.
The goal as a pitcher is to get easy outs, not just strikeouts. When you attack the zone, you’re increasing the likelihood that the ball is put in play earlier in the at-bat and also increasing the likelihood that a hitter will hit your pitch.
Weakly hit balls are a beautiful thing.
What does it mean to attack the zone? There are several ways to achieve this goal.
1. Throw moving pitches that move through the strike zone, early in the at bat. A ball that moves is always difficult to hit squarely, even if it does move over the plate. A weakly hit ball that leads to an easy out is way better for everyone than a long at bat that leads to a strike out.
If you start off by throwing movement pitches that are trying to just barely touch the edge of the plate, and then moving further away, they are not likely to be called for strikes consistently. Then the pitcher is forced to throw a pitch over the plate when hitters are more likely to be aggressive because they have a favorable hitters count.
2. Change speeds often with pitches that are going to be called for strikes. The change up is always going to be effective when a pitcher maintains consistent arm speed when they throw it. You can also use any other pitch that is considered to be off-speed, as long as you are throwing it for strikes. Yes, a change up that bounces in the dirt can be a very good pitch, but only when a pitcher has set it up by attacking the zone early.
3. Get ahead and stay there. This doesn’t mean you have failed if you do not throw a first-pitch strike. Still, we do want to get ahead of the hitter. We feel very strongly that if you haven’t already gotten an out by the third pitch, the count should be one ball and two strikes when you get there.
We want to get hitters to hit our pitch. You do this by combining all the plans listed above. Pitchers who attack the zone, change speeds and pitch ahead are always going to be more successful. The pitcher who has the confidence to attack the hitter is dictating the outcome. Be the HAMMER, not the NAIL!
About the Author: Cat Fritts (Hosfield) was four-year standout at the University of Tennessee, She went 49-22 with a 2.91 ERA in her career for the Vols, earning Southeastern Conference (SEC) Freshman Player of the Week honors in 2009, while also earning SEC Honor Roll accolades following the ’10, ’11 and ’12 seasons at UT. She was named the 2008 National High School Player of the Year by the National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) while at Murfreesboro High School. Book her here.
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