The last Core Savvy Pitching post covered the facts on arm slots. Now Core Savvy Baseball™ will teach you how to find your arm slot and maximize your potential. As a coach dealing with younger kids, I cannot stress how important it is to find your arm slot at a young age. I have seen great improvements in performance with just slightly altering the arm slot.
One of the first things that I ask my pitchers is
"How did you decide on your arm slot?".
Some say its natural, or they had never really thought about it. Deciding on an arm slot should not be done without some thought, for it can be the key to unlocking massive potential. When dealing with young ball players a change in arm slot could mean large gains in velocity. Along with the other Absolutes of Pitching, adjusting an uncomfortable arm slot could change the whole delivery and help with arm discomfort.
One myth that I would like to get out the way to start off, is that certain arm slots are unhealthy. This is completely false and I'll tell you why. The arm slot itself is simply a product of what body movements have come before it. If your are experiencing arm pain, then it is not your arm slot, but mostly likely something else in the delivery.
I have witnessed pitchers throw form every arm slot possible who have had no injuries, and its because of they way they use their bodies. Overall, arm slots are based on personal comfort and creating deception with different pitches.
In order to find one's natural arm slot I have a drill that guarantees to get the most out of your arm. What I like to do is take my pitchers away from the mound, which takes them away from their engrained habits of pitching. After a proper warm up, I take them out to deep shortstop and place a ball about 5 ft. away. When ready, they will pick up the ball , planting on the back foot, and letting it fly to 1st base. It is important to be planted on the back foot, instead of a running start, because this emulates a more realistic throwing motion for a pitcher.
The arm slot this comes from this will likely be a natural one. After a few throws it is important to document the arm slot and ask the player how he is feeling with it. Now would be a good time to experiment with different arm slots to see if there is any improvement.
To keep this exercise as safe as possible, I need you to be aware of a few red flags that lead to arm trouble. The first to look for is if the elbow is unnaturally higher than shoulder level. Seen in the picture below, if you were to draw a line across the shoulders, the elbow would be above it. This is a common flaw I see in pitcher who are trying to throw harder. This technique has been well documented in the majors and has a common result of shoulder surgery.
A second mechanical flaw to look for is having the ball lower than the elbow at foot strike. This makes it extremely hard to come through the zone on time and have a healthy arm slot. A pitcher must get into the right position at the right time with the right series of movements, like dominoes falling. I consider this movement to be caused by poor rhythm, which makes it an easy fix. The illustration below is a great visual of how not to look at foot strike. In the drawing you see Adam Wainwright, AJ Burnett, Stephen Strasburg, Joel Zumaya, and Chris Carpenter, who all have had Tommy John surgery.
This picture of Cliff Lee shows how to properly position your arms when at foot strike. 1) Elbow is naturally below shoulder level. 2) The ball is above the elbow and in a throwing position.
Now that you know what to look for, go out this weekend and find that arm slot! If you have any questions or reoccurring problems in your delivery send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for clarification.