‘MLB The Show 18’: How to master pitching and keep runners off the basepaths

MLB The Show 18 is available now, and it’s a remarkably realistic take on America’s pastime, with challenging batting and base-running features, as well as strategic pitching. If you take the mound without a game plan or a basic understanding of how pitching works in real-world baseball, you’ll find yourself with a soaring earned run average and a heavy deficit when you come up to the plate. Before you even throw a single pitch, check out our tips for how to dominate on the mound and in the field in MLB The Show 18.

The basics of pitching

As the pitcher in MLB The Show 18, you set the pace of the game. Innings unfold as you throw pitches and attempt to get each batter out, and by managing your total pitch count and locating your pitches correctly, you’ll be able to keep runners from crossing the plate and scoring.

The default control scheme for pitching in MLB 18 is meter-based, requiring you to tap a button on your controller a few times in order to determine how effective your pitch will be. After selecting one of your available pitches using the face buttons on your controller and choosing a location using the analog stick, you’ll tap the tap the X button to send a bar moving up the length of the meter. Tap it again, and it will move in the opposite direction, and you must tap it one more time to throw a pitch.

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It can be a little overwhelming at first, but the system is actually quite simple. As the bar goes up the meter, hit the X button just before it heads into the red-colored section at the very end. As it comes back down, you want to hit X again so the bar lines up as close as possible with the line near the middle of the meter. If you do this correctly, you’ll throw a nice, hard pitch right where you aimed. To throw the ball a little harder, you can wait for the bar to go into the red area, but you can easily miss your target this way.

As your pitcher works deeper into a game, his energy level will begin to drop. You need to keep careful track of this as you pitch, particularly if he has an inning or two when he throws more than 15 pitches. With a drop in energy comes a drop in velocity and precision. Precision can also be affected by a drop in “confidence,” which is displayed right below energy in the pitching interface. This will go up or down depending on how many hits or runs the pitcher has given up.

How to dominate the batter

You have the advantage at the mound in MLB The Show 18, but if you get careless, you will still see your pitches getting clobbered over the fence. This is relatively easy to avoid if you locate your pitches well and know when to throw each one. Here are the tips you need to know in order to dominate the batter, even after the ball is put in play:

Locate your fastball

Just like in real baseball, pitchers in MLB The Show 18 live and die by their fastball. The fastest pitch in your repertoire, the basic four-seam fastball is a straight pitch that you will make heavy use of – possibly as much as 75 percent of your pitches can be fastballs. Your goal when throwing the pitch isn’t to just blow the ball by the batter, as they’ll quickly pick up on its velocity and smack it into the outfield.

Instead, you have to “paint the corners,” with the pitch. Focus on staying to the low-outside corner of the strike zone, unless that corner is displayed in red for a particular batter, as this means he hits pitches in that location well. If you miss with this pitch, batters are unlikely to hit a home run, and it’s difficult for them to discern whether it’s a ball or a strike until it’s too late to swing. If you start a batter off with this pitch, you’ll have an easier time getting them to swing at “junk” pitches later on.

Learn to love the changeup

Breaking pitches such as curveballs and sliders are handy for getting a batter to chase a pitch outside the strike zone, but you need to learn to use the changeup if you want to get batters to swing and miss on a consistent basis. Thrown by the majority of Major League pitchers, it looks like a fastball when it comes out of your hand but is 5 to 15 miles-per-hour slower. This will cause batters to swing too early, either completely missing the pitch or hitting a ground ball to an infielder.

Make sure you keep the changeup located near the bottom of the strike zone. Unlike fastballs and curveballs, which can have success when thrown higher up, the changeup becomes much easier to spot if it’s located up in the strike zone. If a batter picks up on it, it’s one of the easier pitches to knock out of the park.

Pay attention to your pitches’ effectiveness

Near the icon showing which button to use for each pitch, you’ll see a blue circle. This denotes your different pitches’ current effectiveness. At the beginning of an outing, it will be about halfway around the icon, indicating a fair amount of confidence in the pitch. Should you successfully use a particular pitch to get several outs or some swing-and-misses at the plate, the circle will begin to fill up. If you use a particular pitch and it’s consistently hit into the outfield or you can’t locate it for a strike, the semi-circle will shrink.

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Not every pitch is going to be working for each game, and if you find that one of your pitches isn’t getting the job done, it’s usually best to just stop using it for the duration of your pitcher’s time on the mound. The sole exception to this is the fastball – you must fight through any issues and try to locate it for strikes, because without it, all your other pitches will be less effective.

Don’t be afraid of walks

Walking a batter in a baseball game used to be embarrassing, as games’ pitching systems made it quite difficult to throw anything but strikes on purpose. This isn’t the case in MLB The Show 18. Even just releasing a ball slightly too early or late can result in it missing your target and landing outside the strike zone. Should you fall into 3-0 or 3-1 counts, it can be tempting to just throw a pitch right down the middle in order to get an easy strike, but you have to learn to accept walks. Occasionally, particularly when you already have two outs, it’s less risky to just give a hitter first base than it is to try to get him out. Learning when to concede a base – and accepting it – will make you a better pitcher.

Throw pitches to trigger double plays

Just because a batter has managed to get a hit or a walk doesn’t mean he’s safe: far from it. By using the right pitches and locations, you can trigger double plays on a regular basis. These are accomplished by forcing a batter to hit a hard ground ball to an infielder, who typically throws the ball to second base before it is thrown to first base.

In order to initiate double plays, make use of the splitter, sinker, cutter, or two-seam fastball. All of these pitches have just slightly lower velocity than the standard four-seam fastball, but with movement that make them difficult to hit with solid contact. This means a lot of ground balls. With the sinker and the splitter, the movement will be vertical, with the ball dropping as it approaches the plate. The cutter will break in the opposite direction of the pitcher’s throwing hand – a lefty throwing the pitch will see it break to the right. The two-seam fastball will break in the same direction as the pitcher’s throwing hand, though typically with less bite than the cutter.

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If your pitchers don’t have any of those pitches to work with, a changeup thrown on the outside edge of the plate can also initiate a double play. Just make sure you locate it properly, as missing can result in the batter putting a few runs on the board with one swing.

Make smart throws from the field

Once the ball is put in play and your fielders attempt to track it down, your attention has to shift to where you’re going to throw the ball next. With a runner on first base, for instance, your best option on a simple fly ball will be to throw it to either the cutoff man (done by hitting L1) or the second baseman. If a runner is on second base, he might attempt to tag up on this play, taking third base before you can get the ball in. If he’s already on third base, he’ll likely try to score.

Take a second to examine your individual outfielders’ arm strength and arm accuracy stats, which you can find by examining your roster in the pause menu. A selection of players, such as Starling Marte or Yasiel Puig, will be extremely hard to run on, while others aren’t capable of throwing out base-runners on a regular basis. Regardless of where you send the ball, you can “preload” your throw by holding down the appropriate button before your player catches the ball.

If there are runners on both second and third and a ball is hit into the outfield, you might need to concede the run and just throw the ball to the cutoff man. Typically, you can prevent the runner on second base from moving to third base this way. Should you throw the ball to home, he’s almost guaranteed to take third base.

For more pitching tips, including information on specific types of breaking pitches, check out our MLB The Show 17 guide.

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