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The Pitching Mechanic
May 2008

Real-Time Illustrations and Analyses of
Proper and Improper Pitching Mechanics


The Pitching Mechanic - June 2008



Comparing David Kopp and Mariano Rivera

I am a big fan of the pitching mechanics of David Kopp, the Cardinals' third pick in the 2007 ML draft. In fact, David Kopp was my favorite pitcher in the entire 2007 draft.

David Kopp & Mariano Rivera

David Kopp & Mariano Rivera

Someone recently put together a comparison of the pitching mechanics of David Kopp and Mariano Rivera using my clip of David Kopp. It turns out that their pitching mechanics are remarkably similar, which I think bodes well for David Kopp's longevity.



Pitcher Analysis - Jake Peavy

Jake Peavy recently started having elbow problems. As a result, I just completed an analysis of the pitching mechanics of Jake Peavy. As I said back in August 2007, I see some thing in Jake Peavy's pitching mechanics that make me question his long-term durability and make me wonder if his elbow problems are more than just a fluke.



Proper Throwing Mechanics

I just finished updating my piece on Proper Throwing Mechanics, which explains the Sideways, Shift, Swing, Step, & Throw sequence that I use to teach baseball and softball players how to throw the ball. This essay is directly related to the topic of pitching because in my opinion pitching is just throwing with less margin for error. As a result, you have to be a good thrower if you want to be a good pitcher.



BJ Ryan - Same Old Same Old

The other day I came across two recent photos of BJ Ryan which tell me that he hasn't modified his pitching mechanics since coming off Tommy John surgery. Instead, he still has a significant Inverted L in his arm action. As a result, he is at a significantly increased risk of shoulder and elbow problems.

BJ Ryan - Inverted L

BJ Ryan's Inverted L

BJ Ryan - Inverted L

BJ Ryan's Inverted L



Solving Throwing Problems

I have been getting a number of questions from readers seeking help with problems related to the throwing yips. I am working on a piece on dealing with the throwing yips, but in the meantime I thought that some of you would be interested in a conversation I recently had with a reader who had a problem throwing the ball.

I'm writing you to see if you can suggest some drills to help me with my throwing problems...
     A little background. I am 37 years old. I used to play ball as a kid and was actually quite good. In fact I was a pitcher and never had any issues with throwing. Then, for whatever reason, once I hit my teens, I pretty much gave up playing, but always remained a fan of the game. Now after 20+ years of not touching a baseball I suddenly decided I wanted to start playing again, so I joined a local men's recreational baseball league.
     Once I grabbed the glove and ball, I was inexplicably unable to make an accurate throw. I actually felt very uncomfortable holding and releasing the ball, as if I had no concept whatsoever of the proper mechanics. I blame part of the problem on having played soccer (as a goalie) for the past few years. If you've ever seen a person throw a soccer ball, it is more of a stiff arm type of overhand throw with very little wrist snap. I think that throwing mechanic has been programmed into my arm and I am having a very hard time breaking it. Now it has just become mental... not unlike Chuck Knobloch or Rick Ankiel, and it is very frustrating to say the least.
     Over time I have been able to specifically identify some body mechanics problems that I have been working on correcting. I was able to identify many of those issues by reading your web site, and practicing several *check points* as I go through the throwing motion. I almost compare this to learning a golf swing. During the winter months when it is not practical to go outside, I have been practicing indoors by throwing a wiffle ball against the wall.
     But the one thing that is still giving me fits is the release of the ball. Specifically, the wrist snap/rolling the ball of my finger tips. I just can't seem to get the ball to roll off my fingers consistently, and as a result I try to force the wrist snap, or hold the ball too long, resulting in me throwing the ball straight down into the dirt. I don't know if this is because of improper grip, or perhaps an engrained tendency to stiffen up my wrist when releasing the ball (thank you soccer!).
     For starters, can you suggest any drills specifically designed to practice wrist snap and finger roll? And do you have any pointers for grip? I hold the ball with a typical two finger grip across the seams, but I am wondering if perhaps my thumb is in the wrong position on the bottom of the ball. I wonder if part of my problem is that my thumb is almost directly opposite of my fingers (under the ball) and sometimes when I release the ball, just as the top fingers are supposed to create backspin, it feels like the ball is also trying to roll off my thumb, effectively forcing a spin in the opposite direction.
     The end result is that I think I may be squeezing the ball, resulting in the ball going coming out of my hand with *no* spin, and thus holding onto it too long and forcing it down into the dirt. I try to make a conscious effort to hold the ball loosely. It is not pushed all the way into my hand. In fact I have been making a concerted effort to just have the fingertips touching the ball, and have no skin contact beyond the first knuckle of my index and forefingers.
     Should I be tucking the thumb underneath, so that the bottom of the ball is sort of resting on the side of my thumb, or should the thumb be extended outward, and if so, should it be more on the side or the bottom of the ball?
Sorry to be so long-winded but I thought I would attempt to describe the problem in as much detail as possible. Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated.

I thought at the time, and still think, that much of this person's problem was mental. He was thinking much too, and his conscious mind was interfering with his body, and I said as much in my reply to him.

