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Handling Your Pitcher

Pitchers are considered by many to be the most important element in a team's success. Pitchers are the only player on the field who touch the ball on every play. Baseball is essentially a confrontation between the pitcher and the batter. The winner of that battle controls the outcome of the game.

A pitcher must learn how to throw before he can learn how to pitch. Throwing is the basic foundation for pitching, and when properly learned it will lead development of pitching skills. Do not accept poor throwing action.

The pitcher can control all its variables. Pitching is an action and hitting is a reaction, involving a series of variables that the batter cannot control, such as the type, speed, and location of the pitch.

Pitchers are built from the ground up. It takes approximately six weeks to make a substancial change in a pitcher's delivery. Pitchers are usually unwilling to try new things during the season because they are concerned about seasonal statistics. It can be very difficult to make changes during the season. Do not let statistics get in the way. Off-season training is critical to a young pitchers success.

Games belong to the players; practices belong to the coaches. Each pitcher must become his own pitching coach. Trust the players' ability to make decisions, including pitch selection.

Establishing priorities with a pitcher must start with making sure he arm stays healthy. Without a healthy arm, all else is meaningless. Overworking the arm is the biggest causes of arm injury. Limiting the number of pitches is a good starting point. It is better to pitch to little than to much. Listen to the athlete, he will provide you with the best X-ray of his arm. If he is hurting, make him feel free to express it. Once you have made sure to prevent injury to the arm, you can consider other priorities:

  • Proper technique
  • Proper mechanics
  • Command of fastball
  • Development of change of pace
  • Command of change of pace
  • Development of breaking ball (For older pitchers)
  • Command of breaking ball
  • Pitching strategy

Developing a kinesthetic sense (muscle memory) requires endless hours of repetition, but with pitching we must be cautious that we do not overwork the arm. Learning a skill involves a sufficient amount of teaching plus an enormous amount of practice.

Don't think that practice alone will lead to learning. Practice alone leads to permanency. A skill incorrectly learned is extremely hard to change. A pitcher must learn how to throw properely. Throwing involves

  1. Swinging the arm back smoothly, with the hand (palm down) close to the body on a line between home plate and second base,
  2. Transfering weight to the pivot leg,
  3. Taking a step toward the target,
  4. Coiling the arm,
  5. Exploding toward the target,
  6. Following through.

While a pitcher continues to improve arm action and throwing skill, he needs to work on the fundamental body mechanics that are unique to pitching.

Stance

  • Elbows relaxed and close to the body
  • Weight over pivot foot
  • Ball hidden from batter and base coaches
  • Eyes visualizing path of ball to target

Balance Position

  • Weight over back leg
  • Eyes focuson target
  • Knee at highest point
  • Stride forward when hands separate

Stride

  • Fingers on top of ball
  • Stride foot closed
  • Shoulders lined with target
  • Focus on target

Explosion

  • Stride knee bent but firm
  • Hand pulls shoulder through
  • Shoulder follows hand
  • Allows pronation to happen

Follow-Through

  • Shoulder below chin to target
  • Glove pulled into bodies
  • Throwing shoulder lower than glove shoulder
  • Armpit over stride knee

Teach your pitchers a game strategy:

  • Do not waste a pitch or an at bat, no matter the score.
  • Don't be in a hurry to get an out. Stick with your game plan.
  • Pitch away from the middle of the plate when ahead in the count.
  • First pitch strikes are critical.
  • Don't worry about the consequences of a pitch.
  • Pitch to situations. For example, with no outs and a man on second base, place the ball to avoid hits to the right side of the field.
  • Double up on pitches. Back-to-back pitches stop hitters from guessing, especially effective when thrown inside.
  • Change intervals with runners on base.
  • Use fastballs when ahead in the count and off-spead pitches when behind.
  • Use and off-speed first pitch with a runner on third base. The batter will usually be eager to drive in a run.

Handling the pitching staff

You plan the rotation and you make the decision when to take a pitcher out of the game. More runs are scored in the first inning than in any other. When a pitcher first crosses the line to warm up, he is trying to concentrate and find his rhythm. It takes some pitchers longer than others. Have patience in those early innings. Don't be hasty in your decision to remove a pitcher, try to go as far as you can with a pitcher. He must learn how to pitch through adversity and know that you are behind him. When you have to make a change have the pitcher on the mound stay there and hand the ball to the incoming pitcher and offer words of encouragement. The player may be leaving because he is not pitching well, yet he is still there to offer words of encouragement to his teammate. That's a team mind-set.


 
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