The first thing I’d say to a young pitcher telling me he has 10 different pitches is this; No you don’t. Now 10 pitches is an exaggeration, but the same response would apply to a pitcher who said he has more than 3 pitches.
I have had this conversation with many young pitchers. They all tell me how many pitches they have and how nasty each pitch is. “That’s great,” I say, “How many do you throw consistently for strikes?” The response is almost always the same. “All of them.”
Now if you’re currently a coach or have ever coached, you know the above answer is just not true. When I tell pitchers to throw each of their pitches multiple times, the result is the same. They can throw a fastball and one off-speed pitch for a strike consistently. I then tell them (even though they don’t want to hear it) that they in fact have two pitches. That’s right, two pitches. Anyone can throw a fastball, change-up, curveball, knuckleball, splitter, etc. The question is, which of those pitches can you throw for strikes consistently?
During my conversations with pitchers, I ask which two pitches they feel most confident and comfortable throwing no matter the count is to the batter. If the answer is a fastball and a change-up, great. Let’s continue to build on the execution of those pitches and determine what their third pitch would be. As a starter, you need to have command of a minimum of three pitches. Typically those pitches would be a fastball, change-up, and breaking ball. As a reliever, a fastball and either a change-up or breaking ball. So after you determine what your two best pitches are, let’s work on the third pitch.
In another post I talked about the theory of needing 10,000 hours to master your craft. I believe it takes 10,000 throws of each pitch to truly master a particular pitch. Think about it. If you throw a curveball 10 times, you may walk away saying you’ve got a pretty good curveball. But once you throw that curveball thousands of times, you understand how to throw it, the movement of it, a slightly different grip that works better for you, how to get tighter spin, and the list goes on and on. Once you understand all the questions that surround each pitch and how each pitch works for you, you have now added another pitch to your arsenal.
You have to continue to work at your craft, no matter what your profession or aspiring profession is. If you’re not willing to put the time and work into it, then you will never have the opportunity to master your craft. This concept should be taken into account regarding each pitch for young pitchers. Time and effort should be put into each pitch if you want to truly be great. The spin of the ball is what’s most important. Tight spin makes it harder for the hitter to pick up which pitch it is. Every young pitcher should focus on the spin of the ball rather than how much it moves.
In conclusion, the goal should be to master three pitches. You should be able to take any three pitches and throw those for a strike consistently no matter what the count is. If you’ve developed the confidence to do so, then now you’ve reached the point where you can start to develop a fourth pitch. Remember, consistency is what makes a good baseball player. The same is true with each pitch in your arsenal.