I’ve talked before about how when it comes to throwing strikes, one of things that can get you into trouble is thinking too much about your mechanics (for more on that read this article).
But today I’m going to contradict myself a little (it’s never black and white, after all), and talk about an easy mechanical tweak that can often get a pitcher right back on track.[h5]An Easy Mechanical Adjustment for Improving Control[/h5]
One of the things I like to do when I work with young pitchers is spend some time catching them in their bullpen sessions. I know, you don’t see everything going on in the delivery when you’re doing this… so I also try to spend time watching guys from the side and behind (and this is where video is a big help).
But catching allows me to see the ball out of their hand, see what the batter would see. I also get a feel for how their ball is moving and how their mechanics look different on a ball vs. a strike.
And after countless hours and zillions of pitches caught, I can often tell if it’s going to be a ball or strike before it even leaves their hand. I haven’t documented it, but I’m sure there are plenty of other coaches and catchers who experience the same thing.
And it’s not always the case of recognizing anything specific in the mechanics. Sometimes it’s just a sort of right-brained, synthesis sort of thing, along the the lines of what Malcom Gladwell talks about in his book Blink.
In it he examines Vic Braden, a legendary tennis coach who could predict with near 100% accuracy whether a player would double fault on a serve before the ball even hit the racket… without even knowing how he was doing it.
But other times, you do spot something mechanically… and one thing I can spot pretty quickly is when a pitcher is about to miss high and to his arm side.
You can see it happening in his stride before he even touches down with his front foot. Whoops… There goes the front side… There goes the glove arm… There goes the ball sailing over my head.
And a lot of times, when a pitcher misses high, they’ll say things like “I need to work on my release point.” Well good luck with that… do you realize how fast the arm actually moves when you’re pitching?
So if you want to get out to a good release point, don’t always focus on the throwing arm… instead, you’ll be a lot better off if you look to your glove side.
See, when the glove arm gets sloppy or too aggressive and pulls away from your body, things get out of sync. You end up with early trunk rotation and your throwing arm will tend to drag. What do you think this does to your release point?
Bottom line, when accuracy matters, your glove arm matters. Think accuracy matters to any of these guys?
And I’m not talking about blocking yourself off with your glove, or bringing your chest to your glove… we still want to have powerful trunk rotation (read this article for more on Good Glove Arm Action).
Notice Cliff Lee here, staying closed and controlling the glove arm, but still getting through it with good trunk rotation (not blocking himself off with the glove).
And the good news is this is usually a pretty easy fix. After a pitcher flies open and misses high to his arm side, sometimes it’s just as simple as a gentle reminder:
“Hey, remember, stay closed…” (point to the front arm)
And if it’s something he’s worked on before and he knows what staying closed feels like, he can usually make the adjustment on the very next pitch. And boom, he’s back down in the zone. I’ve seen it work again and again… Now is it fool proof? Of course not.
If a pitcher doesn’t have a good feel for staying closed it’s another story…
One of the best drills I’ve found for working on this is what I call Torque & Turns. And basically it helps work on good glove arm action and trunk rotation. Just make sure you’re not pulling that glove arm out or leaning way over to to the side.
So again, it’s not always about mechanics. But instead of thinking about your release point, the next time you’re missing high… Look to your front side.
[hr] Side note for coaches and parents: I want to address a great comment a reader made to my last post. And the basic jist was to save the coaching for after the game – let the kids play. And shouting out mechanical cues and advice from the stands and the dugout usually doesn’t have the desired effect.
So if you see a pitcher flying open and missing high, instead of shouting out to him, try this approach:
Have some kind of signal with your catcher (work it out before the game). And before he throws the ball back to the pitcher, have him gesture to the pitcher by closing his front side and tapping his glove arm. This kind of reminder is sometimes all it takes.
And if he’s not making the adjustment, don’t keep harping on it. That just leads to frustration. It just means he needs to work on it more between outings.
More deliberate practice, less pitching…
Love to hear your thoughts. Drop a comment in the box below.
And if you know any coaches or pitchers who could benefit, you can do me a huge favor and share this article – Thanks!