Five Tips To A Better Fastball

1) Don’t be predictable

Ask any hitter when they get 0-2 in the count if they think they are going to see a curveball in the next two pitches…They will say yes. Good time to buzz a fastball on the outer black of the plate.

2) Throw It Early In The Count

Most pitchers wait until they are ahead in the count to throw the curve.
A first pitch curve over the plate has an .069 batting average in the MLB.

3) Perfect Or In The Dirt With Two Strikes

Pitchers need to be ingrained in their belief of the following…Be perfect or in the dirt. Aperfect pitch will get you results…a dirt mistake will get you maybe one out of ten swing and misses  and no homeruns…the mistake over the plate will be very different.

4) Know Your Personality

Don’t throw a loopy curve if you are a power pitcher. Don’t throw a hard curve if you are a finesse pitcher

5) NEVER Shut It Down

Too many times pitchers shut down a certain pitch if it is not working. BIG mistake. Never shut it down completely. Take your between innings warm up to throw it. You may get that feel and bite back for it. Also, the opposing team and coaching staff is bound to pick up on it sooner than later. Throwing a bad one (in the dirt) is better then shutting it down.

Hot Or Cold, Why Practice Matters

All youth league baseball seasons have begun, even in the most northern areas of the country. In the warmer southern climates, the playoffs are just a short month away. No matter what stage of the season you’re in, you want to either get hot or stay hot as a ballplayer.

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity; that’s a quote from an ancient Roman philosopher named Seneca. What it means is that when the ball ball is pitched to you right down the middle of the plate when there are two runners on and your team is down by one in the last inning, you not only know what to do with the pitch, but you are confident that you can make something happen. That’s why practice is important.

Keep practicing. If you’re hitting the cover off the ball, you should keep hitting the ball as often as you can to stay sharp. If you haven’t been as successful as you’d like, then practice will sharpen your skills. The same with taking fly balls or ground balls. The professional shortstops that I’ve admired most are the ones that take 100 ground balls (half to their glove side, and half to their arm side) every day. And as far as throwing / pitching, as long as you’re not performing that at 100% intensity every day for all throws, you will get more accurate and stronger by throwing.

Players, parents, and coaches want more games. Games are the performance, like the school play or the concert. Imagine how many times that violinist practiced that piece and compare it to the number of concerts in which he or she gets to play it for an audience. We don’t seem to have that level of commitment or patience in sports, and maybe it doesn’t need quite that ratio. But whenever the ratio of practice to performance is higher, you get more success.

The game (or the concert) is normally more fun than practice. But no one gets better in games. You don’t get enough chances to handle the ball during the game, with the exception of the pitcher. And even the pitcher is concerned with controlling the game (and their opponent) more than working on a changeup or a different pitch. So practice.

One more thing on practice. The legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” This has been co-opted by baseball coaches at all levels; I’ve heard the legendary Ripken brothers use it many times. But I submit to you that there is no such thing as a perfect practice. It’s impossible because I haven’t met any perfect coaches, never seen a perfect practice plan, and even if those existed there are no perfect ballplayers. So let’s get real.

And practice does not make permanent either. Because humans constantly change and adapt and become more or less adept at tasks over time. However, practice absolutely does make for habits and tendencies, good or bad. So practice good habits.

If You See Something, Say Something!

It is so easy to ignore potential problems when things are going well. That goes for any aspect of your life, including baseball. Why mess with that hitter’s swing if he’s smashing the ball deep into the outfield more than any other player in the league? Why suggest that a pitcher changes his motion if he’s dominating opposing batters?

The reason you would intercede is that if you have the knowledge, and admittedly that is an if, you should try to help someone from either hurting themselves or by developing a habit which will become so difficult to overcome in the future that they can’t possibly change. Like Johnny who often hits the ball into the trees, but he has a huge stride which blends in with his swing. At twelve years old, facing pretty much only fastballs and slow fastballs, he seems “fine,” and even great when compared to other kids But this bad habit won’t be exposed until high school. Then he will likely miss any pitch that has significant movement – as all other pitches do. He’ll be ill prepared to square up curveballs, changeups, sliders, two-seam fastballs, cutters – pretty much every other pitch on the planet.

What about Tommy, the 12-year-old pitcher that dominates the competition. He throws the ball past most kids, and even hurts his catcher’s hand. He’s big and mature for his age. But he moves towards the plate in one piece like a telephone pole falling, and stops his throwing arm abruptly after release, like it’s hit a brick wall. When he’s older, his ability to create velocity with his motion will top out unless he learns to separately rotate his torso from his lower half. And abruptly stopping his arm rather than giving it as much time as possible to decelerate put much more stress on the small ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow. So he’ll either feel significant elbow pain, reduce his velocity and innings pitched, or wind up needing elbow rehab or surgery. Or just give up baseball entirely.

Sometimes when a player is doing well, even if we see something that they’re doing that can hinder their growth or hurt them later, we usually don’t mention anything because, hey, they’re succeeding. How many times do you hear “If it ain’t broke, don’t ‘fix’ it”? Most coaches try not to look for problems if things are going well. Who can blame them, especially if they’re not be certain of what’s wrong. But if you are sure its a problem, ignoring it leads someone into a far bigger problem down the road.

Hindsight is always 20/20. It’s easy for me to say now about something of concern that I noticed in Stephen Strassberg’s or Matt Harvey’s delivery. So let me first say that I admire the Cardinals and their long history of success. One of my best friends, Brent Strom, has worked for them over the last six years as their Minor League Pitching Coordinator. Despite the fact that he has become the number-two starter as a rookie and is the kid that everyone is raving about, I am concerned that Michael Wacha will hurt his arm sooner rather than later.

I see Wacha locking out his elbow early in his delivery and keeping it that way for some time. He also uses the hypermobility in his throwing shoulder to create more whip from his whole arm, rather than bending and using his elbow during the beginning and end of his arm movement. This creates a pretty long lever that he uses for a number of advantages, including making his fastball and changeup look very similar. Nonetheless, he puts more stress on both the front and back of his shoulder, and may create bone chips in his elbow. His body obviously tolerates these stresses better than most of us, but if I were his pitching coach, I’d say something. So Michael Wacha, don’t let anyone say they didn’t tell you to watch out.