At Core Savvy Baseball we breakdown every facet of baseball mechanics, no matter how small, or minuscule they may appear. We believe in the truth that there are no SMALL aspects of mechanics. Each point we emphasize seamlessly ties into the next, creating a connection in the body that can either be mastered or ruined due to this domino effect. In this article I will focus on a generally untaught part of a pitchers delivery, the lead leg.
From the leg lift and into the stride, the lead leg, by name, leads the way. The importance of the lead or stride leg transcends into many important parts of pitching: balance, posture, and velocity. We will first examine the proper movement patterns of the lead leg and then show how it can be used as a tool for velocity.
There are two general ways that a pitcher can use his lead leg once he starts heading to the plate. One of the common positions is the straight leg. This style is a more advanced and can lead to mechanical flaws but none the less is very effective. The straight leg position will help the pitcher keep the hips closed off but will also leave pitchers will lesser body awareness more vulnerable to swing open with his hips.
The other approach is the bent leg position. This version is much more basic because it is more natural for many pitchers. The lead leg will always come to a bend at foot-strike which makes it feel more comfortable to pitchers to never fully straighten the lead leg.
The purpose of our front leg during this phase is to keep the hips closed for as long as possible. The longer a pitcher can do this, the greater hip-to-shoulder separation he creates. A prematurely opening front leg will leave the pitcher with little power in his lower half. It is important to do whatever feels most comfortable, as neither position gives the pitcher a significant mechanical advantage. The most important part about implementing new mechanics is making sure your feel and rhythm is the same.
The last opportunity that a pitcher has for increasing velocity comes from his front leg as it lands. The front leg has 3 options once it hits the dirt: 1) Bend 2) Stabilize 3) Extend. The least powerful position being the first and getting more and more powerful form the second to third option. The purpose of the front leg now is to stop all lower half momentum and convert it into arm speed.
When the front leg continues to bend at foot strike, it fails to allow the hips to rotate at their full potential. This is commonly described as LEAKING POWER. This flaw is the most common of the 3 among amateur players.
The second option is to stabilize. This is the second most common use of the front leg as most players don't put much thought into it. There is nothing technically wrong with this position but there is definitely potential to increase velocity and deception.
The full potential that a pitcher can get from his front leg is by extending it just before release. This action feels very unnatural at first. The way it benefits a pitcher's velocity is by using energy from the ground and directing it into the pitchers kinetic chain. The energy created from the ground travels through the legs and is eventually directed into the ball at release.
An analogy I like to use when referring to the lower half is a car crash. The back leg DRIVES all the momentum into the lead leg, while the lead leg is trying to HIT THE BRAKES as the two energy sources come to a head. A pitcher with great leg drive, but no brakes, wastes a ton of energy and sees little from it.
A great drill to work on this concept is to throw off the back of the mound. By doing this, there is much more weight being put on the lead leg. To perfect your form, try to extend the leg as you get closer to release point. Once this begins to feel natural you've accomplished the purpose of the drill. The stiff front leg should give you a greater feeling of stability and power.
Pitchers today are throwing harder than ever. The questions arising are why and how? Many attribute the velocity jump to weight training. Others will say better mechanics. The reality is, that there is truth to both rationals, but it is far from the clear cut answer. If weight training was a crucial part of throwing hard then how would a 5'10, 170 pound pitcher from the Dominican Republic named Pedro Martinez, brush the upper 90's? Other examples such as Tim Lincecum and Yordano Ventura add more evidence to the case against the correlation between velocity, and bigger and better athletes. (Side Note: Proper weight training can be an extremely valuable tool to pitchers. I am in no way saying not to weight train, but to recognize that it isn't the be all and end all of a pitcher's velocity.)
The common thought is that modern day mechanics have improved over the years. I agree with this statement, but then why are we seeing a Tommy John epidemic run through all levels of baseball? Velocity is only a portion of good mechanics, since what good is velocity if you're sidelined constantly due to injury?
Through the process of breaking down hundreds of deliveries, I have found that the answer is obvious. The energy created from the lower half has a tremendous influence on what we see on the radar gun. Pitching has been proven to be proximal to the distal kinematic sequence. Meaning the energy of our delivery starts from our lager muscles and travels out to the extremities. The energy that our legs create, are applied directly into the baseball through the kinetic chain. In this article, I will examine how the use of the drive leg creates velocity.
With the drive leg we must be conscious of what muscle group we are trying to use. The most common flaw I see in drive leg mechanics is prematurely shifting weight onto the toe. When on your toe, the muscles that are engaging are the calf and quadricep muscles. These muscles are important to pitching, but when prematurely activated, only lead to problems mechanically.
The alternative is keeping the weight on the heel. The muscles that are engaged by doing this are the gluteal and hamstring muscles. It is important to note that all muscles will be engaged during the pitching motion, but using them correctly is the key. A well known study on leg drive done by Oliver (2010) concluded that there was a direct relation of the gluteus maximus to the rate of pelvic and torso rotation in a pitching delivery. This has been the most educational study to date that shows the importance of the gluteal muscle early in the leg drive sequence. Using the glute correctly looks something like this (also take a look at Lincecum at the top of the page).
***Proper leg drive for pitchers is similar to a one-leg half squat***
The depth or angle of the back leg is important to note here. A straight back leg approach is most commonly referred to as "tall and fall". Many pitching coaches tell you to stay tall on the mound which is usually misinterpreted, and leads to not engaging the drive leg muscles. Pitchers who use this technique don't come close to maximizing their lower half.
The other side of the coin is the philosophy of "Drop and Drive". This is a better approach but has its flaws. A problem I commonly see with the drop and drive technique is the sinking effect of the back leg. You will see a player try to drop into a low squat on the back leg, creating a feeling of power, that is down but not out. I call this sinking on the back side.
From leg lift, if you draw a line from the top of a pitchers hat, all the way down to foot strike, it should be a gradual slope. With a drop and drive pitcher, you see more of a "L" shape made, due to the initial drop of the back leg.
The correct way to load the glute has a lot to do with creating hip tilt (There is a full article we have posted on hip tilt that explains the concept). You sit back slightly on your drive leg like a half squat, and pinch your hip flexor. Once you lock into this position you must drive it down the mound using the heel. This is the feeling of staying CONNECTED. During the activation of the glute, the back knee is a telling sign of a good or bad leg drive. The knee should point directly to third base or slightly toward the outfield. This is a strong position for the back leg much like the mechanics of a squat. What we don't want to see is the knee prematurely turning in. Imagine squatting with the knees pointed in. This is usually a sign that the legs aren't strong enough to support the weight. This logic holds true in a pitching delivery.
This is only the first half of good leg drive mechanics. Now we can talk about the extension of the back leg into foot strike.
Once a pitcher travels down the mound to a certain point, the back foot will transition from heel dominant, to toe dominant. The knee will begin extent and turn which forces the back foot to start rolling over. This is stage two of leg drive, where the use of the quadricep and calf muscle come into play. The position that should be reached is commonly referred to as triple extension. The three components being the ankle, knee, and hip. The sequence in which they extend are knee, ankle, hip. The reason why the knee while extent first instead of the ankle is due to keeping the back heel down. Once the knee extends, the back foot will roll onto the toe. The hips, that have been closed off to this point, will finally unwind and fire. This position looks like this.
