Written By Renee Ferguson
A pitchers goal is to keep the batter off balance as much as possible; this can be achieved by changing speeds, working opposite corners and by staggering your start time on the mound. Pitchers often get into a rhythm by beginning their pitch immediately after the catcher gives them their sign or shifts into position. While this is great for the pitcher it actually can make opposing hitters more successful against them. Have you ever gone to a batting cage and counted the seconds between your swing and when the ball is pitched to help you get the timing down? Well the same thing applies to a live pitcher, if she starts her motion at a set time, every time; she is allowing the opposing hitters to get into a rhythm with her, thus increasing their chances of making contact.
One of the most useful things for a pitcher to do is to learn how to feel comfortable pitching while appearing to be out of rhythm. The more the hitter has to think before we throw the ball the batter chances we have at successfully getting her out. Imagine how you would feel as a hitter if you got in the box, the pitcher waited 4 seconds and pitched then she waited 10 seconds to pitch, and finally only waited one second after taking her sign. Would you be focused on trying to figure out when she was going to begin her motions so you could begin yours? I know I would. The problem with staggering the pitch is that often times it not only makes the bitter nervous it makes the pitcher nervous as well and I think we all know how well a pitcher does if they are nervous.
Incorporating staggering start times into your pitchers routines begins in the off season. You want them to have as much time as necessary for this to become a part of their muscle memory so when they are live on the mound they do not have to think about when to start their motion. During those practice sessions you want to talk about what types of batters deserve what start times, a really aggressive batter for example would warrant a delayed start time, while a less aggressive batter would warrant quicker pitching start times. In either case do not be afraid to change your tune in the middle of their at bats, the more you can vary the start time the more off balance you will keep the hitter.
Since staggering their pace can invoke feelings of anxiousness in not only the hitter but the pitcher as well, you must teach your pitcher how to control her emotions and focus on their breath. One way to do this is to teach them proper breathing techniques. Proper breathing technique requires the stomach to rise before the chest does when inhaling. This increases the amount of oxygen they take in, which helps diminish the fight or flight defense that the body launches when we experience anxiety.
Successfully implementing pitch staggering into your pitchers routine will definitely take them some time to get used to. But the potential payoff of successfully using staggering is well worth their time and effort.
Renee Ferguson Renee has over 30 years of combined playing and coaching experience at the select and college levels. After a 3 year stint as Division I, Morgan State University’s pitching coach; Renee was appointed the Head Women’s softball Coaching position at Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland. Where she lead the Pioneer Softball team to an 8th place finish, in the NJCAA DIII Nationals in Rochester MN after taking the helm only weeks before the 2013 season started. Renee’s goal is to instill the love and passion that she has for the game, into each and every one of her players and students.
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