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Pitching is the most important aspect of the game!
A dominating pitching staff can make all the difference in determining
a team's success. Practice and mastery of the physical elements of
pitching will improve the mechanical skills, but developing the
psychological aspects of pitching can improve the overall concentration of
the pitchers. Pitcher concentration is directly related to control,
confidence and success.
The key psychological aspects of pitching include a thorough understanding
of personal pitching strengths and weaknesses, as well as the development
of the following areas:
The successful pitcher will continue to master his strengths and work on
his weaknesses in practice and during isolated drill sessions.
As a coach, become aware of what type of pitcher you are dealing with. A
power pitcher? A control pitcher? A breaking ball pitcher? Once the type
of pitcher is determined, start to work toward strengthening and improving
weak areas. For example, a pitcher throwing in the low 80's is not going
to be a power-type pitcher. He is going to have to rely on having good
control, developing a good breaking pitch, and establishing the ability to
quickly change speeds with his pitches. On the other hand, the pitcher who
throws hard (85-to-90 mph) will emphasize the use of his fastball more
often. He should also develop a breaking pitch or changeup. When behind in
the count, these pitches are used to set up his fastball or to upset the
Developing mental discipline
A pitcher must be able to control his thoughts, emotions and actions
throughout a game. Pitchers should stick with their routine no matter what
happens during the game. They cannot work on things during the game, so
they need to be under control and have a clear plan on each pitch. The
pitcher should always be in control, since the hitter can only react to
the pitch being thrown. The pitcher cannot allow a situation to become a
factor of intimidation, but rather an opportunity to pitch with
self-control and confidence. Some examples of distractions that can affect
a pitcher mentally are:
(a) environmental conditions--rain, wind, heat, etc., crowd noise, a
poorly maintained mound;
(b) game situations such as a batter calling time out, a baserunner who
may be a stealing threat, the umpire missing a few pitches, a teammate
making a costly error, a poorly-thrown pitch that results in a base hit
and/or a trip to the mound by a coach.
These situations can affect the pitcher mentally and usually will result
in loss of concentration. The pitcher who is prepared to handle these
situations has already placed himself in similar situations during
practice and masters his own mental approach. The pitcher should always be
in control, able to pitch in a variety of situations and under all
The ability to set goals and take the necessary steps toward achieving
All athletes set goals for themselves, but the great ones work harder at
aspects that will assist them in reaching those goals. While practicing,
pitchers should establish specific goals that they will try to accomplish.
Pitching practice should be more than just getting a workout.
Some specific goals may be:
working on rhythm and balance
working on a routine and release
working on throwing to a target
pitching from the stretch
pitching in different situations to use a variety of pitches
working on certain drills that emphasize visualization skills such as
Setting goals before practice sessions will enhance practice performance
and assist in developing good work habits in pitchers. Before games,
pitchers should also set goals to assist in maintaining concentration and
setting the tone for performance. Preparation for the game should consist
of more than just a time to get loose; it should be a time to get a feel
for accomplishing goals during the game. Setting these types of goals and
following through will eventually lead to peak performance.
The understanding and positive approach for dealing with adversity and/or
Most pitchers are competitive by nature and must learn to deal with
success or failure by making adjustments and taking responsibility for
their performance. When pitching in trouble, pitchers should not resort to
throwing harder, they should keep pitching with the same confidence and a
smooth, tension-free motion. Trying to throw harder tends to produce
tension, and pitchers usually lose control, lose the efficiency of their
motion, and slow down arm speed. Aiming the ball or trying to make perfect
pitches is another negative way in which pitchers may deal with adverse
Pitchers need to be taught that they do not need to strike batters out,
but instead throw off the hitters timing to get the desired results.
Coaches need to watch for these signs and emphasize to their pitchers the
importance of making good pitches, hitting the target, and committing to
the pitch they are about to throw. Successful pitchers will not need to be
reminded of these examples; however, they will always need to be reminded
that they should never be satisfied with a performance. The successful
pitcher will always try to improve by seeking to learn more and always
looking for that better way of throwing a particular pitch.
