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Is It Time to Start Emphasizing the Sinker?

What kind of a coach doesn't like a kid with a top-notch four-seam fastball?

The truth is, not every pitcher on every team is going to blow their pitches right by hitters and rack up 13 strikeouts per game. And for those who lack that golden arm, perhaps relying on another type of fastball — a sinker — would be beneficial.

Sinkerballers tend to be pitchers with sharp command, and with their primary pitch’s sharp movement, they pitch to contact and induce groundball outs.

While Plymouth, Massaschusetts youth baseball coach Frank Jackson understands pitchers at lower levels might not have the arm strength and mechanics to throw the pitch effectively, he said he encourages all of his pitchers to at least experiment with the sinker on their own time.

“I know this ain't the big leagues, but just look at what Rick Porcello and Zach Britton did with it last year,” Jackson said. “If you get a clean defense behind your guy, all he’s got to do is put the ball in play and the guys behind him will do the rest. Not everyone can strike everyone out, and you’ve got to accept it.”

As mentioned, Jackson said the pitch works well for teams with a sound defensive infield, specifically the shortstop and second basemen. And when his team has relied on a sinkerballer, he said he makes sure to give his team extra infield practice so the players are well-prepared for games.

“If we’re looking to get groundouts in games, then we got to prep for them in practice,” Jackson said. “You also got to work on making sure everyone’s in the best spot to field them, so it’s a good time to work on shifts, see who has good infield range, who can turn two, who can make throws, and what not.”

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Jackson noted he has a staunch preference for command over velocity. And with the sinker’s movement, he said it prevents the hard-hit balls one might give up if they were throwing a straight fastball with similar velocity in the same locations.

“Leave the four-seam to the power pitchers,” he said. “Is it an easier pitch to command? Yes. But if you’ve got a guy who can live low with his sinker, I can’t see why he’d need to throw much else.”

Jackson also noted the pitch is most effective when thrown by right-handed pitchers to right-handed hitters. And he said the most significant mechanical flaw he sees with the pitch deals with pitcher’s fingers on the release.

“You want your fingers to be the last thing touching the ball,” he said. “Some guys hold on too long with their hand, which toys with the action.

“If you’re in a righty-righty spot, you want to put more pressure on that middle finger so it breaks in towards him,” he added. “Say — for some reason — you’re a righty and you wanted to throw it to a lefty, then more pressure would go on the index finger so it breaks towards him.” 

From GameChanger and Tom Joyce. 

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