Looking at Masahiro Tanaka’s pitching mechanics, one of the things that really jumps out is how well he gets his lower half into his pitching delivery. You’ll see him come out of his leg lift by leading with his hips and allowing his center to drop as he builds momentum towards home plate. And perhaps more than anything else, he’s one of the best examples I’ve seen of a pitcher staying “loaded” with his hips in his stride.

[h5]Watch how well Tanaka gets his hips into his delivery here…[/h5]

Now what you see with Tanaka is a very specific style. He gets very low and linear, and the leg kick/loaded hips is something you see a lot with Japanese pitchers. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of forcing pitchers to fit a specific mold (you need to be able to find your own pitching style) but for pitchers who lack early momentum or tend to swing the hips open, they could learn a lot by studying pitcher’s like Tanaka.

[h5]See any similarities between Tanaka and another pretty good Japanese pitcher?[/h5]

[h5]Now here’s what you see a lot with young pitchers…[/h5]
Click here for more on Little League Mechanics vs. Major League Mechanics

Now understanding this concept is one thing… actually putting it into practice is another. So keep an eye out, because in my next Video Lesson, I’m going to show you some simple steps for incorporating some of these movements into your delivery.

pitching-mechanics-steps-blueThere’s a common approach taken by a lot of youth pitching coaches when it comes to teaching the basics of good pitching mechanics. I call it the “pitching by steps” approach. It’s where you basically show the young pitcher different positions (or “steps”) in the pitching motion, and then have them hold those positions and progress step by step. You may be familiar with it, it usually goes something like this:

“Step One: Step back and to the side…”
“Step Two: Pivot and turn your hips…”
“Step Three: Balance position…”
“Step Four: Power position”
“Step Five: Tuck and throw”

Now, there are times when working with very young pitchers that this approach may make sense (see this article on why simple is better with young pitchers). But here’s my problem with kids learning the step by step or color by numbers approach to pitching mechanics:

[h5]It removes the freedom for the pitcher to develop their own Style[/h5]  
Learning solid fundamentals is a good idea. But the whole step by step thing, in my opinion, only has value at the very very beginning stages (say, with a pitcher who has never attempted to, nor been shown how to pitch at all). At that stage, it’s like learning new dance steps – getting to know where your feet go (not that I would know, you wouldn’t want to see me on a dance floor).

[h5]The steps give you a framework… but then you want to get the hips into it![/h5]  
You do want to spend some time getting the footwork down, learning the right “steps” so to speak… But then once you establish the basics, that’s when you should have the freedom to start making it your own and developing your own style.

See, you can have the craziest, most complicated windup in the world, but it feels right to you and it fits your personality, I say go with it. And if you practice that thing a zillion times until you can do it in your sleep, blindfolded, while standing on a chair… under water… in a hail storm…

[h4]Key question: Can you repeat your delivery?[/h4]  
Okay, maybe that’s getting a little carried away, but you get the idea. The key is being able to repeat your delivery. But even more than that, it’s having a high level of comfort with your delivery so it feels natural. There are always things you can fine tune, but don’t think you have stick to one set of what someone else tells you constitutes “ideal pitching mechanics.”

What would have happened to Fernando Valenzuela if he’d been made to fit someone else’s perfect pitching model? How about Juan Marichal? Jim Palmer? Don Drysdale? (Oh no, there’s that dreaded inverted W!) Bob Gibson? (What a mess!)

Pitching-Mechanics-Styles
    None of these are exactly what you would call “textbook”

Now don’t get me wrong. There’s been a lot of progress since the early days, and we have stacks and stacks of studies that show us that certain movements, mechanical flaws or whatever you want to call them, place more stress on your arm than others.

It’s why I’m a big fan of Motion Analysis and use that tool all the time. We know that certain movements contribute to greater velocity while others detract. So of course it make sense to address these things when possible.

But there’s also a whole lot of “feel” involved with being an athlete. There’s a lot of right-brained activity going on. And when you place a set of rigid constraints on the athletic process, you interfere with that flow, and you lose something really important – that human part that you can’t put your finger on, the part that makes each pitcher unique. You become “Robo-Pitcher”

[h5]Quick tip: Don’t be a Robo-Pitcher![/h5]  
Another big problem is that most kids aren’t going to perform the necessary zillion repetitions so they can perform their motion on their heads with both hands tied behind their back… I think it comes down to an overall lack of patience more than anything.

