Our 2017 series on learning baseball from those who teach it best debuts with this week’s feature on one of baseball’s most misunderstood pitches…from University of Dayton pitching coach, Ryne Romick.
By Ryne Romick
There are two major points of emphasis that our staff will adhere to at UD: Force contact in the first 3 pitches and throw inside.
The second point of emphasis is one we constantly harp on throughout the fall and into the spring; throw inside. Throughout the course of the game we look to allow 3 free bases or less. That would include walks and hit by pitches and we would rather more of them are hit by pitches. If you ask our pitchers what we are allowed to hit batters with they will say, “inside fastballs.” It’s a cardinal sin to hit a batter with a hung off speed pitch. Why? They don’t make hitters uncomfortable.
Why is pitching inside important? It establishes an ownership of the entire plate. Having ownership of the whole plate allows us to attack hitters in a greater variety of ways. This puts Hicks’ Law into play. Hicks’ Law states that reaction time is delayed when the number of choices increases for the subject. In essence, don’t allow a hitter to eliminate a pitch or a side of the plate and now they have to pick from more choices.
Pitching inside is also important for protecting a good breaking ball. “PROTECTING”. If you have a plus breaking ball and can’t throw IN then you essentially turned that plus pitch into an average one. You want to buckle a hitter with breaking ball but don’t want throw a FB on that same plane to the inner half? Good hitters will begin to just hover over the plate with no fear of repercussions. Regardless of what the toughest hitters will say, no one enjoys getting moved or plunked.
One of the best reasons to throw inside is making hitters feel uncomfortable. Hitters like space, they like extension, they like to feel like they own where their feet are. They don’t, unless you allow them to own it.
What are some keys to throwing inside? Commitment. When you throw outside, you have to commit to missing there. Same idea when you throw inside but the difference is when you miss in you may move a hitter or hit him. You also have to understand what you throw and the movement you get out of the pitch. If you’re a 2-seam righty and get good run, then you may have to adapt to the 4-seam when throwing right on right so it doesn’t get away from you.
As a coach of young players, you can’t say one thing but act in a completely different manner. You will see coaches call inside fastballs and then get bent out of shape when a pitcher hits a batter. What is the difference between that and missing by 4-6 inches on a FB away? Absolutely nothing. It serves a purpose. Now this lineup knows we will go in there with a purpose.
Don Drysdale said the most important pitch for him was the second inside pitch that moved a hitter because then the hitter knew it wasn’t on accident. Pitching with the mentality that you will own all 17” of the plate takes commitment, takes practice, and takes consistency in the coaching message and execution. If you can commit to it, you will find most of your other pitches will improve without changing them at all.