Tyler is a strong 14-year old that is making quick progress on changing mechanics that we felt needed refinement. These pictures are from a recent video that Tyler’s dad sent us and the comments are typical of the type of feedback we offer.
These four pictures show the mechanics that could be from the windup or the stretch. Tyler has a strong, clean leg lift and his hands separate as the stride knee falls. We would like to see his hand separate on knee lift so he could get the arm moving sooner into the reverse swing. The hips and shoulders are closed to the target with the heel of the stride foot starting slightly over-closed. There is quite a bit of early tilt of the hips and shoulders to help keep the weight back.
We know most pitching coaches like to see a significantly lower leg lift out of the stretch as compared to the windup. However, with young players like Tyler we feel it is more important that they learn how to generate maximum energy for every pitch. Once a solid throwing foundation is established then the throwing sequence for the stretch can be quickened without loss of energy. In other words, we teach that once you have the fundamental mechanics repeatable, then out of the stretch we encourage the pitcher to simply increase the tempo for all aspects of the motion. We see so many “slide steps” being executed to be quick to the plate; but there doesn’t seem to be a major concern about the loss in quality. We tell pitchers that their primary job is to get outs and the best way to get outs is with your best stuff. Yes, we want to stop the running game, but never at the expense of giving up hits.
Tyler has a nice long stride and maintains his tilt until the stride foot lands. In the third picture above we would like to see Tyler have his throwing elbow a little higher, the elbow bend just outside 90 degrees and the ball above his head. Again, this goes back to the first set of pictures where having the hands separate on knee lift can create the desired arm and hand position later.
In the first picture Tyler is starting into external rotation with this low elbow position. In the second picture Tyler is in full external rotation with his elbow slightly below even, and the low elbow is something to emphasize to prevent future problems. These three pictures and the last picture above show that there isn’t a lot of hip to shoulder separation that is generated. In other words, the hip line and the shoulder line tend to rotate together. We would like to see “shirt stretch” as the hips open and the shoulders stay closed during the early part of the hip rotation.
In the third picture we see that the arm is still in full external rotation with the chest square to the target. This is subtle, but it means that the upper body has essentially completed its rotation but the arm isn’t ready to release the ball. In the third picture we want the arm to be at full extension so that the arm speed can better match the shoulder speed.
In this first picture you can see that the upper body position is essentially the same at release as it was for full external rotation in the previous picture. This simply confirms that the upper body rotational velocity has nearly stopped by the time the arm is throwing the ball.
Another point to make in these three pictures is the way the landing leg works. At release the stride foot knee is bent, but in the second and third pictures you see the knee straightening. This is important because you want the arm to take as long as possible to decelerate so the forces are spread across the back muscles. The sooner the knee straightens after release the sooner the upper body will work against the stiff knee forcing the arm to stop more abruptly than desired.
Having the knee straighten is helpful in eliminating excessive rotation (spin off) of the lower and upper body after release. The problem is that the arm needs to decelerate and finish outside the stride leg before the knee is straightened. The timing of the knee straightening needs to be closely monitored to insure the biceps and outside of the shoulder aren’t impacted.