Pitching is an important part of baseball and playing defense. A pitcher begins each at-bat standing on the mound with one foot on the rubber. Pitchers begin their pitching motion with a windup or stretch and then throw the ball to the catcher at home plate. Behind the catcher and batter is the plate umpire. On every pitch, the plate umpire calls the pitch as a strike, ball, or foul ball.
Pitchers all have different motions and throws. It can be interesting to watch how a pitcher will throw. You can sometimes notice the pitcher shake his head or nod to the catcher on the type of pitch that we will decide upon. The catcher usually makes a call with his fingers using hand signals.
Pitching and batting is like a cat and mouse game. Each batter likes to either swing or get walked. Some batters will take their time. Good pitchers are aware of the batting order and can determine what pitches to throw based on the batter currently at bat.
The plate umpire stands behind the catcher, who is positioned in the catcher's box. The umpire judges each pitch using the strike zone. The strike zone starts from the ground at home plate and extends from just below the batter's knees to the middle of the top of his pants and shoulders. The strike zone only exists in the umpire's mind and he must use his best judgment to call pitches accordingly. The strike zone changes based on the height and size of the batter.
Umpires will track the pitch as it's thrown from the pitcher's mound to the catcher observing how it travels through the strike zone. A pitch thrown through the strike zone is called a strike, and called a ball if it is thrown outside the strike zone. Four Balls and the batter is walked or earns a free base on balls. Three strikes and the batter gets a strikeout, giving the defense one of three outs to end the half-inning.
Set and Windup Position
There are two primary ways that pitchers can throw a pitch called set position (the stretch) and windup position. These throwing styles are very different and up to the personal preference of the pitcher. With the set position, the pitcher has one foot on the rubber, a single shoulder facing the batter, with the ball in his glove at the front of his body. The pitcher then brings his front foot back towards the rubber releasing the ball as he steps forward. On the windup position, the pitcher faces the batter and has one foot on the rubber and both shoulders facing the batter. The pitcher can use his free foot to windup and gain momentum on the backswing, only lifting his back foot on the release. The set position takes less time to complete than the windup position, so it is often favored when there are runners on base. Using the set position will give the pitcher more time to react if a base runner decides to steal base.
There are lots of pitching rules. They mostly revolve around tricky tactics pitchers have used in the past to gain an edge over batters and base runners. For example, while standing on the mound, the pitcher must keep one foot in contact with the rubber. The pitcher can not quickly throw the ball to the catcher without giving the batter enough time to get ready in the batter's box. The pitcher can't fake a pitch or throw to a baseman.
Most pitchers have can pitch a fastball, changeup, curveball, and slider. However, based on the pitcher's skills and abilities, they may specialize in certain types of pitches that are more effective at different times of the game. For example, a pitcher may be starter, reliever, or closer.