Baseball Pitching Mechanics
By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
Pitching a baseball with proper pitching mechanics is a function of balance, direction, and weight transfer. A pitcher must coordinate the delivery in a method that is mechanically efficient, and then master an acceptable baseball pitching motion through practice and repetition.
Repetition is key to practicing your baseball pitching mechanics. Repetition will eventually reinforce muscle memory and replace the conscious mental effort of pitching a baseball.
In other words, correct pitching mechanics will become a subconscious rather than something the pitcher has to think to about.
Development of pitching skill and quality mechanics requires a long period of time and practice. It is a "between game," or bullpen task. Very few pitchers are capable of changing their mechanics under game conditions.
Learning and reinforcement of proper baseball throwing mechanics in a noncompetitive environment will transfer to the competitive environment.
For the purposes of explanation, the pitching delivery will be divided into four phases. The following phases and their accompanying explanations should facilitate better understanding and provide a clearer image of correct baseball pitching mechanics.
Pitching mechanics phase #1: Stance
The starting stance, from the windup position, should include the following:
- Eyes need to be fixed on target.
- The pitcher's weight should be evenly distributed with the front half of the pivot foot in front of the pitching rubber during the windup. During the stretch, the pivot foot must be in front of the rubber in order to enhance the pitcher's balance.
- The pitcher must assume proper alignment on the rubber. A right-handed pitcher should work from the right side of the rubber, a left-handed pitcher should work from the left side. Proper foot position on the rubber aids in the effectiveness of various pitchers by maximizing the angle of pitch approach to the hitter.
- The glove and throwing hands should be in a palm up/palm down relationship in order to hide the ball and grip from opposing coaches and hitters.
Baseball pitching mechanics tips
- The pitcher's eyes need to be on the target.
- The pitcher's weight should be evenly distributed.
- The glove and throwing hands are in a palm up/palm down position.
Pitching mechanics phase #2: Pivot
In order to initiate the pitching delivery from the windup, a transfer of weight, commonly called the "rocker step," is used. The rocker step involves a short step backwards from the rubber with the non-throwing side foot (Fig.P3). The rocker step should be short and compact so the pitcher's head remains over the pivot foot.
Following the rocker step, the body begins a squaring off maneuver commonly referred to as the "pivot." As the pivot begins, the pivot foot will drop in front of the rubber and square off parallel to it. Once the pivot foot has been positioned, the stride leg begins a controlled lifting action in order to transfer the pitcher's weight to his pivot leg. This position is referred to as the "balance or post position."
Note: Throwing from the stretch, or set position, eliminates the need for the rocker step
and squaring of the pivot foot.
Baseball pitching mechanics tips
- A short rocker step initiates the delivery.
- The head remains over the pivot foot during the rocker step.
- The stride leg is lifted, not kicked up to the balance position.
Pitching mechanics phase #3: Separation and stride
Upon achieving a balance or post position, the pitcher is poised to begin his throw to home plate. Correct mechanics during this phase is critical since it involves the throwing action sequence as well as a timed release of the pitcher's body towards home plate. The release of the hands and body towards home plate must be in proper sequence in order to minimize stress on the throwing arm and maximize control and velocity.
Proper release of the body from the balance or post position begins only after the pitcher's stride leg has achieved its highest point of elevation in the balance position, as illustrated in. When this has occurred, the pitcher will separate (break) his hands in a thumbs downward action with the throwing arm going down-back-and up, to a position where the fingers are in front and on top of the baseball.
At this point, the throwing elbow should progress to a position slightly higher than the throwing shoulder, with the elbow in line with the throwing shoulder, head, non-throwing shoulder, and home plate.
The action of the front (non-throwing) arm during the throwing action will be opposite of the throwing arm in that it travels in a down-forward-and-up motion. This action efficiently counter balances the body and will provide the needed leverage to effectively assist the throwing shoulder, as it accelerates forward in preparation to release towards home plate. If done in correct fashion, upon foot strike of the stride leg, the relationship of the stride leg, throwing arm, front arm, and body will resemble a "T" position with both the lead elbow and throwing elbow as high as the shoulders.
