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Where have all the fastballs gone?

I try, as often as possible, to attend softball tournaments where our students are performing in game situations.  In doing so, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend, prevalent at the NCAA level, that is now filtering down to younger and younger pitchers:  The reluctance to throw fastballs.

No doubt learning to throw movement and off-speed pitches is a critical component of any pitcher’s  development.  But let’s take a  closer look at what I believe is a serious case of “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

Recently, I happened to be listening to MLB radio where a panel of baseball experts were talking about a certain pitcher who had a good fastball, but had started overusing his slider and curve balls.  He was getting hit harder than in the past and his walks were up as well.  This was reflected in an elevated “WHIP” (walks + hits over innings pitched).   Their main assessment was:  If you ask any pitcher in the major leagues what the most important pitch in any pitcher’s arsenal is, the almost universal answer would be a well placed fastball.

So before I started to opine about what a travesty it is that fastpitch softball coaches are no longer teaching their pitchers the body discipline needed to consistently command a fastball, I consulted with a professional MLB statistical analyst who provided me with an interesting statistic:  More than 60 percent of ALL pitches thrown by ALL pitchers in major league baseball in 2012 have been—you guessed it—FASTBALLS. Why should softball be any different?

Make no mistake, spotting fastballs with control and consistency takes hard work and solid mechanics.  Hitting 65 on the radar gun is certainly a plus, but absolutely not necessary.  Like the most valuable real estate, it’s all about three things: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.  Furthermore, every movement or off-speed pitch you throw becomes more effective when the batter knows that you can go inner black, outer black, up or down, with a good “four seamer”, whenever you need to.

There is a reason that college games are much higher scoring affairs than they used to be, say five or six years ago. It isn’t only due to moving the pitching rubber back to 43 feet.  In my opinion, it’s also about the under-utilization of the  fastball.  Learn how to throw it with command and control, and you will become a much more dangerous pitcher.

Our students are doing it, and are doing it very successfully.  Their ability to paint  corners, on a straight line, forces a hitter to respect  that possibility along with the possibility of movement.  This keeps the batter off balance. You can further confuse a batter with subtle variations in your fastball grip producing a darting effect within the zone. When your set-up and delivery are consistent, from one type of pitch to another, using that fastball may very well provide the edge that every pitcher is searching for.

Contact us and we’ll show you how it is done.

About the author

Phil

Phil Schonberg is a co-founder of Fastpitch Power, inc. He teaches all aspects of fastptich softball, specializing in windmill pitching and coaches' training.

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