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Don’t Make the 5 Biggest Pitch Calling Mistakes

By: Cindy Bristow

Having a pitcher with different pitches is one thing but understanding how to call them, which pitches to use and when to use them is completely different. Learn to avoid the biggest mistakes coaches make when calling pitches.

Fastpitch Softball Free Article on Pitch Calling Strategy
While figuring out what pitch to call is much more of an art than a science, avoiding these common pitch-calling mistakes makes it much easier for your pitchers to stay ahead and be successful.

No matter who calls pitches, you or your catcher, doing so is a tough job. It involves thoroughly knowing as much as you can about each one of your pitchers, all of their hitters and the umpire. While we’ll soon be releasing a pitch calling eClinic that will go into detail about all the things you should know in order to call the right pitches, right now I want to focus on the most common pitch-calling mistakes.

I’m aware that some teams have their catcher’s call pitches, but for some reason the biggest mistakes I see made seem to occur when coaches are calling the pitches. The next time you’re calling pitches try to avoid the following:

  1. Random Reasoning – Basically, this means there’s no sound reason for calling the particular pitch – the reason is just random. I know this sounds nuts, but I see coaches do this all the time. Sometimes coaches will randomly call a pitch because they “like” the pitch. It’s the wrong pitch at the wrong time from a pitcher that doesn’t really have the pitch, but the coach likes the pitch so they call it anyway. Random reasoning isn’t really reasoning at all and it sure doesn’t help put your pitcher in a position of dominance.
  2. Haven’t Thrown It In A While – This one’s a lot like Random Reasoning as it doesn’t really follow a solid line of thinking. Simply calling a pitch because you haven’t thrown it in a while is no reason to call a pitch. Pitches need to have a specific reason they’re being called – either they’re attacking a hitter’s weakness, they’re the best way for the pitcher to get a strike, they help set up another pitch, or they help the hitter hit into the strength of the defense…whatever the reason there needs to be one that’s far more specific than we haven’t throwing it in a while.
  3. Simply Liking a Pitch – Coaches seem to “like” certain pitches and tend to call that pitch all the time. Again, no specific reason for calling the pitch other than they “like it”. The screwball is the current pitch that coaches seem to love as it’s called way too often for the very average way that most pitchers tend to throw it.
  4. Calling a Pitch This Pitcher Doesn’t Have – This one always amazes me. How can anyone call a pitch that they know the pitcher doesn’t even have, and yet you’d be amazed at how often it happens! Anyone calling pitches should know the pitches that every one of their pitcher’s have, and the order of control for each of them. Simply having this list in front of you when you call pitches will make sure you’re only calling pitches that each pitcher has.
  5. Calling a Pitch in a Location This Pitcher Doesn’t Have – Another way coaches can hurt their pitchers by the pitches they call is a little more subtle, but still results in putting the pitcher in a position to fail – which means it’s harder for her to get ahead of the hitter. Coaches often call a pitch that the pitcher has in a location she can’t throw it successfully. The curveball is a great example of this. Many pitchers have decent curveballs on the outside corner but then the coach signals them to throw it on the inside corner (sometimes called a “backdoor curve”). This is a much more difficult pitch that when thrown well can result in jamming a good hitter. But, when a pitcher throws an inside curveball and she isn’t ready to throw it there, the result is usually a hit batter if the pitch doesn’t break, or a meatball if the ball breaks too much. Both of these result in the pitcher getting in trouble when really it was the person calling the pitch that made the mistake.

Calling pitches is a challenge that requires a lot of knowledge, study and adjustment. The main goal of everyone calling pitches should be to put your pitcher in a position of dominance over the hitter and keep her there. To help make that possible do your best to avoid these 5 common pitch calling mistakes!

For more help with this topic check out the following:

And watch out for our brand new soon-to-be-released eClinic titled: THE ART OF CALLING PITCHES: All the Things You Need to Know to Call a Great Game


  1. excited for teh ART OF CALLING PITCHES segement!!!

    Comment by Rhonda Revelle — October 18, 2011 @ 12:54 pm

  2. I think the best way of learning your pitchers strengths and weakness’s is to actualy catch for her during practice sessions and see what her pitches doing. And to have her try throwing all of her pitches in different locations to see how youd may use them in a game situation. Of course it may change on game day, but it still gives you a good perspective of what her capabilities are. Also talking to her after her pregame warmup to find out what pitches were working well for her and that she feels good about using that day is also very important.

    Comment by Coach mike — October 18, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

  3. Great points Coach Mike!
    And Rhonda – I hope the Art of Calling Pitches is half as good as you are at doing it!! :-)

    Comment by Cindy Bristow — October 18, 2011 @ 8:42 pm

  4. Who ever is calling the pitches, NEEDS to observe them at pre-game warm-ups. Sometimes, the pitcher just does NOT have a particular pitch on a particular day. I’ve seen many games lost in the 1st inning because dad, I mean coach, will not come to the conclusion that a certain pitch is just not working.

    Comment by Chris Perry — October 18, 2011 @ 11:26 pm

  5. As a college coach who calls pitches and still pitches, several other aspects I consider. 1) Looking at the batter after each pitch and determining the batter’s tendencies, strengths and “hole” in the batter’s swing. 2) Looking at the pitches called in the previous at bats to that batter and seeing what did and didn’t work, 3)Calling the game as the coach (myself) would pitch it rather than the pitcher ) Asking the pitcher and catcher which pitches are and aren’t working after each inning. I ask the catcher after each hit “where the ball was”.

    Comment by Coach Rich V — October 19, 2011 @ 8:30 am

  6. I call pitches for my team (coach). I study the batter, and try to pitch what she doesn’t like. I look at her stance, her swing, (wild swinger,drops hands,etc). My pitcher throw screw, curve, change, location, and a high pitch for a rise (we don’t have). Sometimes the pitcher are flat no movement, thats when we get in trouble. My pitchers don’t pitch much on off season. How can I make the most out of lack of pitching practice?

    Comment by marie — April 20, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

  7. Hi Marie – The question isn’t how can you get the most out of your pitchers who don’t practice, the question is – how can you get your pitchers to practice, or else find ones that will?! There isn’t much you can do with pitchers that won’t practice in the off-season. It doesn’t mean they start where they left off, it means they start worse then they left off last year, so they spend half the season just getting to where they had been. You might want to look at our eClinic titled: Pitching Workouts – Travelball & High School Edition. It’s packed with interesting workouts and some fun pitching games that might help your pitchers work more during the off season. You can’t really call pitches or locations when your pitchers don’t have either.

    Comment by Cindy Bristow — April 22, 2013 @ 10:42 am

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