Bottom line – if you are a pitcher, you must throw inside. Not once or twice a game, but consistently and with purpose. There are two sides of the plate and to live on only one side places you at a severe disadvantage and limits your potential as a pitcher.
Why are you afraid of the inside corner?
Let’s be honest, if you are not pitching to the inside half of the plate, you are afraid. Don’t tell me you are not, because if you were truly unafraid you would already be doing it.
There are usually two reasons pitchers give for not throwing inside. The most obvious is that they do not want to hit the batter. I’ve got news for you. You are going to hit guys. It’s part of the game. They know the risk when they step in the box, and I bet many of them wouldn’t feel sorry for you if they ripped a line drive back up the middle off of your body. So stop worrying about hitting the batter with a pitch.
Look, I’ve never known a pitcher who enjoyed giving a hitter a free base, but at least he paid the price for it. Not only will the hitter think twice next time he is in the batter’s box, but so will his teammates as they know you will work to get the ball in on their hands. And, no hitter enjoys the rattling of a bat off his hands when he gets jammed on a hard inside fastball.
Let’s breakdown this fear once and for all. Put yourself in the hitter’s shoes. No hitter likes to be hit with a 80-90 MPH fastball. A ball to the ribs or off the front arm is never a fun experience. Wouldn’t you try to avoid that happening again next time you come to the plate? Of course you would. So, you back off the plate a little bit during your next at bat – leaving the outside half open to attack! As a pitcher, you placed that little bit of fear or doubt in the hitter’s mind by coming inside. Now, you can hammer the outside corner.
Expanding the Strike Zone
The second reason most pitchers avoid going inside is they believe the hitter has a better chance of getting the bat on the ball. Pitchers like to hang out on the outer half of the plate because they know the hitter can’t hit what he can’t reach with the bat. While this is true, any good hitter will make a quality adjustment knowing that he can pretty much expect the majority of pitches to be on the outside corner. Predictability can kill you.
Pitching inside makes the strike zone bigger, especially if you are hitting your spots. You need to change the hitter’s perspective. You must be consistently inconsistent with your pitch location. This is why you don’t live low and away every pitch of the game. That only gives the hitter one view of your pitches, makes you predictable, and eventually the good hitters make you pay.
Throwing inside now gives the hitter two locations to think about making it harder to adjust. Also, perceived velocity comes into the equation making the inside fastball appear faster than the outside fastball. A curveball outside that follows a fastball inside also becomes more difficult to hit because the hitter has to adjust to the change in speed and the different location. Take this concept even farther and move the ball up and down in the zone, and now you have taken your 3 or 4 pitch arsenal and turned it into a 8 or 9 pitch arsenal making it harder for the batter to “guess” the next pitch. You are no longer predictable and the hitter becomes more uncomfortable in the box. Hitters hate being uncomfortable in the box.
Executing for Success
Just as you don’t want to throw every pitch outside, you don’t want to make every pitch to the inside of the plate either. As mentioned before, you need to have a good variety of pitches both inside and outside, and you need to throw both fastballs and off-speed pitches to both corners.
For some hitters, just showing them one pitch inside can really open up the outside corner for you, especially if you really get in their kitchen and make them feel uncomfortable in the box. For another hitter, you may need to hammer the inside corner for an entire at bat then the outside corner the next at bat. This tactic can give you a huge advantage the rest of a game or series, because now the batter has no idea how you are going to pitch him in his next plate appearance.
Moving the ball around the strike zone is what makes pitching an art. So lose the fear, stop being just a “thrower,” and start pitching.