I got to sit down with Chad Billingsley today and speak to him about pitch sequencing. This is the best conversation I’ve had about it yet and special thanks to Chad for being so open in discussing this.
This is the second or third pitcher or pitching coach I’ve spoken to about sequencing, please click the “pitch sequencing” tag to find the other ones.
Let’s start with the basic: tell me what you know about pitch sequencing.
Well, first, there’s a lot of luck involved. The hitter knows what you have, as far as the pitches and what your tendencies are.
Certain guys are fastball hitters, so you throw backwards in the count to them–that means throw off-speed early in the count and finish them with fastballs or something hard late in the count. Your objective as a pitcher is to keep the hitter off-balance. So you mix the speeds and location.
Going back to fastball hitters, are there some that will sit on your off-speed stuff and wait for you to throw a fastball?
Well, [sometimes]. You can just throw him off-speed pitches–throw two curveballs in a row, strike 1 and 2–and now he’ll have to swing at the next one because he doesn’t want to get out. You don’t throw him a high fastball [after that]. You have options there. He just looked at curveballs, and he knows you can throw it for a strike. Me, as a pitcher, I’m thinking he’s got to have a lot of discipline to not swing at this curveball [coming to him] in the dirt. Even if he doesn’t swing at that, you just threw three slow pitches and his eyes are slowed down. You can throw a fastball up, you can throw a fastball in.
The one thing that keeps coming up in my conversations about this is pitch speed. What’s the ideal separation of speed between two pitches?
It varies. For guys who I know won’t swing first pitch, I’ll throw a batting practice fastball for strike one. Just a straight fastball down the middle, 87 or 88 miles per hour. We know that. There’s a 99% chance he’s not going to swing at that first pitch.
Would that make him want to swing on the first pitch next time he sees you to keep you honest?
It’s not cheating, it’s just knowing your hitter. It’s easier said than done, though; sometimes you know that and you throw a ball [laughs].
That’s what I was saying when you pitch backwards and your first breaking ball is a ball, the hitter is ahead of the count and he’s expecting a fastball. Yeah, there’s some guys that’ll take on the first pitch and you know they have a tendency to swing on the first pitch, so that’s what you have to be careful of.
All stats are public knowledge now. Everybody knows everything about everybody.
More coming tomorrow.