Getting Ahead in the Count

When a pitcher has thrown more strikes than balls in a specific at-bat, he is ahead in the count. You will hear this phrase when the ball-strike count is 0-1, 0-2, or 1-2.

Getting ahead in the count gives the pitcher an advantage because the hitter must then swing at any pitch that looks like it may be a strike, even if it is a difficult pitch to hit.

Pitchers often get in trouble when they fall behind in the count—for example, going to ball-strike counts of 2-0, 3-0, or 3-1. This is because the batter can then be more selective and wait for a good pitch to hit.

Changing Speeds

When a pitcher does not throw each pitch at the same velocity, he is changing speeds. The pitcher may also change the type of pitch as well as the velocity.

For example, he may alternate an 87-mile-per-hour (mph) fastball with an 84-mph slider and an 80-mph change-up (a slow pitch thrown with the same motion as a fastball). Changing speeds puts the batter off balance.

Because the batter must swing earlier on the fastball and then delay his swing on the slower pitches, he must change the timing of each swing, which is difficult to do.

Throwing Inside

When a pitcher is throwing inside, he keeps the hitter from leaning out over the plate to hit pitches that are moving or breaking away from him. It is difficult for a pitcher to have success without throwing inside at least occasionally, to prevent the batter from always looking for outside pitches.

There are two primary dangers of throwing inside. By throwing too far inside, the pitcher can hit the batter and put him on base. But if the pitcher does not throw far enough inside, the ball crosses the middle of the plate and the batter has an easier pitch to hit.

Wasting a Pitch

When a pitcher is wasting a pitch, the pitch he throws is close to the plate but intentionally not a strike. A pitcher will almost always do this when he is ahead in the count with no balls and two strikes.

The idea is to get the batter to swing at a pitch that he has no chance of hitting, and thus strike out. A pitcher can afford to waste a pitch with an 0-2 count because he still stays ahead in the count even after throwing a ball.