Pitching

We’re working on a library of videos and will be adding slowly but surely to the items below:

Warning: The suggestions on this page come with no guarantees, and you apply them to your game at your own risk.  Never attempt a pitching motion which does not feel natural and fluid–and always stop your session instantly if you feel sudden pain as a result of your movements.

Probably 90% of pitching today is over the top–from 10 to 11 o’clock, so to speak.  The overhand pitcher is essentially a wheel abruptly set into a falling spin.  He launches his cartwheel off the rubber with a strong back-leg thrust while assisting the plunge toward the plate with an explosively opening front hip and shoulder (in that order).  The back hand is the wheel’s rearmost spoke, and it comes flying through in a downward line straight at the target.

Wide wheels cover more ground and move faster along the rim.  A tall guy has a longer “spoke” from which to hurl the ball: because his hand extends farther from the center of rotation, it shoots forward with greater velocity.  His longer legs also make more effective use of the mound’s descent, carrying the delivery almost into the infield grass; and simply because of this great stride, he actually releases the ball closer to home plate–which doesn’t increase pure velocity but reduces the distance over which the pitch has to travel.  Every split second gained is an advantage.

The short pitcher has none of these advantages.

Now, a submariner doesn’t need a particularly long stride.  He’s lifting up instead of pulling down, so the fall doesn’t translate directly into velocity.  Besides, if he were to take all of his appendages straight toward the plate, he couldn’t release his pitch: his back leg would get in the way as it landed.  (Imagine trying to pitch overhand around a spare leg growing from your shoulder!)  All submariners therefore pitch by coming somewhat around their legs and “throwing over the body”, as opposed to the utterly impossible 6 o’clock release.  This further reduces speed.  The only way such a delivery can make up for lost velo is through utilizing a lanky arm capable of an emphatic whiplash motion.

Someone with a short frame may have long arms: great height is mostly concentrated in the legs.  Nevertheless, submarining is rarely a short guy’s gig, if only because all the “tricks” it practices upon the hitter–especially the mass of flailing limbs and the release closer to the foul line–are enhanced by a long, lean frame.  Strike Two!

What’s left?  Where is the Goldilocks Zone, where things are just right for a medium build on the mound?  Is there a Goldilocks Zone?  If 10-11 o’clock is too high and 7-8 o’clock is too low, are there any opportunities between 8 and 10 o’clock?

bc pitching 2  We think there are.  The young man pictured here (who measures a hair or two under 5’9″) is coming from a little under 9 o’clock, as you can see.  You can also tell from his upright position that he possesses a strong core and legs.  This is common in shorter body types: they’re often more muscled up because their frames are broader.  Because they tend to carry wide shoulders, a sidearming delivery bc pitchingcan come quite naturally to them.  Yoennis Cespedes can flick a ball back to the infield from his side pocket, and Willie Mays could probably have tossed a rope to the plate from that area.  Those are two really broad-shouldered guys!  (Willie was very high-waisted but only stood about 5’10”.)

Now, a lot of sidearmers throw over the body, as if they were submarining.  These are usually the lankier fellows.  Once again, we see the extensive reach being tapped for velocity in a motion that can’t access it effectively through the legs.  Walter Johnson was endowed with such an incredibly wide wingspan that he could bring his front foot down scarcely ahead of where he’d lifted it: his arm swished through like a cracking whip, all on its own.  Ordinary mortals can’t do this sort of thing.  It seems reasonable, then–and perhaps probable–that a shorter, wider body could find a better solution from the sidewise angle.

If the front side is actually allowed to fall away from the plate somewhat (a big no-no for overhand pitchers), then a path is fully cleared for the back side to come driving through.  The “somewhat” is key.  We aren’t suggesting a hefty outward swing, like a hitter’s who steps in the bucket–only a modest sidestep (about as modest as old Walter’s forward one).  Nevertheless , if a deep submariner were to let fire with even the faintest opening up of this kind, he’d plant the ball far up the backstop over the on-deck circle: his angle is too low for him to hit the plate once he veers outward ever so slightly

From his higher angle, however, a sidearmer (or “high submariner”) can profit from the opening delivery path.  He merely needs to keep his head down and his front shoulder closed (like a step-in-the-bucket hitter) until his weight shift drives the upper body open.  Critics will all raise the same warning–and they’ll be right: there’s a risk in the back shoulder’s chasing straight after the front one, before the weight shift.  Such awkward rushing would once more pull the ball high and outside (though not send it over the screen).  Let’s not do that!  The back side must be allowed to snap toward the plate in a fluid follow-through.  Stay low all the way through.

Strong legs and especially core muscles take center stage for this performance, powering the snap with inner force rather than gravity.  Height really doesn’t count for much in the equation.  Not that legs and hips are minor contributors: you’ll never get low enough as you load up if you don’t have balance and drive below the belt.  Legs and hips lead the flow of motion into the flexing torso.  What we’re stressing is just that an exceptionally strong core now becomes indispensable.

We actually prefer an 8 or 8:30 angle to anything at 9 o’clock or higher.  Once you come fully parallel to the ground or edge a bit above bc pitching 3that plane, your rear shoulder is bound to roll out after your front one as you attempt the sidestep.  (Mychal Givens throws at about 9:30–but notice that he also strides straight toward home, like “The Big Train”.)  Confidentially, we favor the “hack” of bouncing ever so slightly and briefly on the rubber before launching into the delivery.  This seems to help the shoulders drop and stay closed as the front foot slips smoothly away at an angle of maybe 20 or 30 degrees  to the plate.

Sidearming is largely unexplored territory in today’s baseball teaching, though a lower arm angle was immensely more common a century or so ago.  The approach is ignored now  because, very probably, short pitchers are “weeded out” at higher levels rather than exploited for their special gifts.

If you find that a sidearm flip comes naturally, you might give this motion a try on the mound; but if you have to work at it and feel awkward, you should stay away from it!  Never force your body to do something that it’s just not built to do.  We’ve seen some criminally bad sidearm deliveries over the years–those kids’ coaches should be stripped of their clipboards and stopwatches!  Don’t get in a tug-of-war with Mother Nature: the two of you need to be on the same side of the rope.