You probably think velocity charts consist of “charting” your pitches. They do, but there are specialized “velo” charts that give you a clear picture of how top level hitters will attack your pitches.
Behind MLB clubhouse doors are these things they call “velo charts”. They do graph your pitch velocities, but they also provide insight into how hitters will sit on your stuff.
Don’t think pitch velocity – think pitching potential.
WHAT IS A SPECIALIZED VELO CHART?
This chart graphs out your pitch velocities and provides insight into any velocity “gaps”. And these “gaps” are where hitters can hurt you.
Such “gaps” give hitters the ability to “sit” on pitches, since the hardest part of hitting top level pitching is “timing” and not “balance”.
- Timing is defined by pitch differential (and break).
- Balance is defined by location.
Granted, both timing and balance are needed to crush pitchers, but “timing” is the hardest of the two for hitters to defend against.
Above are two velo charts. The left chart represents what you want any pitcher’s velo chart to look like – all pitches connecting to a straight line that ascends or descends the velo chart.
The pitcher on the right side has a “gap” that hitters can sit upon – between the fastball and slider. Additionally, the slider and change up are similar velocities, which gives hitters statistical advantage when concerning “timing”.
Reason being, good hitters can follow break (balance) easier than velocity (timing). Therefore, a change up and slider that are similar decrease pitch quality and increase hitting advantage.
To a good hitter, the slider and change up (of the right side velo chart) are identical pitches because they require the same timing. All the hitter has to do is follow the pitch longer with their barrel.
Setting hitters up is optimized when your pitch velocities connect and timing capabilities are decreased. If you can increase your velocity gaps between the types of pitches you throw (during an at bat), you will decrease hitting advantage.
For example, if you throw a 90MPH fastball and the hitter is “on” it, you would most likely come back with a change up or slider at 83MPH. This slows the hands down….
Then you ride the velocity chart back up to 90MPH and increase the velocity effectiveness with inside location.
This is known as the “bowling game” of pitching – slow em’ down and speed em’ up.
But here is the issue when your velocity chart has “gaps”:
- You start with 90MPH and the hitter is on it.
- You go to your next pitch, but this pitch is the same as your 3rd pitch.
- Therefore, you have 2 pitches and since the speed variances are too great, hitters can “sit” on a certain pitch – based upon your tendencies, count probabilities, and game situation.
In the end, you have allowed the hitter to turn you into a “one pitch” pitcher and improve their chances of knowing what pitch is coming next.
Granted, you can use command to combat the above deficiencies, but know that if MLB pitchers miss forty percent of the time…..your miss rate is highe
A QUICK COURSE ON PLAYER DEVELOMENT 101
First off, a few basic pitching principles need to be addressed.
- Hitters cannot cover both sides of the plate and all vectors of the zone. They must find “holes” and “sit” on pitches to remain effective.
- Timing is much more important than balance (when hitting). ‘Timing’ is the change in speeds and ‘Balance’ is location differences.
- Pitch recognition is one of the key components to becoming a great hitter. The sooner one can recognize the pitch, the more time one has to hit it.
- Pitch speed and plane change are the two biggest “tells” to what type of pitch and where it is being thrown.
Remember this concept:
“If you are sitting on 85MPH, you cannot DRIVE 80MPH. You may HIT it, but you most likely cannot DRIVE it.”
If you take #1-4 into consideration, reading velocity charts will be much more valuable in developing pitchers.
For hitters, just look at the “holes” in the velocities. This will determine what pitches to “sit” on and which pitch the hitter does not need to worry about.
Meaning, if there is a big gap between two pitches, a hitter has much better pitch recognition and more time to hit one of the two pitches. Therefore, they can just “sit” on one of the pitches and have enough time to adjust to the other.
- If the fastball is 85MPH and the next pitch slower in velocity is a 70MPH curveball, there is nothing in between that a hitter has to combat.
- Therefore, the hitter can sit FB and adjust to the CB because a 15MPH difference provides enough time to recognize and adjust.
- Analytics prove the most effective velocity differences that decrease hitting advantage is about 8-10MPH.
CREATING A MOUND PLAN FROM YOUR VELO CHART
A good velo chart will tell a pitcher what to throw and when to throw it. It provides a great platform from which to train, develop, and implement advanced pitching skills.
- Strike One is the most important pitch in baseball. Chart your pitch velocities and gain a better understanding of which pitches provide the biggest percentage rate for Strike One.
- During situations wherein you will not be hurt too bad, start with the fastball. From here, descend your velocity chart slowly. For example, establish Strike One with the fastball. From here, move to your next slowest pitch. Reinforce this velocity until the hitter proves they are “on” it. Then move back up to the highest velocity pitch.
Basically, you want to descend the velocities to enhance the highest velocity pitch – your “knockout” pitch. In doing so, your fastball appears faster than it really is.
PRESSURE SITUATIONS: In the middle innings or during pressure situations, start in the middle of your velo chart. Move up or down and then finish with the opposite velocity pitch. For example, start with a curve ball (76MPH). Move to a change up (70MPH) and then finish the sequence out with a fastball (85MPH).
If the frame is still alive, a second “knockout” pitch can be thrown with the change up (72MPH). This allows you to spread velocities over each end of the “velo spectrum”, and then return to the middle (if the frame is still alive).
To master this type of pressure pitching, a pitcher must have full command of all of their pitches. Remember that command and zone locations exponentially increase pitch quality….
NEVER MAKE THE MISTAKE AND THINK THAT PITCH QUALITY IS BASED UPON COMMAND. IT IS BASED UPON VELOCITY AND BREAK.
Always understand that an 85MPH fastball looks 82MPH outside and 88MPH inside. Additionally, if the fastball is thrown low, subtract velocity and if the pitch is thrown high, increase velocity perceptions.
Perceptual velocity is an undervalued analytic that oftentimes is the most important analytic of an at bat.
An effective pitcher can turn an 85MPH fastball into an 80MPH or 90MPH pitch with location alone. If they have a quality “wrinkle” behind the fastball, they can expand velocity spectrums and perceptual velocity even further. This is what will define pitch-ability
Another way to enhance pitch quality of secondary pitches is to change velocities of each pitch you throw. Meaning, throw a fastball at 90MPH, 87MPH, and 85MPH. Add movement to all speeds and you have 3 pitches in one.
I used to do this with great effectiveness. Greg Maddux would do it by “choking” his fastball in 2-0 counts – giving him great arm speed behind a slower fastball.
There are 3 types of fastballs- tailing (sinking), riding (cutting), or straight. With breaking pitches, an advanced pitcher understands how to make these pitches break more horizontally or vertically. Each come with increased or decreased speed, respectively.
I hope this blog helps you gain insight into the world of Major League pitchers and what it takes to get top level hitters out.