At Core Savvy Baseball we breakdown every facet of baseball mechanics, no matter how small, or minuscule they may appear. We believe in the truth that there are no SMALL aspects of mechanics. Each point we emphasize seamlessly ties into the next, creating a connection in the body that can either be mastered or ruined due to this domino effect. In this article I will focus on a generally untaught part of a pitchers delivery, the lead leg.
From the leg lift and into the stride, the lead leg, by name, leads the way. The importance of the lead or stride leg transcends into many important parts of pitching: balance, posture, and velocity. We will first examine the proper movement patterns of the lead leg and then show how it can be used as a tool for velocity.
There are two general ways that a pitcher can use his lead leg once he starts heading to the plate. One of the common positions is the straight leg. This style is a more advanced and can lead to mechanical flaws but none the less is very effective. The straight leg position will help the pitcher keep the hips closed off but will also leave pitchers will lesser body awareness more vulnerable to swing open with his hips.
The other approach is the bent leg position. This version is much more basic because it is more natural for many pitchers. The lead leg will always come to a bend at foot-strike which makes it feel more comfortable to pitchers to never fully straighten the lead leg.
The purpose of our front leg during this phase is to keep the hips closed for as long as possible. The longer a pitcher can do this, the greater hip-to-shoulder separation he creates. A prematurely opening front leg will leave the pitcher with little power in his lower half. It is important to do whatever feels most comfortable, as neither position gives the pitcher a significant mechanical advantage. The most important part about implementing new mechanics is making sure your feel and rhythm is the same.
The last opportunity that a pitcher has for increasing velocity comes from his front leg as it lands. The front leg has 3 options once it hits the dirt: 1) Bend 2) Stabilize 3) Extend. The least powerful position being the first and getting more and more powerful form the second to third option. The purpose of the front leg now is to stop all lower half momentum and convert it into arm speed.
When the front leg continues to bend at foot strike, it fails to allow the hips to rotate at their full potential. This is commonly described as LEAKING POWER. This flaw is the most common of the 3 among amateur players.
The second option is to stabilize. This is the second most common use of the front leg as most players don't put much thought into it. There is nothing technically wrong with this position but there is definitely potential to increase velocity and deception.
The full potential that a pitcher can get from his front leg is by extending it just before release. This action feels very unnatural at first. The way it benefits a pitcher's velocity is by using energy from the ground and directing it into the pitchers kinetic chain. The energy created from the ground travels through the legs and is eventually directed into the ball at release.
An analogy I like to use when referring to the lower half is a car crash. The back leg DRIVES all the momentum into the lead leg, while the lead leg is trying to HIT THE BRAKES as the two energy sources come to a head. A pitcher with great leg drive, but no brakes, wastes a ton of energy and sees little from it.
A great drill to work on this concept is to throw off the back of the mound. By doing this, there is much more weight being put on the lead leg. To perfect your form, try to extend the leg as you get closer to release point. Once this begins to feel natural you've accomplished the purpose of the drill. The stiff front leg should give you a greater feeling of stability and power.