When to Make the Call to the Bullpen: 3 Easy Steps to Prepare for It

January 25, 2018 | Category: Coaching,Pitching,Preparation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

When to Make the Call to the Bullpen

Any coach who’s had the pleasure of pulling a pitcher from the game knows that it’s almost never a pleasure. Very rarely do coaches take pitchers out when pitchers are doing well. If you have pulled your pitcher out while they are throwing well, you either had a big enough lead and wanted to give another player a shot, you were trying to save his or her arm, or maybe you like to play the match up game where you matched pitchers against certain hitters. These times are few and far between. Usually you pull a pitcher out because things aren’t going too well and you are trying to salvage every bit of the game you can. Sometimes pitchers get wild after having thrown a lot of pitches or they are getting shelled and can’t seem to find an out anywhere. When do you make the call to the bullpen? There’s a lot to consider. Some reasons you should think about warming someone else up are:

-high pitch count (fatigue)

-can’t find the zone (throwing lots of balls)

-didn’t bring the right stuff (their pitches just aren’t moving a lot that day)

-giving up too many hard hit balls (usually a result of not getting a lot of movement)

-free bases (walks, hit batters, wild pitches, etc.)

-soreness/stiffness or pain (possibly from their last outing)

-emotional (emotional pitchers don’t think logically under pressure)

-match up (a particular hitter has been crushing your pitcher)

-one time through guys (some pitchers are only effective once through the lineup, then hitters figure out their pitching style and hit the ball)

-saving the arm (using them later that week)

Depending on the league there may be different rules on substitutions and reentries. Most younger leagues you’ll see pitchers play other positions. One word of advice… if you plan on putting in a player to pitch from another position on the field, before that inning starts, warm them up a little in the bullpen so that they don’t go in cold. You’ll prevent injuries and confusion if you can do this between innings or the half inning before you make the change. Here is how to make it happen.

1. Have a list of available pitchers

Before the game starts, have a list of pitchers who are available and how many innings each will throw if everything goes to plan. Maybe you want to keep some players on a pitch count because you plan using them later in the week or they just don’t have stamina (see example below). Either way, have a plan for who pitches and what will happen if they start to have trouble. I often consult my coaching staff because I trust their knowledge on the game.

2. Know their limits and when they start to have trouble

Now think of any reason that they would be pulled out. For players who have a history of walking a lot of guys, put some sort of cap on it. Let’s say 5. When they walk 5 batters that’s your que to warm someone up. Maybe it’s when the lead gets above 5 runs. Whatever that que is, stick with it. Most new coaches who go in with the idea of taking a pitcher out at a certain time don’t stick with the plan. Sometimes that’s okay. But the statistics aren’t in your favor. Even professional coaches have a history of leaving pitchers in too long. Below is an example of what a prearranged pitching limit table would look like.

3. Trust your gut

When you think it’s about time to take the pitcher out because they are having trouble, you’re probably right. Statistics will be on your side. Having said that, I’m not against letting pitchers work themselves out of an inning. It’s good to challenge your players in tough situations. There is a lot to learn from them. As you get to know your players you start to understand their limitations.

Every once in a while I find myself going against my own guidelines but it’s because there is a teachable moment taking place and that can be more valuable than the outcome of the game. Track your player’s pitches throughout the game. Learn when your pitchers get tired so you can better prepare for their relief in close games. If a pitcher gets emotional, it’s time to bring in the relief. It’s harder to throw well when you are upset at a call or mad that someone made an error. Mount visits can be just as effective as a pitching change. Use them. It might be all you need to change the momentum of the game. The important thing is to trust your gut. Don’t get caught in the moment and overthink the task at hand. Set a good example for your players and let them know that you trust them. By taking them out of a game they are also learning to trust each other.

-Casey Medairy, Coach COA

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