This position is the result of getting the last bit of energy from your back leg. The calf and quadricep muscle groups are activated to keep the momentum driving forward toward the target.
The common thought is that our back leg is the sole contributor to lower half power. Studies have shown that our land leg, or as I call the brake leg, also plays a role in giving pitchers more velocity. Our next pitching article will look into the mechanics of the brake leg.
The second hitting absolute is called stride and separation. After the hitter initiates his weight transfer to his backside and begins to go forward, his stride foot will land under control and his hands will be in a separated position from his lower half. This is what creates torque in the swing. This is a fundamental position to understand in hitting. Stride and separate. As a hitter, when you get to the stride and separate position your stride foot should be slightly open towards the pitcher at about 30 to 40°. The knob of the bat should be pointed down at the catcher. In order to have a good swing you have to be in a good position to swing. This is the loaded athletic position that every great hitter gets to. This is the foundational position of your swing.
The fourth hitting absolute is the hips leading your hands. The swing starts from the ground up. Your big muscles or your lower half and hips must lead your hands. The more separation we can create between our hips and hands the better direction and bat speed we will have in our swing. The more we keep our hands back while our hips open up towards the pitcher, the more separation we will have. Your core will stretch and create torque which will pull the bat head through like a whip.
This is a big problem I see in amateur baseball. If you want to create the stretching of your core, your hips must start the swing, not the hands. If the hands go first before the hips, there will be no stretching of the core and the swing will be virtually all hands (diminishes bat speed and direction). Once the stretching of your core happens, then your hands take over to get you inside the ball and on plane.
The fifth and final hitting absolute is extension. Often times you will hear a coach say "stay through the ball". Extension occurs at contact and slightly after it. Extension allows the bat to stay in the hitting zone a long time. By properly extending through the baseball, we can ensure all the rotational energy we built up can be used. All of our energy must be going towards the field of play. Players who spin off the ball are compromising a significant amount of energy. This seems like a very simple concept. Personally, I've found that players who master extension hit for a power and a high average.
Take these for hitting absolutes to heart and watch how much your swing progresses. Remember, as long as the movement does not mess up one of the hitting absolutes, you can add in any personal style you want.
EXTRA: CSB Attack Angle and Bat Vertical Angle
Attack angle and bat vertical angle at contact are two key concepts to understand in staying through the baseball. Using my Zepp sensor (great tool I recommend to all hitting coaches), I have found that the perfect range for attack angle is 6 to 10 degrees upward. The swing is a slight uppercut and hitters who attack the ball in the range of 6 to 10 degrees stay through the ball for a long time. The optimum bat vertical angle at contact is -25 degrees. I have found the optimum range for staying through the ball for bat vertical angle at contact is -10 to -25 degrees.
Pitch Sequencing is one of the true arts of baseball. Whether using pure power or a finesse approach, the way a pitcher decides to attack the hitter can be the difference between a great or poor performance. This is one of the final techniques most professional pitchers need to master before being ready for the Major League level.
I want to start off by saying there isn't a one size fits approach when it comes to pitch sequencing . There are so many different ways to pitch and be successful. What I will say is that the most important factor in pitch calling decisions is to know your greatest strength.
The first step I'd like to see pitchers do is decide what kind of pitcher they are. A power pitcher? Finesse pitcher? Sinker Baller? I'm not saying that this identity can never change, but by identifying what your strength is, and being honest with yourself, makes you a better pitcher. So once you have that now we can get started.
The most important part of pitching is GETTING AHEAD in the count. Any coach will tell you that the most important part of pitching is getting into pitcher's counts. These counts include; 0-1, 1-2, 0-2.. These are the attractive counts that all pitchers thrive in. It makes pitching must easier and hitter's averages dramatically decline in these situations. What makes these counts so advantageous are the options that the pitcher has. He can throw whatever he wants which makes it much harder for the hitter to narrow down possible pitches to look for. All I have to say about these counts is to throw your best strike out pitch. You have pitches to work with so missing out of the strike zone is ok.
Now what is the most important count for a pitcher? I'm sure many people would say a first pitch strike or the 0-0 count. Wrong.... It is actually the 1-1 count. The biggest disparity in batting averages based off balls and strikes comes from this pitch. To be in either a 2-1 or a 1-2 count, swings the hitters batting average by a whooping .087. NEARLY 100 POINTS! Where the different between 1-0 and 0-1 is .057. I
Especially at the lower levels I believe that in the 0-0 and 1-1 counts there should be a large percentage of fastballs. Also, occasionally trying to throw and off speed pitch for a strike for effect. The proportion of fastballs to off-speed pitches can change based on the pitchers style. Having a secondary pitch that can be thrown for strikes can add a lot of difficulty to hitting.
Another tip to increasing your chances of throwing strikes in these situations is dependent on the catcher. Not every pitch needs to be thrown on the outside corner or "on the black". What I advise is to tell the catcher to break the plate into 1/3's and sit on either the inside or outside 1/3. This gives the pitcher some breathing room to miss to either side of the target and be in the strike zone. Especially with no runners on base its important to pound the strike zone and make the hitters earn their runs.
To maximize your performance on the mound, it takes many factors. Remember to not forget these aspects of the game that are taught and focused on by few. It can be what sets you apart from your peers and take your game to the next level.
After many years of studying and personally searching for mechanical keys to balance, I have identified 3 absolutes that are paramount to keeping balance during the delivery. In this article I will throughly detail each absolute and give their benefits.
1). Posture: What balance is at its core is keeping your center of gravity. A very simple way to control your center of gravity is by keeping good posture throughout your delivery. Posture will begin to become important right at peak leaf lift. Now what is good posture? As the momentum starts to shift down the mound it is important to keep your upper body SLIGHTLY BENT FORWARD, meaning nose over the toes. It is very similar to how a hitter looks in his batting stance after stride. Engaging your core and controlling your weight transfer forward is crucial to feeling good posture. Just getting in this position isn't enough. Its important to keep the posture all the way to foot strike. Opening up early with the shoulder or front leg is a common red flag during this phase of the delivery. The body will naturally become more upright as it gets closer to landing but the longer can stay closed the better. By keeping the head slightly behind the bellybutton during the stride, it is implementing the HIP TILT concept talked about in previous articles. David Price illustrates a major league level of posture and hip tilt. After foot strike the hips will begin to rotate, the upper back will start scap loading, and the spine will begin arranging itself into what is called thoracic extension. This is the bow like shape the lower back makes as the shoulder square up to the target. Keeping the eyes level to the target is the most important part of the entire posture sequence. Nothing is harder than trying to throw a ball at a target while the head is tilted and moving laterally. At foot strike it is important to take the head toward the target. This is a key to control with all your pitches. Every inch up, down, left, or right made by the head has been proven to change the timing of your release point thus effecting control. The more still and linear the head can stay to the target the better.
2). Leg Drive: Staying balanced while moving down a slope at a high rate of speed is no easy task. Leg drive is commonly tied to improving velocity, but has huge implications on keeping good balance during the delivery. Our first absolute focused on the upper body, and now we will shed light on the lower body's role in balance.
