by Spin Williams, Pitching Coach Washington Nationals
Baseball is one of the only sports in which a defensive player controls the pace of the game. The pitcher holds the ball and dictates when and if action occurs. How a pitcher delivers the ball to the catcher will have the greatest potential impact on the outcome of the contest. Enjoy the challenge.
PITCHING PHILOSOPHY A simplified and aggressive approach often separates a pitcher’s ability to navigate through challenging situations.
1- Get ahead and work ahead in the count. Strike 1, is the MOST important pitch in the game.
2- Working quickly, efficiently, and controlling the tempo of play keeps your defense alert and engaged in the game.
3- Throwing strikes. The name of the game is to get outs. It will only happen with strikes.
When fine tuning a delivery it is most important to focus on the ability to repeat strikes. A delivery allows the pitcher to express some individuality but must prioritize balance, direction, and follow through. Working from the stretch is always the best starting point. Success can be had with a variety of pitching mechanics but pitching from the stretch early on will create a good foundation for developing “feel” and executing your pitches. The following are a few points to remember when fine tuning a delivery from the stretch.
1- The pitcher’s arm side foot must be touching the rubber when receiving your signal and beginning your delivery to the plate.
2- Focus on BALANCE and collect the body and its weight over the throwing arms foot before striding towards the plate.
3- When delivering a pitch, stride towards the target. This DIRECTIONwill give the pitcher the best chance to repeat strikes.
4- After releasing the ball, the FOLLOW THROUGH should leave the pitcher in a good fielding position if he or she has maintained
BALANCE and DIRECTION.
What to throw and when to throw it are dictated by the pitchers ability to manipulate the ball. A variety of grips and spins alter the balls speed and movement. Altering the flight and speed of the ball creates more challenges for the hitter. Keeping the hitter guessing and off balance helps define a good pitcher. Ultimately the pitchers ability to throw a fastball near a desired location will have the greatest impact on controlling the game.
A fastball generally has two different grips. A “4-seam fastball” is traditionally griped across the large C on the seams. If the pitcher’s hand is large enough, gripping the ball loosely using two fingers is optimal. Three fingers works for smaller hands. The “4-seam fastball” will be the hardest pitch and often have the least amount of movement. A “2-seam fastball” is gripped with two fingers close together in between the seams. The flight of the “2-seam fastball” often will have less velocity and more movement. Have fun experimenting with variations of the traditional grips to develop a comfortable feel for the pitches.
by Mike Venafro, Former MLB Pitcher
by Clair Rierson, Los Angeles Dodgers Scout
by John Morris, Cinncinati Reds Scout. John played 7 seasons in MLB as an outfielder.
Good outfield play begins with the expectation that the ball is going to be hit to me on every single pitch that is thrown. This understanding always gives me a better chance of fielding the ball properly. So after I get on the balls of my feet in an athletic ready fielding position I may want to consider the following.
1. Gathering information:
a. Understand the basic dimensions of the field
b. Does the outfield play big, small, fast or slow?
c. How big is the wall or fence and how does the ball come off of it?
d. Is there wind and in what direction is it blowing?
e. Is there sun and am I prepared to handle it if the ball is hit my way?
a. I need to be willing to adjust my OF position based on the type hitter at the plate.
b. I need to be willing to move to a different spot based on who my pitcher is.
c. Do I want to play deep to keep balls in front of me or do I want to play shallow knowing I can go back on balls effectively?
d. If the wind is blowing in I may want to move in.
e. If the wind is blowing out I may want to move back.
3. Understanding situations:
a. Always know how many outs there are.
b. Always know what bases are occupied.
c. Always anticipate where I am going to throw the ball if it is hit to me.
d. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS throw through the cutoff man to keep the double play in order.
4. General fielding suggestions in the outfield:
a. Always field balls on the ground with 2 hands and position my body in the direction of the base I want to throw to.
b. Always catch fly balls and popups with 2 hands.
c. Get behind the ball in the air if I can to gather momentum throwing toward my intended target.
d. When having to run and catch a ball on the ground, the line or in the air run to a spot and reach with my glove hand to field the ball. This is the only time I should use one hand to catch a ball in the outfield.
