When I was a kid learning to pitch, conventional wisdom taught that getting to a good balance point was the most important part of the pitching motion. I used to practice it daily, lifting my leg and holding it at the top, over and over again, sometimes until my legs started to shake… What a waste! It’s simply not what successful, hard throwing big league pitchers do. Creating momentum by getting your center of gravity moving towards home plate early in your motion is critical for generating power and developing good timing in your pitching delivery.
Old time pitchers knew this intuitively, that’s why they developed those big full windups, swinging their arms for timing and rhythm and then moving fluidly through their deliveries. Somewhere along the way we started teaching kids to stop at the height of their leg lift to “get balanced.” We then started teaching them to get to a good “power position” before throwing. We started focusing on all of these “points” in the pitching motion rather than looking at the pitching delivery as what it should be – a fluid total-body movement involving the efficient transfer power from the lower half to the upper half, out to the arm and into the ball at pitch release.[h5]Do you see Koufax stopping here to get to a balance point??[/h5]
By getting to a “balance point” and pausing at the height of your leg lift you’re actually killing momentum and disrupting your natural rhythm and timing. To build early momentum you really want get your hips moving towards home plate as you get loaded up in your leg lift. This is where power starts! It’s about basic laws of physics, mainly inertia: a body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion.
If you’ve ever tried pushing a car in neutral, you know the importance of gaining momentum.
When you first start pushing, it’s going to take some time and effort to get the car moving. But once you get the wheels moving it becomes easier and easier and you can get to a point where you’re actually running behind it because now inertia and momentum are working with you. The same principles are at play in your pitching delivery! You need to get things moving early to allow for a more powerful stride to maximize velocity.
I’m not suggesting you rush your motion, rather just work on getting your weight inside your back foot early to start building momentum towards home plate in your stride. You then use this momentum to assist your back leg drive to gradually accelerate down the mound and explode into ball release. All you have to do is take a look at the motion of any successful power pitcher to see the importance of a powerful stride. Achieving high velocity begins with your legs. A series of studies by leading sports research center ASMI, “Comparison of High Velocity and Low Velocity Pitch Deliveries” supports this with an interesting finding:
“…early in the pitching motion, the two groups were dissimilar in the timing of their movements, while their later movement timing was much more similar.”
You can read more of the study here:
This actually makes a lot of sense, since the early part of the pitching delivery, the stride phase, involves your legs and trunk while the later movements are more upper half, throwing arm dominated. High velocity pitchers do a better job building early momentum in their load to help them drive towards home plate with a powerful stride.
Not only does creating momentum early help you generate more power, it also promotes good timing and rhythm in your delivery, helping you get your arms and legs in sync. It’s not just the high velocity guys that do this, but you can look at guys like Greg Maddux, known more for their control.
Pausing at the top kills momentum, breaks your rhythm, disrupts natural timing, and hurts control.Getting your hips moving early leads to a more fluid, well synchronized pitching delivery. So just remember, as a pitcher, momentum is your friend.