All balance comes from the ground up. As soon as the front leg lifts the lower body must properly keep balance until release. The single most important job that the drive leg does for balance is STAYING ON THE HEEL as long as possible. This helps to stay connected with the upper body by counterbalancing the slight lean forward a pitcher creates with his posture. The toughest part of balance is keeping good upper body posture and remembering to stay on the heel of the drive leg. This combination keeps the center of gravity all the way to foot strike. Overall the legs are the simplest element of keeping balance but are the foundation for everything to be built on.
3). Arm path: The arms are by far the most complex part of a pitchers balance. While the first two absolutes are only able to be done in a few different ways correctly, the arms are the most personalized part of a pitcher's delivery. Some pitchers have a long and loose arm path while others keep it short and compact. Both approaches can be used correctly, as well as everything in-between. Now this is how they are used for balance.
If you've seen someone walk to tight rope what are the arms doing? They are reaching out to the sides at about shoulder height. This is similar to what the arms move like they doing during a pitching delivery. What this shows is that the arms are naturally a part of how human balance. The way that the arms work in a pitching delivery is that they counterbalance each other, similar to the relationship between the first two absolutes. A common term used to describe pitchers arm path is "Equal and Opposites". The kind of pattern seen in professional pitchers arms is that they mirror each other all the way to foot strike. The most common problems I see with arm paths in younger players, is usually with the glove hand. It will tend to drop which will lead to the entire front side to dip down. This has a chain effect on posture and leaves much more stress on the elbow to make up for the poor body position. The most important thing to remember about arm path is that both arms are working together. Whether short, long, slow or fast, both arms need to be doing the same thing.
Remember using your lower body in connection to your upper half can make balance on the mound as natural as walking down the street. By mastering the 3 absolutes of balance, you will find that the bottom line is keeping the head as still as possible over your center of gravity gives you all you need for pounding the strike zone.
The last hitting article covered the four things every great hitter does mechanically. The 3rd hitting absolute, balance, is the subject of today's lesson.
You must maintain balance from start to finish. This is a key concept to teach players at a young age. After the hitter weight transfers (absolute #1) and stride separates (absolute #2), the head must be directly between the feet (absolute #3).
If the head is too far on the backside, the hitter will dip his back shoulder, causing the hands and barrel to drop. If the head is too far on the backside when the hitter is in the foot down hands back position, the result will be a weak popup. The opposite is true if the hitters head drifts forward. When the head is too far forward in the foot down hands back position, the result will be a weak groundball.
Balance is one of the important parts of being a successful hitter. If our head is not in between our feet in the stride separate position, we are compromising a significant amount of power.
Hitting is all about angles. When our center of mass (our head) is off, the bat will mimic the direction it goes. The head should stay down and through even slightly after contact to make sure all the energy from the swing is going towards the field, not away from it. Take a look at the picture at the top of the article and notice A-Rod's head is down even after contact.
Alex Rodriguez has made a comeback this season. His balance is what really stands out. Even when he takes his most violent swing, A-Rod is able to maintain balance. This means all his energy is going towards the direction of the field. He is not 'pulling-off' anything. Rarely will you see A-Rod hook a ball foul. This is a sign of great balance and energy transfer.
Take a look at the two pictures of A-Rod below. Notice on the left how his front foot is pulling off the ball. This will cause A-Rod to be short to short, instead of short to and long through the ball. You can also see how he is not getting maximum extension. His bat is not in the hitting zone a long time. Then take a look at the picture on the right. Immediately, his frontside stands out. He is getting much better extension and staying through the ball. The offensive performance A-Rod is putting on this season is largley due to his balance.
The goal for young hitters in the cage should be to maintain balance from start to finish. Remember, if you can't hold your finish, you are losing power. We want all of our energy going towards the field. Timing comes with a large number of AB's. Balance comes with consistent work off the tee.
CoreSavvy Stride and Separate Drill (foot down, hands back) :
1. Weight transfer and then get to your stride and separate position (foot down hands back position)
2. After you are in the stride separate position, hold it for 2-3 seconds, then have your partner throw a pitch
3. Try to stay balanced and put a good swing on the ball, hold your finish (2-3 sec)
4. I also recommend doing this drill off of the tee before you go into live BP
This is the best drill out there to work on balance and how to handle off-speed pitches. I have seen hitters who are .250 guys go above .330 using this drill.
Remember, power without balance means nothing. Focus on taking balanced hacks in the cage and at practice. Watch how your average starts to creep up.
I am often asked the question, 'what is the best way to get my arm in shape?'. The answer is a throwing program. 91's is my personal favorite throwing program.
You start playing catch for 9 minutes at 60ft, then take a 4.5 minute rest. Next you play catch for 8 minutes. By doing the 9 min catch, rest, then 8 more minutes, you have completed a "98". The goal is to work all the way up the chart until you can complete a "91" (45 minutes of total throwing, 22 minutes rest). Each section should take you one week. The entire program takes 8-10 weeks to complete. I recommend starting in early august so you will have arm strength through the fall and into spring.
In this article we will be addressing a small but critical part of the pitching delivery. It is often over looked and taught by few. Its hip tilt. If you've been around baseball for long enough you've probably heard of the importance of the hips in pitching. After reading this article you will have clear and concise idea of what positions your hips are suppose to be in as well as what to avoid. I will also share a pitching drill that specifically focuses on hip tilt that can dramatically improve your delivery
For starters, when do the hips become important during the delivery? The answer is THEY ALWAYS ARE. Everything you do in your delivery is based around the idea of syncing up your lower half with your upper half. This is why every pitcher's delivery has different rhythms and timing. For this article we are focusing on one segment of the hip sequence that we refer to as hip tilt.
Just from the phrase itself you can probably get a mental image of what I'm talking about. But what is the exact point of the pitching delivery that I'm talking about here? The point where hip tilt will be emphasized is just after peak leg lift all the way until foot strike. After foot strike the hips will begin rotating which will place them in a completely different position.
As the delivery continues down the mound is where I see the most problems begin. Keeping the slight tilt of the hips all the way to foot strike is crucial to keeping the body in a good position. This picture of Strasburg has quite a few things wrong with it, but focus on the angle of his hips. They are parallel to the ground which can raises a lot of red flags. Just in this picture it looks to be causing a front leg reach, causing his hips to open early, as well as prematurely getting onto the toe of his drive leg. Losing power and torque from the hips and placing stress on the arm.
Directly comparing this picture of Strasburg to Ryan, it is easy to see that the differences are huge. The hips being the most obvious. The angle of the hips keeps the body in a powerful position. The back heel being one of the products of good hip tilt. It forces the weight to stay back on the heel instead of jumping off the mound. Another positive effect of good hip positioning is staying closed with the lower body. As well as the upper body, it is important to keep the front hip closed all the way until foot strike. Ryan does this very well in this picture which keeps his hips loaded and ready to fire.
So how can someone work on this?
When you think about creating hip tilt on a downward sloped mound it can seem like an impossible feat. So thats why we flip it around. A great drill that is taught in pro-ball is going behind the rubber and throwing UP the back of the mound. You start with your back foot on flat ground and the other somewhere on the uphill slope in a comfortable position. Start close and gradually move out once comfortable. It is important to keep your front leg strong and not give too much bend. Follow through and repeat until you're comfortable with this version of the drill. Once you've become accustomed to this, try starting with your feet together on flat ground and complete a full throwing motion. Again keeping the front leg strong and following through. It is recommended that you do this drill before every bullpen. It is a good way to force your hips into an exaggerated position which translates great on the actual mound.
