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Strategy






A strategic pitcher is one who depends for success not simply on speed
and curves, but who outwits the batsman by skill, who deceives his eye,
and plays upon his weaknesses. What will be the best method for a
particular case must be decided in each instance by the pitcher himself,
and his success will depend upon his judgment and cleverness. But while
no general rule can be laid down, I may still be able to offer some
useful suggestions.

Assuming that a pitcher has never seen the batters whom he is about to
face, there are certain points to be noted as each of them takes his
place at the bat. First, his position and manner of holding his bat
should be observed. If he carries it over his shoulder and in an almost
perpendicular position, the chances are that he is naturally a high ball
hitter and is looking for that kind of a pitch, because that is the
position of the bat from which a high ball is most easily hit. If, on
the contrary, he carries his bat in a more nearly horizontal position,
he is ready either to chop over at a high ball, or cut under at a
low one, the chances being that he prefers the latter. Of still more
importance is his movement in hitting, and this the pitcher must try to
discover before the batter has hit the ball at all. An out-curve should
be pitched just out of his reach; being so near where he wants it, it
will draw him out and he will make every movement, except the swing of
the bat, as in hitting. This movement should be carefully noted. If, in
stepping forward to hit, he also steps away from the plate toward the
third base, it is at once a point in the pitcher's favor. The batsman is
timid and afraid of being hit. If, however, he steps confidently
forward, almost directly toward the pitcher, he is a dangerous man and
all the pitcher's skill will be needed to outwit him. Again, if in
stepping forward he makes a very long stride, it is another point for
the pitcher, because it shows that he is not only anxious to hit but
means to hit hard, and such a man is easily deceived. But if he makes a
short stride, keeping easily his balance and standing well upright, he
is more than likely a good hitter, even though he steps away from the
plate, and if in addition to stepping short he also steps toward the
pitcher, the pitcher should look out for him.

Without going into too much detail I will try to illustrate: If my
batter is one who steps away from the plate I will pitch a fast,
straight ball in over his shoulder too high and too far in to be hit.
The next time he will step still further away, but this time I should
put a fast, straight one over the outside corner of the plate. From his
position he will probably not be able to reach it at all, or if he does
he will hit with no force. I might pitch the next ball in the same
place, and then I should consider it time to drive him away from the
plate again and I would send the next one in over his shoulder as
before. He may hit at one of these high in balls, but if he does he
will probably not touch it; at any rate, another fast, straight one over
the outside corner ought to dispose of him. It will be observed I have
not thrown a single curve, nor would I to such a batter except
occasionally, say two or three during the game, and then only to keep
him guessing.

Taking another kind of hitter, suppose that he steps up in the best
form, making a short stride toward the pitcher, keeping his balance well
and his form erect. As already said, he is a dangerous batter and likely
to hit in spite of my best efforts, but I must do the best I can with
him. I therefore observe his manner of holding the bat and note whether
he prefers a high or low ball, and we will say that it is a low one. I
send a couple of low drop curves just out of his reach. It is just what
he wants if he could only get at them, and the next time he steps well
in toward the plate. This time, however, I send a fast, straight, high
ball over the plate, and if he hits it at all, it will be in the air.
Another fast, straight, high one might not escape so easily, but I have
two balls called and can't take the chances of giving him his base. I
therefore try it again. If he has missed that I now have two strikes,
and only two balls, and can afford to throw away a ball or two, which I
do as before by pitching a couple of low drop curves out of his reach,
until his mind is again fixed upon that point. Then I would probably
again try a fast, high ball on the inside corner of the plate. These two
cases, are given merely to illustrate the line of reasoning, and in
practice each would be governed by its own particular circumstances. To
avoid confusing details, I will add only a few observations: A batter
who steps away from the plate, should be worked on the outside corner;
one who steps in, on the inside corner; one who makes a long, vicious
swing at the ball, will be easily deceived by a slow ball, much more
readily than one who snaps or hits with a short, quick stroke; one who
strides long must necessarily stoop or crouch, and is in bad form to hit
a high ball; if he swings his bat always in a horizontal plane, he will
not be able to hit a shoulder or knee ball as well as one who swings in
a perpendicular plane, i.e., who cuts under at a low ball and chops
over-hand at a high ball; there are some batters who prefer to hit only
at a fast, straight ball, while others wait for a curve, and in such a
case the pitcher may get a strike or two by pitching what he will not
care to hit at; some are never ready to hit at the first ball pitched,
so that by sending this in over the plate a strike may be secured; some
are known as great waiters, who will only hit when forced, and these
should be forced to hit at once; others are anxious and cannot wait, and
may be safely worked wide of the plate. Then occasionally there will
be found a batter who betrays by his manner when he has made up his mind
to hit, and in that case he will let go at anything within reach;
therefore a ball should be pitched where he will be least likely to hit
it. If the pitcher finds a batter facing for a hit to right field, he
should not give him the ball out from him, but crowd him with it,
keeping it on the inside corner, and it will be almost impossible for
him to succeed.

It does not do to work the same batter always in the same way, or he
will discover a pitcher's method. Sometimes the pitcher must cross him
and at times it is even advisable to give him a ball just where he would
like to have it, but where, for that very reason, he least expects it.

Finally, a pitcher should not be in a hurry to deliver the ball. As soon
as the catcher returns the ball the pitcher should assume a position as
though about to pitch and stand there; he should take all the time the
umpire will give him. This will allow him to give and receive any
necessary signal from the catcher, it will rest him and thus enable him
to hold his speed, and, finally, it will work upon the nerves and
eyesight of the batter. The batter will grow impatient and anxious, and
unless his eyes are very strong the long strain in a bright light will
blear his sight.





Next: Fielding The Position

Previous: Signaling



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