From hitting to pitching...
Now, I take that same player and we run him up on the mound. I tell him, “Stride into a good pitching position.” What do you think this player is going to do? He is going to go through the motions of winding his body or loading his body up, he might rocker step back, he might oil pump, he might side step and go, BUT… eventually he is going to stride down the mound, with his weight back, front foot closed as long as possible, he is going to separate his throwing hand from his stride foot for maximum stretch, and he is going to land with his stride foot slightly closed, hands back in a FLAT L position, and now he is in a “GOOD PITCHING POSITION”. From here, this is where my absolutes of pitching come into play.
If you want your players to do a certain thing ...then it MUST BE AN ABSOLUTE!
Now there are some who say there are no absolutes of pitching. I disagree. If you as a pitching instructor want your players to do certain things, then that is an absolute! If you want it done, then it MUST BE AN ABSOLUTE!
Now, just like in hitting, I don’t care how they load up their body to hit or pitch, I don’t teach anything until their front foot hits the ground in both hitting and pitching.
Why? Because that is when the hitter/pitcher is actually beginning what it is they are attempting to do. Everyone has heard the hitting guy say: “nothing happens until the front foot lands!”
Well, guess what, nothing happens with a pitcher until his front foot lands either. So my players know instruction is going to begin when their front foot lands and that is all we work on.
Tee Work for Pitchers
That is why backwards chaining works for us and why I have developed a program I call: “Tee Work for Pitchers” which has successfully made pitchers better over the last 4 years running...
- MPH up,
- percentage of strikes up,
- injuries down,
- innings worked up
...because we focus on what happens when the stride foot lands and work on the absolutes of pitching.
Absolute 1 Frontside Loading...
One of the absolutes of pitching that we work on is backside loading to frontside unloading. All pitchers load up their body, and I call it backside loading, weight on the pivot foot as we stride and move down into our good pitching position.
Once the front foot lands, we will rapidly move into a frontside unload, meaning we will be unloading the weight transfer back to front, the body parts unwind (hips, upper body torso, and shoulders around the spine) and then loop the throwing hand into the releasing of the baseball in a fairly rapid tempo.
Absolute 2 The Flat "L"...
This is when our front foot lands, the throwing hand should be in the Flat L position, weight back, transitioning the weight forward and the upper body towards the frontside unload.
Absolute 3 Foot-Leg Angle...
My pitcher MUST maintain his front leg angle at stride foot plant all of the way to release. I don’t why, but over 80% of D1 pitchers land and throw against a 135 degree front foot leg angle plus or minus 3 degrees. Here is the funny thing about the “135 degree rule”; a lot of SS and 3B throw against that very same leg angle. When you get over 80 to 85 percent of a group doing the same damn thing, it has to be 'money' or better yet, it has to be an absolute. And when I see that over and over when reviewing the actions of pitchers and infielders, processing that information with JC Video software, then I am going to teach the very same thing to my 11 year olds all of the way up to my 20 something’s. My guys know the '135 rule'.
Absolute 4 Elbows Wide...
I want my pitchers to have their “elbows wide” going into release. This is a simple physics rule: the bigger the circle from the center of rotation (the pitchers spine), the faster the outside edge is. So I want my guys to get their glove side as wide as they can so I teach “reach and swim” because the bigger the circle, the faster the turn or ROTATION of the upper body glove side. If I want to throw fast (MPH) then I cannot be SLOW in my turn. So while my pitcher is unloading his upper body load, he is continuing his weight transfer and unloading his arm/ throwing hand towards the frontside unload.
Absolute 5 Elbows Closed...
From release to extension. [Editor's Note: Goody had only this one simple statement on an absolute which we think could create some debate. But part of his reasoning is covered under the next...]
Absolute 6 Firm Front Side...
I now want my pitcher to go from being wide in his turn to closing the distance between the elbows going into extension so 2 things can happen...
Okay, a little explanation here...
- He can now unload his scapular load that was created in the early phase of the pitching process and in the turn itself when the transition from the dangle to the Flat L’s took place, and...
- We will throw against a firm front side, that being the glove side of the body.
As hitters, we hit against a firm front side and that is typically the hitter’s front leg. Well, if hitting and pitching are the same thing only different (see below
) then we must throw against a firm front side. The front side we firm up against is glove side chest/scaps.