Its important to note that the catcher should be up in front of the plate around 45-60 feet away from the pitcher. Focus on getting the ball around the knees. Pushing balls up or over the catcher defeat the purpose of the whole drill.
Hitting a baseball is commonly known as the hardest thing to do in sports. Why then do hitters make it so much more difficult then it has to be? The main reason for the decline in power and batting averages in baseball isn’t poorly taught mechanics. The decline of offense is due to the lack of education and knowledge of pitch sequences. Understanding and conceptualizing pitch sequences is the most important part of being a high level hitter.
Why are pitch sequences so important? The reason is simple. It is a lot easier to hit the baseball when you know what pitch is coming and where it’s going to end up location wise. As hitters, when we know the location and pitch type, hitting becomes as simple as letting our eyes and hips work naturally.
Swings break down for two main reasons: First, they are off balance because they don't know what pitch is coming. Second, the hitter swings at something out of the strike zone because he does not know the location of the pitch. If we can eliminate these two factors, we give ourselves a great chance to be successful in the batters box no matter what our mechanics look like.
Let’s talk offense. In baseball there are six “power” counts. Also known as “hitters counts”, these six situations are the best time to swing the bat. The six hitters counts are 0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-0, and 3-1. In these six counts, the hitter will see a fastball over 90% of the time. The hitter can define the pitch type and isolate his eyes on a fastball, giving him a great chance to hit the ball hard. As for location, because these are the hitters counts, the pitcher does not want to throw a ball. This means that the hitter can expect a fastball to hit in the strike zone. If the pitcher throws a ball in any of the six hitters counts, he virtually has to come back with another fastball because the last thing a pitcher wants is to give out free bases.
When you are in a hitters count, you should look for a fastball to drive. We want to be on the attack in the hitters counts and focus on getting the barrel out in front of the plate. They are called “power counts” for a reason. The pitcher is on his heels. At the amateur level, a big problem is that hitters do not have the mindset of “attacking” in the hitters counts.
The count changes our approach. In the non-hitter counts, you are looking to take the ball to the opposite field because you don’t know the two key factors (location and pitch type). By thinking opposite field as a hitter, naturally you will let the ball travel deeper into the zone. The deeper you let a ball travel the more you allow yourself to determine pitch type and location. By having the mindset to let the baseball travel deep in the zone in the non-hitters counts, you also take away the late movement from a pitchers off-speed. In the hitters counts think “attack", and in every other sequence think opposite field. This sounds like a simple approach to hitting. The best hitters can slow down and simplify the game by understanding pitch sequences.
A professional is someone who leaves as little as possible to chance. What this means is even if you are in little league, you have an opportunity to eliminate chance at your level by understanding the hitters counts. The offensive problem isn’t mechanical, it’s due to a lack of baseball education and knowledge of hitter's counts.
Routines. Athletes, across all sports, will have heard this word many times over their careers. Though it sounds boring, a routine is one of the most crucial aspects in developing and improving skills. Everyone from Michael Jordan to Clayton Kershaw undoubtedly abide by strict routines. The importance isn't the exact activity being done, it's the institution of a routine in the first place. In this article I will be presenting personal and scientific reasons backing the importance of routines.The kinds of routines I'll be talking about in this article are geared toward any type of athletic endeavor. If peak performance is really worth it to you, then a routine is a must.
Routines bring calmness to high stress situations. They give you a place to be and something to do at that time, taking out any guess work. Have you every felt that nervous energy sitting in the locker room with nothing to do before a game? Thats what I'm talking about. What Im talking about is peace of mind. Baseball is hard enough as it is, and anyway to destress yourself helps your performance on the big stage. All the added stresses are often dealt with by using superstitions, in baseball especially. "Don't step on the line", "Don't talk to a pitcher with a perfect game going", or you possibly have a personal superstition you use before going up to bat. Just keep in mind that these are all routines and ways to stay in the moment when faced with a big situation.
Personally I have seen routines work for myself and players I've played with over the years. Heres an example of my game-day routine as a pitcher at our home ball park :
For a 6:05 night game I show up at the field at 3. I grab a bite to eat to bring to the field and hangout in the clubhouse for the first hour. At 4, I go into the training room to address any kind of physical needs that the trainer can help me with. At 4:30 I start my full body stretch that will last 20-30 mins. At 5 I start my cardio/dynamic warm up. This includes sprints, hip mobility drills, core activation, push-ups, and a light shoulder and back workout. I will finish up at 5:25 and grab a drink of water. At 5:30 I begin my pre-game throwing routine in the outfield. At 5:40 I finish up and grab another drink and recap with the pitching coach and catcher for 5 mins about the game plan. This gives me 10-15 mins on the mound which I mainly use just to find rhythm. From there I walk back to the dugout and stride out for the National Anthem at 6:00. And there you have it.
Want I want to get across is that nothing about my routine is special. But it is MY routine. I believe in it. A routine needs to be something that will make you fell 100% ready mentally and physically. For example, five hours before a game Clayton Kershaw will find a wall and practice his delivery by short hopping a ball against the base of the wall, catching each ricochet over and over, pitch after pitch. For Kershaw, it works. It is his way of freeing himself of anxiety.
Now, to breakdown the benefits of having routines from a scientific standpoint. Your brain is made of millions of neurological pathways that fire on command. These pathways go from point A to point B. The goal here is to repeat this pathway over and over until there is no thinking involved. Just like throwing a pitch, the neuron will fire across a synapse and to the other neuron, creating a timed kinetic link resulting in a pitch. For most Little League players these pathways are under developed. Metaphorically speaking, picture a LL's pathway as a dirt trail through the woods. Yes, you can walk on it, but without constant walking, this trail will turn back into forest.
To develop this path you need to continue to walk and walk and walk. Now lets take the generic high school player. His skills will be more developed from repetition and routine accrued over years of experience, thus making his pathway slightly better. Picture a running trail that has a nice two lane surface with gravel. Nice right? But this trail isn't big enough for a car or anything with real speed. Moving on the a player in the MLB. The pathways in their brains look like 4 lane, concrete paved highways. Built for speed and constant use. Reaching speeds 10x faster than our original Little League player. How did they make this highway? Having a consistent point A. "A" is your routine and "B" is the game. We need to make this bridge from one to the other as seamless as possible.
I am going to make this very simple for you, what are the chances of reaching point B without a consistent point A? You will never make it to the 4 lane super highway without starting from a dirt trail. There is a lot of wasted time shuffling through routines from points X,Y, and Z when you should be focused on building one path. In closing here is a phrase to remember " Constantly Repeat Consistent Routines". If you abide by this you will be seeing massive strides in your game.
Deceleration is the most overlooked part of developing top level velocity. I have pitchers who will work out their legs, core and upper body but completely ignore what I consider to be the most important part of reaching your true max velocity. My theory for most pitchers completely ignoring deceleration is that most simply do not know about how important it is. Let's break down what deceleration is and why it is so important.