5. Arm strengthening and accuracy:
a. Take care of my arm and it will take care of me.
b. My arm will become stronger by throwing long toss. Stretch it out!
c. Practice throwing to all bases including 2b, 3b and home plate.
90% of defensive is being ready, being prepared to have the ball hit to you.
Good defensive players have the “HIT IT TO ME ATTITUDE”.
A. Gathering information
1. Pitcher and pitch locations
2. Hitters style
3. Pitchers velocity
4. Field conditions, hard and fast, soft and slow?
B. Positioning – Anticipation
1. Educated idea of where ball might be hit.
C. Set-up and start (ready position)
1. Balance – weight on the balls of your feet.
2. Ready to break in any direction.
3. Hands and glove held out front with thumbs in up position.
4. Feet have a little movement in them when ball is in hitting zone.
5. Feet are square to hitter.
D. Reaction – First step quickness
1. Read hitters hands, and barrel of bat.
2. Watch first hop of ball (hard or soft).
3. Move to the ball aggressively and under control.
4. Create good angle on the ball and play to make easy throw.
5. Making sure our shoulders are not coming up or going down on first step.
E. Approach to ball
1. Acceleration – deceleration to catch ball.
2. Route and angle to ball very important, this will make the throw quicker and easier.
3. Breaking down to catch, lead with knees, head behind ball, butt down.
F. The Catch
1. Right – Left catch as often as you can, moving through the ball.
2. Left foot just in front of right if possible.
3. Catch long hop or short.
4. Eliminate extra glove movement. Keep glove relaxed but firm and ready to catch ball.
5. Head behind the ball, as apposed to over the ball (butt to high).
6. Ball is played middle of body to glove side.
7. Knees lead to the ball, keep from bending over at waist.
8. Soft feet, soft elbow, lead to soft hands.
G. The Throw
1. Take ball out of glove out in front of you.
2. Right – Left throw, shuffle feet directly toward target, staying down use legs.
3. Point shoulder, feet, front hip, and front arm at target.
4. Take ball out and find an across the seam grip. 4-seams.
5. Good arm swing with ball on top.
6. Finish throw through target.
H. The five basic areas all good infielders work on.
2. First step quickness
4. The catch
5. The throw
by Mike Gellinger, AZL Rookie Ball Manager and former ML Computer Scouting Analyst
-Weight on balls of feet in athletic position (approximately shoulder width)
-Keep knees flexed like you are going to shoot a basketball or make a tackle
-Weight should be inside knees
-Keep hands in a spot near the back shoulder or where they are comfortable
-Shoulders over knees, knees over balls of feet (good athletic position)
-Grip should be in fingers. Stay loose in hands during setup
-For better timing it is good to have a consistent load going back before starting swing
-Many different loads work for different hitters (examples: leg lift, knee cock, tap step, weight shift, hand load, among others)
-Generally when the pitcher breaks hands, hitter starts load. Timing will vary depending on hitters load and pitchers speed to plate.
-Stride lengths will vary depending on size and personal preference of hitter.
-The position when hitter’s heel hits the ground and is ready to begin the swing.
-Weight should be inside back knee with approximately 60-40 distribution back
-Hands near back shoulder with bat angle approximately 45 deg. overhead and 45 deg.angle over back shoulder.
-This should be the strongest position of the swing. Equal to position to throw a punch or throw a ball as far as possible.
-The shortest, most direct path to ball is ideal.
-From strong touchdown position, the back knee/hip fire forward and down
-At same time hands start toward zone with a downward move.
-Initial move with hands leads barrel on a short, flat path to and through zone
-Try to avoid having front hip or shoulder start the swing. (Leads to longer path)
-Very important to use legs forcefully to help hands in swing.
-Maintain good balance and head discipline throughout swing.
-With good mechanics in load and swing, it is easier to have better extension
-Keep barrel of bat on plane of ball as long as possible.
-This is made easier by using legs properly and keeping good balance.
-Finishing swing at or just below front shoulder generally good for best extension
-Hit like an athlete, not a robot.
-Stay relaxed in the box.
