Developing a Quality Breaking Ball

BY Matt Schissell (@shizzpeace13)

It’s that time of year again– the end of summer. Kids are going back to school and summer baseball seasons are over except for those lucky enough to play in the Little League World Series. The Little League World Series (LLWS) is fantastic. It promotes the game of baseball to a younger crowd and gives participants some memories they’ll never forget. One of the biggest issues with youth baseball today, including the LLWS, is pitching. It may be an old-school thought process, but 11-13 year old kids should not be spinning off curve balls every third pitch even if it leads to a ridiculous 16 strikeouts. While it may seem harmless at the time to the people who don’t understand baseball, kids’ arms aren’t fully developed. Their bodies aren’t made for that kind of use. This isn’t the player’s fault, and coaches and parents often just don’t know any better. Throwing curveballs and sliders with undeveloped muscles creates bad throwing habits and can lead to injuries later on in a player’s career. At this age the only off-speed pitch that should be thrown is a changeup. Developing a quality fastball with proper mechanics and a good changeup can carry a young pitcher all the way to college, and allow them to dominate younger competition. Instead of focusing on quality off-speed pitches, little leaguers should focus on the intent of their pitches (mainly fastballs), putting their whole body into every pitch, and creating momentum towards the plate. At the end of the day, an undeveloped body is unable to properly execute a curveball without creating bad mechanics, bad habits, or even injury. read more

Why You Struggle With Command

More often than not, pitchers should focus solely on velocity (and rightfully so) until they get to at least equal their peer group. Typically, scouts and coaches are more interested in the pitcher who throws 90+ rather than the pitcher in the 85mph range. However, having great velocity means very little if you can’t locate your pitches. Hitters at higher levels can hit fastballs, regardless of velocity, if you throw it down the middle and coaches want nothing to do with pitchers who are nowhere near the plate. My take-home point: Pitcher’s need to be able to command the strike zone and their pitches efficiently with a velocity base. read more

Stacking the Hips

By: Cameron Castro (@33Castro_)

Want to generate momentum and great direction down the mound? “Stack ‘em”!

This is a common statement our pitchers will hear me say. In our program, we talk often about stacking the hips (hip drive, pelvic loading, etc.). Now the first question to answer is why do we talk about it and what does it do for you?

In an ideal delivery, the hips work separately from the torso during the stride phase. A disconnection needs to occur for proper torso rotation to take place. The hips have to go first, with the torso close to follow. Some of the verbal cues (which I try not use a ton of) we use are, “show the back pocket” or “drive the back hip through the front hip”. For the record, I am more a fan of pitchers physically learning how to move, rather than learning how to listen [to cues]. When done correctly, the athlete should feel either a pinch in the back hip and/or pressure on the inside part of their lead leg. read more

Lower Half Cues

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. read more

Pitching Mechanics and Injury: Are We Forgetting Something?

By Dr. Stephen Osterer (@drsosterer)

How most view pitching injury:

Ask most pitching coaches at the amateur or even collegiate and professional levels about injury prevention and you’ll find the conversation default to mechanics. Where the elbow needs to be, how long their stride length should be compared to their height, or having their head in ‘XYZ’ position at late-cocking. Indeed, biomechanics provides us with a large pool of information. So large, in fact, that sometimes we blind ourselves to the rest of the pitching injury paradigm. However, the complexity of the biological system cannot be dwindled down to biomechanical analysis, as it is just one component of athletic performance. Let’s step back from this narrowed viewpoint and consider what we are gaining from breaking down pitching mechanics and what other pertinent information we may be skipping over along the way. read more