Role and Responsibilities
The pitcher stands on the pitcher's mound, a hill of dirt located at the center of the diamond. On the pitcher's mound is a base called the rubber, that the pitcher stands on when delivering pitches.
It is the pitcher's job to throw strategic pitches that will either result in strikes or the batter making an out. To accomplish this, pitches can have different speeds and movements that make them tricky to hit, and there is a certain method to throw these specialized kinds of pitches.
The pitcher can also act as a fielder if the ball is in play within his general area like in no man's land. On some plays, he will cover 1st base if the first baseman must leave the base to field a baseball.
The pitcher is important because he is the defensive team's first line of defense in preventing the batters from reaching base. The more batters the pitcher gets out at home plate, the less base runners there are, which means the opposing team has less of an opportunity to score.
Because pitching is such a difficult and specialized craft, it requires a significant amount of time and energy to become great at it, leaving very little room to practice other skills such as hitting. Therefore, pitchers are often not strong hitters; this is so common that pitchers in the American League of the MLB are not required to hit and a designated hitter will take their place in the batting order.
Types of Pitchers
Each pitcher has their own strengths and weaknesses and may fulfill a specific role for the team. The act of throwing the ball in this specific manner is called pitching, and the throws themselves are called pitches. The batter attempts to hit these pitches in order to reach base.
The starting pitcher is the pitcher who starts the game for their team. In today's game, managers and coaches typically expect their starting pitcher to last at least six innings. It is very rare to see a pitcher on the mound for the entirety of a game due to the large emphasis on pitch count and player safety. With that said, there are instances where the starting pitcher will be dominating and their manager decides to let them go all nine innings. This is called a complete game.
The relief pitcher is the pitcher who "relieves" the starting pitcher. Every baseball team has a bullpen which typically consists of at least five relief pitchers. These players have to be prepared to come in and take over at any moment during the game. Each relief pitcher has a distinctive role on their team. For example, there is the lefty specialist who comes in to face lefty batters only. In contrast, there are right hand relievers who face righty batters only. In addition, there are "middle-relief pitchers," "7th inning specialists," "8th inning specialists," and "closers." Relief pitchers are an essential part of each team.
A closer is the pitcher who closes out or throws the final pitch of the game for their team. Despite the fact that closers usually are only responsible for one inning of work, they are heavily relied upon. A closer will come in to finish the game when their team is in a close game. A relief pitcher will earn a "save" when they enter the game while down, tied, or up by one to three runs and they record the final out. In most cases, the closer will not come into the game unless it's a save situation. With that said, you do not have to be a "closer" to throw the final pitch. During a blow out, when the game is out of reach, any of the pitchers can record the final out.
There is not a lot of equipment needed for pitchers compared to other field players. The only position which requires additional equipment is the catcher. However, every player on the team will have a uniform with their own number and in some cases their name on it. The uniform consists of a baseball cap, jersey, pants, belt, socks, and cleats. While out on the mound, a pitcher must have a glove and a baseball when preparing to deliver the ball to the batter.
Since baseball was first discovered in the 1800s, the game has changed dramatically. First, there was the "Dead Ball Era" which began in 1901 and lasted up until 1919. This era consisted of many low scoring games due to "dead" or heavy baseball. The "Ruthian Era" (1920 to 1941) witnessed a change in style for the game of baseball as runs started to pile up and pitcher ERA's began to rise. Fans loved the dramatic increase in home runs and scoring, while pitchers saw their statistics take a hurting.
Following the Ruthain Era came "The Classic Period" (1942-1960). At this point in time, the strike zone was lowered which led to a lot of controversy. As you could imagine, this was not well received by pitchers. Finally, came the "Expansion Era" which began in 1961 and is still present today. The average Earned Run Average for pitchers today is about 4.10-4.50. An ERA of below 4.00 is considered very solid, while an ERA under 3.00 is elite.
Statistics are extremely important in baseball, arguably more than in any other sport. For pitchers, the most cited traditional statistics are wins, ERA, and strikeouts. We also often see stats such as, BB (base on balls) also called a "walk," GS (games started), H/9 (hits per 9 innings), HR (home runs allowed), and SV (saves). Statistics make comparisons between players on field performance fairly simple and clear.
Every pitcher should come into the game with a strategy for facing the opposing team, as well as the individual players. Pitchers will watch film and communicate with their coaches in order to strategize against their opponents. The main purpose of the strategy is to keep the other team off balanced and therefore at a disadvantage. There are a few key important strategic patterns, which if implemented well will lead to success on the pitching mound.
First, it is important to get ahead of hitters. When you are behind in the count, you are at risk for walking the batter and are at a disadvantage because you have limited pitch options. Next, varying pitch location is crucial. If the batter knows exactly where you are going to throw the ball than they will have a much easier time making solid contact. Third, it is important to change speeds. As a pitcher, you should look to throw both fastballs and breaking balls in order to keep the batter off balance. Strategy, which should be used in every game or match, is especially important in the game of baseball and for pitchers in particular.
Pitcher Skills and Techniques
All pitchers have their own unique technique and skill set. As an athlete, it is important to know your strengths and weaknesses. In the game of baseball, the most elite pitchers typically have at least one pitch "mastered." There are the "flamethrowers," those who throw a fast and accurate fastball. Over the last several decades, pitchers have been throwing the ball much harder on average. This has made for a more competitive and intense game. With that said, there are also pitchers who are known for mastering breaking balls. Breaking balls consist of off-speed pitches (sliders, change-ups, curveballs, and knuckleballs). If you can master an off-speed pitch you will probably be extremely successful. The best of the best can throw fast balls or breaking balls at any given time during an at-bat.
Hall of Fame Pitchers
The following lists some of the most famous pitchers of all time in baseball that were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
|Bob Gibson||St. Louis Cardinals|
|Goose Gossage||New York Yankees, San Diego Padres|
|Sandy Koufax||Brooklyn Dodgers|
|Greg Maddux||Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs|
|Nolan Ryan||New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers|
Top MLB Pitchers
The following lists some of the top pitchers in Major League Baseball by team:
|Gerritt Cole||New York Yankees|
|Jacob Degrom||New York Mets|
|Max Scherzer||Washington Nationals|
|Walker Beuhler||Las Angeles Dodgers|
|Justin Verlander||Houston Astros|
What is a pitcher in baseball?
A pitcher in baseball is the player who delivers the ball from the mound to the catcher. The pitcher attempts to retire or get the opposing batter out.
What are the types of pitchers in baseball?
Three three main types of pitchers are starting pitchers, relief pitchers, and closers.