I hope to make a video later this morning (the third of Spring 2019) dedicated to pitching. I’m always a little insecure when I speak on this subject; I actually did a “discussion” video yesterday in preparation for today’s, which is intended to be more of a demonstration—and I found myself wandering off topic more than once in defense of my method. Me, a pitcher? What a joke! I have no credentials whatever as a mound artist! But I have the relatively short, broad-framed body type for which this site is designed: how many professional pitchers have that? How many professional pitching coaches have enough imagination to counsel someone with such a build… unless their counsel is, “Find another sport”?
So I muddle on, hopefully forward… and I think I am indeed making progress. The matter that’s especially holding my interest right now is the forward leg lift. Every pitcher is told, and has probably always been told, to close the front hip and then open it. A lot of power is supposed to come from that motion. It’s a perfect analogue to Ted Williams’s gospel of cocking the front hip and then throwing it open to catalyze the swing. The liability of such emphatic hip action, in a hitter’s case, is that the swing becomes very rotational. That’s not necessarily bad if you have the tall, lanky build of the Splendid Splinter, however. The acceleration latent in so many long appendages is worth tapping even at a cost of extra time and increased inaccuracy.
So for a lanky pitcher. He’s easy to steal on as he cartwheels toward home plate—but the payoff is worth the risk, since his long stride and long fall into the catapulting of a long arm puts a lot of juice into the pitch. What if God didn’t give you that kind of body, though? Why are you tumbling down when you don’t have very many steps on the staircase to tumble down from?
My theory is this. From the sidearm angle, you draw more acceleration from lateral movements than from vertical ones. You should be emphasizing side-to-side activity for acceleration rather than up-and-down activity. That means that the forward leg should be driving open as it drives down—and hauling it back over the rubber actually impedes it from opening up, since it will have to clear the back leg before it can move more laterally. Why not just start with that front leg somewhat open as you get your sign, then pump it almost straight up, then give a little hop on the rubber and drive hard open-and-down? From the 9:30 (i.e., slightly above sidearm) angle that we’ve been exploring, this creates a very natural path for the arm. It minimizes risk of injury as well as maximizes velocity… but you do have to drive off the mound hard and low, keeping your head well down like a submariner.
Speaking of submariners… we began our site’s discussion of pitching by recommending that technique. My son, who pitched “down under” throughout college very effectively, impressed upon me that he was a fluke—that the tall, lanky kid is again the one who’s really best suited for submarining. And drawing the front leg back over the rubber is as important in that technique as in the classic overhand style. You have to bend your torso over as much as possible before you launch forward, so opening up and using your lateral muscles becomes a matter of secondary importance. In fact, I’ve never seen a submariner who didn’t throw at least a little “over the body” (meaning that his path to home plate never fully opens up—in a righty, the front foot plants slightly toward third base).
What I’m exploring now, therefore, is unique in my experience—but I don’t notice anyone else nosing his way down this trail, so I’ll just keep blazing it in my blindfold. No coach, that is, seems to teach a very low overhand angle, and boys who throw that way naturally are not advised that they might do well to emphasize the side-to-side more and the fore-and-aft less. Okay, fine. That’s more cake for those few of us who decide to come to the feast.
P.S. View these videos now: Shorter Pitchers: Find Good Velocity Throwing Sidearm (Part I) and a live demo in Shorter Pitchers: Find Good Velocity Throwing Sidearm (Part II).