Preparing and developing a game plan
Getting pitchers ready to pitch is an ongoing process that requires a
focused approach to their job. Pitchers should think about a game plan
before the game. Coaches should meet with pitchers to review scouting
reports, hitter tendencies, and how to pitch in a variety of situations.
Reviewing specific defenses and pickoff plays will also assist in this
While in the bullpen, the pitcher should go through his pregame routine by
preparing the body to throw--warming up, stretching and short distance
drills. Pitchers should also use this time to practice what they are going
to do on the mound--getting used to their pitches, finding a comfort zone,
concentrating on staying back, using a good explosion and following
This routine is further accomplished by insuring that the last few pitches
of the warm-up are thrown at game speed or similar to the first few
pitches of the first inning. Visualizing mechanics and release point will
further assist in the preparation and reinforce total concentration on the
Develop a confident approach to pitching
This approach is accomplished by concentrating on the execution rather
than on the results. A positive approach to pitching is essential to any
good performance. Being able to take it from the bullpen to the game is
one of the biggest factors to a pitcher's success. A successtul pitcher
will be able to take his best stuff out to the mound and pitch with
confidence. He should not have any doubt, tension or fear. This approach
is accomplished by being totally confident in all of his pitches and his
ability to win the battle. A pitcher should believe that he has warmed-up
properly and has had ample opportunity to prepare mentally for the
delivery of the first pitch. Pitchers do not always need their best stuff
to be successful. In fact, most pitchers can get hitters out with poor
pitches, since most hitters go up to the plate overly aggressive and
swinging at the first pitch. The key, as discussed earlier, is being under
control and pitching with confidence.
Be aware of the pitcher's rhythm
Rhythm is a primary objective when trying to develop consistency in a
pitcher's timing, balance and control. Most pitchers will get into trouble
when they begin to work too fast or start to allow situations to bother
them. Once a coach senses a loss of rhythm, it is time for a trip to the
mound or time to get a reliever loose. Losing rhythm is usually the first
sign of trouble.
The use of visualization skills
To be successful, pitchers should learn to visualize their mechanics,
rhythm and control. Visualizing before throwing each pitch is an important
step for all successful pitchers. They have to be able to see themselves
throwing the pitch before they actually throw it! Pitchers have to learn
to make visualization a part ot their routine, so it needs to be developed
and mastered during practice. This skill can be accomplished in a variety
of ways. Bullpen work is an excellent time to work on visualization
skills. The coach can ask the pitcher about pitch selection, location and
target for each pitch being thrown. This response will give the coach some
clues about whether the pitcher is developing the necessary visualization
Development and use of relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques improve performance, concentration and confidence.
Learning to relax is a useful tool in the pitching process that
facilitates necessary adjustments needed throughout a ballgame. Using
controlled breathing, stretching, or just taking time out to gather
thoughts are techniques that will assist in the relaxation process. Key
words or phrases used by the coach are valuable starters for a pitcher to
begin using relaxation techniques while pitching. "One pitch at a time ,"
"smooth and easy," "nice and loose," "stay within yourself," "just let it
happen," "see the target and let it go," are some suggested phrases that
have been used by coaches. These phrases are also repeated by the pitcher
as a means of relaxation, further facilitating the process and assisting
the pitcher in gaining control of himself.
Develop a technique for evaluating performance
This aspect will assist in teaching pitchers to constructively evaluate
what they are doing, either in practice or during games. Most pitchers
have a difficult time evaluating their personal performances in a way that
will assist them in improving their game. It is not uncommon for pitchers
to only see the good things and the results, such as ERA, hits given up,
walks and number of strikeouts. These results do not give a clear picture
of what happened during the actual outing and the events that transpired
leading to these results.
