Inside Outside: A continuation on Pitching Strategy, by Philip J. McDonnell

A baseball batter is taught to "turn" on an inside pitch. This means that he will move his hands in front of the body and throw the fat head of the bat out in front and possibly step toward his power field (left field for a right handed batter). The combined effect of turning on the balls of the feet, turning on the hips and swinging the bat all the way through provides the maximum amount of bat speed and power. The result of meeting the ball in front causes the bat to be at an angle and normally sends the ball to left field for a right handed batter. Another expression for this style of hitting is "pulling" the ball.

Generally speaking batters are coached to try to pull the ball when they have an inside pitch. The inside pitch allows them to see the ball well. It also the best pitch to hit with the bat head out in front. There are two disadvantages to pulling the ball. The first is that you have to move the bat the greatest distance meaning you have to be quick with the bat and quick to decide. The other is the increased risk of a foul ball if you turn too far. It is quite common to see a long foul ball near the foul pole at home run distance. Invariably it was an inside pitch which the batter pulled too far.

The other key coaching tip for a batter is to try to hit outside pitches by stepping in toward the plate. He tries to keep his hands behind the body and the bat head angled toward the opposite field. This gives the batter considerably less power but much better reach to the outside part of the plate. In addition to the reach advantage the batter has more time to react to the pitch further increasing his chances of making good contact.

At higher levels of baseball these hitting strategies are well known. This has a natural analog in the markets. Almost all of the popular strategies are well known to all of the market participants as well. Consequently when the stock market makes a break out to a trend following new high everyone knows this. It should come as no surprise that the statistics show that the market is generally down after such an event, not up.

Pitchers are the natural adversaries of batters. Perhaps more important than a good pitching repertoire is the ability to think deceptively. A smart pitcher with only average skills will go farther and last longer than a power pitcher who got by on his fastball but never learned to think strategically. At higher levels of baseball the power pitcher will eventually find his match.

Good pitchers will tend to pitch the fast stuff inside and the slow stuff outside. The goal is to defeat a good batter's weaknesses. Another objective is to mix things up so that the pitcher does not become predictable. The two fast pitches are the fastball and sometimes the slider. The slow pitches include curve, knuckleball, split finger and change-up.

Most pitchers will start off with the fast pitches inside. This can be intimidating to a batter and often can cause him to move back from the plate. The batter may not even be aware that he has moved back, but sure enough when he steps up for the next pitch he has backed up a few inches. The plate is only 17 inches wide and most batters have trouble reaching the outer part effectively so even a few inches can give the pitcher an enormous advantage. Sometimes an intentional inside pitch is thrown called a "brush back".

As discussed above hitting an inside pitch requires quick decision making and quick hands to bring the bat head out in front of the body. When a pitcher throws a fastball he is minimizing the batter's time to react. This advantage is increased when a fastball is thrown early in the count because the batter has not had a chance to "time" the pitcher's fastball. The inherent weakness of the batter's "pull" strategy is an advantage for a smart pitcher.

Once a batter has been backed off the plate and seen enough fastballs to get his timing down it is usually best to go with a soft pitch away. Now the batter's timing advantage is turned into another deception. Thinking fastball timing he may well start his swing too early. In addition he may have gotten into a conditioned reflex to try to pull the ball and put his hands too far in front. If that happens he must hold up his swing until the ball gets there which usually leaves the batter with only a meager wrist snap to propel the bat. A good batter will often read an outside pitch and attempt to step into it and hit it to the opposite field. Even in that case he may be fooled by the timing and not wait long enough. Added to that is the fact that he has only seen straight fastballs with little movement. The downward movement of a change-up or sinker and the accelerating motion of a curve further compound the batter's dilemma.

Essentially a pitcher can choose his location, vary his speeds and alter the rotation of the ball to change its curvature in the horizontal or vertical planes. A judicious combination of location, speed and spin allows a smart pitcher to compete at the highest level possible. A good batter like a good trader must ask himself the question "What haven't I seen yet?". Most likely that is what is coming next.