We know you’re working hard to develop a solid arsenal of pitches and build confidence on the mound. With the PitchTracker Smart Baseball and iOS app, you can “throw and know.” It allows you to benchmark your pitch metrics, set goals, and focus your training.
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Build Your Best Player
Ages 8 – 11
Build Your Foundation
As young players think about becoming pitchers, it’s most important to build good throwing habits and establish a repeatable motion that leads to success and health. While everyone wants to emphasize velocity, and it’s certainly good to get an understanding of how hard a young pitcher throws, what is most important for young pitchers is to throw strikes consistently (Strike %). Throwing strikes leads to success in this age group (and beyond).
Players who can repeat delivery, maintain a consistent arm slot, and throw through the back of the ball give themselves the best chance of consistently competing in the Strike Zone. Pitchers ages 8-11 should focus on controlling their fastball before moving onto secondary pitches. They should benchmark velocity so they understand how hard they throw, but they shouldn’t be focused on throwing faster at this age (that will come with time as they grow, build strength, and continue improving and honing their pitching mechanics). Once a player is older and advanced, it won’t matter how hard they threw at ages 8-11, but learning to throw strikes at this age will build a foundation of success for years to come.
In this section, we focus on benchmarking, setting goals, and training to track repeatability and consistency of motion that help build a player’s ability to throw strikes.
Players should do an initial benchmark of key metrics to see how they develop over time. For pitchers in the 8-11 age range, we recommend benchmarking:
- Fastball Spin Direction – This will give you an understanding of your natural arm slot.
- Fastball Spin Efficiency – To assess grip and release so you know if you’re creating “true spin” from behind the ball.
- Fastball Strike % – Use PitchTracker’s Pitch Charting capability to gauge command.
- Fastball Velocity – Focus on a “session average” so you know where you stand.
Once you know your personal benchmarks, you can set “S.M.A.R.T. Goals” for improvement. S.M.A.R.T. Goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
For beginners, we recommend working toward the following S.M.A.R.T. Goals:
- Spin Direction –Strive for consistency to indicate a repeatable arm slot.
- Right handers should be between 12:00 – 3:00 and have minimal variation (only a few degrees) once you learn their natural arm slot.
- Lefties should be between 9:00 – 12:00 and have minimal variation (only a few degrees) once you learn their natural arm slot.
- Strike % – Chart pitches with a minimum goal of 50% strikes and a stretch goal of 65% or more. If a young pitcher is able to hit the zone 65% of the time, it indicates that they’ve established solid command of their fastball and will likely have a lot of success in this age group.
- Fastball Spin Efficiency – Young players should aim for at least 90% or better Spin Efficiency. Track Spin Efficiency to ensure the release is consistent and as close to 100% as possible.
- Velocity – Benchmark Fastball Velocity and have knowledge of average Fastball Velocity by session to have a more accurate reflection of arm strength. Arm strength is nice to have at this age, but it is far from the most important thing. It is a metric to be aware of at this point, but not one to emphasize.
When building a solid pitching foundation, the focus should be on throwing as consistently as possible (within reason) in a combination of flat ground catch play and mound practice sessions.
First, we recommend beginner players develop a warm-up routine consisting of 2-5 drills.
Then, begin Throw/Catch Play. Start a catch play session with a partner who moves the glove. Work to hit the glove every throw. Use PitchTracker during this type of session, analyze your data, and see if you achieved 90+% Spin Efficiency as you work to hit your target when you are simply playing catch.
Finally, try a Bullpen Challenge! 10 pitches total to try and complete all 4 of the following challenges:
- Challenge 1 – The first pitch MUST be a Strike (emphasis on First Strike %)
- Challenge 2 – At least 3 pitches in-a-row MUST be a Strike (Repeatability)
- Challenge 3 – At least 7 out of 10 pitches MUST be a Strike (Consistency)
- Challenge 4– Try to throw at least 5 out of 10 pitches to where the catcher sets up in the strike zone. The catcher should set up in a different spot every couple of pitches. (Importance of control)
Getting all four is the ultimate challenge, but likely won’t happen in every session. Note the result of each Bullpen Challenge to track progress over time!
Ages 12 – 14
Grow Your Game
As pitchers work to maintain command of their Fastball, they should also start to take accuracy into account. The ability to have complete command and control over their Fastball is key. In turn, Pitchers in the 12-14 age group should aim to develop at least one (preferably two or more) secondary pitches that will best complement their Fastball.
These secondary pitch types will vary, player-to-player, but to maximize individual performance, each should aim to accomplish one of three things: 1.) change speeds and/or 2.) have spin characteristics opposite of the player’s fastball. 3.) make the hitter have to think about seeing a pitch other than a fastball.
Where pitchers at the Beginner level work to maintain repeatability and consistency, players at the intermediate level should hone in on accuracy and start developing a pitch arsenal that can deceive hitters and/or disrupt timing. As pitchers prepare to enter high-school, they should have complete command and control of their Fastball and two or more pitch types.
For intermediate players, we recommend benchmarking:
- All Foundational Benchmarks – Fastball Spin Direction, Spin Efficiency, Strike %, Velocity
- Fastball-to-Changeup Velocity Differential – Measure the difference between the FB and CH speeds.
- Change Up Spin Direction – See how close it matches the FB Spin Direction.
- Curveball/Slider Spin Direction – See if it is opposite/complementary to FB Spin Direction.
- Spin Rate by Pitch Type – Begin to understand natural spin rate by pitch type.
