The inside skinny on where to pitchAfter a recent game against the Kia Tigers, Baek In-cheon, skipper of the Lotte Giants, praised his closing pitcher, Yang Sung-jae, for pitching effectively by going inside on batters.
Out of the Korean League’s top 15 pitchers only two have won as many as 10 games. Many teams don’t have an established ace who can give them a quality start, going six or seven solid innings. Teams often use their full bullpen to get through games.
There must be a lot of reasons why pitchers aren’t doing so well. Following the games this season, I get the impression that pitchers, especially young ones, seem to avoid the inside pitch, the one that old timers like coach Baek think is essential to get an edge over the hitter.
Whatever the reason, by not pitching inside the pitcher loses an important tool that can dictate the tone of the battle between him and the batter.
An inside pitch gives a batter who is leaning over the plate something to think about. It helps a pitcher to impose himself upon the batter.
Young pitchers might hesitate to throw inside if they think they don’t have the heat to jam a powerful hitter. If that’s the case, they are thinking wrong, because with only the outside of the plate left, the chances that the pitch is going to be hit are even greater.
Granted, not everyone is a rocket, but you don’t have to throw a 96-mile-an-hour ball to pound a hitter. Assuming that a pitcher has two or three pitches in his arsenal, he can still throw his so-so fastball to the inside. It does not have to be a strike; this is one case where “close” will send the desired message.
The key is that the so-so fastball has to be a controlled so-so fastball that the hitter will either let go by, because he wants to get ahead in the count, or foul off because he is not patient enough to wait for a better pitch. With luck, if it catches the corner of the plate, the umpire will call it a strike. Either way, it’s a win situation for the guy on the mound.
As long as the pitcher does not hit the batter, this inside pitch is going to work most of the time, unless a batter with quick hands is at the plate.
Even when it is thrown only for a show of force, the inside pitch is useful, because the pitcher rattles the batter in his comfort zone. That’s the most important thing.
Also, with the inside established, the pitcher can now work the other side of the plate with off-speed pitches such as curveballs. With the speed differences, the batter, whose timing has been thrown off, is the one on the defensive.
The inside pitch is the ultimate weapon for a pitcher. It enables him to make the hitter give up a certain portion of the plate that he is trying to protect from a strike. It’s like a remote control running on weak batteries. Weak or not, the point is that it works. After that, it’s up to the pitcher to make the most of it.
At the end of the day, it will be the inside pitch, whether off or on the plate, that sets up all the goodies for the pitcher.
But before you throw it, make sure you don’t have someone like Garry Sheffield of the Atlanta Braves digging in at the plate. He’s got the quickness to turn on the inside pitch and murder it. Otherwise, pitchers should not be afraid to throw it.
by Brian Lee