Most pitchers see themselves as pitching well and the "rest" of the team
making mistakes, errors or not scoring runs as the primary reason for
their lack of success. Coaches should be aware of these situations and
plan a visit or sit down with the pitcher between innings to discuss what
they want to occur rather than what has been happening. A good pitcher
will be able to evaluate all these things and gain control of his emotions
once he has developed a plan of learning to make adjustments.
Pitching is a difficult task, and learning to pitch with a positive
attitude and well-established pitching psychology are important factors in
predicting success. These key areas will enable the coach to develop
practice situations to gain the desired outcomes during a contest and
assist in recognizing certain points of emphasis that can assist in this
success. Coaching pitchers on the psychological aspects will greatly
enhance development and peak performance.
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Dropping The Rear
Shoulder: A Common
According to Jerry Kindall, coach of the U. of Arizona baseball team,
dropping the rear shoulder at the start of the swing is one of the three
most common batting errors.
This mistake results in poor visual contact with the ball-especially
during the final, critical 20 feet to the plate. It also produces a weak,
upward swing path.
Why? Because dropping the back shoulder causes the front shoulder to move
upwards and away from the pitch. It also lifts the head, producing a loss
of focus on the ball. Finally, the back elbow drops with the shoulder,
resulting in a weak, pushing, upward swing path.
How to Correct
If your batters are having this problem, instruct them to lift their back
elbow a little higher while waiting for the pitch. And tell them to keep
their front shoulder pointed towards the incoming ball as long as possible
before starting their swing.
These corrections will help them to keep their shoulders level and their
head motionless for better eye-focus on the ball.
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The first step in breaking down the pitching action is to understand the
phases in the pitch.
Preparation Phase. This is what happens before you reach the launch point.
It may be less important mechanically than what happens afterwards but it
does establish your line of attack, and your rhythm.
Loading Up. This is where the kinetic energy, which will build momentum
throughout the delivery, is initially stored within the body. There are
actually several load points - the leg up and hip turn, the hip/shoulder
separation, shoulder blade pinch, and the arm cock.
Transferring momentum. This is where the concept of the kinetic chain is
critical - stored energy in each muscle group must be given to the next in
sequence. The most advanced researchers have determined that there is a
critical transfer moments in which more than one thing are happening.
First, there is the energy from one muscle group to the next, but also
there is the stored energy within the group itself.
Release and follow through. Physics tells us that the ball can't go faster
than the fingertips. We also know that perceived velocity (from the
batter's perspective) is as important as actual velocity. So it's
important that the release point be optimized - finding the best balance
between a release point as close to the batter as possible (less reaction
time) and a release point at the instant of maximum acceleration of the
wrist, the hand, the fingers. Ideally there the same point, but not
always. One thing is certain: A complete follow-through is important to
ensure the arm does not start slowing before release. This also means that
worrying about getting into a good fielding position should be irrelevant
- the pitcher's main concern should be throwing a pitch they can't hit.
Loading and transferring momentum at exactly the right time is probably
the most important lesson in pitching mechanics. This is where the concept
of the kinetic chain is critical - stored energy in each muscle group must
be imparted to the next muscles in sequence. Scapular loading may be the
most critical phase in the entire pitching sequence. Both mid-section and
upper body need to get involved in propelling the arm forward as close to
the point of release as possible. If the scapular loading happens too
soon, then you create a pause with the blades pulled back. Likewise, if
the scapular loading happens too late, then the hips will have opened and
the arm pulled forward before the scapula have been effective in
transferring momentum. The best and easiest way to adjust the timing of
all this is with the hand break.
SIGNS TO WATCH FOR
The surest sign that the pitcher is working well is when the completion of
the throw seems effortless but the radar gun shows the velocity is at that
player's current peak. Watch for a decrease in the pinch in late innings
as a sign of a tiring pitcher. Check during bullpen work pre-game and in
Footwork for the Stride Leg
What happens before you hit the launch point is less important than what
happens after but here are some general guidelines...
Load backside - keep your body back (chin over toes).
On full wind up - a shorter rocker step keeps your head over the rubber.
