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.