Part one of this series entailed reasons and theory behind pitching inside. In part two of Pitching Inside, we will discuss the following specific locations:
- Up and In
- Under the Hands
- Down and In
- In-Middle (NOT middle-in)
- Up-Middle (why it’s better as a strikeout pitch than an inside location)
In 2010, my rookie year and first year back from Tommy John #1, I couldnt throw an off-speed pitch to save my life. But, I had a hard, high-spin fastball that had a lot of life. That year I threw 90% fastballs over 119 innings and 19 starts. I learned a lot about the value of pitching in, because at least 60% of my fastballs we intended for an inside location; it was the only way I could survive throwing that many fastballs. Over the years as I regained my off-speed stuff, I was still a fastball, and inside-fastball heavy pitcher. Here’s what the different locations:
Up and In
Purpose: Jams and Pop ups, occasional strikeout, move a hitter’s feet
Up and In is a little misunderstood. It’s got two tough factors – high pitches are tough to catch up to, as are inside fastballs. Both require a hitter to start his swing very early to get the barrel to it.
“Nicking the Pitch”
However, as I learned how to finish hitters off with just fastballs, I found exceedingly difficult to do on Up and In fastballs. Why? They’d tend to just nick the ball with the handle of their bat.
I realized that this location was somewhat special in this regard – all the hitter had to do to foul one of was get his hands near it, and the pitch would nick off the bat and go to the backstop. Because the barrel didn’t have to get to the location to avoid a strikeout, it made it easier on a hitter.
So, Up and In is more for getting contact – pop ups, jam-job grounders and getting strikes on a hitter if he’ll swing at it. Strikeouts are a little harder and better suited for the Up-Middle. And, as we’ll discuss at length in part 3, going up and in scares hitters, makes them move their feet to avoid being hit, and reminds them that they need to be aware that any pitch could be the pitch that hits them.
Purpose: Strikeouts, pop-ups.
This is not an inside location. Rather, it’s the high-fastball over the middle of the plate. This is the better choice for finishing a hitter off, because when the ball is middle or away – and up – the hitter has to get the barrel of the bat to it to even foul it off. “Nicking” the ball isn’t possible, so this is the best choice when trying to get a hitter to chase up.
Down and In
Purpose: To Give Up Bombs to Lefties or Walk Righties.
With a fastball, down and in (a called ball location) has little purpose. Lefties will hurt you the most, as their slightly loopier, more uppercut swings find pitches in this location well. Think about Ryan Howard or any of those guys golfing Down and In fastballs out of the park. This gif below is a great example – pitcher misses his spot going away and leaves it low and in. These things happen…
This pitch also doesn’t threaten the safety of the hitter, so it doesn’t have much purpose, either, compared to higher inside locations.
Under The Hands
Purpose: Great Jamming location; scares hitters
Under the hands is where you throw a pitch in counts like 0-1, 1-2, 1-1, 2-2, when you think a hitter is likely to swing and you want him to put the ball in play. If he swings at a pitch on his fists, a weak ground ball is very likely. It also forces them to flinch and protect themselves, as hitters typically “dive” in a little bit as they load then strike with their front foot. Starting their hands then pulling them back to avoid a broken hand makes for a nervous, apprehensive hitter.
I realize that the gif above does not show a pitch hitting the mitt under the hands, but it does start there, and illustrates the discomfort reaction that hitters have with it.
Purpose: Called strikes to both sides, freeze strikeouts to both sides, swing and misses to righties
In-middle is weird, special location. Its lateral location is inner-third to one-ball inside, and its vertical location is the knee to about two balls above the knee. It’s special because it looks both too far inside, and too far down at the same time, resulting in a freeze response from hitters a lot of the time. Having good downhill-plane and high spin, as a pitcher, also helps to get this freeze response. This is the location you throw to when you’re looking for a called strike regardless of what the hitter does.
But what’s extra special is that right-handed hitters tend to really struggle to get the barrel down to the ball. Because righties don’t have that loopy swing that lefties do, they can’t scoop it, so their more on-plane swings have a hard time reaching the ball and getting out in front enough. Because of it’s inside location, the barrel has to travel very far through the strike zone, then to the front of the plate to meet this pitch with the sweet spot, so it’s just difficult to get to. Lefties take a more direct path via their more golfy swing to get this pitch than righties do.
I always assumed the hand or up-and-in would get the most swings and misses, but hitters can nick both of those locations and put them in a play a good amount of the time; you have to absolutely blow it by them to get a strikeout there. But this location, about 12 inches lower, is a really good spot to get swinging strikes inside to righties – the best location, in my experience.
Stay Tuned For Part 3
Part 3 of this series on pitching inside will cover examples of hitters and situations that dictate special attention to inside pitching. Stay tuned!