The saying one of my college coaches used to tell me often is that most pitchers have "great engines paired with bad brakes". What this means is that most pitchers have strong legs, core and upper-body but ignore the muscles that are responsible for slowing their arm down after the baseball is out of their hand. Do you think your body will allow itself to accelerate faster than your deceleration muscles can slow it down? The answer is no. Your body will only travel as fast as it can slow itself down without injury. If you want to develop elite velocity, deceleration is by far the most important part. I have developed several drills to help pitchers improve their brakes (deceleration muscles).
Pronation is the naturally occurring movement that happens after you release the baseball. Pronation is the turning inward of the wrist and forearm after the baseball is out of your hand. The faster and more explosively we pronate, the faster our arm will be able to accelerate. Pronation will protect your elbow and shoulder from injury.
In football, deceleration and pronation are taught at the youth levels. Take a look at the picture of Drew Brees to the left. Quarterbacks are the most dynamic throwers on the planet. If they do not pronate after they release a much heavier football, their shoulders would break down. Baseball has overlooked the most important part in developing maximum velocity.
If you want to reach your true potential as a pitcher and join the 90+ mph club, you have to commit to deceleration and pronation on a daily basis.
Shoot us an email to learn about the specific deceleration and pronations drills to develop maximum velocity
I want to talk about where the true velocity of a pitcher comes from. I am going to back up my theories with information from Dr. Jobe. Dr. Jobe performed what I consider to be the best case study of pitching velocity called An Analysis Of The Pitching Shoulder. Velocity in pitching comes from the big muscles in the body. Velocity is not generated by the arm. The study Dr. Jobe conducted proves that while the arm is moving forward, the accelerator muscles do not fire. What this means is that the muscles in the arm and shoulder actually do not activate to create velocity.
To summarize the study, Dr. Jobe tested pitchers at four parts of their deliveries. He used electromyography and a high speed camera to capture the movements. The initial stretch position (part 1) had no muscular activation that was consistent. Part 2 is what Dr. Jobe called the "collect" or "Knee raise" of the pitcher. In part 2, the deltoids began sequentially firing followed by the scapula firing. Part 3 was by far the most interesting. Part 3 (acceleration) begins when the pitchers stride foot is hits the ground. Dr. Jobe found that even though the arm was accelerating forward towards home plate, there was little to no muscle activity. Part 4 is after the pitcher releases the ball. During part 4, Dr. Jobe discovered that this is the point of the delivery where the muscles fire most violently. He found out that the main reason for the muscles firing after the ball is released is actually to decelerate the arm. The conclusion Dr. Jobe came away with is that the muscles were only firing during the delivery to decelerate the arm.
Since the accelerator muscles in the arm and shoulder do not fire when the arm is going forward, elastic energy creates the velocity of the pitch. Lets talk about what elastic energy is.
Elastic energy is exactly like a rubber band. When you stretch a rubber band, elastic energy is created. Muscles are very similar to rubber bands. When we stretch our muscles like a rubber band, elastic energy is built. Elastic energy has been proven to create more velocity than simply contracting the muscles in the arm to generate velocity. The main thing to remeber about elastic energy is SSC (strength shortening cycle). To properly utilize the SSC, we must focus on stretching our accelerator muscles to start the contraction, rather than just contracting the muscles. By stretching our accelerator muscles to generate the contraction, we will throw a lot harder. The SSC happens right after foot strike. At CoreSavvy I call this postion "hip to shoulder separation". The chest and upper body begin to fire towards homeplate while the backfoot and throwing shoulder stay back. This is what creates the elastic energy in the rubber band that is the pitching delivery.
The two things that affect how much elastic energy you have are how far you stretch and how fast you do it. Slow, methodical movements do not equate to elastic energy. Speeding up our delivery while staying under control is the best way to build elastic energy. Core strength is vital for pitchers because it is what determines how fast you accelerate your arm. The more core strength, the lighter your arm can stay throughout the delivery, generating elastic energy.
So what else's stops elastic energy? A part of your body called the Golgi tendon. The Golgi tendon is responsible for limiting the amount of force generated our muscles. When the Golgi tendon is stimulated, it stops the accelerator muscles. The goal of Core Savvy is to teach our students to desensitize the Golgi tendon through explosive throwing and footwork drills. I have personally seen students who push themselves to the limit in training actually desensitize the Golgi tendon, allowing them to generate much more violent elastic energy. This elastic energy translates directly to velocity.
If you want to desensitize your Golgi tendon, the worst thing you can do as an athlete is participating in the footwork and throwing drills without a weight training program. Weights are essential to build up our deceleration muscles. Deceleration muscles are essentially the brakes of the pitching delivery. We need to keep our brakes in good shape if we want to prevent an injury and mechanical break down.
I often hear coaches and instructors tell their pitching students to "stay closed". I want to clear up exactly what "staying closed" as a pitcher means and how to use it to your advantage. The common myth is that pitchers open up by pulling too hard with their glove hand, causing their frontside to fly open. This could not be further from the truth. Staying closed has everything to do with a pitchers lower half and not the upper.
First, take a look at the pictures below. I picked out some of my favorite pitchers leading with their hip. The key to staying closed while driving down the mound is leading with your hip. When we lead with our hip, our front foot naturally gets down closer to our body. This means our stride will be shorter. When are our stride is shortened and we foot-strike inside of our center, it is easy to get out front of your head and drive the baseball. Driving down the mound leading with our hip helps us achieve a short powerful stride that allows us to get over our frontside. When we consistently throw the baseball in front of our head, we eliminate the vast majority of slowly developing arm injuries.
Pitchers who "open up" too early are simply leading with their feet. When we lead with our feet instead of our hip, we naturally will fly open and our arm will drag through the zone. Our front hip opens up too early, causing the arm drag. When our arm drags, we miss to our arm side of home plate. Take another look at the correct way to lead with your hip in the pictures below.
Take a look at Lincecum below. He is a great example of incorrectly leading with the feet. You can see in the pictures below that his front foot is leading his stride, not his hip. This will cause his arm to drag because he is outside of his center of gravity. Lincecum cannot get out over his frontside to drive the ball because of the long stride which starts with him leading with his feet. His arm has too much catching up to do and he will usually release the baseball behind his head and push the baseball. The mechanical changes he should make start with leading with his hip more to stay closed and get his foot down sooner.
The next change Lincecum should make involves tightening up his hands, but that is for a different article.
Ventura and Hernandez are two of my favorite RHP's. They both stay closed a long time by leading down the mound with their hip. In both cases, Ventura and Hernandez are almost leading with their left butt-cheek. Another reason we want to stay closed is to avoid arm problems and missed locations. Later in this article I will get into the details of how arm problems can develop by leading with your feet.
The longer we stay closed, the more rotational torque we build with hip to shoulder separation. Everything in baseball is rotational, and pitching is no exception. By leading with our hip, we are essentially cocking our hips, or loading them like a hitter would do.
Pitchers who consciously lead down the mound with their hips will throw harder because of more rotational torque and a foot-strike that lands within their center, allowing them to drive the baseball with downward tilt in front of their head.