(The purpose of this is simply to establish your rhythm so distance
doesn't matter.) And step straight back, not to the side - you want to
keep all motion in line with the pitch even if you'll be applying lots of
On pitching from the stretch - keep the knee in tight.
Either delivery - keep landing leg loose below the knee - almost dead
throughout the up-down-forward-foot strike sequence.
Up and Back - Lift the front leg right up through knee-over-knee, right to
the absolute top of its lift. But don't stop there either.
Down and Out - Bring the lift leg down again and slide it forward towards
home plate.. As the foot comes back down it eases forward - the foot moves
on a vertical curve. To maintain balance downward through the body, the
back hip is going to collapse inward. That's okay to a point. It's in the
middle of the upper body torque which triggers movement towards the plate.
But don't exaggerate the hip collapse; otherwise the rotational forces
could be thrown off. The only thing you need to avoid is swinging the
front leg out - this will open the hips too soon.
Timing - Not all lifts are the same. Here are 3 examples, of high kick,
average lift, and a slide step. The point is: it doesn't matter how much
you lift - that's a matter of rhythm, style, personal preference - just as
long as you don't pause at the top, and you don't let the lift interfere
The stride is not the trigger for the throw. It's just a reaction to
maintain momentum as the body tries to recover balance.
Front leg strides forward mostly as a counterbalance to body position over
back leg - this keeps the throwing shoulder supported over the hip.
Front leg comes down as a reaction to upper body momentum. Simply fall
If you're starting from scratch and need a reference point have the
pitcher lie on his back with heels to the pitching rubber, head to home
plate. Draw a line in the sand beside his neck. That's about 90% of body
height - a good starting point for foot strike distance
Best suggestion is to land firmly on the ball of your foot with your knee
directly above the ankle, and with toes across the body toward
throwing-side batter's box or even part way up that baseline (the third
base line for a righty, the first base line for a lefty) - never pointed
at the plate.
By having knee above ankle above foot there is less wear and tear on those
joints. The greatest danger is landing on the heel - your leg could twist
out - rotating the leg, which as you know can do damage to ankle or knee.
Final Stride Check - Look at the indentation in the sand - for it to be in
the same spot on every pitch and neither digging in at the heel or too far
forward on the toes. If the heel hits first, the stride may be too long.
If the toes dive in and your body leaps forward, then the stride may be
The Hand Break
Starting from the Set
It would seem that the resting position for the hands at set is simply a
style thing. Relative to the belt buckle, some pitchers hold their hands
higher, some lower.
Timing the Break
As with set position, timing the break is up to individual discovery.
The Angle/Arc of Attack
Rather than having the hands start the break, use the elbows to start the
action - up and out. What this does is give you half a chance of getting
some real scapular loading. Moving the elbows relies on the powerful back
muscles whereas moving the hands first (and opening the elbows) is about
The Glove Side
Squeeze & Swivel. The physical action is to rotate the glove arm over to
palm up and lock the elbow in an extended angle (wider open than 90°).
What this does, in effect, is tighten the front side into the body. This
should be in sync with the throwing arm elbow also coming forward and
Get control of your body so that every time you throw your overall
mechanics will allow the pitch release at the same point in your delivery.
Fine-tune the delivery mechanics so that the throwing action is effortless
in that every stage in the biokinetic sequence works together to increase
Understand the grip's effect on ball movement, so that each pitch behaves
as you expect it to.
Find Your Release Point
You want the release point out front - as close to the plate as possible
while allowing you to control arm action and not hyperextend the elbow.
Less distance to plate enhances your perceived velocity.
You want the release point at the right height for your pitch velocity so
that your 2-seam fastball can get to the low part of the strike zone and
your 4-seam doesn't sail too high. There are no absolutes here -
experiment to find what's right for you. But not yet. Read the rest of
this page first.
Your wrist and hand do not work in isolation. While joints may bend, bones
don't shrink or stretch, and everything is connected right down to your
foot, so...the key is Foot Strike. If you can plant your lead foot on the
same piece of dirt on every pitch, you are half way to establishing a
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