How to Expand the Strike Zone Properly

By Larry Cicchiello

Whenever you are ahead in the count, you should “expand the strike zone.” No, let’s rephrase that. You must expand the strike zone! That simply means throwing a pitch off the plate, that’s actually a ball. Or throwing a pitch too high or too low that is out of the strike zone. Let’s be clear on one thing. I think it is a total waste if you throw the pitch too far off the plate. If ahead of the batter and the count is 0-2, it makes no sense to throw a pitch over the batter’s head or two feet off the plate. The objective is to get the batter to swing at a pitch that’s not a strike. If you throw the ball way off the plate or over the batter’s head the batter will not swing. The only thing that does is that it adds to your pitch count. That makes no sense.

It is estimated that at least 70% of swinging strike threes are on pitches that are NOT strikes. Please read the previous sentence again!

You don’t have to take my word for it. You can see it for yourself. Occasionally, when a pitcher strikes out a lot of hitters in a baseball game, the following morning on television, they sometimes show the replays of all the strikeouts. Keep a tally for yourself. (Trust me on this one, you can do it.) I have done it several times.

If the hitter took strike three, you DON’T tally it. You are ONLY checking the SWINGING strike threes. Simply count the pitches swung at that were strikes and pitches swung at that were balls. Your tally will go like this: 1 out of 1, 1 out of 2, 2 out of 3, 2 out of 4, 3 out of 5, etc.

I really suggest you try this. You will get very good at it and in no time at all and may find it very interesting as well as surprising. The batters swing at more strike threes that are balls than are strikes! That is a very powerful statement. It is because the batter can no longer be fussy about what he swings at and must protect against being called out on strikes.

There is an expression that has been around for decades and still holds true and will NEVER become obsolete. “You get ahead of them with strikes but you get them out with balls.” I know it’s been around for decades because my father taught it to me about 50 years ago, when I was 9 years old. Boy am I old!

Make very good use of expanding the strike zone because very often, if ahead in the count, you will get batters out with balls.

One of the better baseball pitching tips you should always remember is that there is simply no reason on earth to give a hitter a strike to hit if he’s going to swing at a ball! Baseball pitching is plenty tough enough.

Why not make your life easier?

Larry is the successful author of several very user friendly eBooks and CD’s covering 320 topics on playing or coaching excellent baseball. ANY player, coach or parent who wants to help their child will be fully equipped! Check out some FREE baseball tips on hitting and FREE baseball pitching tips at LarryBaseball.com.

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One Great Changeup and a Hitter’s Perspective

By Dan Gazaway
I love it when a pitcher has a great change. The Circle Change just happens to be one of the deadliest changeups out there. The reason: It not only slows down, it has wicked movement.
The Circle Change has a screwball type movement and it breaks down and away. It appears to look like a fastball and is very deceiving to a batters eyes.
To throw this pitch pronate your wrist and forearm slightly inwards. Your arm slot and arms speed is the same as your fastball. Place your fingers in the same position as you do with your fastball (thumb and middle finger split the baseball in half). Next, make a circle with your thumb and index finger. The tighter the circle the more drop you will have. However, your wrist and forearm angle is more important than the grip with this pitch. The most difficult part of this pitch is the forearm angle.
Gripping The Circle Change
The smaller the circle, the more downward movement you will have on the pitch. The slight wrist and forearm pronation is important when throwing the circle change. I recommend starting to throw this pitch making a C-shape instead of a circle when you first try this pitch. You will not find success with this pitch unless you throw the circle (or okay sign) toward home plate; that is what truly slows the pitch down. Most pitcher’s think they are throwing a circle or a c-change just by gripping the pitch correctly. The C or Circle is thrown at the catcher. Again, Keep your arm speed the same so that the pitch will be deceivingly slow to the hitter.
Arguably the most challenging pitch to learn is the circle change because of how the pitch is released. While the pitch can be tricky to learn, do not alter your body movement or motion in any way while attempting to throw it. Instead, work hard on the wrist and forearm angle.
I recommend just playing catch with it practicing the release.
Releasing The Pitch:
Throw the circle change early in the count and try to get a ground ball out of it. Remember, it is best to throw fewer pitches in an inning than to try and strike everyone out. The best change-up counts are the same as the split-finger fastball counts 3-1, 2-1, and 2-0. Also, whenever a fastball is in order a changeup can be thrown in its place. Becoming a successful pitcher simply means you mess with and throw off a hitter’s timing. When you are successful at doing that you will get any hitter out.
A Hitter’s perspective on a changeup.
“Besides the slider, a good change-up is terribly frustrating for most hitters. Because of its resemblance to a fastball initially, it can be particularly deceiving in fastball counts. I’m not sure why I don’t see more good change-ups in youth baseball today, but it’s a very much underutilized pitch.
Hitters hate facing pitchers who change speeds well, it’s tough to get good timing on anything. For a great example of this, you have to look no further than Jamie Moyer, who at age 45, helped his Phillies win a World Series championship in 2008. His signature pitch throughout his entire career has been his outstanding change-up. With a fastball that rarely ever reached 85 mph, Moyer’s ability to keep hitters off balance has paid off big time.
Circle change-ups with movement are deceiving and I would argue are nearly unhittable if thrown in the right location and in the right count. Being a pitcher also throughout my collegiate career, I relied on the change-up a lot to keep hitters off balance. Early in my pitching career I was leery of developing it because the thought of throwing a pitch slower to hitters seemed backwards. Wow, was I mistaken as it became my best pitch!”
Dan Gazaway is the owner of The Pitching Academy http://www.facebook.com/ThePitchingAcademy  and has been coaching pitchers for over 15 years.  His instructional products have been a valuable resource for many coaches, parents and pitchers of all ages.  His website is http://www.thepitchingacademy.com. Get their FREE pitching grips ebook here (use coupon code thepitchingacademy) Want nasty movement on all of your pitches! Get your copy of the pitching grips and workouts DVD. Disc 2 of our best selling 4 Disc series.