Pitchers who incorrectly lead with their feet (Lincecum) will miss arm side because of something called arm-drag. Arm-drag is simply when a pitchers arm does not catch up and the pitcher gets heavy (or feels the weight of the ball) behind his head. When arm-drag occurs, the baseball is released too soon or "pushed". Arm-dragis a lot like wear and tear on your car. Arm drag will cause serious stress on the pitchers shoulder and UCL (ulnar collateral ligament). When we lead with our hip, our arm will always catch up and we will be able to deliver the baseball in front of our head (driven pitch).
Next time you hear your coach say "your opening up" or "stay closed", tell yourself to lead with your hip.
I often am asked the question by my players, "how do I fool the hitter?". This question has a very simple answer that many try to over complicate. Deception in pitching has everything to do with how light your keep your arm, and for how long. The key to deception is the slingshot position. The reason it is called the "slingshot" is because when executed properly, the core pulls the arm through like that of a slingshot.
The ability to stay light until the baseball is in front of your head is the key to deception and fooling the hitter. The position that the top pitchers in the world get to is called the "slingshot" postion. The only way to achieve this position is to stay extremely light with your arm until the baseball is in front of your head.
Take a look at the baseball. See how it is coming directly from behind Maddux's head? This is what they slingshot position looks like and it is the key to deception. The baseball will come out right behind his head, giving the hitter no clues as to the velocity or type of pitch on the way.
As soon as we get heavy or feel the weight of the baseball behind our head, the hitter locks on to our arm slot. The key to throwing a deceptive pitch is to stay light as long as possible so the hitter cannot pickup his timing until after the ball is released. This is why Maddux could throw 85mph and pitch in the major leagues with success, and there are some guy who throw 95mph+ and get hit around the yard. The arm should be layed back and relaxed as the core pulls it through.
King Felix is my personal favorite example of the slingshot postion. I have followed him throughout his career and witnessed the transformation from a high 90's thrower, to a pitcher who is driving the baseball in the upper 80's, low 90's. The ball to the hitter will look like it is exploding on top of them. Even though King Felix is only throwing low 90's today, he keeps his arm so light that he is still able to be a cy young award winner year in and year out.
Advanced Readers :
The closer the baseball is to your head in the slingshot, the more deceptive the release will be. Take a look at the picture of King Felix again. Notice how tight the angle is between his head and his arm.
The slingshot is also vital for arm health and career longevity. By keeping our arm light and relaxed until we are in front of our head, we will put all the stress on our core when we turn to throw. If we are heavy behind our head, the UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) is taking the majority of the stress when we turn to throw.
Take a look at Konto's arm angle and then look at Lee's. Kontos is not in the slingshot position which makes his ball very easy to pickup out of his hand. Kontos is getting what I would call "heavy" behind his head. The hitter locks on to the arm right about the same time the picture is taken. Kontos is also putting a ton of stress on his UCL. This mechanical flaw is probably the reason Kontos is a relief pitcher.
Take a look a Cliff Lee. His slingshot postion is perfect. His arm is layed back and relaxed. The baseball will come out right behind his head, deceiving the hitter. The stress from Lee's delivery will all go to his core, which is why he is able to stay healthy and pitch 200 innings a year consistently. His slingshot position is the reason he is so deceptive. It almost looks like Lee is doing a crunch, while Kontos is using only his arm to throw the baseball.
Remember, stay light as long as possible! The key to deception and arm health is the slingshot position.
Scap-loading occurs just before the pitchers shoulder starts to rotate. Lets break down what a scap-load is and what it does for our velocity :
The pitcher takes his elbows behind his back and pinches his shoulder blades together (as seen below in the slideshow). This action will help load the muscles around the shoulders enabling the pitcher throw 3-5mph harder. As I covered in the last article, the reason scap-loading makes us throw harder is because it helps us create more hip-to-shoulder separation. Scap-loading helps our throwing shoulder stay back longer while our front hip opens up towards home plate, creating a ton of torque. When we create hip-to-shoulder separation, our core is what pulls our arm through like a whip.
Check out some pictures of what a scap-load looks like below in the slideshow.
There is a safe way to scap-load. When a pitcher scap-loads, his elbows must below his shoulders. This is a crucial point to remember. Notice all the pitchers in the slideshow above. All of them are scap-loading the healthy way because their elbows are below their shoulders.
Take a look at Mark Prior. Notice his elbows are above his shoulders during his scap-load. This leads to a ton of stress on the UCL (elbow) and a short career.
Below you will notice that Billy Wagner fell victim to the same mechanical flaw as Mark Prior. Many relievers have a raised elbow when scap-loading. This scap-load will lead to a ton of arm injuries so this type of pitcher is best suited for short outings from the bullpen. Remember, the elbows must be relaxed and below the shoulders to properly scap-load.
Yasiel Puig, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and David Wright are all premier MLB hitters right now. So what are they doing so well that is making pitchers fear them? Let's break it down.
The one thing all four of these guys have in common the something I have covered in past articles. The "counter-turn" or drawing of the front hip, knee and shoulder inwards, is the key to initiating the full power of the hips.
What the counter-turn will do is initiate your hips. Picture a boxer punching an opponent. When the boxer cocks back to punch, his hips counter-rotate so they can explode out the other side rotationally to deliver a devastating blow. The hips must counter rotate for full rotational energy transfer.
Take a look at the pictures all around. Notice how all four guys are drawing their front knee, hip and shoulder inwards. This is how the rotational energy starts.
Take a look at the picture below and notice just how much Puig counter-turns. His heel is almost facing the pitcher. The power in rotational hitting is all in the hips and all four of these guys understand that fact.
If you do not counter-turn your hips you are loosing close to 30% of your overall power as a hitter.
Every single player I work with wants to throw harder. Hip to shoulder separation is the single most important element for a pitcher to generate velocity. Hip to shoulder separation is responsible for over 80% of a pitchers velocity.
Hip to shoulder separation is how far a pitchers front hip opens up while his throwing shoulder stays back. The more hip to shoulder separation we get, the harder we will throw. When our front hip opens up while our throwing shoulder stays back, the core is what pulls the ball through like a whip. Using the big muscles to throw the baseball will take a ton of stress off your UCL (elbow) and shoulder.
Now that we know what hip to shoulder separation is, let's figure out how to get more of it.
Stride length and leg drive have a lot to do with hip to shoulder separation. Usually, the longer the stride, the more hip to shoulder can be achieved. The reason I say "usually" instead of saying a long stride will automatically make you throw harder is because if you jump off the mound the back foot comes up. When the back foot comes up, it no longer matters how long your stride is because your throwing shoulder is coming along with it. When the back foot comes up, it vastly eliminates hip to shoulder separation because your throwing shoulder is coming through at the same time as your core.
Think of a boxer punching an opponent. If the boxers back foot comes up before his punch makes contact, the punch is essentially 'all arm'. The same is true in pitching. If a pitchers back foot comes up before release (meaning he jumped off the mound) the pitch will be all arm. That is why it is so important to understand that the back foot must stay in contact with the mound until you fully release the baseball.
Again, if your back foot comes up before you release the baseball, you are putting too much stress on your UCL (elbow) and shoulder.
Here's how to achieve hip to shoulder separation :
Aroldis Champan is a great example of hip to shoulder separation. The way Aroldis generates hip to shoulder separation is through scap-loading. Scap-loading is the same powerful position you are in when you do rows or chest press at the gym. The scap-loaded position is the shoulder blades pinched together as seen above and below.
