Should Baseball Pitchers Push Off The Pitching Rubber

By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro

Until recently ("recently" meaning 1990s) everyone knew that pitchers pushed off. There were no arguments or debates about it; pitchers pushed off. They pushed off in the 1960s when the pitchers were so dominant that the height of the mound had to be reduced. When the 1990s came along, a few so-called "experts" decided that pitchers did not push, but actually "pulled off". From what I can gather, it seems that this got started for two reasons. First, someone watched some video of pitchers and could not see the their back leg straightening. Second, someone conducted an experiment that measured the amount of force applied to the rubber and found that there was very little force applied.

Well, if you look at closely at enough videotape of power-pitchers (guys that throw 95mph+), you'll see that the back leg actually does straighten. It doesn't straighten out completely but it does straighten some, and that's all it takes to push. I'm sure that some of you already know what the problem with the "force experiment" was. The pitcher was applying most of the force to the ground, not to the rubber. Stuff like this used to make me think that science and baseball don't mix. I now understand that only "bad science" and baseball don't mix.

Another thing to think about is: how does a pitcher get all the way out to landing. Most reasonable people would say that some "pushing" is necessary for the stride foot to land approximately 6 feet from the rubber. It really gets interesting when you have a pitcher, like Nolan Ryan, who started toward the plate by falling. That's been called the "tall & fall" method. A pitcher obviously can't fall all the way to landing, so it really should be called the "tall & fall then push" method.

Some of the "experts" that claimed power-pitchers don't push off now admit that they actually do push. The funny thing is, though, is that they STILL don't have it right. They are recommending pushing AFTER the stride foot lands. This shows a real lack of understanding regarding the mechanics that power-pitchers use!

In fact, some of these experts used to say that power-pitchers couldn't push off because their back foot is already off the rubber and the top of the shoe (shoelaces) is dragging along the ground BEFORE the stride foot lands (I guess they forgot about that). Well, yes. Clemens, for example, could not push-off after his stride foot lands since his back foot turns over BEFORE footplant. He actually pushes when his back foot starts to turn over, just BEFORE footplant.

All pitchers start toward the plate by either falling or pushing. Those are the two choices. There are no other choices that I'm aware of. They then either start to push (if they started by falling) or continue to push. Professional power-pitchers give it a second, more serious push just before footplant. This helps the hips to rotate BEFORE footplant.

And then there are the "experts" that say that pushing-off causes "rushing". Well, you might "rush" if you push-off. And, you might "rush" if you DON'T push-off.


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