I can talk softball all day
Cindy Bristow - Coaches CornerExtreme Targets Pitching Workout
Too often pitchers avoid practicing their weaker pitches and locations which leads to weak pitches and poor control in games. Discover 4 very extreme targets that can really improve the Curveball and Screwball.
Everybody likes to be good, pitcher’s included. That’s why they usually avoid practicing their weaker pitches, very seldom throw their strong pitches to weaker locations and usually stick with what they do best. While this might sound like solid reasoning the flaw is that pitchers more often lose because of their weaknesses than they win as a result of their strengths. Knowing that, we need to help our pitchers work on these weaker pitches or locations while also keeping their attention razor sharp.
All too often I see pitchers practicing with either a target right down the middle, or else a very common target for a specific pitch. Neither one challenge the pitcher, help her improve her control and mastery of the pitch, or require her to focus and concentrate. And yet all of these are required of her in a game. So to really make practice help the pitcher prepare and improve for a game, pitchers need to challenge themselves in practice – something that most pitchers, and coaches usually avoid.
So, I stumbled onto this rather extreme pitching workout one day while working with a pitcher on her curveball. She was being really careful (as most pitchers are) and didn’t want to do anything to make a mistake. Since this is probably THE WORST way to practice, as mistakes are learning opportunities and only happen when you are growing your skill, I came up with this extreme pitching practice to force her out of her comfort zone.
I started doing this with just her Curveball but then quickly realized the same concept works with the Screwball as well. Basically, the idea is to create 4 very challenging targets ranging from Hard to Normal to Tough to Extreme. The picture above shows what these 4 targets look like for the Curveball.
For the Curveball, the pitcher moves from left to right, going from Hard to Normal to Tough to Extreme since this starts her in the more common area for the Curveball and works her toward the more bizarre (for a right handed pitcher). She’ll throw 3-4 at each location before going on to the next one. Not surprisingly, they’re horrible at first. Not only is the pitcher’s control all over the place but she’ll really struggle with the notion of throwing a pitch so radically out of both its “normal” target as well as so far out of the strike zone. Don’t be surprised if you hear the following comments:
- “you want me to throw it there?!”
- “but that’s not a strike!”
- “this is hard!”
- “why are we doing this?”
- “I can’t do it!”
- “this is stupid!”
These comments are all valid, and yet are the signs that the pitcher’s comfort zone has been destroyed, which mean we’re making progress. Nobody likes change and these extreme targets force the pitcher to change. They also challenge her, improve her and ultimately free her up from her “careful” norm.
I’ve been doing this workout with pitchers now for a couple weeks and it’s amazing how quickly they surprise themselves and actually start hitting these targets with their Curveball. They may struggle with one more than the others but they are so proud of themselves that they can actually hit these crazy targets.
This same concept works with the Screwball as well. But instead of going from left to right as you do with a Curveball (from a righthanded pitcher) you go from right to left since you want to start in the area of “normal” pitch movement and work your way towards the extreme. The picture below shows what this looks like with the Screwball.
You can also do this with the Rise and the Drop – you’d just go Up and Down instead of Side to Side. The adjustments I’ve made with the Rise and Drop is to only use 3 targets instead of 4, but that’s it. Remember to start in the direction of pitch strength and work toward the extreme. So for a Drop, you’d start extra low (Hard), then Normal Drop height, then about head height for Extreme. For the Rise you’d work in reverse order: Above Head for Hard, head height for Normal and then knee height for Extreme. These are much more difficult for pitchers than the Curve and Screw targets so have patience and don’t overdo it.
Some final thoughts when using these extreme targets:
- Start from the normal direction the pitch moves and work your way backward to Extreme.
- Expect your pitchers to struggle
- Let them know they can create more movement the farther away the target is from homeplate (to prevent the ball breaking into the plate).
- Start with larger quantities of pitches per location and then work down to only 1 pitch per location.
- Eventually go from left to right with the Curveball and then back right to left with the Screwball (for right handed pitcher).
- Realize that your pitcher can actually throw both a Curveball and a Screwball to the opposite side of the plate.
Don’t be afraid to come up with your own Extreme Pitching Workout. Challenge the “normal” and watch your skills and focus really grow!
For more help with this topic check out the following:
Pitching – Curveball
Pitching – Screwball
Pitching – Riseball
Pitching – Dropball
Book: The Complete Book of Pitching
eClinic: Critical Counts: How to Stop the Walks
eClinic: Pitching Charts – How to Use Them to Win More Games
eClinic: The Art of Calling Pitches: All the Things You Need to Know to Call a Great Game