Have you ever been on-deck watching a pitcher warmup thinking to yourself, "this looks very hittable". Then you get in the box and the ball seems "heavy" out of the pitchers hand. The ball is the same speed you saw on-deck, but in the batters box the ball gets on you quickly. This is no magic trick by the pitcher. Let's break down how to throw a heavy (or driven) ball.
I often ask my players, how many times does the baseball rotate fully before it gets to home plate? The answers I get astound me. I hear everything from 1000 rotations to 64 to 38 and so on. The baseball rotates about 10 times for your average 90mph fastball before it reaches home plate.
The best pitchers in the world have the ability to make the baseball spin an extra half rotation before it reaches home plate. This extra half-rotation put on the baseball is what makes the spin tighter. Tighter spin on the ball leads to less drag through the air. Less drag through the air creates a faster moving baseball. This tight spin and extra rotation put on the baseball are what make the ball seem "heavvy" out of the pitchers hand. So now that we know what causes the heavy ball, its time to figure out how to throw it.
Notice how far out in front of their head each one of these guys is releasing the baseball. Like I mentioned in previous articles, the best pitchers on the planet release the baseball 6-12 inches in front of their heads. The further we reach out in front of our head, the more rotations we put on the baseball making it extremely heavy (driven).
All three of these guys have excellent frontsides as well. Notice how each of them is reaching out over a strong front leg with their heads reaching towards the target. This conscious reach by putting your chin in the catchers glove will help you hold on to the baseball a fraction of a second longer. The longer we can hold onto the baseball, the more heavy (driven) the ball will be.
Now take a look at this college pitcher. Notice how he isn't reaching out in front of his head to release the ball? This will cause his ball to be very pushed or flat through the zone. Also because he is releasing the baseball behind his head, the ball will be extremely light to the hitter.
Hitters are taught to hit the lower-inner half of the baseball. Take a look at the Eagles pitcher's release point. Since he is releasing the baseball behind his head, the lower-inner half will be really easy to attack for the hitter. The pitch will essentially look like a beach ball coming to home plate.
Now take a look at the two pictures below. The lower-inner half of the pitch Greg Maddux is throwing will be extremely hard to find. This is because he is reaching so far out over his frontside. The ball will actually have a driven, downward angle towards home plate making it look as small as BB to the hitter. When we drive the ball out in front of our head, the lower-inner half of the pitch is almost impossible to locate for the hitter. You will get a lot of ground balls and strikeouts driving the baseball because the lower-inner half of the baseball disappears to the hitter with downward angle.
CSB Important Thing to Remember :
To properly drive the baseball, we must keep our back foot on the mound until we release the ball. If the back foot (anchor foot) comes up any earlier than release, the ball will not truly be driven, even if it is going on a down-plane.
Think of a boxer punching an opponent. If the boxers back foot comes up before his punch makes contact, he is essentially punching with all arm. The same is true in pitching. The back foot must stay on the mound until release to truly create a heavy, driven baseball.
Reach out and DRIVE the baseball!