The more hip to shoulder separation in our delivery, the more torque our core generates which translates directly to velocity.
Scap-loading is truly the key to understanding hip to shoulder separation. When we scap-load we now involve the big muscles in our back. Not to mention we stay extremely connected by scap loading. What a scap-load really does is allow your throwing shoulder to stay back even longer than a traditional arm circle. The longer our throwing shoulder stays back while our front hip opens up is how we create torque in the pitching motion.
Understanding hip to shoulder separation is the key to velocity. Hip to shoulder separation is also the key to overall arm health. By using the big muscles in the body to unravel like a whip, there is almost no stress on the UCL (elbow) or shoulder. So remember, keep your back foot on the mound, drive down it and scap-load to achieve maximum hip to shoulder separation and arm health.
Have you ever been on-deck watching a pitcher warmup thinking to yourself, "this looks very hittable". Then you get in the box and the ball seems "heavy" out of the pitchers hand. The ball is the same speed you saw on-deck, but in the batters box the ball gets on you quickly. This is no magic trick by the pitcher. Let's break down how to throw a heavy (or driven) ball.
I often ask my players, how many times does the baseball rotate fully before it gets to home plate? The answers I get astound me. I hear everything from 1000 rotations to 64 to 38 and so on. The baseball rotates about 10 times for your average 90mph fastball before it reaches home plate.
The best pitchers in the world have the ability to make the baseball spin an extra half rotation before it reaches home plate. This extra half-rotation put on the baseball is what makes the spin tighter. Tighter spin on the ball leads to less drag through the air. Less drag through the air creates a faster moving baseball. This tight spin and extra rotation put on the baseball are what make the ball seem "heavvy" out of the pitchers hand. So now that we know what causes the heavy ball, its time to figure out how to throw it.
Notice how far out in front of their head each one of these guys is releasing the baseball. Like I mentioned in previous articles, the best pitchers on the planet release the baseball 6-12 inches in front of their heads. The further we reach out in front of our head, the more rotations we put on the baseball making it extremely heavy (driven).
All three of these guys have excellent frontsides as well. Notice how each of them is reaching out over a strong front leg with their heads reaching towards the target. This conscious reach by putting your chin in the catchers glove will help you hold on to the baseball a fraction of a second longer. The longer we can hold onto the baseball, the more heavy (driven) the ball will be.
Now take a look at this college pitcher. Notice how he isn't reaching out in front of his head to release the ball? This will cause his ball to be very pushed or flat through the zone. Also because he is releasing the baseball behind his head, the ball will be extremely light to the hitter.
Hitters are taught to hit the lower-inner half of the baseball. Take a look at the Eagles pitcher's release point. Since he is releasing the baseball behind his head, the lower-inner half will be really easy to attack for the hitter. The pitch will essentially look like a beach ball coming to home plate.
Now take a look at the two pictures below. The lower-inner half of the pitch Greg Maddux is throwing will be extremely hard to find. This is because he is reaching so far out over his frontside. The ball will actually have a driven, downward angle towards home plate making it look as small as BB to the hitter. When we drive the ball out in front of our head, the lower-inner half of the pitch is almost impossible to locate for the hitter. You will get a lot of ground balls and strikeouts driving the baseball because the lower-inner half of the baseball disappears to the hitter with downward angle.
CSB Important Thing to Remember :
To properly drive the baseball, we must keep our back foot on the mound until we release the ball. If the back foot (anchor foot) comes up any earlier than release, the ball will not truly be driven, even if it is going on a down-plane.
Think of a boxer punching an opponent. If the boxers back foot comes up before his punch makes contact, he is essentially punching with all arm. The same is true in pitching. The back foot must stay on the mound until release to truly create a heavy, driven baseball.
Reach out and DRIVE the baseball!
CSB Coach Julian Merryweather is in his senior season with OBU. In the opening round of the NAIA World Series, Merryweather went CG with 14 strikeouts.
CSB and San Mateo High School Head Coach Nick Sanzeri in the news
In the last Core Savvy Baseball™ article, we went over the things that Bryce Harper does to be successful at the Major League Level. Now we are going to take a close look at the most dominant force in the 9th inning in baseball history.
THERE ARE FOUR PARTS OF RIVERA's DELIVERY THAT MAKE HIM SO SUCCESSFUL. MOST OF THE TIME THESE FOUR MOVEMENTS HAPPEN SO FAST, THEY GO UNSEEN. LET'S BREAK THEM DOWN.
A PITCHERS BALANCE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF A REPEATABLE DELIVERY. BALANCE ON THE MOUND IS CREATED AS RIVERA’S LEFT HIP DRAWS BACK AND COUNTER ROTATES. In the picture above, take a close look at Rivera's slight lean towards home plate at balance. This is exactly how you build momentum going towards home plate without have to jump at the hitter.
Rivera's hands stay light and together throughout this forward momentum build up, which is crucial. I want to stress the fact that his hands stay together, and do not split during the momentum build up. At Core Savvy Baseball™ we call this a “rhythm split”™. While the majority of pitching coaches teach kids to split there hands down the middle, we disagree and know that splitting down the middle leads to elbow injuries and inconsistency.
A inconsistent split leads us right into our next topic, symmetric hands.
2. Symmetric Hands :
At CSB we firmly believe that Rivera has the best hands in the league. What do we mean best hands?
To start, a pitcher's hands are his timing (see past pitching articles on absolutes of pitching). Symmetric hands, which should mirror each other, are the reason that Rivera can be so consistent with his hands. Symmetric hands equals great timing.
For many youth players, feeling the weight of the baseball begins when they dig into there gloves. At Core Savvy Baseball, we call this mechanical flaw "getting violent too early". For Major League players, they do not feel the weight of the baseball until the very end of their delivery, much like they are cracking a whip. This will keep your arm light and injury free.
In the picture above, Rivera’s hands are clearly still light and loose. As Rivera’s hands are light and loose, his shoulder will begin to rotate, bringing the hands up symmetrically. This is part of what allows him to have an injury free career.
As Rivera's front foot begins to go forward and land, this sends us right into our next absolute, foot strike.
3. Foot Strike and Hip to Shoulder Separation :
This is where the money is made.
What you are looking at in the picture above is called hip to shoulder separation. Although we have briefly covered this idea in past articles, we have never discussed why hip to shoulder separation is so important.
90% percent of a pitcher's velocity is directly related to his hip to shoulder separation. You want to gain instant velo? Listen up.
The most important part of getting a ton of hip to shoulder separation is getting your front foot down. As you can see above, Rivera's front foot is firmly planted on the ground which gives him the perfect foundation to build separation.
As you can see above, Rivera's arm is laid back, and relaxed while his core begins to uncoil towards home plate. This is the definition of, and how you create a ton of hip to shoulder separation
Many amateur pitchers will rush to throw the baseball before their front foot has landed. This will vastly eliminate hip to shoulder separation and is a red flag for elbow injuries.
4. The Tuck :
If you can remember to do just one thing mechanically correct as a pitcher, it should be your finish. A pitcher's finish occurs right after the baseball is released from the hand. Take a look at the picture above.
