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Suppose as a pitcher I have a three-pitch arsenal (e.g. fastball, curveball, slider) and I play the position of relieving pitcher. I've noticed that my pitching style becomes repetitive due to my relatively low number of choices. Eventually, because my style becomes repetitive, batters will "figure me out" too easily and will figure out where to swing and when. Assuming aforementioned batters are experienced enough, they should already know this, and I am careful with them due to this.

My pitch velocity is higher than that of some of my other teammates, and I am capable of just barely clipping the edge of the strike zone with any of my pitches, making me a decent pitcher by the standards of my league.

What strategies could a pitcher with limited arsenal use to become a more effective and unpredictable pitcher?

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  • I think you hinted at the answer already. Location is at least as important as velocity for keeping a hitter off-balance. Also, if you can throw either breaking pitch for a strike, hitters can't, for example, expect the traditional fastball on a 3-1 count.
    – chepner
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 13:28

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Most pitchers, especially in the big leagues, only have three pitches that they have in their arsenal (or three pitches that the feel comfortable throwing that day) so yours is by no means limited. A fastball, curveball, slider is a very standard combo because it can be one of the most effective with minimal learning curve.

This may sound redundant to your problem, but you don't want to pitch every batter the same. You and the catcher need to watch the hitters warming up, on deck, or during their first at bats to see what their weakness are. Do they struggle with timing? Do they straight take 0-0, 1-0 curves? Is he pulling every pitch he sees? These are the sort of questions that you need to be answering before you even step in on the mound.

Secondly, you should have some intuition when you are on the mound about how the at-bat is going. One of the most basic things you can see is hitter's timing. If they pulled the first fastball you threw foul and was super early, throw him something off-speed so he will be even earlier. If he was late on the fastball you threw and pushed it foul, do not speed him up by throwing off-speed.

Good pitchers are pitchers that have good stuff (movement, location, velocity). Great pitchers are pitchers that are able to use their stuff effectively by understanding the weaknesses of who they are throwing to.

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This used to be me. There are several ways to combat this.

Although three pitches is considered a decent arsenal of pitches to have, it can sometimes become harder to keep hitters guessing if only one or two of those is working on any specific day. For me, I just decided to learn one or two more pitches, but this may not work for everyone. You can make three pitches look like four by adding or subtracting velocity. You can achieve the same effect by using different locations and even going as far as to go outside the zone on some occasions. A hitter probably won't expect a fastball on a 3-1 count. Some may not even expect a fastball after one or two offspeed or breaking pitches. Use this to your advantage when considering your next pitch to throw.

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