July 13, 2016
STERLING, Va. — Accuracy is everything in pitching.
So many of us spend long hours working with pitchers on their location. Every now and then (which seems to come more often sometimes), you become frustrated working with a pitcher who has great mechanics but just can’t seem to throw the ball where he wants.
First I video and analyze, shooting at about 1/2000 of a second. That will freeze the ball and allow me to focus down to the fingers. I also carefully watch the throwing motion, isolating my vision on a single aspect of the motion.
After years of looking at pitchers, I swear my eyes operate at 1/2000 as well; I just can’t freeze and reproduce the motion.
During those sessions I study basic mechanical actions that may be the cause of the problem.
Static and dynamic balance, core stabilization, stride leg angle and landing, and head and eyes level to the horizon are primary body factors that cause control difficulties.
Occasionally I, as I’m sure you do, sneak up behind a pitcher in a set position to see how he is holding the ball in his glove. Taking a quick look or asking him to suddenly show me the ball, has uncovered basic ball grip flaws.
I’ve learned never to assume a pitcher truly understands how to hold any pitch. Assured that he is holding the ball correctly, I retreat to the back of the bullpen mound.
One day my son Patrick and I were reviewing a tape of a pitcher who was having velocity and location problems. We were viewing a segment of tape that was shot from a camera directly over the pitcher’s head. To our surprise, and quite by accident, we discovered the exact cause of both problems.
As the pitcher pulled the ball out of his glove, his fingers moved on the ball. At the cocking position his thumb was completely off the ball! In order to do that the ball has to be held tightly against the knuckles.
Imagine throwing a change up without your thumb on the ball. The pitcher, who was sitting next to us, had no idea that this was happening.
The very next week we worked with another boy with worse location problems. I mean you weren’t safe standing behind him wearing a mask and holding a twin mattress! He was doing the same thing.
The grip in the glove was good, but like the other pitcher, again we found the thumb flying off the ball during the cocking phase. This shot is now a routine when we videotape our pitchers.
To read more of this story, purchase the July 15, 2016 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.