The goal of a bullpen session is to develop your grouping, sequence, command, intensity, movement development, tunneling, and/or to practice gameplay. One of the biggest mistakes people make is doing a bullpen session without a goal and not keeping track of their pitch count, which results in them not knowing how they are progressing, the recovery time needed, and the next development focus.
Once you have decided what you want to have as your goal, you will want to keep track of how many throws you do and how many of those pitches you execute. If you want to be an excellent pitcher and dominate on the mound then you got to focus on the process and the things we have control over. As pitchers, it is out of our control if someone hits the ball but it is in our control if we had executed the pitch properly. So I would encourage you to track your execution/total pitches ratio. for example, if you throw 60 pitches and execute 43 then your ratio is 43/60=71%. This would mean whatever your catcher/coach calls, you have the ability to execute 71% of the pitches called. This could be broken down even more with your ability to throw a specific movement/speed/target/location but this is a great overall understanding and perspective of how well you can execute your pitches. When you think about a pitch, please do not make the same mistake I used to by thinking that a pitch was a fastball, change-up, curveball, slider, etc. A fastball, change-up, curveball, slider, etc, are movements and speed; however, to make it a pitch we must include the target and location too. Target is where you want the ball to start and location is where you want the ball to finish. Your target will depend on how the ball moves for each movement/speed. For example, my 12/6 curve moves straight down 20 inches and 1-2 inches out, so if I want to throw it in the dirt outside then my target is at my catcher's right knee and the location is in the dirt outside. Now that I have shared with you my perspective of what a pitch is and how it will help you execute more pitches let's talk about the different types of bullpens you can do to better prepare for the games and get better overall as a pitcher. Your goal is to be 75% above in your execution ratio.
This is to have a set of 3-5 movements/speed set up and only do those movements/speeds regardless of the count or execution of the previous pitch. Location is free to be changed and/or the catcher can tell you where to throw. For example, fastball, fastball, changeup, & slider.
This is to pitch based on the situation, count, and execution of the previous pitch. This will be something you will rely on if your batters at-bat takes more than your grouping if you decide to use grouping in your games too. For example, you may not realize it but runners being on base can result in certain parts of your arsenal being considered riskier or beneficial to throw. Such as pitching in the dirt with a man on first, no outs, 0-2 count. Sure you could get him to chase and get a strikeout but possibly lead to the runner advancing to 2nd base. A better option could be throwing pitches you know resulting in a lot of grounders to help your team turn a double play. For myself, I know when I throw a slider it gets a lot of strikeouts, groundouts, or pop out which all result in an out majority of the time. Of course, every hitter is different and some of them may hit your pitch but we can adjust and navigate around that as we pay attention. A sequence is thinking two pitches ahead and usually, the first pitch sets up the second one, unless the situation and count change according to the plan.
When it comes to command, many people think of it as executing pitching; however, in a bullpen session focusing on command is to work on a particular pitch that you want to develop or work on to add to your arsenal and pitch in the games! This is where you gain control and add to your arsenal. For example, my changeup was not moving nor was it that much slower than my fastball so I had to adjust and make some changes I spent a bullpen focusing on different changeup grips to see what works best for me and that I can consistently pitch and get the right movement and speed I wanted.
I created this bullpen inspired by Bartolo Colon's record of holding 38 straight strikes which is an incredible accomplishment. As pitchers we want to execute as many pitches we throw so this is a fun game to play against yourself. You have a limited amount of pitches to throw. You choose a movement/speed, target, and location and hit that pitch until the limited amount of pitches you are allowed; however, the goal is to pitch as many executed pitches in a row you can. Then try to beat that every time you go to do intensity bullpen sessions. It will challenge you, create focus and increase pressure too. For example, you limit your bullpen to 40 pitches then a perfect outcome is 40 executed called pitches in a row. Let's say you called 17 pitches and executed them in a row but on the 18 pitch you called a fastball low outside but you ended up throwing it to far outside and missing the strike zone resulting in you missing the pitch you called, then you restart. Let's say you hit the following 8 in a row and miss the 9th one. Then you have thrown 27 pitches and have 13 more available pitches before the 40 pitching limit; which would mean your most executed pitch in a row is 17 with a 40 pitch restriction.
This is where you have the same target but utilize your movement and speed to finish the pitches in different locations challenging the batter's eye level and perception of where the ball will land resulting in being unpredictable and harder to hit. For example, we start with target Inside, 4 seam fastball, slider starting at the same target inside but breaking away to the outside corner location. Then do a change-up inside and move inside location. The batter sees it as an inside fastball but the movement of the ball finished at all different locations making the pitcher unsure which direction the ball is going to go when they go to swing for the ball.
This is where you either do live hitting or pretend to have a batter at the plate and pitch until you throw three strikes or walk the hitter with four balls until you get three outs. Then keep track of how many batters you go through per inning. the goal would be 3 batters. Then keep track of how many pitches it took per batter and add it up. then challenge yourself to complete as many innings as possible before your pitch count. Pitches To Throw: 8-12 years old: 32-40 pitches 12-14-year old: 40-60 pitches 14-17 years old: 46-75 pitches 18+ years old: 60+ pitches.
Additional Notes and Advice:
Your recovery is just as important as your bullpen sessions so keep track of your pitch count throughout the week so you make sure you do not overuse your body. The number one leading cause of injuries is too much stress on the body and performing while tired, extremely sore, and/or fatigued. Secondly, fuel your body before and after your training with proper nutrition. Make sure you warm up and cool down seriously as it will prepare and recover your body. When you play and the train makes sure you compete first then have fun. You got to prioritize being competitive before having fun because if you are striving to be the best you must prioritize being your best and competing to the best of your abilities. Plus you will have more fun when you play your best regardless of if you win or lose. Lastly and most important please prioritize your faith and build your relationship with God as he will give you strength, peace in mind, and so much more!