Ok now lets finish up the last two absolutes to pitching. I want you guys to remember that these absolutes are not up for debate. They are the pillars that the philosophy of pitching rests upon at Core Savvy Baseball. If you want to achieve greatness, take these pitching imperatives to heart and internalize what I'm teaching you. Before hand, if any of you readers out there have any questions about what I'm writing here, or in another post, feel free to ask by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are just about to get into the good stuff, and Im excited to let you guys in on what the big leaguers do. The things that build velocity, control, and straight up nastiness. This is where the money is made! Get excited and ready for the most important Core Savvy pitching lesson yet.
Lets start right where we left off, at Equal and Opposite Hands. Now would be a good time to go read the previous pitching article if you haven't already. They are all tied together and would be most effective if read in order.
To piggyback from our last article, it is important to keep your equal & opposites up to the point of foot strike. Foot strike is the next absolute we will be talking about and is the process of when the front foot lands. We will look at is not just foot strike, but everything that creates an overall good position at foot-strike.
"You can't throw the ball until that front foot hits the ground."-Nolan Ryan
Now this might sound like and obvious fact, but Nolan Ryan is addressing a much bigger problem here. When looking at the pitching delivery as a whole, it goes from smooth-to-violent. The violent part of the delivery begins as soon as the foot hits the ground. Many young pitchers, that don't know any better, get violent before foot strike when trying to increase velocity. Some examples include the arm stab or shoulder tension . The violence that I'm talking about is completely generated by the core.
Notice in the picture of Roger Clemens how his foot is down, while his throwing arm lays back, relaxed. This is how the core works at top performance. If you try to initiate either the arm or core before foot strike, be prepared to miss above the strike zone all game. Not to mention the strain it will put on the elbow and lower back.
Another characteristic of good foot strike position is keeping the front side closed. A common piece of pitching advice is to keep the shoulder closed, which almost every pitcher has heard at some point. This is one of the conventional wisdoms of pitching that is actually effective. The longer a pitcher can stay closed, the more torque he will generate at foot strike. If you've ever heard that your front shoulder is "flying open", this is another common fault in trying to throw early or before foot-strike. Not only does this take away from a pitchers control, but is doing the exact opposite of what the pitcher thinks he's doing, throwing harder. Look at this picture of Pedro Martinez staying perfectly closed all the way up to foot strike. What is great about keeping your shoulder closed is it simultaneously keeps the hips closed as well. If you are throwing properly the hips will be the first to rotate, so it is still important to think shoulder closed for as long as possible.
The process of the hips clearing before the shoulders is a concept called hip-to-shoulder separation. This concept is what makes foot strike so important. Hip-to-shoulder separation has been proven to be responsible for 80% of the velo created in a delivery! This is an advanced concept that I only teach to players that I feel are ready to make the most of this knowledge. For me to talk to a little leaguer about this would be like me teaching calculus to a 5th Grader. Some knowledge is only helpful when the mind is ready to hear it. For this post I will simply explain what the concept means, but leave the details of how to improve it for a more advanced post.
What I want you to do to the picture of Dan Haren (above) is to first draw and imaginary line through the left hip and out the right hip. Next I want you to draw another line from the center of his head through the right shoulder. From a birds eye view, the angle that these lines create is known as hip-to-shoulder separation. Just as the name states, its basically the separation that the front hip gets from the throwing arm shoulder. Now don't let the glove hand fool you to think he is opening up, his shoulders are still more closed than his hips. Look at how Haren's hips are basically squared up to the plate, while his throwing shoulder is laying back. This rubber band effect that the torso has on the upper body is what torque is all about. Think of it like a slingshot, where the hips create the tension and the upper body has no choice but to come through at a high velocity.
Now that we have covered how to properly position yourself at foot strike, we now will move on to the last absolute in the Core Savvy Pitching Philosophy.
Absolute #3 addressed most of the keys for increasing your velo, but now we will be talking about how to harness it.
Locking up is a combination of a few things happening during the last moments of the delivery that give a pitcher that pin-point control. I tell all my lessons upfront, "Sure I can increase your velo by about 5 mph, but if you can't control it then theres no point in me teaching you in the first place is there?". This sets the tone for all my pitchers, to show what I find most important . One of my more experienced lessons was hitting 90 mph near the end of a summer full of lessons (my glove hand had just about enough by that point). What I was more proud of was his desire to be able to locate it. Many kids out there would be happy to ever hit 90 mph but I respected his mid set of "So what?". Being able to locate that 90 mph transforms a thrower into a pitcher.
So now let me start off with the different aspects of locking up. As some of you have probably figured out, locking up is simply a way of saying "Lock onto the target". By this, I mean that your chin needs to be in the catchers mitt. Yes, I want you to try to get that chin as far out in front as possible. Keeping a steady head, and getting it over your front foot is crucial in having control. Notice how Maddux's chin is tense as he is mentally sticking it in the catcher's target. If his feet were showing in the picture, it would be safe to say that his chin would be at, or just over his front foot.
The second part of locking up has to do with release point. Releasing the ball as far out front as possible is another crucial factor in having perfect control. It also is when the pitcher is using the last bit of his arm strength. Having this last bit of snap at the end of his pitch prevents the hitter's dream of a "pushed fastball". When using this last bit of wrist snap, it should feel like you are placing the ball in the catchers mitt.
The average Major League pitcher will release the ball 8-12inches out in front of their head. Greg Maddux shows just how far a pitcher is able to get both his chin and release point as close to the target as possible.
Man it gets me fired up just talking about this stuff! LIke I said before this where you make your money! Scholarships and pro contracts are given to the ones who master these absolutes. So start now, no matter how old you are and fulfill your potential. Hey maybe try a Core Savvy pitching lesson if you really want it!
Arm Stab: A violent movement down with the the throwing arm as the hands break
Shoulder Tension: When the shoulder blades pinch together prematurely as the hands break.
Velo: An abbreviation for velocity