Stride length is one of the most argued topics regarding pitching mechanics. At Core Savvy Baseball, we understand that every player is different. This means that stride length will differ from player to player, based upon a number of rhythm based movements. In this article, we are going to revolutionize the way you look at stride length.
The stride starts as soon as the pitcher initiates off the instep of his back foot. After the back instep is initiated, the pitcher will simply rhythmically flow down the mound. This smooth descent down the mound should be fluid. No push, jump, hitch or stoppage should happen during this phase of the delivery.
Many youth players will push hard off the back off the rubber. This is not the player’s fault, but a result of poor coaching. All this will do is cause the kids arm to create velocity (get violent) much earlier than he should. When we push off the back off the mound, we naturally will get out of our center of balance. When our center of balance is comprised the only thing left to supply power is the arm.
This is probably the biggest coaching mistake at the youth level, period. Telling kids to push off the mound will lead to a ton of elbow injuries. At Core Savvy Baseball we do not understand why coaches do not decide to become more informed on what the stride is actually doing. We’ll break it down for you.
Eliminating the push off of the back of the mound is what we want. What this will do is keep your weight naturally back. There are many benefits to staying back. The first is that you will never get out of your center of gravity. The reason we want to stay in our center of gravity is to eliminate as much head movement as possible. The less head movement a pitcher has during his stride, the easier it becomes to lock up on your target.
The hands are a pitchers timing is his delivery. The lower half is a pitchers rhythm. Keeping our center of gravity is what keeps us in rhythm. Pushing off the back of the mound, getting out of our center of gravity and out of rhythm, will always equal inconsistency. The ball will never lie.
As you can clearly see in the picture above, Rivera’s head is exactly over his center of gravity. You could draw a line through the center of his body. Rivera is not jumping, because if he was, his back leg would be fully extended like most amateur pitchers.
The stride should feel like you are just walking down the mound. You should have a slight lean forward as you pick your front leg up. After you lean, you simply let gravity do the rest of the work. The mound is a 10-inch hill. We want to use the 10-inches to our advantage, not jump off of it and throw from the flat ground (Tim Lincecum). The only reason your stride would be a little longer on a mound than on flat ground, is because the mound is a slope.
The momentum built up by the leg lift and counter rotation should supply all of the drive needed to go down the mound. The stride should be smooth and fluid. We have to allow the momentum we built up to work for us.
I see far too many pitching coaches tell players to “slow down their stride”. This is non sense. The stride should not be slow. The only thing that slowing down your stride will do is throw you off rhythm and completely eliminate any momentum you have. We need to allow ourselves to fall down the mound. Shocker, but we do not actually need to stop at balance.
As long as you can be fast and build a lot of momentum with your stride using gravity, you can have a long stride. A great example is Aroldis Champan. His stride is one of the longest and fastest in the Major Leagues, but he stays in center of gravity. Take a look at the picture above for yourself.
Again, as long as you are in your center of gravity, your stride can be as long or short as you want. Look at the picture above and notice Heath Bell's stride length. If you asked 99% of pitching coaches, they will tell you that your stride should be approximately 75% - 90% of your height. If you ever hear pitching coach say that there is a definitive stride length that everyone should have, turn and run the other direction.
Keep the questions coming!