By Dick Mills
Professional pitching instructors have many duties when they are being paid to instruct pitchers at all levels – some of those duties are to help them improve to the best of their ability and give to them an ongoing plan for ongoing improvement. Unfortunately, that is not what is happening in most cases because professional pitching instructors are not videotaping pitchers during each practice session. Without videotaping even big league pitching coaches can only guess what is happening with a pitcher’s overall mechanics.
Certainly there are some actions that can be observed by just using the naked eye. For example, it is easy to see the back foot action and the front foot positioning as a pitcher moves from the back leg to the front let. It is easy to see when the pitcher is landing on the midline or not or even whether he is swinging his lead leg out and around…all of which will reduce velocity, lead to poor control while adding stress to the arm.
However, the main mechanical components for maximizing force production and thus improving velocity cannot be seen with the naked eye.
For example, an experienced instructor cannot see these important points that maximize velocity, affect control and can add or reduce stress to the arm:
- the position of the back knee whether it is collapsing the back leg or not
- whether the pitcher is completing back leg drive or not…a major component for maximizing velocity
- the amount of elbow flexion or elbow bend which can impact the positioning of the arm at landing and going into acceleration
- the angle of the front leg at landing and whether the leg and hip are bracing at the right time or not
- the position of the throwing arm, hip and trunk at maximum external shoulder rotation (arm laying back to parallel)
- back foot action and timing for maximizing hip rotation
- position of the hips and trunk at maximum external shoulder rotation
- position of throwing elbow in relation to trunk at maximum external rotation
- stride length – can the pitcher manage his stride and maximize trunk rotation and flexion speed?
- arm position at ball release – is the arm fully extended
There are more of these mechanical issues, however without videotaping a professional instructor is simply guessing. And you may be wasting money and valuable time.
Dick Mills was a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox and has been a pitching instructor for his entire adult life. He is the first instructor to use sports science research as the foundation for teaching velocity and control while reducing the risk of arm injuries. Dick was a faculty member for the American Sports Medicine Institute’s 27th annual Course In Baseball Injuries in January, 2009. His website, pitching.com, has been online since August of 1996, helping over 20,000 pitching prospects from Little League to pro baseball improve their mechanics and velocity.