Rivera starts the tuck by bringing his chest to his glove, instead of pulling down on his glove to create power. This is called “the tuck”. Pitchers should never focus on pulling the glove to create velocity because when we do, our arm will naturally drag and our symmetric hands will disconnect from each other.
Rivera is exceptional at bringing his eyes towards his target which allows him to lock up on his target. This will help his tuck. The tuck is what allows Rivera to chest to extend as far as possible towards the target. The closer we can release the baseball to the hitter, the better. The longer we hold on to the baseball, the more revolutions we put on it, creating a more heavy or 'driven' pitch.
You can see Mariano's chin reaching towards home plate as he tries to get his chest as far out towards the hitter as possible. Rivera clearly understands how important getting his chest and chin out towards the pitcher are.
Stay tuned for the next article and keep the questions coming!
People have been wondering what has happened to Lincecum. I'll give you a very simple explanation.
Take a good look at both of the pictures above. You may think that you are looking at two similar pitchers. The guy on the left' jumps' off of the mound while the guy on the right 'drives' down it.
Understanding the difference between 'jumping' down the mound and 'driving' down it will literally save your career, so listen up.
First let's take a look at the back foot of these two :
Tim's back foot (anchor foot) is almost completely off of the ground with only his last spike on his right front toe touching the mound. Mariano is the absolute opposite. His anchor is completely on the ground, with only the last spike on his right heel not making direct contact with the mound.
By keeping his anchor on the mound through his turn, Mariano is able to use the big muscles in his body to throw the baseball (legs, core). Mariano stays connected throughout his delivery. Staying connected throughout your delivery will allow you to properly decelerate and pronate out in front of you head after release. Deceleration is crucial for arm health. By keeping his anchor down, Mariano is able to consistently decelerate correctly. Because Mariano keeps his anchor down through his turn, he was able to have a long, almost 20 year career.
Tim, on the other hand, will throw the baseball with the small tendons in his elbow because of the violent jump down the mound which disconnects his arm from his core and legs.
Now, onto the front foot :
Now take a look at Tim's front foot. He is what we at Core Savvy Baseball call "leading with his feet". Because Tim jumped off of the mound instead of driving down it, he is unable to control his forward movement, specifically his front foot (leading with the feet). His foot will land in a different spot almost every time, making a consistent delivery impossible.
Mariano's front foot on the other hand, is under control because he 'drove' down the mound. If you take a closer look, it is as if Mariano is 'shaving off' the dirt on the mound in front of him with his left foot. 'Shaving off' is the visual cue I give my players for how to use the front foot without it getting disconnected.
You probably could guess what happens when a person 'leads with their feet'. Tim's front foot is incorrectly leading which causes his arm to drag and never catch up. When a pitchers arm does not catch up, they throw the baseball behind their head. When a pitcher throws the baseball behind their head, elbow problems develop quickly because the small tendons are what they are using to generate velocity. Pitchers who use their elbow to generate velocity will generally loose 5-10mph in 3 years because the small tendons in the elbow can no longer support the violence created by jumping off of the mound. This is exactly what we have seen in Lincecum's decline over the last two years. Tim is the most classic example of a jumper.
These two pictures are so our readers can see what 'throwing behind your head' actually looks like versus reaching out and 'locking up' on your target. You will notice how Tim is already getting violent and is just about to release the ball. Mariano on the other hand is able to throw the baseball 6-12 inches out in front of his head which makes his ball extremely driven (good angle or tilt). Mariano is able to do this because he is 'driving' down the mound under control, not 'jumping'. Lincecum's pitches will remain 'flat' (pushed) for the rest of his career until he decides to keep his anchor foot (back foot) on the ground and turn.
So, next time one of your friends brings up Lincecum, let them know whats wrong with his mechanics.
Lincecum Jumping down the Mound
Mariano 'Driving' The Baseball In Front Of His Head
Hitting into a strong front post is pretty common hitting knowledge that you have probably heard before. The problem is with the way Coaches teach a strong frontside. Most amateur players end up rolling the front foot, unable to ever understand rotational hitting. I am going to break down the fine points of how to hit into a strong front post.
If the frontside leaks at all there will be a disruption of the energy transfer to the back side and upper body which creates minimal bat speed. The problem that I see in the way most Coaches teach a strong frontside is that they simply tell the players to 'have a strong frontside'. No one ever in my playing or coaching career broke down what exactly the front foot is doing in regard to kinetic energy transfer.
The kinetic energy transfer in hitting starts on the backside, then jumps to the front side with the initiation of weight transfer. The kinetic energy then travels to the frontside. This is where most players screw up. The kinetic energy is never stopped because they do not push back with their frontside. Take a look at the picture of Bryce Harper below. He is clearly not letting the kinetic energy drift because he is pushing back with his front foot.
Pushing back with the front side will also keep you from hip-sliding or drifting forward. You will be able to wait longer and let the baseball get deeper in the zone. You will also find that the harder you stick a frontside, the more you will be able to throw your backside around rotationally. Bryce is a great example of a guy who pushes back with his frontside.
For years I have believed in one knee hitting drills. Today I am going to break down why hitting drills off of one knee are so important for understanding rotational mechanics.
Watch this video through once, then watch it again. Pause the video at Pedroia's point of contact. This picture you are looking at looks exactly like the one knee hitting drill I have all of my players execute daily. The goal of the one knee hitting drill is to focus on getting your back hip and shoulder squared up to the baseball.
The reason one knee hitting drills are so important for amateur players to execute daily is because it teaches you how to turn. Like I said in the last article, most 21st century hitters completely disconnect their arms from their lower half which produces slow, all-arm swings. The goal of hitting is to get your back hip, knee and shoulder squared up to the baseball. When we get our back hip and back knee squared up to the baseball we are using the big muscles in our body to produce bat speed.
Watch the Pedroia video one more time. Take a look at his frontside at the point of contact. His frontside is completely locked and solid in the ground. This solid frontside is what allows Pedroia to turn his back hip, back knee and back shoulder around to get them squared up to the baseball.
The one knee hitting drill is crucial for understanding how to turn and stay connected throughout. The back elbow should naturally tuck to the body for a tight turn. Figure skaters are a great example of how to stay connected throughout a turn. When competitive figure skaters are turning slowly, their arms are extended. When they want to get a high score or win a competition, they tuck their arms close to their body and can now spin a whole lot faster. The same is true in baseball. The back elbow must tuck to the body in for a tight, efficient turn to the point of contact. Take a look at the examples below. Stay connected so centrifugal force does not force you to just throw your hands.
When on a knee, hitters will find that if they just throw their hands they will produce no bat speed. After 15-20 reps off a knee, most amateur players begin to feel what rotational hitting is like. Usually amateur players start out by rolling over the first couple reps because they are used to going to get the baseball with their hands instead of turning their body as one. Variations of the one knee drill include just using a top or bottom hand.
The analogy I give all of my students is that of a boxer. A boxer's punch, if fully extended, is no where near as powerful as a jab (close to the body). I tell all of my players to let the baseball travel to "throw the jab". The power in hitting, just like in boxing, is close to your body. The farther out we reach to punch or swing, the less power and bat speed we will have. One knee hitting drills teach hitters to let the ball travel because if you go out and hit the ball with your hands you will have a 'ground ball' type round.