More On What Makes Pitchers Effective

I have developed quite a large client base here in Wayne, Pennsylvania. I continue to acquire new students, while still instructing the original group of girls I began working with a few years ago. I frequently get texts and calls from parents, updating me on the games my pitchers play in, which I love. I always enjoy hearing about how my girls perform in game situations because it is so different from how they perform during lessons.

One of the most common complaints I receive from parents is about strikeouts. I hear, “She pitched ok, we won the game, but she only had 2 strikeouts.” This is usually my opening to discuss one of my favorite topics—“What Makes a Good Pitcher,” or better yet, “What Makes a Pitcher Good.”

If anyone has been keeping up with the Regionals and Super Regionals on TV, you will probably notice that the strikeout counts are not very high—even for these top rated, Division 1 college pitchers, many who have already been recruited to play for the National Pro Fastpitch league.

Last week in Coach Phil’s post he talked about how the most effective pitchers in the games were moving the ball and changing speeds and pitch location. Only a select few were hitting 70 mph+ on the radar guns and they were not as effective as those pitching at slower speeds but with great spin and movement in the strike zone.

A pitcher’s effectiveness should not be measured ONLY by how many strikeouts she has in a game. Although double digit strikeouts in a game are certainly effective, that’s not the ONLY way to get a batter out, and the pitcher’s primary job is to help get the batter out. That could be by strikeout, pop fly out, or a ground ball to a throw out. These college pitchers are throwing wicked spins and changing speeds and planes, making it very difficult for the batters to get their bats on the ball or, at best, turning any contact into weak grounders and pop ups. These may not be strikeouts, but they are outs. This is why you may see a pitcher throw a perfect game or a shutout with very few strikeouts. There is a team behind the pitcher for a reason. It is not the pitchers job to strike out every batter. If that were the case, there would be no fielders. It would just be a pitcher, a catcher, and a batter and a very boring game.

So don’t judge a pitcher JUST by the number of strikeouts. Look at other factors too: is she fooling and frustrating the batters with spinning pitches? Is she keeping them off balance by changing the speeds? Is she hitting the spots that make it hardest for the batter to make any contact? Is she ahead in the count more often than not? Is she keeping walks to a minimum? The pitcher should be confident in her ability to keep the batter off balance. If you’re concerned that your strikeout count is a bit low, be sure to take a look at all of these factors!

About the author


Jillian Stephens is a former top ranked east coast NCAA pitching recruit. She graduated from New Rochelle High School and Villanova University. She played gold level softball with several teams including the Virginia Shamrocks and the Morris County Belles prior to college, and continued to play Division 1 softball at Villanova. She was a student in physical therapy at Harcum College in Pennsylvania, and is familiar with injuries, rehabilitation, and strength and conditioning. She also instructs in Phil Schonberg's pitching clinics and gives many private lessons in the Philadelphia area.

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