Our Approach describes the different aspects of throwing mechanics that we attempt to get our pitchers to understand and perfect. We attempt to work through the mechanics in an orderly manner with the understanding that if the pitcher doesn’t get started correctly he can’t expect to finish correctly. Our goal is to have a pitcher in a strong position with his arm and in a strong position with the major muscles of the body so that he can create the desired arm velocity without his shoulder or elbow hurting.
The sequence we generally use is to discuss Throwing Problems and then emphasize the desired reverse Arm Action. Then there is a discussion of early External Rotation from where we can move into how the Legs and Torso function. At a later point in the pitcher’s development we will discuss the concept of Adding Velocities. After all these elements have been covered we will discuss the desired Arm Slot and how it’s developed and follow that with a discussion of the Finish.
Our Approach to working with pitchers is generally a long term involvement, but each of the elements of throwing requires a lot of repetitions and concentration. We typically only work with guys that have great work ethic and a sincere desire to improve. The technical part of the website follows the order of the items listed in italics.
Foot speed, bat speed and arm speed are the most sought after attributes of prospective baseball players at all levels of competition. These tools can be improved with instruction of proper technique coupled with lots of repetitions of speed drills. There is an old adage that “you have to run fast in order to run fast.” Simply stated, it means that foot speed can best be improved using speed drills as a major training component.
The same thing is true for throwing. A coach can’t expect to focus on a player’s accuracy and make major improvements in his velocity. The focus needs to be on throwing hard if you are going to obtain improved velocity. Accuracy should be a byproduct of a repeatable but powerful set of throwing mechanics. Excellent location of the baseball is something to emphasize after a solid throwing technique has been established as a foundation.
This last paragraph doesn’t mean you need to throw hard all the time. There’s only so much maximum effort throwing a young player should do and the younger the player, the lower the amount of hard throwing that should be done.
By learning the techniques that will enable the player to throw hard and practicing those techniques, the player should be able to make significant improvement. Unfortunately, the process of learning the techniques to throw hard may not immediately achieve great accuracy. This is a real issue for players if the training is being done during a competitive baseball season. As a result, it is always best to work on new ideas and concepts in the off season. But, because learning to throw hard takes time, it’s not always possible to only work on new mechanics in the off season. This is a very important aspect of teaching and can be a major stumbling block to making progress, especially in today’s world of travel baseball where young kids are playing almost all year round.
Most competitive coaches would rather have a pitcher “paint the zone” at 80 MPH than struggle with the strike zone at 87 MPH. This is especially true of high school, college and even travel coaches. The emphasis on game competition is a major problem for young players that haven’t learned the fundamentals at a young age. Without time off to make corrections you are likely taking two steps forward and one step backward.
Unfortunately, some of the college pitchers that have come to Paul and me for instruction have been chastised for changing their mechanics to incorporate methods different than their pitching coach was emphasizing. This creates a difficult situation for the player, especially if he is making progress with improved velocity and reduction of shoulder/elbow discomfort. There isn’t a very good solution to the problem, either. The bottom line is that if you start learning these concepts at a young age and make a lot of progress through high school, a coach will be less likely to change you. That’s particularly true if you are throwing hard, staying healthy and getting guys out.
A very important point for coaches, parents and players to understand is that years have gone into building the throwing mechanics that even a 15-year old player uses. For a teenage player, thousands of throws have probably been executed and all this “muscle memory” won’t go away quickly. Repetition of drills, dedication and concentration on changing old habits is needed if improvement is to be achieved.
The most important take away from this website should be that a pitcher’s arm and shoulder should not hurt when throwing. If there is discomfort in the elbow or shoulder there is something wrong with the way you are throwing and changes need to be made immediately. Any pitcher discomfort from throwing should be limited to the legs and major muscles of the upper body since these are the elements that should carry the majority of the burden before, during and after release of the baseball.
A lot of young pitchers simply pitch in too many games. This is a major problem with tournament driven travel baseball. If a team plays four games on a weekend it’s quite possible for a pitcher to have to see game action more than once. That same player is probably playing a position so in addition to pitching he will be getting loose, taking infield or outfield and throwing between innings. With that type of schedule it’s very easy to log several hundred throws over a couple days. This type of overuse is likely to cause elbow or shoulder issues even for a fundamentally sound young player.