Young pitchers need frequent practice. I recommend that they throw to a catcher or at a pitching target daily. The number of throws should be limited to prevent “overuse” or fatigue, but the daily practice allows young pitchers to develop muscle memory, confidence, and pitch control. A throwing session may be only 15 to 20 pitches at ¾ speeds. The point is that daily practice allows players to improve daily and it also allows the coach to observe and see any bad habits or flaws that a young pitcher may have “picked up”.
There are 4 Common Pitching Flaws of Young baseball Pitchers that a coach should identify quickly and correct. The 4 flaws that are the most common are (1)Not Seeing The Target, (2)Landing on the Heel, (3)Throwing Across the Body, and (4)Poor Follow-Through and Finish. Here is a brief description of each of these flaws and a coaching point related to each.
1. NOT SEEING THE TARGET -Many beginning pitchers have tendency to look down and pick up the target to late in the delivery. Their eyes wander and they often have trouble hitting their spots. Young pitchers should see the target or “mitt” from the start of the delivery until they finish their delivery. Young pitchers often do not concentrate on the specific pitch target during delivery.
Coaching Point – Make sure that the young pitcher always looks at the catcher’s mitt. It is equally important that the catcher give the pitcher a “low target”. It is important to keep the ball done in the strike zone. The more the pitcher gets the ball up, the more chances the opponents will have of hitting the ball with power.
2. LANDING ON THE HEEL – The stride foot of the pitcher should land softly and with onto the “ball” of the foot. Many young pitchers tend to “over-stride” which requires them to land on the heel of the front foot. Landing on the heel of the stride foot will cause control problems and accelerate fatigue. The pitcher should land softly on the “ball” of the stride foot. Landing on the front half of the stride foot reduces the “landing impact” on body thus helping to improve body control and pitch control. Control the body; control the pitch! Landing on the front heel with a stiff front leg tends to “pole vault” the pitcher onto the front leg. This action can cause serious control problems. The pitchers front leg must bend to prevent this problem from occurring.
Coaching Point – Consistency is the number one friend of the pitcher. It is important that the pitcher uses the same stride length, the same arm slot, the same lower body motion, and the same stride foot action. If a pitcher normally has great control, the first thing a coach should always check is the front foot landing action. If the front foot is landing properly, look for other problems that may be causing the lack of control.
3. THROWING ACROSS THE BODY – This is caused when the pitcher strides too “closed” to allow a smooth delivery and follow through. The pitcher must throw across the body causing a “front hip lock” that prevents proper and adequate front hip movement and rotation. The pitcher should stride into “center zone” toward the plate to prevent this flaw.
Coaching Point – It is important that coaches closely observe where the pitchers stride foot is landing. The foot should land on or close to what would be a straight line directly from where the pitchers foot lifts from to target. The front foot’s toe should be slightly closed.
4. POOR FOLLOW-THROUGH – The pitcher should finish low with a bent back and slightly bent front leg. The pitcher should strive to finish with the throwing arm outside of the knee and chest over thigh. The emphasis should be on achieving a smooth and proper follow through on every pitch.
Coaching Point – The proper finish is a low finish with the back foot lifting higher than the pitcher’s head. The pitcher’s throwing arm elbow should finish the pitch outside and below the knee on the pitcher’s stride leg. The common saying that you hear coaches say is “bend your back” and “follow through”. These two actions are simultaneous and they are both correct. A pitcher must bend his back to correctly reach the optimum follow through and finish position.
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by: Nick Dixon
Nick Dixon is the President and founder of Nedco Sports. Dixon is also high school head baseball coach with over 25 years experience. Dixon is widely recognized as an expert in the area of baseball training, practice and skill development. Coach Dixon is better known as the inventor of several of baseball and softball’s most popular training products such as the Original BatAction Hitting Machine, SKLZ Derek Jeter Hurricane Hitting Machine, Original Hitting Stick, Hit2win Trainer, SKLZ Target Trainer, SKLZ Derek Jeter ZipnHit Pro, and Strikeback Trainer.