Thursday, February 23, 2006

Pitching Stage III

Stage Three:
Leg Bend

After the pelvic loading stage has been completed, the pitcher should maintain flexion in their rear leg.  Flexion in the rear leg is vital for two reasons.  First, the flexion of the rear leg allows pitchers to activate their quadricep, glutes, and the hamstring of the pitching leg.  This flexion allows pitchers to apply directional force toward the plate.  Just as a swimmer pushes off the wall to start their competition, rear leg drive allows pitchers the same opportunity to start their delivery toward the plate.  Secondly, rear leg bend helps pitchers create front side leverage.  Pitchers achieve a leverage position by tilting their shoulders.  The next pitching phase deals strictly with front-side shoulder tilt.  

Rear leg bend is a topic of much discussion.  Some coaches have disputed the fact that to achieve maximum straight-line momentum, pitchers do not push off the pitching rubber.  Rather they pull their front hip toward the catcher.  Examining the pictures above, it seems relatively clear that the pitcher’s rear leg indicates, due to flexion, that force will be applied toward second base trying to accelerate the body forward.  If a pitcher moves toward the plate with an extended rear leg, it would seem they are not using all their available muscles to create force toward the plate.  

Analyzing pictures are not the only evidence that indicates pitchers use rear leg bend to push toward home.  In 1998, Bruce MacWillams conducted a study that examined ground reaction forces during the pitching motion.  The study’s results indicated that leg drive is a significant factor in pitcher’s throwing velocity.  With the study’s data and evidence with pictures, substantial facts back up the claim that leg bend is needed for a effective delivery.  

MacWilliams, B, Choi, T., Perezous, M, Chao, E, McFarland, E. Characteristic Ground Reaction Forces in Baseball Pitching. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 26(1): 66-71, 1998.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Pitching Series: Part II

Stage Two:
Pelvic Loading

Once the leg lift occurs, the pitcher not only loads their rear leg, but hips as well.  Loading the hips is a difficult movement because it involves controlling the pelvis to move, but in a way that does not throw the pitcher off line toward the target.  As the pitcher reaches the top of the leg lift, to load their hips they must turn the pelvis away from the hitter.  When a pitcher turns the pelvis away from the hitter, they show the batter their glove side back pocket.  From a side view, the pitcher looks as if they place their glove foot parallel to their pitching foot.
        There are two reasons why pelvic loading can help generate force off the mound.  First by turning the pelvis away, the pitcher, can apply more force over time with the lower body going into foot plant.  By increasing momentum with the lower body, pitchers will take stress off the arm by allowing it to “go along for the ride” so to speak.  Secondly, muscles can only work when they are properly loaded.  If no load occurs, the muscle cannot properly help perform an action.  For instant, a person cannot jump on legs already extended.  To achieve maximum muscle use while jumping, a person must have flexion in the legs and explode to extension.  If a pitcher wants to use their hips during the pitching motion, they must be loaded back and then extended forward.

        On this page, there are three pictures that illustrate pelvic loading actions.  On the left, Greg Maddux is completing his leg lift.  From the front, Maddux is showing the hitter his back glove-side pocket.  In this position, Maddux has shown a slight turn in the pelvis.  In the middle, Pedro Martinez displays the parallel position of the throwing and glove leg on the lift.  By turning his glove foot to parallel, Martinez has loaded his hips to produce strong momentum toward the plate.  Steve Carlton, on the far right, displays both of the pelvic loading points referred to in the above information.  From this angle, it presents a clear picture of his back pocket along with the glove foot to parallel.  One extremely important point to remember is that although the hips have slightly turned, the glove shoulder stays in a straight line with the target.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Stage One:
The Leg Lift

The first stage of the pitching motion is the leg lift. The leg lift occurs when the pitcher pivots the throwing foot on the pitching rubber to perpendicular to home plate and raises the glove foot. The leg lift is important for two different reasons. First, it starts the pitcher’s momentum toward the plate. Momentum is important for the pitcher because it helps generate force behind the ball. Secondly, the leg lift allows the pitcher to load the back leg and hips. The pitching leg is loaded when the glove foot leaves the ground. When the pitching leg is loaded, there should be a slight bend at the knee. The pitcher’s eyes and head should be focused directly on the target. On the lift, the pitcher’s glove should line up with the knee and serve as a good indicator for the height of the lift. Many times, our pitcher’s gloves will be at letter height on their uniform. Also, the pitcher’s chin should line up with the knee and glove. Lining up the chin, knee, and glove indicates good posture that promotes a controlled balance.

