Dan Spencer is entering his 11th season as an assistant at Oregon State. The associate head coach and pitching coach of the Beavers, Spencer has been instrumental in helping the Beavers to back-to-back College World Series appearances and the 2006 National Championship. He joins CollegeBaseballInsider.com for the 2007 season.






Feb. 8, 2007

Neutral Counts


Most successful pitchers win the neutral counts. Neutral counts are: 0-0, 1-1, and 2-2.


The goal for the pitcher in these counts is to throw a quality strike. A quality strike is a pitch not down the middle of the plate; but on a third of the plate if it’s a fastball and down in the zone if it’s a secondary pitch. The best-case scenario is a pitch that is put in play for an out.


The rule we use 0-0 is 60 percent. That means if you cannot throw a pitch for a strike at least 60 percent of the time, do not throw it 0-0. At 1-1 the percentage jumps to 70 percent and at 2-2 it moves to 80 percent. The logic being that you have more pitches to recover from on a 1-0 count than a 2-1 or 3-2.


If a pitcher can consistently win the neutral counts, he will throw more pitches ahead in the count. The difference in pitching 1-0 and 0-1 is about 200 points in batting average. The difference in pitching 2-1 or 1-2 is about 250 points.


Not only is a pitcher more successful when ahead in the count, it is much easier to control the running game when ahead or even in the count. Most clubs pitch out only when ahead in the count. Clubs that like to hit and run or run and hit try to do so in counts where they can predict a fastball’s location in areas they can handle. In other words, when they are ahead in the count, they are more likely to press their advantage.


At Oregon State, the most important count our pitchers face is 1-1. We are going to throw a high-percentage strike in this count. I believe that by going to 1-2 we have drastically swung the percentages in our favor of getting an out. Clubs hit .110 against us in 2006 when in a 1-2 count. Ideally we get an out on the 1-1 pitch, thus creating the three-pitch out, another goal of our pitching staff. The more three-pitch outs your starting pitcher gets, the longer he stays in the game and the better the defense will play behind him.


A fastball at Oregon State is two pitches; down and in or down and away. We are like every other team in the country trying to stay out of the middle of the plate. The goal is that by game time, any pitcher at Oregon State is able to locate his fastball on both sides of the plate. That being said, once a pitcher establishes fastball command, he must learn a second pitch in order to be effective over the long haul.


It does not matter how hard a kid throws if a hitter has no respect for another pitch. The key is not to jump out of sequence. Teach the pitcher command of his fastball, and then move to a consistent second and or third pitch.

Dan Spencer


Previous Entries

Opportunity Knocks (1/2/07)

Recruiting Athletes (11/27/06)


(photo courtesy of Oregon State Media Relations Office)