In our program, we’ve had multiple pitching coaches come in and help out and a couple of pro guys as well (Derrick Tillman – Marlins & Matt Frawley – Yankees). For our program, we are not big in cloning our pitchers. We look at each pitcher individually and work with them and try to have them model a pitcher at the big league level who may be similar.
There are definitely some things that we see the higher velocity pitchers do that most of the kids don’t do well at the lower levels and we work on incorporating these things into our program.
Getting to Balance
Many people argue about getting to a balance point. Here is what we see. Most big league pitchers will start their momentum towards home plate before they reach the top of their leg lift. However, look at Clayton Kershaw and he is literally up, down and then out with his front leg. Could we clone everyone to copy him? I’m sure we could and we would have success. We don’t do that though. We do have a drill that we call the Clayton Kershaw drill for our guys that are very sloppy and it works to get them on the right path. He is pretty good if you haven’t noticed.
Lead with the Front Hip
The front hip should lead the front should as you come down the mound. Some do it more than others, but the hip does lead.
Close Up Your Shoulders
Most of the high velocity pitchers will have their shoulders rotated quite a bit as they separate their hands. This doesn’t work when you need to slide step and be quick to the plate, but when nobody is on base or when you are pitching from the windup, this is a technique you should be using to throw harder.
Load up on the Back Leg
Some of the best high velocity pitchers will get into their back leg much more than most younger pitchers from the high school level on down. This is very hard for younger pitchers to do and then to get out of that position and get extended with the back leg is even harder, but many of the top pitchers do it, so we start teaching it when they are young.
Stride Far & Straight
Big league pitchers stride far. Some of their strides are more than 100% of their body height. We will take 90% with our guys. A short stride is one of the most common problems we see at the younger levels. We spend a lot of time on stride length. We do want our pitchers going on a straight line towards home, but there are plenty of pitchers that don’t do that and on 2 seamers to our glove side, we will usually have our guys stride slightly open. As a rule, we want them going straight towards their target, but if we ever had a Jake Arrieta type pitcher walk into our building, I am pretty certain we wouldn’t change him. Jake lands super closed and throws way across his body, but it works well for him. I’m not saying we teach that, but I don’t think we would change it if one of our better pitchers copied his mechanics.
Hip to Shoulder Separation
As the front foot lands, most pitchers will have their ball arm up or at least coming up very soon after front foot strike. At this point, we want our pitchers to be turning their hips while staying closed with their shoulders. This is called hip to shoulder separation and it helps pitchers throw harder.
A lot of pitchers don’t stay connected with their throwing arm as it comes through. Getting them to stay close to 90 degrees is important once they get the ball arm up at foot strike or just after foot strike.
Forward Trunk Tilt, Extension of Front Leg and Release Point Out Front (Extension)
This is hard, especially at the younger ages. Most of the kids at the youth levels will not finish their pitches. We will work on having some forward trunk tilt, extension of the front leg and getting that release point out front. It is hard to get good movement on any of your pitches without releasing farther out front, getting extension and finishing your pitch across your body.