This last Sunday Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers picked up his 12th win of the season. He’s now sporting a 2.15 era and is one of the hottest starters in the league right now. I wanted to talk through his start and point out some of the reasons he’s having great success and what you can do to improve your own game.
Watch this clip a couple times. The first time through just watch how the batters are responding to his pitches. The second time through I want you to count how many full count strike outs he had. Once you’ve done this, read on below.
OK, here are the three things I want to point out that Verlander is doing extremely well. All of these are within your reach to learn as a pitcher, however, it will take some dedication on your part.
Did you notice how many hitters were frozen by Verlander’s 77-80mph curveball? How is it that a pitch thrown in the upper 70’s is that successful in freezing hitters? It’s because he’s got tremendous pitching velocity with his fastball. Throw at 95-100mph, hitters have 20-25mph of variance they have to deal with in any given at bat. If you guess wrong as a hitter you don’t have the time to adjust to the pitch variety Verlander has.
My question to you is how hard are you working on a couple additional pitches? Do you have a good change up yet? How’s your experimenting with a cut fastball going? Both of these pitches can be worked on while you’re warming up before a game. Instead of throwing the four seam fastball grip, experiment with different grips as you warm up. Dan’s Pitching Grips DVD will show you how to throw all the pitches you need.
Above I asked you to count the number of full count strikeouts he had. The exact number would be zero. Not one full count strikeout. This is huge. In fact, six of his nine K’s came on an 0-2 or 1-2 count. This means that he wasn’t messing around wasting pitches on each hitter. Because his stuff is great he can afford to go right at hitters.
Many times I see young pitchers get ahead of hitters only to go to a full count. Sometimes they even lose hitters after jumping ahead 0-2. What’s the reason for this? Many times it’s because of a mental let down. While your 0-2 pitch shouldn’t be thrown down the middle, there is little need to make it non-competitive. Throw it near the zone. Add a little movement. Put the hitter on the defensive like you saw in the Verlander clip.
Along with the above point, Verlander’s strike to ball ratio is always very good. In that Sunday start he threw 119 pitches, 82 of them were strikes. That’s 69% strikes. My coach in college set goals of our pitching staff to be at 60% strikes or above with two of three pitches. We worked on that all off season with extensive charting and mechanics work.
Let me tell you from experience, location takes a lot of work. The biggest thing that is difficult for youth pitchers is to remain consistent with their mechanics. Consistent pitching mechanics make it far more easy to locate pitches in the strike zone. Remain consistent in your mechanics work. There is always something to work on. There is always more awareness of your mechanics to feel when you pitch. If you’re unsure of the mechanics needed, our Pitching Mechanics DVD will solve that problem for you.