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.