Control the Body then the Baseball
William Brennan His pitching 'career' began at just 6 years old in Tampa. Always an all-star, he played his H.S. ball in Nashville, then Mercer U. in Macon. After a 6-1 record his junior year, William was scouted heavily and signed with the Dodgers in 85. After 1 year in A-ball (FL), 1 year in AA (TX) he was promoted to AAA (NM) in just his 3rd year, and was PCL Pitcher of the Year. In 1988, after a 14-8 season in triple-A Albuquerque, William earned a first 'call-up' to the Dodgers and a World Series ring. He since spent time with the Astros, Expos, Braves, and Tigers organizations. Since 1991 William has been a private instructor and has developed a keen sense for teaching proper pitching mechanics to all ages. He credits many coaches for helping him including Ron Perinoski, Dave Wallace, Leo Mazone, Brent Strom, Oscar Acosta, and his favorite coach of all, Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax.
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There are many good coaches out there who overanalyze proper pitching mechanics. I've heard it referred to as "paralysis by analysis." They confuse pitchers instead of helping them. The last thing I want to have to do on the mound is think about HOW to pitch! "Teach me to tell time, I don't need to know how to build the clock!" I believe in keeping it simple!
Control comes first.
A pitcher needs to know how to control what he does with his body before he can control the baseball and throw it fast, but it should be made simple.
The biggest problem I see with 99.9% of young pitchers today is throwing 'sidearm'. Most coaches tell them to get their arm up but don't really know HOW to actually do it.
It's all about timing. Where should my arm be and how do I get it there?
Most pitchers (and throwers for that matter) will turn their bodies sideways (the correct starting position) before they throw. It's just the way we get into position to throw. But as they stride, they twist open-chested to their target and their arm drags behind. They do this because they all have more muscle in their upper bodies than in one arm. We all do! It feels right to twist open to propel the ball with all their upper body muscle, but when this happens the throwing arm doesn't have enough TIME to get up.
From the stretch position...
(much easier to learn from than the wind up), lift the front knee up at least waist high. From this position forward is where most mistakes are made. The key here is to stay closed (stay in the sideways position you are already in) as long as you can while you stride. I do not use the term, stride as 'far' as you can, but as 'long' as you can, in terms of time. If you stay closed long enough your arm will have enough time to get up.
To teach this action I tell my pitchers to lift their knee and drive their hip to the plate. If the front hip stays in line with the plate long enough the arm will have enough time to get up in the 'L' position. As the front foot (stride foot) hits the ground, the arm is now in position to reach out to the proper release point in front of the front foot. Now that they have driven their entire body towards the plate, and then reached out towards plate, where else could the ball go but towards the plate? It is up to arm speed as to how fast the ball is thrown, NOT body speed.
As you can imagine, there are many other fine points involved. Keeping it simple is the key with young pitchers. Stay closed, drive out and reach out.
This is my first lesson with every pitching student I have. Then we move on...
Velocity through mechanics
Most pitchers get caught up in trying as hard as they can to pitch as fast as they can. They fail to realize just HOW to accomplish this. They should not try as hard as they can, they should be as mechanically sound as they can be.
Each individual is built differently. I feel you will only be able to throw as fast as you were 'made' to throw! If you are 4'2" I don't think you will ever throw 98 mph, but if you are 5'9" or taller (I just picked that height out of the air) you might be able to IF YOU KNOW HOW TO USE YOUR BODY CORRECTLY!!! But, if you are 6'10" and you can throw 98 mph but don't have proper mechanics, how good will you be if you hit the backstop with every pitch you throw? Boy, those pitches are fast but what good are they? You DO NOT have to sacrifice speed for control, though.
If you learn the proper mechanics of how to get to the proper release point, you can throw as fast as you are 'made' to throw. Yes, it takes practice, but if I were to go out and pitch 150-200 pitches and assume since I practiced so much I'll get better, I'm fooling myself! What if those 150-200 pitches were all thrown underhanded? Will the fact that I threw so many baseballs make me better if I threw them WRONG? No way! Pitchers need to know proper mechanics first before they can find out their full velocity potential.
Many, many pitchers (and throwers, i.e., outfielders) try to throw too hard too soon in their delivery. They try to "power-up" AS their landing foot hits the ground, therefore opening up too soon, not giving the throwing arm enough time to get up and then out front for that illusive whip action of the elbow, wrist, and fingertips.
Where the power lives.
As I stated before, the upper body is so strong and the glove arm has so much leverage that pitchers want to use them too much and too soon. They end up pulling their throwing arms forward because they have flown open. Again, that's where the popular side-arm throws come from. Many, many pitchers have never felt a ball come out of their hand in front of their front foot. They don't know what that feels like! This, as I say, is where the power lives. I use the towel drill to let a pitcher feel the power they actually have out in front of their bodies.
We teach hitters to hit the ball out in front by teaching them to get the bat out in front. How many coaches would teach a kid to fly open or step in the bucket to hit a ball? Hopefully noone! What do we teach them? We teach them to stride toward the ball or stride toward the pitcher. That's called a closed stride. If you fly open too soon as a hitter, the best you might do is foul it into the duggout. We need to throw the same way.
Staying in the stride long enough and then powering up after and in front of the landing foot allows the most potential for speed and control.
Stride versus drive
I tell my students to 'drive' their front hip to the plate as long as they can keep it aimed there, and the front foot will hit the ground where it is supposed to. There is no perfect distance for everyone to stride. It is an individual distance. I DO NOT use the terms 'push' or 'fall' (although 'fall' is closer to the correct feeling). In their minds they get to decide what 'drive' means. To me it is an aggressive yet smooth stride.
"Drive out and reach out
" is a phrase I use a lot, but I do explain to my students what I mean by that. Don't stride as far as you can but stay closed as long (time-wise) as you can. After your foot hits the ground where it is supposed to, reach out over your front foot to power-up. Your wrist and fingertips do much of the throwing and they don't work really well in that side-arm position. They work the best in front, reaching out towards the plate.
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