There are many different styles of leg lifts practiced by major league pitchers. Nolan Ryan practiced a very high leg lift. He attributes some of his throwing velocity to the high lift. When analyzing a high leg lift compared to a conservative one, it seems that pitcher’s that get their legs higher have extremely good flexibility. Also, it seems that their weight thrust back to some extent toward second base. Thrusting back toward second, at least in Ryan’s case, seems to create extreme momentum toward the plate. To further illustrate my point, let me provide an example. Visualize a four-legged table. Now, imagine two legs on the same side being cut. The table would fall until the new leg height contacted with the floor. The higher the table legs are cut, the further the table will fall to the floor. By adding extra distance, the table will come down with more force due to increased momentum from gravity having more time to pull on the table’s falling mass.

But, pitchers should be aware that practicing a leg kick that is too high or out of control can severely hamper their pitch command and keeping all applied force in a straight line. The kick should allow be at a level that the pitcher can continue to maintain their balance throughout the delivery.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Over the next few weeks, I will be posting a series of articles on the way I instruct our pitchers to throw.  I have segmented the pitching motion into EIGHT parts:

1.      Leg Lift

2.      Pelvic Loading

3.      Leg Bend

4.      Front-Side Shoulder Tilt

5.      Upper Arm Circle

6.      Elbow Flexion

7.      Wall of Resistance

8.      Elbow Extension

In each article, the stage will be explained in clear, full detail.  Along with the description, pictures will be provided to illustrate the points I want to express about the mechanics explained.   

Monday, February 13, 2006

Pitchers Making the Play

Pitcher’s Double Play

To effectively train pitchers to start a double play to any base with minimal reaction time.

Pitching Staff
Infield Personnel
Outfield Personnel

Infielders will take their positions in the proper spot. One pitcher will be stationed on the mound, with the entire pitching staff lined up down the 1st base line in foul territory. One coach will be at the plate with a fungo bat. Another coach, will be on a knee behind the mound. The coach at the plate will trigger the drill by stepping in the box. The pitcher, who delivers from the stretch, will throw the glove across the plate. As the ball crosses the plate, the coach in the batter’s box will hit a ground ball to the pitcher. Instantly, after the ball is hit, the other coach behind the mound will yell out the base the pitcher must start the double play. The coach can yell,” Three, two, or home!” The infielders must anticipate that they we start the double play every time, so they must maintain their focus throughout the drill. After the pitcher starts the double play, he will sprint off the field and to the back of the line, along the first base side. Another pitcher will sprint on the field and start the drill all over again. Initially, the outfielders will back up the bases during the drill’s first phase. After the first round, the outfielders will race from their positions and work as baserunners.

During the second round, outfielders will work on their jumps and slides during the pitch and batted ball. The pitchers are allowed to try and pick off runners during the second round. Pitchers will work to perfect their pickoffs to third base, which may be handy someday in a game situation. The coach, behind the mound, will signal the pickoffs as well as the double play calls. Also, the catcher will be allowed to call two pitch outs during round two to throw out players at second or third.

During the final round, outfielders will not only work as baserunners, but practice bunting as well. Since this drill is serving as defensive preparation, outfielders will be asked to bunt the ball back at the pitcher. Typically, this is not a practice our bunters would incorporate, but for this drill our outfielders are working on controlling the bat and ball placement. Even in the final round, the coach behind the mound continues to call out the base, which the double play will start.

This drill challenges pitchers to improve their fielding skills, while incorporating the entire team in skill development. Each round should last 3-4 minutes and each pitcher should at least get 10 repetitions throughout the 12-minute period.

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