Baseball Coaching Tips for Teaching Basic Pitching Mechanics
Teaching a young player to pitch can be very challenging for both the novice and experienced baseball coach. Pitching is a lot more about proper mechanics than it is strictly about just throwing a baseball. There are kids with great arms that won’t necessarily be great pitchers. The key to developing a good pitcher is using proper mechanics to create a foundation that can be built upon. On the flip side, a player who lacks an explosive arm could still become a serviceable pitcher if they develop really solid pitching mechanics. Let’s take a look at some Baseball Coaching Tips for Teaching Basic Pitching Mechanics that will help a coach develop the foundation for a great pitching staff!
The grip is where the fingers are placed, how they are placed and how many fingers are placed on the ball. Experimenting with grips will help develop a number of different pitches that may do a number of different things like making the ball move or changing speeds. Also, most grips do not put pressure on the arm like a curveball which requires spinning the ball by aggressive rotation. Standard fastball grips use two fingers while anymore than two fingers is usually some type of off-speed pitch. Pitchers can also experiment with grips and develop pitches that work for them.
Learn More: Teaching Pitchers Different Pitch Grips
#2 Snap the Wrist
This is not to be confused with a curveball. This is referring to the natural motion of the wrist when properly throwing a baseball. Sometimes, young players “push” the ball by restricting wrist motion. Playing long toss is usually a good remedy for players who push the ball. Throwing from longer distances usually forces a player to use the entire arm and then the concept can be applied to shorter distances. This is important because properly using the arm in pitching will result in the pitcher throwing a ball that is going to be much harder to hit.
Practice Snapping Wrist: The Towel Drill
#3 The Stretch
In pro baseball, the stretch is a pitching position used to hold runners on from stealing a base too easily. However, if you league does not allow stealing, holding runners on isn’t necessary. Is there no use for the stretch position in those leagues? Technically speaking there is no use but the stretch position is a great starting point when teaching proper pitching mechanics. The stretch is not as complicated as the wind up because there is less movement before releasing the pitch. The less complicated stretch can be taught and mastered first before teaching the more challenging wind up. Some pitchers may even feel more comfortable pitching from the stretch and may elect to use it as their primary pitching position.
#4 The Wind Up
Why bother teaching the wind up if the stretch is easier? The wind up does have an advantage over the stretch which is momentum. The extra movements in the wind up allows for the generation of momentum which used in conjunction with proper mechanics will allow a pitcher to throw a bit harder. This is the reason why you rarely if ever see pitchers in the pros using the stretch position with no runners on base. You might occasionally see a closer or relief pitcher that might.
#5 Footwork & the Pitching Plate
Some young pitchers will really have a difficult time with foot placement in relationship to the pitching plate or “rubber.” A pitcher should try to find a starting point on the rubber where they feel comfortable and their pitches are being maximized for effectiveness/accuracy. Once finding the right spot, the pitcher should be mindful of returning to that spot of success. The pitcher will also have to be mindful of duplicating successful footwork for each and every pitch.
Balance throughout the delivery of the pitch is essential to a pitcher’s success. One of the most important things to look for when checking for balance is the back leg that is in contact with the rubber. A lot of inexperienced pitchers will allow that back leg to collapse during the delivery which can throw the body off balance just enough to create huge mechanical problems. Also the initial move to deliver the pitch can actually throw a pitcher off balance if it is not being executed correctly. For example, the pitcher’s initial move is a violent backwards jerking motion of the glove which creates a lack of balance. It is extremely important for a coach to look for any signs of improper balance and correct the problem.
Key Drill: Balanced Pitcher Drill
#7 Trunk Rotation
The body’s trunk should rotate during the delivery and is key to proper follow through of the pitching motion. If the pitcher somehow restricts this rotation of the trunk then it can actually cause some mechanical problems that could effect control and velocity. Trunk rotation is important for creating the momentum talked about earlier.
The legs and what they do during the delivery of the pitch is very important. The front leg will come up and then kick out towards the plate. The back leg which is in contact with the rubber will eventually come forward during the follow through of the delivery. The legs are another key to creating momentum. Again, duplication of proper leg placement & movement during every pitch will be a key mechanical component.
#9 Release Point
A coach must also monitor the pitcher’s release point for problems. If a pitcher is throwing a lot of balls short or in the dirt then maybe they are holding onto the ball too long. A pitcher whose pitches are always up in the strike zone could be releasing the ball too early or not properly following through with the delivery.
#10 Arm Angles
A pitcher may intentionally change arm angles to deceive the batter. When a pitcher is unintentionally changing arm angles then it could be strictly a mechanical problem or it could be to mask some type of injury. The coach should monitor even the slightest changes in arm angles very closely.
The best way to teach anything is to break it down into steps. The pitching delivery can be broken down into smaller steps with those steps eventually being put together to form the entire delivery. Once learned, the pitcher will need to practice good form and attempt to duplicate the proper mechanics for each and every pitch. The baseball coach’s job will be to monitor form and mechanics for any problems. The earlier a problem or inconstancy is identified then the quicker it can be remedied.