I think part of your problem is that you are MUCH too focused on your wrist. I think that in trying to get your wrist to do what you think it needs to do, you are tensing up and are ruining your throw. It's the old story that the more you try to do something consciously, the more you tend to screw things up.
    First, when I teach people how to throw, I IGNORE what the wrist does and things like the wrist snap because they really don't matter much. Second, I would suggest using a 4-seam or 2-seam fastball grip. The grip you are describing can be hard to get right.
     Finally, most pros don't use a 3-point grip. They use a 4-point grip with the middle and index fingers on top of the ball and the thumb and ring finger under the ball.
Kenny Rogers

How Kenny Rogers Grips His Fastball

While I think these tips helped this reader, it turns out that he was helped most by something I talk about in my article on Proper Throwing Mechanics, which discusses how I teach people how to throw a ball.

Thanks again for the helpful hints. I wanted to let you know that I have had a recent breakthrough thanks to your pointers. As it turns out, I was completely looking at the wrong things. It wasn't a wrist and arm issue after all. Turns out, it was a footwork issue. I'll explain...
     In reading your website tips and pointers over again the other day, something suddenly stood out in my mind that, until now, I hadn't even considered. While making your initial setup to throw, you mention very clearly about standing perpendicular, or sideways, to your target to start out. Well, that statement caused a light bulb to go on in my head and I had a sudden moment of clarity where everything started to make sense all at once.
     All this time, I have been starting out standing square, or facing directly towards the target. When I would step forward to throw, two things were happening that put my entire body grossly out of alignment and domed my throw even before I released the ball. First of all, I was stepping forward, but not planting my left foot in the direction I wanted to throw. Because of my square-to-the-target starting position, I was planting my foot a little off to the left of the target as I shifted forward to throw. As a result, this was causing the rest of my body, and my shoulder, to pull away to my left and thus forcing my release point down and too the left. This is why every time I tried to throw, the ball would go straight down into the dirt and several feet to the left of my target. All this time I thought it was an arm and wrist issue, when really it was a footwork issue that caused a chain reaction of bad alignment which made it nearly impossible to throw the ball straight.
     So to correct the problem, I have been throwing with the following "check points" clearly in mind as I do my drills. First, start out perpendicular to the target. When beginning my throwing motion, I point my glove hand directly towards the target as I bring my throwing shoulder up and begin to step forward. Then as I prepare to throw, I make mental note of where my foot is landing, deliberately making sure to step directly towards my target. I also make a mental note to deliberately keep my throwing arm up and back until AFTER I plant my foot, THEN I shift my weight and bring my throwing shoulder forward. The rest just falls into place, and like you mentioned, the wrist snap is not even a factor any more. When everything else is in alignment, suddenly my throws feel natural, not forced.
     After working on this technique for a few days, I have been throwing a MILLION percent better, and with a lot more confidence. Now with the proper alignment to start out, it is almost impossible for me to throw down and away like before. I still have to work very hard to get this throwing motion programmed into my muscle memory without having to think about it every time I throw... but I consider this a HUGE breakthrough. Now that I have identified the problem without a shadow of a doubt, I now know that a solution is within reach, and I am no longer frustrated and afraid to throw the ball.
     So I just wanted to thank you sincerely for the tips you provide on your website and through email. It has been a huge help.

My experience working with this reader has been kind of funny, and more than a little enlightening.
     I have been dealing with just these kinds of alignment issues with the kids on my son's 8U team. If they don't step directly at the target, and instead step too open or too closed, then the odds that they will make a wild throw go way up. I know that that is a HUGE issue at the 8U level, and even at the 13U level where my older son plays, but I didn't think they would be the root cause of a 37 year-old's problems.
     Of course, during the course of this process I should have remembered what happened during the 2006 World Series. On several occasions, the Detroit pitchers fielded ground balls and then threw wildly to First Base or Third Base. The thing I noticed was that in each case the pitcher failed to align himself properly; he didn't get sideways to the target. Instead, they stepped open and then threw back across their bodies.
     I should also have remembered something that Steve Nicollerat, the coach of my high school's baseball team, once told me. He said that someone had studied the throwing errors that infielders made and found that something like 80 percent of the time they failed to get sideways to the target. Instead, they got lazy with their footwork and either started out facing the target or stepped too open or closed during their stride and ended up making poor throws as a result.



Keep The Ball Down And Outside!

As you know, the thing that got me (back) into the whole baseball thing was my 12YO son. He pitches for his grade school and select teams, and I started researching the science of baseball as a result of my not wanting him to have his career cut short due to grade school arm problems like mine was.
     Anyway, despite my working with him on his velocity, my son still doesn't throw that hard -- to a large degree because he doesn't seem to want to yet -- but he's still quite effective. That is because he has a good 2-seam sinker and does a very good job of keeping the ball down in the strike zone and over the outside part of the plate (which is a tactic I picked up from Leo Mazzone).
     Last night my son pitched two innings and only gave up a few hits and a couple of unearned runs (due to multiple errors which fortunately didn't seem to bother him). With one exception -- when he left the ball up in the strike zone and over the middle of the plate -- the other team didn't hit the ball well when they hit it at all. Instead, they hit the top of the ball and just pounded it into the ground. As a result, with a few exceptions our infielders were able to make routine plays to First Base.
     What last night reminded me was that velocity isn't everything and that location and control are much more important to a pitcher's success. We were able to hit the opposing team's harder-throwing pitchers because, while they threw fairly hard, they tended to leave the ball up in the strike zone and over the fat part of the plate. In contrast, while our pitchers didn't throw as hard, they did a better job of throwing quality pitches -- meaning pitches that are hard to hit well -- and we won as a result.
     Lesson (re)-learned.


The Pitching Mechanic - April 2008

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