Much is made of pitcher's talent, and if I had to choose pitchers solely based on their stuff, I'd always take the pitcher with the most dominating stuff.
However, on the mound in a live contest, what goes on between the pitcher's ears can have a profound effective on the pitcher's success.
That's why you see over and over again that pitchers with less than dominating stuff, routinely rack up a significant amount of wins.
It is sure a plus to be gifted with a golden arm, think Kyle Farnsworth, but quite another to have a strategy on how to get opposing hitters out, think Mariano Rivera.
So if I had to choose a pitcher to win a game for me, it would definitely be the one that has a strategic plan on attacking an opposing teams hitters.
At the MLB level, most any pitcher can throw a pitch over the plate if he wants to. He might not be able to throw all of his breaking stuff over the plate on a given day, but he most certainly can get a fastball over, even if he has to take a little off it.
You may ask, but what good is that if all he can do is control a batting practice fastball?
Well, he certainly is going to be in for a rough time of it, but it doesn't mean he can't still be effective if he has a sound strategic approach.
Let me explain how.
First of all, baseball in general is a thinking man's game, and in no one situation is that more universally true as when a pitcher faces a hitter. The key for any pitcher is to not only have a strategy of how he's going to approach every hitter, but also have a strategy for the game as a whole. At no one point in a game does one player, the pitcher, have some many variables in his favor.
In this article I'd just like to concentrate on what I call the A-B-C's of pitching, which comprises the approach a pitcher takes against an individual hitter. I'll address a pitcher's game strategy for another article.
A) At least in the first time through the order, a pitcher should think of nothing other than to throw strike one. Now you automatically put the hitter at a bigger disadvantage than when he first stepped up to the plate. The more pressure on him, the more effective your other pitches can be and the less likely you'll have to risk getting to much of the plate.
B) Change speeds often, but don't fall into a pattern. Your goal is to keep the hitters guessing, so if you follow one fastball with a breaking ball, follow the next fastball with another fastball instead.
C) Change your pitches location. Don't work just the outside part of the plate but work the inside part as well. We all know that a very effective pitch can be a breaking ball away, but if you never work a heater up and in, you've lost a big part of the advantage to the breaking ball away.
You're going to have to be extra mentally tough on days when you don't have you're best command, but remember only you really know how effective how stuff is. If you can get ahead in the count and keep the hitter guessing where and what speed his next pitch will be, you've still got a fighting chance to keep your team in the game.