The softball pitching debate continues, which is more beneficial to a pitcher, speed or accuracy? Which one proves to be more effective? Both would be the ideal answer, but unfortunately, it is not always the case for every pitcher. Not all pitchers will have the ability to throw hard, just as other pitchers who may throw hard, cannot hit spots with pinpoint accuracy. Pitchers who throw hard and pitchers who are accurate both can be very successful in softball, but which is more important to instill in the younger pitchers?
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The number one job of a softball pitcher is to throw strikes. Pitchers who fall into counts that result in walks don’t benefit the defense because the batter was awarded a free base. When a pitcher walks a batter to lead off the inning, now the defense has to adjust their game plan and focus to the runner on base and what the batter may do next in the box. It is important for pitchers to learn how to throw strikes and trust their defense behind them, even if this means they give up more hits. No pitcher wants to give up a hit, but in my opinion, a hit means the batter earned their way on base, rather than being awarded the base on a walk.
We have established that throwing strikes is important and is the number one job of a softball pitcher. Often in youth tryouts, evaluators and coaches will rank a pitcher with speed higher than a pitcher who proves to be more accurate. Almost every single pitching tryout across the country will have a speed portion, where the pitcher is told to throw X amount of pitches as hard as she can to the catcher. These pitches will likely be thrown down the middle of the plate and not to a spot. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the evaluator to radar gun the pitcher’s speed when she is attempting the spot portion of the tryout? It is extremely common, especially for the younger pitchers who throw hard, to ease up when trying to hit a spot. These pitchers will likely use the middle of the plate and their speed to get through games.
As pitchers progress and move up in age levels, they will no longer be able to get away with throwing pitches down the middle of the plate. Hitters and advanced bat technologies are forcing pitchers to locate pitches on the corners of the plate and in the River to avoid direct contact with the bat. Balls thrown to missed spots and down the middle of the plate will be hit hard and likely far into the playing field. The pitchers who threw hard at 10U will be the first to notice that the ball is put into play more and that you can’t rely on the middle of the plate.
It is recommended that pitchers start throwing to spots after they have mastered their fastball mechanics and can throw it for a strike. Starting pitchers off with spots too early may result in over-thinking, rather than trusting and feeling their body mechanics. If pitchers can throw a strike nine times out of 10 down the middle of the plate, this proves they have body control and that they are ready to take on spots. If you are seeking a timeline, pitchers should focus on only throwing strikes their first year of 10U and move to a change-up and spots the second year. This will give them time to learn, practice and develop, before making the jump to 12U the following year.
So which is it? Speed or Accuracy? From experience, speed gets hit if the pitch is thrown too much on the plate because the spot was missed. Speed doesn’t come overnight, and several factors play into a pitcher being able to throw with some zip behind her pitch. Speed is produced by the size/strength of the pitcher, the arm speed the pitcher can produce, the drive position of the pitcher and her ability to cut down distance, and the leg push/drag to finish off the pitch. Accuracy is based on the pitcher’s ability to utilize her body control and her ability to stay on the Powerlines that connect to the spots she is throwing to. Accuracy can be mastered and practiced by all pitchers, whereas speed has a little more to it. My advice would be to practice and perfect the accuracy and let the speed develop second. Any hitter can catch up to speed, but the pitchers who can hit spots will last longer in games.