The Change-up is the most under used pitch in softball. I am not disagreeing that speed is important. The focus at USA Elite Training LLC is getting our young pitchers (13 and under) to throw 50 mph with command as soon as possible. As much as speed is used as a benchmark for developing our pitchers so is the development of an effective change-up. Before our pitchers learn any movement pitches we require that they have an effective change-up, which they can throw in pressure situations. Based on my experience, it is more difficult for an older pitcher (high school age) to develop the change-up later in their pitching career.
Unfortunately, many of our younger pitcher lack experience in throwing change-ups, as the pitch is not called frequently enough for them to develop consistency or confidence in the change-up. Too often, the coaches will not call the change-up after it gets hit once. My question to them is, “Does the fastball ever get hit?” When the only pitch the young pitcher has is the fastball coaches are forced to throw it. Coaches love speed at the youth level as it does dominate. But in order for the pitcher to develop confidence the change-up must be used. My focus on the change-up is toward the future development of the pitchers.
With the use of pitching machines, batters are able to practice hitting speed and become less intimidated by speed. Ask the great hitters, at any level, even the professionals, what pitch they fear most, it’s the change-up! The change –up throws the batters timing off. In addition, speed differential, the appearance that speed is extremely different, occurs once the pitcher throws the change-up. On the next explosion pitch following the change-up, it appears to be 3-4 mph faster than it normally would be to the batters eyes. My favorite saying during the game is when the coaches on the opposing team start telling their players, “watch out for the change-up.” This is music to my ears, as the pitcher has now mentally placed a question in every batter’s plan. For the hitter, their focus has shifted from concentrating on the positives of hitting the ball to the negatives of don’t get suckered into swinging at the change-up, or not to be paralyzed by the pitch and let if float over the plate for a strike. The batter is now becoming a defensive hitter verses an offensive hitter.
I encourage coaches to utilize the change-up more in their pitch calling. The change-up should not be called only when the pitcher is a head. Call the change-up when it is least expected. On a full count, as a first pitch, or when the pitcher is behind in the count in my opinion are great times to throw the change-up. Too often, the calling of the change-up is very predictable, used only when a pitcher is a head of the count and then it gets hit. A pitcher also gains confidence in the pitch when it is called earlier in the count, or when least expected, because they know they can throw it for a strike. If your pitchers can develop the confidence in an effective, deceptive change-up at an early age you have developed a lethal weapon for years to come.