By Steven Ellis former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
There are no quick fixes in baseball pitching. The development of quality pitching mechanics takes time. It's a never-ending process. The very best pitchers get satisfaction out of the "practice" part of pitching as much as they do out of the "game" part of pitching.
Here are about 10 common baseball pitching mechanics faults that I come across with the baseball pitchers I teach. How about you? Do you make any of these mistakes? If so, fix it. I've provided some ideas about how you can develop better pitching mechanics.
Pitching Fault - Poor Lift Leg Action
Some pitchers lift their balance leg up to their chest on one pitch and bring it to their waist on the next. This constant change in leg lifts is caused by several things, but the outcome is typically the same: inconsistent pitching control, variations in pitching velocity, and possibly injury.
Work on lower body strength. Body weight squats, walking lunges, and step-ups are beneficial. Lower body plyometrics are beneficial, too.
Work on mechanics. You've got to be consistent with your leg lift. It has to come up the same way, to the same height, and at the same speed every time you make a pitch. Bring your knee to at least belt level. You can go higher, if you have the strength, but you must be controlled with it. Always lift up with your knee, not your foot. Let your foot hang straight down. Don't swing your leg.
Work on balance. Perform stability exercises that will enable you to stay centered over your body.
Pitching Fault - Poor Head Movement
A lot of young pitchers tilt their head to the side when they pitch, causing their shoulders to tilt. Some pitchers tilt their head back during the rocker step. Others tilt their head just before they release the pitch or at the foot plant. This causes erratic control problems and can cause injury.
Work on mechanics. The head should start out level, eyes looking at the target – and stay that way.
Change your mentality. Think about pitching as a rotational activity, side to side. If you're body's rotating side to side, it becomes more difficult to incorrectly tilt your head (a top to bottom movement). It'll help keep things level.
Pitching Fault - Poor Balance And Body Movement
Many pitchers lean too far backward or forward when they're lifting their leg into a balance position, which eventually makes them to have to compensate somewhere else to get everything back in sync.
Work on stability. There are a number of balance drills pitchers can do to improve balance.
Work on mechanics. Keep your head centered over your belt, all the time. Work on it in practice.
Video tape. Use video as a tool to track your progress.
Pitching Fault - Poor Hand Separation
For many pitchers, once the lead leg starts down, the hands should separate and start to go in opposite directions, as shown above. The hands should separate around the belt, and your fingers should stay on top of the baseball. This doesn't always happen.
Work on mechanics. Work on pitching technique without throwing, in front of a mirror.
Use light weights. Try 3 pound weights: Go through the arm motion SLOWLY, down and back, with light weights.
Video tape. Track your progress with video.
Pitching Fault - Poor Elbow Alignment
Actually we're talking about both elbows. The lead elbow should point to or lineup with the target.
Work on strength. Use light weights (three to five pounds) and go through the proper arm motion SLOWLY. Repeat 20 to thirty times a day, three or four days a week.
Work on mechanics. You don't need to throw a baseball. Work on separating your hands correctly and getting into the high-cock position.
Video tape. Track your progress with video.
Pitching Fault - Poor Upper Body And Shoulder Position
Many pitchers open "open" up their shoulders too soon before foot plant. Righties should keep their chest facing 3rd base (1st base for lefties) until the lead foot plants. As the lead leg goes down and out toward foot plant (not out and down), they're shoulders should form a line from home to second until the foot plants. If they don't they're losing a lot of velocity and not taking advantage of the torque the lower body has built up for the arm to be used as a whip. Quick clues, if the pitcher throws low and outside, he's very likely opening up to quick. If he's throwing the ball in the dirt, he's probably holding onto the ball too tight.
Work on stability.
Work on mechanics.
Pitching Fault - Poor Forward Movement After Knee Lift And "Pushing" Off The Mound
Some kids try to push off the mound. There's some debate about this, but most good pitching people will tell you not to push off. Actually the back foot rolls over and is launched out to the side as the hips pull the back leg off the rubber. Pushing off the rubber does not generate more power, in fact, it usually pushes the lower body out in front of the upper body too far, too fast, and then the upper body and arms are simply trying to play catch-up. At this point since all of the timing is off, you'll end up with a very inconsistent pitcher, that would develop poorer mechanics, with reduced velocity and a sore arm. Also, if they are bent on pushing off the mound, since the legs are the first to give way to fatigue, as the post leg gets tired, they're not pushing off with the same drive as the first inning, and have no rhythm or consistent fluid motion.
Don't push off the mound. Stride sideways and lead the forward movement with the high knee drops with your front hip.
Glide into a nice, long foot plant.
Stride should be at least 80% of your height.
Pitching Fault - Poor Landing
Very common problem is the front foot (plant foot and knee) landing either too stiff or too loose. Some kids bend the front knee too much at foot plant, which lowers their upper body and puts stress on the shoulder and they lose velocity. Some keep the knee to straight at plant and can't follow-through and usually pitch high. The plant foot needs to land on the inside ball of the foot on a straight line from the post leg toward home. The landing can be influenced by the foot landing on the heel first, which tends to lock-up the front knee, which then leads to standing up and not following through. Usually this is a high pitch. Some kids land either too far left or right of this line which leads to "opening" the shoulder too soon, or being too closed which also causes loss of velocity. The resistance generated by the plant foot and knee are very important to everything, but especially velocity. Try throwing without landing on your front foot, you can't throw very hard can you?
Bounding exercises (plyometrics using body weight).
Balance exercises. Develop better control of your body by working on balance in the weight room and in practice.
Pitching Fault - Poor Follow Through And Finish
Very typical at this age is a poor follow-through, which is many variations, such as: Not bending the back, not letting the throwing hand finish between the knee and ankle, not allowing the back foot and leg to roll over and be pulled off the mound and swung around. The landing can be influenced by the foot landing on the heel first, which tends to lock-up the front knee, which then leads to standing up and not following through. Usually this is a high pitch.
Carry your body's momentum all the way through your finish.
Bend your back and decelerate you throwing arm down past your opposite knee.
Work on stability.
Pitching Fault - Poor Fielding Position After Pitch Is Made
Often overlooked is the true finishing position, and that is once it's all said and done, the ball has been pitched and everything has been done right up until that point, the pitcher finishes off balance and pulled too far too one side of the mound, and also is not in a good fielding position. This is important for many reasons, but just to name a few, I see too many balls dribble right over the mound because the pitcher was too concerned with grunting and throwing their body to one side to get a little extra, and they never field a ball. Also, not being in a good fielding position can lead to injury. Most good pro pitchers end up in a good fielding position and "field the circle" well.
Look up after you make your pitch and take a little shuffle step to realign your body to field the baseball.
Related Pitching Materials
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!