Okay, so in Installment Two, we talked about the importance of setting your feet before you throw. If you missed it you can check it out here: Coaching Youth Pitchers: Tips for Setting Your Feet

Well today’s post is going to piggy back on that topic a bit.

The other day I got an email from a coach the other day, and if you coach young pitchers you probably know this is a common debate…

[h5]Is it Better to Throw from the Windup or Stretch for Young Pitchers?[/h5]

A lot of coaches will opt for teaching young pitchers to pitch exclusively from the stretch because they think it’s easier to learn and makes it less complicated for the young pitcher.

And this is true to some extent. And really, when you break it down, you can be just as powerful pitching from the stretch as you can from the windup… Just ask Fernando Rodney

See, there’s nothing really wrong with pitching entirely from the stretch – but let me qualify that.

It’s okay as long as the pitcher has the following things going on in his delivery:

  • Good early momentum (lead with the hips)
  • Rhythm and tempo
  • Good timing (arms and legs in sync)

So for me personally, I like young pitchers to learn the windup. I won’t force it on them if they prefer the stretch, but I just find that the windup lends itself more to producing those key elements of momentum, rhythm and tempo… especially when you’re just starting out. On top of that, it gives the pitcher more freedom to develop his own style!

Too often, when pitching from the stretch young pitchers just lift, open and step, rather than getting good momentum and striding powerfully towards home plate.

For more on that, see this article on Little League Mechanics vs. Big League Mechanics

Now one issue guys have with the windup is that it’s just a little more complicated because of the extra step. So a lot of coaches just find it easier to skip over it or think its going to take too long for a young pitcher to get it down. And I get that…

pitching-mechanics-steps-blueBut really all it comes down to is learning the basic footwork. It’s just a matter of knowing the steps and practicing again and again. Once they get this down after a few tries, its pretty easy to repeat it, even for very young pitchers.

Now here’s the thing. Ultimately, the big difference between the windup and the stretch is that little rocker step… That said, there are some common mistakes you’ll see young pitchers make when pitching from the windup.

And once again, it all comes down to how they set their feet, or what many refer to as “addressing the pitching rubber.”

So I put together this quick video to go over some simple steps to help young pitchers learn the right footwork for pitching from the windup.

Now the video above is just a guideline. Again, every pitcher is different and you want to find a style that works for you.

But it should also make sense…

And by that, I mean it should promote good rhythm and help you get that pivot foot up against the pitching rubber consistently so you can load up and move powerfully down the mound.

[h5]Some Possible Modifications to Your Starting Position:[/h5]

One modification you’ll see a lot of guys will do is start with their post foot (weight bearing foot in the leg lift) positioned at an angle. This makes a lot of sense. And if the pitcher finds it helpful, I say go with it.

So here are a couple of clips of big league pitchers to show you what I’m talking about – it might be something to try out with your young pitchers.

First, here’s a clip of the big man, CC Sabathia, where you can get a clear look at how he addresses the pitching rubber. Notice the positioning of his feet.

CC Sabathia-Pitching-Mechanics

Why do you think he starts that way with his left foot already at an angle, almost in line with the pitching rubber?

Yup, you guessed it… it makes it easier to pivot and get those hips turned so he can get loaded up consistently over that big back leg. Makes sense.

Now here’s a clip of one my favorite young pitchers, Sonny Gray, where you see a similar but more pronounced setup. His post foot barely moves, taking out the chance for any inconsistency.

Sonny-Gray-Pitching-Mechanics

Notice he exaggerates that setup with his feet even more than Sabathia.

And this is fine because A) it helps him make sure he gets that pivot foot flush against the rubber, and B) it doesn’t work against his ability to get good rhythm and momentum.

(Notice how he gets that early weight shift and really leads with his hips)

Again, the big difference between the windup and the stretch is that little rocker step at the beginning. You want to be able to get that pivot foot positioned up against the rubber when you go into your leg lift.

And finally, a little side note… And this one’s not for beginners. But if you’ve ever seen him pitch, you know that one of the things that makes Sonny Gray so effective is that nasty curveball (to go along with a really good fastball). Absolute Hammer!

Sonny-Gray-Curveball

 

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