In baseball, the pitcher is the player who throwsthe baseball from the pitcher's mound toward the catcher to begin each play, with the goal of retiring a batter who attempts to either make contact with it or draw a walk. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the pitcher is assigned the number 1. In the National League and the Japanese Central League, the pitcher also bats. Starting in 1973 with the American League and spreading throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the hitting duties of the pitcher have generally been given over to the position of designated hitter, a cause of some controversy.

In most cases, the object of a pitch is to deliver the ball to the catcher without allowing the batter to hit the ball. The ball is delivered in such a way that the batter either can't hit a pitch through the strike zone, hits the ball poorly (resulting in a pop fly or ground out), or is fooled into swinging at a pitch outside of the strike zone. If the batter elects not to swing at the pitch, it is called a "strike" if the ball passes through the strike zone and a "ball" is when a pitch doesn't pass through the strike zone and the batter doesn't swing. The batter can also check swing. A check swing is when the batter swings half way when the batter thinks the pitch will be a ball. If the batter successfully check swings and the pitch is out of the strike zone, it is called a ball.

There are two legal pitching positions, the "windup" and the "set" (also called the "stretch"). Either position may be used at any time; typically, the windup is used when the bases are empty and the set is used when runner(s) are on base. Each position has certain procedures that must be followed. A power pitcher is a pitcher who relies on the velocity of his pitches to succeed. [cite web|url=http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/velocity+|accessdate=2007-08-10|title=Velocity|publisher=Merriam-Webster, Incorporated|date=2007] Generally, power pitchers record a high percentage of strikeouts. A control pitcher succeeds by throwing accurate pitches and thus records few walks.

Nearly all action during a game is centered around the pitcher for the defensive team. A pitcher's particular style and skill heavily influences the dynamics of the game and will often determine the victor.

The type and sequence of pitches chosen depends upon the particular situation in a game. Because pitchers and catchers must coordinate each pitch, a system of hand signals are used by the catcher to communicate choices to the pitcher, to which the pitcher either vetoes or accepts. The relationship between pitcher and catcher is so important, that some teams use more than one starting catcher; selecting the catcher for a particular game based on who the starting pitcher is. Together, the pitcher and catcher are known as the "battery".

Starting with the pivot foot on the "pitcher's rubber" at the center of the pitcher's mound, which is convert|60|ft|6|in|m from "home plate", the pitcher throws the baseball to the catcher, who is positioned behind home plate and catches the ball. Meanwhile, a batter stands in the batter's box at one side of the plate, and attempts to bat the ball safely into fair play.

Although the object and mechanics of pitching remain the same for all pitchers, pitchers may be classified according to their roles and effectiveness. The starting pitcher begins the game and he may be followed various relief pitchers, such as the long reliever, the left-handed specialist, the middle reliever, the setup man, and/or the closer.

Pitching Biomechanics

Pitching can be divided into phases which include windup, early cocking, late cocking, early acceleration, late acceleration, deceleration, and follow-through. [Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. 15(1):37-40, January 2005.Benjamin, Holly J. MD *; Briner, William W. Jr. MD] Training for pitchers often include targeting one or several of these phases. Pitching biomechanics evaluations are sometimes done on individual pitchers to help target their training. [ [http://www.asmi.org/asmiweb/pitching%20biomechanics%20evaluation.htm Pitching Biomechanical Evaluation ] ]

Pitching in a game

Effective pitching is vitally important in baseball. In baseball statistics, for each game, one pitcher will be credited with winning the game, and one pitcher will be charged with losing it (this is not necessarily the starting pitchers for each team, however. A reliever can get a win and the starter would then get a no-decision). Pitching is physically demanding, especially if the pitcher is throwing with maximum effort. A full game usually involves 120-170 pitches thrown by each team, and most pitchers begin to tire before they reach this point. As a result, the pitcher who starts a game often will not be the one who finishes it, and he may not be recovered enough to pitch again for a few days. The act of throwing a baseball at high speed is very unnatural to the body and somewhat damaging to human muscles; thus pitchers are very susceptible to injuries, soreness, and general pain.

Teams have devised two strategies to address this problem: rotation and specialization. To accommodate playing nearly every day, a team will include a group of pitchers who start games and rotate between them, allowing each pitcher to rest for a few days between starts. Also, teams have additional pitchers reserved to replace that game's starting pitcher if he tires or proves ineffective. These players are called "relief pitchers", "relievers", or collectively the "bullpen". The relief pitchers often have even more specialized roles, and the particular reliever used depends on the situation. Many teams designate one pitcher as the "closer", a relief pitcher specifically reserved to pitch the final inning or innings of a game when his team has a narrow lead, in order to preserve the victory. Generally, relief pitchers pitch fewer innings and throw fewer pitches than starting pitchers, but may be able to pitch more frequently without needing multiple days to recover.

A skilled pitcher often throws a variety of different pitches in order to prevent the batter from hitting the ball well. The most basic pitch is a fastball, where the pitcher throws the ball as hard as he can. Some pitchers are able to throw a fastball at a speed of over 100 miles per hour (160 km/h). Other common types of pitches are the curveball, slider, changeup, forkball, split-fingered fastball, and knuckleball. These generally are intended to have unusual movement or to deceive the batter as to the rotation or velocity of the ball, making it more difficult to hit. Very few pitchers throw all of these pitches, but most use a subset or blend of the basic types. Some pitchers also release pitches from different arm angles, making it harder for the batter to pick up the flight of the ball. (See List of baseball pitches.) A pitcher who is throwing well on a particular day is said to have brought his "good stuff".

There are a number of distinct throwing styles used by pitchers. The most common style is an overhand delivery in which the pitcher's arm snaps downward with the release of the ball. Some pitchers use a sidearm delivery in which the arm arcs laterally to the torso. Some pitchers use a submarine style in which the pitcher's body tilts sharply downward on delivery, creating an exaggerated sidearm motion in which the pitcher's knuckles come very close to the mound.

After the ball is pitched

The pitcher's duty doesn't cease after he pitches the ball. He has several standard roles at that point. The pitcher must attempt to field any balls coming up the middle, and in fact a Gold Glove Award is reserved for the pitcher with the best fielding ability. He must also cover first base on balls hit to the right side, since the first baseman might be fielding them. On passed balls and wild pitches, he covers home-plate when there are runners on. Also, he generally backs up throws to home plate. When there is a throw from the outfield to third base, he has to back up the play to third base as well.

ee also

* Baseball
* Pitching machine
* List of baseball pitches
* Baseball fielding positions
* Cy Young Award winners
* Top 100 winning pitchers of all time
* Bowler - similar position in Cricket
* American Sports Medicine Institute - Pitching Biomechanics Evaluation


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Pitcher — Pitch er, n. [OE. picher, OF. pichier, OHG. pehhar, pehh[=a]ri; prob. of the same origin as E. beaker. Cf. {Beaker}.] 1. A wide mouthed, deep vessel for holding liquids, with a spout or protruding lip and a handle; a water jug or jar with a large …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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