In today’s microwave society, we expect results… today!
(this could be another article all by itself)

We don’t want to hear that it takes years of hard work to develop your craft. That Greg Maddux didn’t just wake up one morning with an innate ability to frustrate and befuddle big league hitters with an 85 MPH fastball (remember, talent is overrated).

But in the end that’s exactly what it takes. Hard work. Countless reps. If you want to reach the highest level, get the most out of whatever potential you were born with… you need the insane drive to repeat your delivery until you know it as well as you know how to walk, or eat or breathe.

So a little note to all young pitchers: Don’t expect you’re going to get there overnight. That’s just a recipe for disappointment. And when it doesn’t happen for you right away, you’ll quit, give up and say “Well, I guess it just wasn’t meant to be”.

It’s a process. It’s about getting better… about working towards something meaningful, becoming the best you can possibly be. It’s a journey. Enjoy it.

Mariano-Rivera-Smiling
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

If you want get an idea of the link between repeating your delivery and consistency in your pitching, look no further!

As the year draws to a close, it’s always a good time to reflect, assess, and set some meaningful goals. And I’ve written before about the importance of setting goals, being self-motivated and dreaming big. And dreams and goals are important, no doubt about it. But here’s the thing:

[h3]Goals without Action are meaningless…[/h3]  
See, once you have those goals, then it’s about having a plan and taking the necessary action to make those goals and dreams a reality.

[circle_list] [list_item]Maybe your goal is to gain velocity this off-season. How do you plan on doing that?[/list_item] [list_item]Maybe you want to develop a more dynamic, consistent pitching delivery…[/list_item] [list_item]Maybe your goal is to get bigger and stronger…[/list_item] [list_item]Maybe you want to improve your fastball command…
[/list_item] [list_item]Gain a better feel for your off-speed pitches…[/list_item] [list_item]Or maybe it’s adding a new pitch to your arsenal (and getting that pitch game-ready by next season).[/list_item] [/circle_list] [h4]In some ways these things are all linked[/h4]  
A powerful, well-synchronized pitching delivery is a great start for maximizing velocity. But once you have that foundation, getting stronger and more explosive will help you put more force into the ground (and throw harder). A well constructed strength program will also address mobility issues, helping you move better, again improving consistency and velocity.

[h4]But in other ways your training needs to be specific[/h4]  
Just developing “good mechanics” doesn’t guarantee you’ll throw harder. Your training should be tailored to meet the desired end result. If velocity is the goal, you need to work towards that specific goal.

Follow a consistent throwing program. Set benchmarks. Track your progress.

If you want to improve your fastball command, again mechanics play a role, but there’s no substitute for time spent throwing to a target. And it’s not just “throwing strikes.” Work on throwing to a location. Break the strike zone up into quadrants. Spread it out and work on hitting spots off the plate. Up and down, in and out. If you get good at hitting targets outside the zone, you’ll improve your feel and your ability to hit your spots in the zone.

[h5]And let’s say you want to add a new pitch by next season.[/h5]

Curveball-Video-Training
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Of course learning HOW to throw the pitch is important. But do you have an actual plan for developing it? Or are you just winging it…

For example, one of my high school pitchers is working on adding a good curveball by the spring season (he’s already got a good fastball/changeup combo). And a good curveball is a nasty pitch, but it can also be one of the toughest pitches to master. It takes time, patience and a solid plan of attack.

So he’s using this time of year to work on getting the feel for the pitch while keeping his throwing very light. He’s doing a lot of drill work and getting used to throwing with the right hand and wrist position so he’s getting the right spin on the ball. Then with that feel locked in, he’ll be able to hit the ground running in January and February as he starts gearing up for the season.

And it’s a process, but that good curveball is starting to take shape, and I have no doubt he’ll have that nasty hammer in his toolbox for attacking hitters next season. And a lot of what he learns in this process are things he’ll be able to use later for working on developing any pitch.

[h4]Dream big. Set goals. Take action.[/h4] [hr] PS – if you’re interested in the exact process you can use for developing a nasty Curveball, stay tuned… I’ve got something special coming soon that you won’t want to miss.

In the meantime, click here to get your free Training Videos: CurveballMastery.com/video-series

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