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Pitching Mechanics 101

When it comes to pitching instruction, there are a number of ideas and teachings out there about pitching mechanics that get in the way of people's understanding of pitching mechanics. There are also a number of things that can cause problems, including increasing a pitcher's risk of experiencing injuries. Let let me deal with some of these myths, misconceptions, and dangerous teachings in this piece.

Myths and Misconceptions

When it comes to teaching pitching, it's important that you understand what the best pitchers actually do when they pitch the baseball.

Arm Action

Many of the myths and misconceptions that exist do so because people don't understand what a pitcher's arm (actually) does when they throw the ball.

Jeff Suppan

Jeff Suppan

As a result, on my client site I have put together a piece entitled...

...that breaks down the pitching mechanics of Jeff Suppan. What Jeff Suppan's arm does during the throw is the same as what you will see in every good pitcher.

Arm Slot

Many -- and perhaps even most -- people believe that a pitcher's arm slot is determined by the angle of the pitcher's elbow at the release point. They also believe that a pitcher's shoulders should stay level during the throw and that the thing that should vary is the bend of the elbow.

Arm Slot - Perception

Arm Slot - Perception

They believe that if a pitcher wants to throw sidearm, they fully extend their elbow. They believe that if a pitcher wants to throw from a 3/4 arm slot, they bent their elbow 45 degrees. They believe that if a pitchers wants to throw from an overhand arm slow, they bend their elbow 90 degrees.

Jeff Suppan

Jeff Suppan's Arm Slot

If you spend any amount of time studying photos of pitchers at the release point, you will find that their elbows are always fully extended -- and their elbows are just below the level of their shoulders -- regardless of the arm slot that they throw from.

Arm Slot - Reality

Arm Slot - Reality

That is because the truth is that, as the diagram above shows, the primary driver of a pitcher's arm slot is the tilt of their shoulders at the release point, not the angle of their elbow. The photos below demonstrate that this is the case.

Pedro Martinez

Pedro Martinez's Sidearm Arm Slot

Pedro Martinez threw from a sidearm arm slot. As a result, at the release point his shoulders are pretty much level and his Pitching Arm Side (PAS) forearm is extended out to the side.

Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux's 3/4 Arm Slot

Greg Maddux throws from a 3/4 arm slot. As a result, at the release point his shoulders are much more tilted than are the shoulders of Pedro Martinez. However, here too his PAS elbow is fully extended and is just below the level of his shoulders.

Hideki Okajima

Hideki Okajima's Overhand Arm Slot

Hideki Okajima throws from an overhand arm slot. As a result, at the release point his shoulders are extremely tilted. However, here too his PAS elbow is fully extended and is just below the level of his shoulders.

Leading With The Elbow

Another common myth about pitching mechanics is that it is bad for a pitcher to lead with their elbow.

Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux Leading With His Elbow

However, if you look at pictures and video clips of every single major league pitcher -- such as the photo above of Greg Maddux -- you will see that at some point in their motion they come to this position. That is because leading with the elbow is simply a byproduct of the process of throwing a ball hard.

Do Your Homework

One way to learn about pitching mechanics is to study major league pitchers and see how they throw the ball.

Pitchers To Stay Away From

There are also a number of active pitchers who have poor pitching mechanics and who have had injury problems as a result of their poor pitching mechanics. This includes...

   - Chris Carpenter
   - Mark Prior
   - BJ Ryan
   - Stephen Strasburg
   - Adam Wainwright
   - Kerry Wood

Needless to say, new pitchers should NOT study the mechanics of these pitchers.

Pitchers To Study

There are a large number of pitchers who have good pitching mechanics and who new pitchers should study and learn from. This includes...

   - Cliff Lee
   - Greg Maddux
   - Nolan Ryan
   - Justin Verlander

Breakdowns of the pitching mechanics of these and other of the best, most durable pitchers are available on my client site, which is accessible by everyone who purchases my Pitching Mechanics 101 DVD.

Where to Go From here

Pitching Mechanics 101 DVDJust as there are some things a pitcher should do, because they will improve your ability to throw hard and well, there are some things a pitcher should not do because they increase the risk a pitcher will injure himself. Unfortunately, many of these things are taught by many well-meaning, but ill-informed, pitching coaches.

I have put together a Pitching Mechanics 101 DVD that discusses what to teach pitchers and, just as importantly, what not to teach pitchers.

Because the way to learn to pitch well is to learn how to throw well, I have also put together a Throwing Mechanics 101 webbook, which costs just $5.95.

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