Both Sides of the 0-2 Debate

Today we are diving into a pitching discussion about what a pitcher should throw in a 0-2 count. Essentially, there are two sides of this passionate argument:

1.   DO NOT in any circumstance throw a strike.  Either throw a breaking ball in the dirt, high fastball, or something off the plate.  The pros?  It gives the batter a chance to get himself out.  The cons?  A pitcher frequently wastes a pitch on something nowhere near the zone and gives that batter a free ball.

2.   A pitcher should do everything to be efficient.  Throwing pressure pitches (pitches close, but not in the strike zone) is preferred and contact is encouraged, because it will normally be weak if the pitcher hits his spot.  The pros?  It keeps pitch counts low and the pitcher aggressive.  The cons?  The pitcher is more likely to miss in the strike zone and give up a 0-2 hit.

I’ve heard both sides argued adamantly.  Before I share with you the perspective of a professional pitching coach I recently spoke with, let me share a little bit about my last 24 hours …

Side Story 

So, I have spent the last two days in Santiago, Dominican Republic.  Even though it was supposed to be a relaxing vacation with my wife, I found myself surrounded by great baseball people… I promise I wasn’t trying!  First off, in case you missed it, Manny Ramirez played in his first Dominican Winter League game of the season yesterday and went yard (hit a HR) on the first pitch he saw… Then he ate breakfast at the hotel we were staying at, and I was told by our waiter that we’d missed him by 15 minutes. AHHHHHHH!!! Hanging out with Manny is #4 on my top 10 baseball bucket list.  Guess it’ll have to wait.

Second, I met Royals’ back-up catcher Brayan Peña playing pool at our hotel.  Awesome dude, and generous enough to do an NLB interview with me (coming soon).  The guy has a great story, coming from Cuba, to Costa Rica, and eventually signing with the Braves and working his way up to the big leagues… more to come!

 

Third and finally, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with former big league pitcher and current Red Sox AAA pitching coach Rich Sauveur.  Rich is currently in Santiago as the pitching coach for Las Aguilas (Manny and Miguel Tejada’s team) in the very competitive Dominican Winter League.

Red Sox AAA Pitching Coach Shares His 0-2 Philosophy

The conversation turned to 0-2 counts after I asked him,“What’s the biggest adjustment you’ve had your pitching staff make so far this season?”

Rich’s answer (paraphrased):

“The biggest adjustment I’ve had our guys make has been our approach with 0-2 counts.  Early on this season, we were giving up way too many 0-2 hits.  A week ago, I finally had a sit-down meeting with our entire pitching staff and got after them a little bit.  Essentially what I said was this:  ‘From here on out, every 0-2 pitch is going to either be a curveball in the dirt or a high fastball.  No exceptions!  Since then, we have gone 6-1 and haven’t given up an 0-2 hit until tonight.’ “

Side note: When their pitcher gave up that 0-2 hit, the pitcher threw a change up that turned into a double. Rich may have showed me his black and blue shin from kicking a nearby bat after that exchange. 

Rich went on to say that he does the same thing with his AAA guys.  Essentially he says,

“Give the hitter one chance to get himself out, and if he doesn’t, then do whatever you want.”

So what do you guys think?  Should pitchers waste that 0-2 pitch or go after the batter with something in or close to the strike zone?

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