- Spin Efficiency by Pitch Type – Know base Spin Efficiency by pitch type.
Once a player knows their personal benchmark numbers, they can set S.M.A.R.T. Goals for improvement. S.M.A.R.T. Goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
For players in the 12-14 age group, we recommend working toward the following S.M.A.R.T. Goals:
- Velocity Increases on Fastball – Look for incremental increases over time as players grow, get stronger, and improve mechanics. Velocity upticks will vary player to player.
- 8-12 MPH Velocity Differential Between FB/CH – The change of speed between a Changeup and Fastball creates deception that will throw off a hitter’s timing.
- Consistent Spin Direction Between FB/CH – Using the same arm slot for a Fastball and Changeup will make it look like the same pitch coming out of the hand – adding to the deception and fooling hitters.
- 65% Fastball Strikes Placed in Parts Zone – This indicates Command *AND* Control of the Fastball so players can aim and place it in the zone based on their strengths and a hitter’s weakness.
- Achieve Opposite Spin Direction on Curveball to Fastball – Work to gain complimentary spin direction of a Curveball or Slider. Typically, it should work the opposite of a player’s Fastball.
- Monitor Spin Rate Increases – Spin Rate should naturally increase as Velocity increases, but tweaks to a pitcher’s grip and mechanics can also cause positive changes.
For pitchers ages 12-14, Catch Play and Bullpens should start to shift from focusing only on repeatability to also emphasizing accuracy.
Catch Play – Players can use the throwing routine from their beginner days (see “Build Your Foundation” section), but should start incorporating “long-toss” progressions to build natural arm strength. As players get into the long toss, they should make sure to incorporate a changeup grip when throwing at distances further than regulation mound-to-plate for their age level (40-60+ feet). This will help develop Fastball arm speed and will allow the player to become more comfortable with a foreign grip.
This is also the age when players can begin to do cross-training to add strength, speed, agility, flexibility, and mobility to their physique. Proper cross-training techniques will improve a player’s overall game and should be factored into a regular practice schedule.
When throwing Bullpens (about once per week), measure with PitchTracker to track progress:
- Focus on moving the Fastball to all corners of the strike zone (in, out, up, down).
- Work on throwing secondary pitches off Fastball, i.e. FB/CB/FB/CB sequences (For instance, use PitchTracker to see if your Fastball & Curveball Spin Direction are equal/opposite of one another)
- Use the “Custom Bullpens” feature in PitchTrackerTracker to layout your sequences in the app
Ages 15 and Up
Sharpen Your Tools
Players 15-and-older can be considered advanced pitchers who should be regularly working on their craft. They should have a solid command of three or more pitches (for relievers, two or more) that can be thrown for a strike in any count. Advanced pitchers should have repeatable mechanics and consistent arm slots. Fine-tuning the kinematic sequence and mechanics are the way to drive incremental but important improvements.
At this level, players should have a throwing routine they perform almost daily. They should also understand the seasonal flow to training and have a plan for the off-season, pre-season (spring training), and in-season maintenance. Emphasis should be on the command and control of every throw an advanced player makes, and robust cross/strength training should be employed.
For advanced players, we recommend benchmarking:
Once you know your personal benchmark numbers, you can set S.M.A.R.T. Goals for improvement. S.M.A.R.T. Goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
For advanced players, we recommend working toward the following S.M.A.R.T. Goals:
- Continued Velocity Gains to the athlete’s peak performance and then maintained (through workouts, ballistic training, throwing routines, proper rest & arm-care, etc.)
- Maximize Spin Rates on all pitches
- Optimize and maintain proper Velocity differentials between pitch types
- Increase Vertical/Horizontal Break on specific pitch type(s)
- Maintain Ideal Spin Efficiency on 3+ pitch types.
- Get Curveball to *CLOSELY* match (Opposite/Complimentary) Fastball Spin Direction for tunneling
- Develop a 4th (or 5th) Pitch Type without diminishing other pitches in the arsenal.
At this level, players should have a throwing routine that they perform almost daily – maybe one that was developed by their coach or that they’ve built their own over time. Catch Play at this level should be heavily focused on the quality of reps more so than the quantity.
Advanced Catch Play Example: 1.) Warm-up routine, 2.) Long Toss progression, 3.) Pulldowns, 4.) Flat ground work, 5.) Bullpen session (once per week), 6.) Cool down.
When throwing Bullpens (at least once per week), measure with PitchTracker to track progress:
- Bullpens should be used to fix/address something that was “off” in last outing/bullpen and continuing to maintain and improve strengths
- Bullpens should be used to fix/address something that was “off” in last outing/bullpen and continuing to maintain and improve strengths:
- Increase Vertical Break on Curveball
- Add 1-3 inch Horizontal Break to Slider
- Achieve 95%+ Spin Efficiency on all 4-Seam FB
- Get spin rates in the top percentiles by age group
- Advanced players benefit from facing hitters during bullpens (Stand-in Hitters with PT).
- Use PitchTracker’s video features to examine pitch tunneling as well as delivery & sequencing.
- Use trending data to see any outliers. For example, is extension different on certain pitches?
Throw Smarter. Pitch Better. Start Using PitchTracker Today!
With PitchTracker Smart Baseball and iOS App, you can:
- Capture motion data in real-time
- Measure metrics such as Velocity, Spin Rate, Spin Direction, and several others!
- Chart pitches during your bullpens
- Track progress over time
- And more!