At some point, rotation has to stop to avoid excess energy/rotation going back towards the infield so the old squeeze and pull thing too early in the delivery system cuts down velocity. Therefore, we firm up and throw against a firm front side or glove side release.
Absolute 7 Release Point, for Glove and Foot...
AT RELEASE into extension, I want my guys to have their gloves in the area of their upper portion of their pectorals. So if they are a RHP, glove covers left pectoral, LHP right pectoral. The key for me is what their glove-side elbow is doing from release going into extension. I want to see my pitchers glove side elbow moving towards the front side of their body kind of like a punch. That way I know they are unloading their scaps properly.
Again, after having reviewed hundreds of D1 and minor league pitchers, and processing the information with JC Video software, a large percentage of these pitchers have their foot down at release versus a high percentage (nearly 100%) of youth/high school pitchers who have their pivot foot up off the ground at release, so I am placing my lot in life with the D1 guys.
This is just as important if not the most important thing... the pivot foot toe MUST be on the ground at RELEASE.
By having the pivot foot down at release, we achieve a more consistent release point by staying in our good pitching position all the way from stride foot plant to release. Hmmm….kind of like hitting!
After the pitch is released, the front leg can now firm up as the pitcher goes into deceleration phase, we want the hand pronating into a good finish position which is fingers down, back of the hand facing 3B dugout if LHP, 1B dugout if RHP.
On finish position, I don’t care if they are in a ready position for a grounder or if they are fall-over guys, or if they are stand-up guys, or if they are flat-back guys. I don’t care as long as they are throwing strikes and getting guys out.
Same Only Different
"Hitting and pitching is the same thing,
- Bobby Randall
Bobby Randall, my ISU skipper in 1985, had a saying that was too good not to use here! At the time it made no sense to me, but, hey, I was only 21. At age 38…42 it’s starting to make some sense. So fast-forward to today, 25 years later, there is yet to be the absolutes of pitching known to man, but yet we have 5 absolutes of hitting here, 15 there, 22 here, 2 here (SEE BALL HIT BALL…my absolutely favorite of the absolutes of hitting!
) and on and on.
Well, now you have my 7 absolutes of pitching. To recap...
- We will transition from a backside load to a frontside unload maintaining our good pitching position from stride foot plant to release.
- When the front foot plants and firms up, pitching hand should be in the FLAT L position.
- This is more of a reminder Absolute because it is a very important Absolute: the pitcher must maintain his front leg angle that he lands and plants with all of the way from plant to release. The lead leg angle will be close to 135 degrees with most pitchers but will vary from 120 to 140 degrees:
- Elbows wide going into release.
- Elbows close in distance from release to extension.
- Throw against a firm front side, glove side stops rotating around so the scaps can be unloaded at the proper time.
- Pivot foot toe must be on the ground to achieve a more consistent delivery system.
Coaches, players, and interested fans...
25 years later, after a stirring Bobby Randall presentation to his Iowa State Cyclones pitching staff in the spring of 1985, one of his players was moved to present the first of its kind article: The absolutes of pitching. Are there 7? 12? 25? Are there any absolutes at all in the pitching world? I had a D1 pitching coach tell me there are no absolutes in pitching. I say: if you want your pitcher doing something, then that’s an absolute…you want him doing the skill set then it must be an absolute. 7 absolutes.
Let the debate(s) begin!
After working with all kinds of players over the last 8 years, doing both hitting and pitching lessons over a wide age group, and now entering into a new phase of instructions, that being positional throwing, I have tried to keep the terminology used to describe the actions I want to occur as interrelated as I can. This way, when I am working with Sam or little Jonny, with their hitting and pitching, they know exactly what it is they are to be doing because they have heard it all before. When a player knows that “striding into a good hitting position” means to separate their hands from their front feet, weight back but ready to go forward, the body is ready or loaded to do its thing: HIT THE BALL.
I don't agree with Kevin that "nothing" happens until the front foot lands....my point of view to add to Kevin's absolutes at the VERY beginning is to have a balanced setup. That means a pitchers head should be slightly ahead of his spine but underneath it and the head must remain as still as possible during the windup/stretch movements until the pitcher begins the thrust towards foot strike to the plate, then the head moves with the weight transfer toward the plate and does not move left or right either. Unless you have a balanced posture and still head from the very start of delivery a pitchers chances of hitting his mark become even more difficult for the body to recover that balance/target focus when foot strike occurs. In summary I would add "Good Balance and Still head" as the first absolute. Thanks & THINK Baseball!