The art of calling pitches by coaches can take many different avenues.
For Head Coach Glenn Cecchini of Barbe High School (Lake Charles, La.), this process must involve the pitcher and catcher, and they must buy into the decision making process by the coach.
“It is so important that you explain why you are calling pitches in certain sequences for your pitchers,” said Cecchini, who has led Barbe to four state championships in Louisiana and is annually ranked as one of the top prep baseball teams in the nation.
“The reason I call pitches for our team is that I have a special pitching chart which I look at during the game which shows the success or failure of batters on every pitch that is thrown to them during the game we are playing or previous games.
“If a batter is having a tough time with fastballs inside, curves outside or changeups outside, along with other pitches and locations, we will form a strategy with that in mind.
“We want communication between the pitcher, catcher and myself throughout the game. And if a pitcher shakes off my called pitch, he always has that right. All I ask is that he explain why he called the pitch to me when he comes into the dugout. We feel three heads working together are more efficient than the coach working alone.
“Usually there is a very good reason. He may have pitched against this batter all summer long, and the batter can’t hit the curve despite showing that he is having trouble with the fastball outside in this particular contest. The catcher may have some great input into batters as well. All three of us try to formulate plans as the game unfolds.
“But to be honest, usually the pitchers and catchers trust my decisions after they buy into the reasoning behind my pitch calling. I monitor whether pitchers are throwing curves for strikes or having trouble with another type of pitch or if their fastball has tremendous movement and velocity that specific game. I keep that all in mind.”
Cecchini’s Pitching Chart is diabolically simple but highly effective.
“Before each game, information about the starting nine opposing hitters is written above each batter. It shows what they did against us the previous game and also whether they bunted or not against us. If players didn’t participate against us, I just put DNP in the area above the hitter’s name. Usually we compile plenty of information about a batter as the season unfolds. Then when we get to the playoffs, we are very confident on our approach to pitch calling.
“Many batters have a lot of trouble with certain pitches. The record keeping process we have has worked very well through the years.”
Cecchini said that as the game unfolds, this is how he jots down each pitch thrown by his hurlers on his chart.
“The pitch is marked down first. For instance, if it is a fastball away, my code for that is F. If the pitch was a strike, I circle it. If the batter took a strike, I put a line over the circle. If the batter fouls off the pitch, I put a triangle around the pitch. If there is nothing around a pitch, it is a ball.
“I will continue marking down pitches in this fashion for each at bat and then put what happened after the sequence is over. If he strikes out on a fastball away, it would be F-K. If he was hit by a pitch on a curve, it would be C-HBP.
“As the game takes place, you can easily see every pitching sequence to each batter and pick up on whether batters are having trouble with different pitches and locations. Also, if pitchers are having trouble locating certain pitches in locations, I will keep that in mind.”
Cecchini was asked whether the pitches and locations are the final location where the pitch lands or where he wants them to go prior to the pitch being thrown.
“That is a great question. I use a pencil with an eraser. I initially put the pitch and location I want the ball to be at. If the ball travels in another spot than what I intended, then I erase it and put the code in for what the pitch is and where it finished. I am not tracking how many times the pitcher missed his spot. I want to know how batters react to different pitches in different locations.
“So it is important to find out where the pitches finished with our system. If we signaled in a fastball inside and the pitch finished outside, it would be a problem if I didn’t change what happened on the chart. It would be misleading information. I have found that I might have to erase pitches and locations 5-6 times in games with pitchers who have great command. But sometimes, you erase 20-30 times a game. If a pitcher shakes off a pitch, my catcher signals to me what the pitch was and what location it finished at.”
The complete story, plus a sample pitching chart, is in the Sept. 6, 2013 edition of Collegiate Baseball. To obtain a copy of this issue or subscribe, CLICK HERE.