Here’s part I of the interview, let’s jump right into this one.
What do you supplement the fastball with?
Well you throw fastball-fastball-fastball if the guy is way behind your fastball. Why would you switch when his bat speed is already too slow? There’s times when guys just sit on a good fastball and you have a good slider or curveball. It’s a mindgame with hitters. You see a guy take a bad swing on a ball out of the strike zone. You throw it twice with two strikes and you end up throwing a heater with two strikes and he ends up hitting a line drive or something like that. Sometimes you don’t want to overthink the situation because sometimes you want to trick the hitter, but sometimes the hitter is set up [for that]. “This guy’s gonna give me another one in this at bat, so I’m just gonna sit on it.”
I heard Manny was really good on that. He’d sit and wait with two strikes and when the pitcher threw his out pitch, Manny would hit it 600 feet.
Yeah, some hitters do that. It’s no secret what [us pitchers] have and it’s no secret what they hit. My big strikeout pitch is my curveball. The hitter knows it’s coming. It’s weird. The hitter knows I’m ahead in the count with two strikes. The hitter knows there’s a good chance I’m throwing the curve here, so I’m gonna try to bounce it over the plate. They know it’s coming, they see it coming, they swing at it, and it’s in the dirt.
Must be a pretty good feeling as a pitcher when you work a batter like that.
Yeah, but sometimes, I mean, we make mistakes as pitchers. If we leave a ball up too much, they can hit it. They’re able to handle it. If you execute it well and your curveball hits the plate, they’ll swing and miss. Or maybe they’ll foul it off. You can use their aggressiveness to your advantage. If you know the guy is a fastball hitter, you throw a fastball off the plate and maybe they’ll hit a weak grounder.
I was just thinking, I haven’t thought much about the psychology of this, but when you’re ahead in the count and you know you have the batter in the right place and you throw a pitch and it’s not as effective as you want it to be, …
It’s not as easy as it sounds. I’m making it sound easy, but it’s very difficult–
Because you can’t throw the same pitch the same time every time?
[Yeah,] you make mistakes and you don’t want to! When the guy can’t hit a slider and you hang a slider straight down the middle … you could ask the hitters, a hanging slider is a great pitch to hit.
Do you think sometimes hitters aim to HIT the hanging slider, and that’s when the effective slider is most effective?
Not all guys throw sliders …
Well the best pitch in the pitcher’s arsenal, then. Do they aim to hit for the hang?
Let me ask you this: if it’s the pitcher’s best pitch, do you think he’s going to make a lot of mistakes with it?
The hitter knows your outpitch. Let’s say it’s a slider. Sometimes the hitter will just eliminate swinging at the slider because they can’t hit it. They know they’re not gonna hit it, so they wait on a change up or a curveball or a fastball. But if the hitter’s down in the count and the slider is coming, if that slider hangs, the hitter’s gonna be ready for it.
It’s the same way that pitchers can get away with mistakes. We hang curveballs or we throw fastballs down the middle and gotten outs with them. So many times throughout the game a guy throws a mistake ball. Sometimes the hitter will swing and pop up. That’s just the way the game is.
It sounds like luck plays a lot into this too.
Yeah. A lot. I mean, there’s times when we execute a great pitch and the guy hits a line drive. Just the other day, Matt Guerrier throws a nasty off-speed pitch and [the batter] smokes a line drive. That happens so many times too. You execute your pitch and they hit it out of the ballpark.