The stride to home plate begins in conjunction of the hands. It is important that the pitcher does not drive, push, or collapse the pivot leg during the stride. A controlled "fall" toward home plate with the head, lead knee, lead elbow, and lead shoulder will produce a greater downhill pitch trajectory and minimize stress on the throwing arm and shoulder. The drop and drive that many pitchers exhibit diminishes the height of pitch release and creates added stress to the shoulder area. Pitching in a downhill plane allows all pitches to move in two planes, forward-and-down or high-to-low, as they approach the hitter. It is far more difficult for a hitter to hit a pitch that is traveling toward him as well as moving down through the strike zone.
Pitching in a downhill plane can be effectively achieved if the following mechanical adjustments to the balance position, stride, and ball release are followed:
- Keep a firm back pivot leg. The pivot leg must not collapse in the balance position,
nor prior to the stride towards home plate.
- Perform a controlled "fall" towards home plate. Do not drop and drive with the leg
pivot as this will diminish the height of ball release.
- Develop pitches that travel in a downward plane. The fingers of the pitching hand
stay behind the ball prior to release of the fastball.
- On breaking balls, the fingers rotate over ball on a curve ball, and through the ball on a slider. Rotation around the baseball is incorrect and places additional stress on the elbow. Stress can also be minimized during the stride if the pitcher lands with front knee bent during foot strike.
- A stiff-legged landing of the stride creates increased negative force upon the body, arm, and shoulder by substantially reducing the amount of weight transferred from the pivot or balanced position to the final follow-through.
Baseball pitching mechanics tips
- Achieve a comfortable balance or post position.
- Break the hands in a thumbs-down position.
- Execute a controlled "fall" towards home plate with the head, lead knee, elbow, and lead shoulder.
- Upon foot strike of the stride leg, the arms and body should form a "T" position.
- Minimize stress by landing with a bent front knee during foot strike.
- Strive to throw all pitchers in downhill plane toward home plate.
Pitching mechanics phase #4: Release and follow-through
Upon completion of the stride, the position of the pitcher's arms should have both elbows at approximately shoulder height. This position, as previously described in Phase III is the "T" position. From this position the pitcher enters into the final act of the pitching delivery, which is release and follow-through.
The release sequence begins as the throwing shoulder experiences and explosive acceleration towards home plate. When the ball is released properly, the following actions should be observed:
- Head is directly over the stride leg.
- As the throwing arm moves forward, the throwing elbow should be even or slightly higher than the throwing shoulder.
- Elbow snaps to full extension.
- Wrist is straight and firm behind the ball on all breaking
- Fingers stay on the top of the ball on all pitches.
- Throwing shoulder, arms, and upper torso extend forward
towards home plate.
- Back foot comes off the rubber to complete the weight transfer from the back foot to the front foot.
During the follow-through the throwing shoulder continues downward and completely replaces the non-throwing shoulder in terms of facing the plate with the throwing arm finishing in a position outside of the stride leg. The lower back flexes in preparation for stress absorption necessitated by the deceleration of the throwing arm.
It is important to note that sore shoulders usually occur during the deceleration phase of the throwing motion. This is due to stronger muscle groups accelerating the arm than decelerating it. Shoulder stress can be minimized by stressing proper weight transfer and follow-through mechanics during the pitching delivery.
Baseball pitching mechanics tips
- The throwing elbow should be even with, or slightly higher than the throwing shoulder.
- The head should be directly over the stride leg.
- The wrist should be straight and firm behind the ball.
- The fingers should stay on the top part of the baseball for all pitches.
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Want to learn more about baseball pitching mechanics and techniques? Arm yourself with the most innovative and up-to-date baseball pitching training available. These related pitching materials from former Chicago Cubs pitching pro Steven Ellis are guaranteed to help you or the players you coach pitch better and reach the next level faster!