By Rob Friedman
While there are no absolutes or magic bullets, here are a few lower half cues that I’ve found work well to get pitchers to use their lower half correctly. Remember: Verbal cues can mean different things to different players, so be careful just using one cue for everyone. And some pitchers are visual learners, some are auditory learners and yet others are kinesthetic learners—so explore to find out what works best for each particular pitcher.
1. “Rotate into footplant.”
The pitcher should concentrate on his back leg rotating into foot plant. Don’t allow the front knee and foot to open up too early.
2. Show your “sole” (shoe/front foot): Step over move.
This allows you to delay hip rotation and be very aggressive with hips and lower half.
3. Show your back pocket/feel pinch in your back hip.
4. Crush your hips/feel pressure between your knees.
The feeling is almost like there’s a beach ball between your knees. See Tanaka’s pelvic load.
5. Don’t let your front leg get down the mound faster than your back leg.
Young pitchers are often front leg dominant and try to step toward the plate with their front leg, which robs them of power. The focus should be on the back leg supplying power.
6. Feel back knee inside back foot. Weight on inside of back foot/hook the rubber.
Here’s Pedro teaching a group of kids to hook the rubber and keep their weight inside their post foot.
7. Be “back hip” dominant. Try not to feel like you’re opening up your hips from front to back.
8. Quick, explosive tempo. Get down the mound quickly. Key on back shin angle.
Watching pitchers like Fernando Rodney, who can get 100 mph out of a slide step, are very instructive. Try to “feel” what he would feel.
While these cues work in many situations, the key is to get pitchers to “feel” what the correct movements are. In conjunction with these cues, for kinesthetic learners, you can also experiment with pitching aids such as Lantz Wheeler’s core velocity belt, which I’ve found allows pitchers to “feel” proper use of the hips. But remember, there are no short cuts and each pitcher is unique—what is optimal for one pitcher, might not be for another. Personally, I find that studying hard throwing smaller pitchers is very helpful—they tend to use their lower half more athletically/efficiently to compensate for smaller “levers.” Hopefully, these cues will be another tool in your toolbox to be used for the right job!