Another one of the things I hear at the ball park and on the broadcasts is the never-ending discussion about how a pitcher who gives up a hard hit ball with an 0 and 2 count has committed some sort of cardinal sin. Yes, I agree that a pitcher should be selective in how she pitches with such a strong pitcher’s count, but I have serious issues with how many people deliver the message.
So it starts when she is a young pitcher. “The hitter shouldn’t even be able to touch an 0-2 pitch!” or some variation of that message.
What does that mean to the young pitcher? Throw a pitch that is so far off the plate that it never looks like a strike. Unfortunately, this “strategy” seems to be working when the players are very young and the hitters are very inexperienced. Why? Because the inexperienced hitter is also getting the crazy message that with two strikes they should swing at everything because a called third strike is the cardinal sin of hitting. So we have this perfect storm of defeatism that allows a pitch three feet off the plate to appear to be a good idea.
Then it happens! The hitters get better and the true “waste” pitch, a couple feet off the plate, no longer gets the swings that it used to get. Of course, the pitcher is still hearing the same strategy from everyone about how allowing the two-strike pitch to be hit is a complete failure.
So the point is a simple one. A pitch that never looks like it could be a strike is a waste pitch, but not the way you’re thinking. It is a total waste of effort for the pitcher and honestly, a total waste of time. Next time you see a good travel ball player or a college player on ESPN swing at a pitch that is three feet off the plate please let me know. It happens so infrequently that I don’t have any fear of my phone blowing up.
How should we pitch with two strikes on the batter?
Attack the hitter with your best pitch. Then move it slightly, so that it ends up off the plate but starts off and spends time looking like a strike! Give the hitter something to think about. Make her think you are coming right after her, then break her heart with the pitch that ends up in a location where she is very unlikely to hit it hard.
Stop wasting your energy, pitchers! Throwing the waste pitch only wastes your ability to make a great pitch later in the game when you are too fatigued to really dig in.
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.