-Hit with good rhythm and balance.
by Matt Quatraro, Cleveland Indians Assistant Hitting Coach
by Dustin Smith, Texas Rangers Scout
Set-up (nobody on)
-comfortable, athletic, and balanced
-flexible through hips
-athletic base, don’t want feet too close together
-want to be able to sit low
-good posture (not hunched over)
-give a good, firm target to pitcher at bottom of strike zone-throwing hand behind right leg or back to protect from foul balls
Set-up (with runners on)
-up more in ready position to throw or block but still in good position to receive pitches
-drop the right foot back a bit to help be quicker to get into throwing position if runner steals-throwing hand closer to glove to help be quick with exchange if runner steals
Receiving the ball
-Want to be soft and quiet-make sure receiving hand and elbow stays relaxed as pitch is coming
-Let the ball come to you as opposed to reaching out or stabbing at the ball
-see the ball in, head and eyes down on the glove as you catch it
Throwing to 2B
-gain ground and momentum towards 2B with short quick jab step with right foot to start your footwork
-left foot follows with stride toward 2B-should be in line with good direction towards 2B
-stay as low as possible through process (don’t stand straight up)
-keep front side closed, throwing elbow up, and fingers on top of baseball as you throw to help get carry to throws
-think about throwing through 2B
-keep head down, chin tucked
-throwing hand behind glove
-glove covering the hole between legs
-body leans forward some-be a pillow, absorb the ball
-get around balls to the side of you to keep ball in front of you
The two main things a pitcher must do to be successful are to stay healthy and to throw strikes. Below are the most basic keys to proper mechanics for pitchers at every level.
If the pitchers hands are big enough, use a 2 finger 4 seam grip. Pitchers with smaller hands may have to use a three finger grip. A 4 seam will be straighter and easier to command. As the pitcher gets older, a 4 seam grip is 3 to 4% harder than a 2 seam grip.
Set or stretch position. Make sure the back foot is parallel with the pitching rubber. Come set with the feet shoulder width apart. Hands should come set between the letters and the belt with elbows relaxed.
Wind-up is simply the set position with a short step and turn that lines up the front shoulder and the front hip with the catcher or target.
The Leg lift should be as high as the pitcher can get without losing athletic position or posture. It should be a controlled movement. (Notice: leg LIFT, not kick)
GATHERING SPOT OR BALANCE POINT
At the top of the leg lift when the pitcher has everything gathered is where the pitcher starts his momentum toward the target with the front hip.
When delivering the ball, the front shoulder should stay on the target until the foot strike (when the front foot or lead foot touches the ground) in as straight a line as possible to the target. Most pitchers are slightly closed, hitting on the inside of the foot.
The throwing arm angle should be a natural slot, where the pitcher plays catch from or throws from short stop or outfield positions.
Should be a controlled finish with weight on both feet in a fielding position.
80% to 100% of pitchers height. Eyes and head should stay on target and see the ball at the hitting zone and into the catchers mitt.
The first step to base running after you reach a base is knowing the situation. Here are the rules a base runner must follow on each pitch.
The four important things to know before the base runner steps off the base to take his lead are:
1. Where is the Ball?:
Have you ever seen a hidden ball trick? If it happens to you, it is very embarrassing. So before you ever step off the base, know where the ball is. Remember: It is the ball that gets you out.
2. Check the Scoreboard:
a. How many outs? That tells me if I am running on contact, going on a groundball, tagging on a fly ball, going half way on a fly ball. Am I taking a chance on making it to third on a base hit? Remember, the first or third outs are never made at third base.
b. What is the score. Am I an important run or doesn’t my run mean anything. Are we way up, way behind or is the score tied. The score tells me how to play the game.
c. What is the count?
d. What is the inning? Is it do or die time? Or, can I play the game normally.
3. Defensive Positioning:
Where are the outfielders playing…where are the gaps that allow me to go from first to third, score from first. Are outfielders shallow or deep? And what kind of arms do they have?
4. Know the Signs:
What is the signal? Always take the coach’s signals while standing on base. You can’t watch the coach and also watch what the person with the ball is doing.
Now after you have made all these checks, [Ball, scoreboard, outfielders positions, signals} take your lead and play the situation. And, run hard and smart.