If you’re looking for help teaching pitching mechanics, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, I’ll break down the 3 key stages of the pitching motion: windup, stride and release. I’m always interested in your feedback, so be sure to leave a comment in the box below!
Step 1: Windup
Stance—The stance is the first part of the windup. It is entirely up to pitchers how they want to stand before the pitch, but there are good and bad points of all stances. For young players, it is best to minimize movement before the pitch, which means having them stand either with both feet lined up or with one slightly behind the other. Young pitchers should have their pitching hand in their glove holding the ball, and the glove should be at chest height. This puts pitchers in the right position to use minimal movement before the pitch.
More advanced pitchers can try any number of stances, including holding the ball in the glove or holding the ball in the pitching hand away from the glove. If pitchers do not have the ball in the glove, they should use the same grip on as many pitches as possible to avoid giving away what pitch they are going to use.
Back Step—The back step is the second component of the windup. A common problem to the back step is taking too far a step, which leaves pitchers off balance and forces them to correct their weight while on one leg. The front leg, which did not step back, should turn and become parallel with the pitching rubber, which puts that leg in perfect position for the kick.
As the back step happens, the arms will do one of two things. Some pitchers prefer to bring their arms overhead before they pitch. Others keep their arms in close, at waist-height. Either method is fine, and pitchers should be encouraged to develop the style that suits them best. There is no “best” way, it is simply a matter of finding a rhythm and sticking with something.
Kick—After taking a back step, pitchers will then draw the front knee into their chest. Pitchers should aim to have their leg parallel to the ground or even higher, because this gives them the momentum necessary to launch the ball forward.
As they pull up the front leg, their body should naturally pivot away from the batter toward the outfield. This movement should be made primarily with the lower body, however. The shoulders should stay as fixed on their spot as possible.
As the pitcher takes his leg up, his body will be sideways to the catcher. When he pivots back, his shoulders should remain, as much as possible, in that original spot.
Coaches should work with players to ensure that they are able to hold and balance on one leg. Pitching is all about control, and pitchers must be able to control their body at all points of the pitch. If a pitcher cannot hold his kick without wobbling, work to fix that first before moving on.
Finally, the bottom, supporting leg should be slightly bent, not locked out entirely. Though a pitcher might have better balance with a locked-out supporting leg, they will quickly injure themselves by using this habit. Help players stay active and healthy by requiring that they bend the supporting leg just a little.
Step 2: Stride
The proper way for a right-handed pitcher to begin the stride is with the side of his front foot facing the catcher and his toes facing third base. This forces the hips to stay closed until the final part of the swing. During the stride, the pitcher should be facing to the side, with his side facing the catcher. Doing this improves the pitcher’s torque throughout the pitch and release.
The feet should be low to the ground during the stride so that the shoulders stay level and the pitcher maintains his balance. This length of the stride should be 80-90% of the pitcher’s height, though some pitchers prefer to take a longer stride. As with most things in pitching, pitchers must play with variations of moves until they find what works best for them and their rhythm.
As the foot is moving forward through the stride, the pitching arm moves back and down, to begin the circular motion preceding the release. The arm will start nearly straight, but never locked out, at about a 45 degree angle from the ground. The arm moves back and up until it is parallel to the ground. This is just about when the striding leg hits the ground.
To step successfully, the striding leg should land facing the catcher. This means that the hips do open directly to the target and the toes are pointing to the catcher. At this point, the pitching arm will be near the top of the swing.
The glove arm moves in front and stays about at shoulder height while the pitching arm is making its circular motion. This helps the pitcher get a wider stance, helps him balance, and gives him additional momentum during the pitch.
The striding foot should land in a deep lunge, with the thigh almost parallel to the ground. The back foot drags along the ground to keep the pitcher from leaping in the air, which is illegal. At no time can the pitcher be completely off the ground, so the back foot must drag against the ground.
Some pitchers find it hard to keep their back foot on the ground because of the momentum they have during the pitch. To keep the pitcher grounded, coaches should watch pitchers to make sure they are not pitching too high. This includes the knee bend when the striding foot hits the ground and the level of the shoulders during the pitch. If pitchers cannot keep their back foot on the ground, they should deepen their landing.
Tip: If pitchers fall off the mound, this is probably due to the fact that they are digging too deep with their back leg. Driving too hard off the back leg will cause the arms to be behind the legs, forcing the pitcher off balance and leading to them falling off the mound.
Step 3: Release
As the striding foot hits the ground, the pitching arm is at its highest point in the circle. Until this point, the arm has been traveling back and up. It now turns over and begins moving forward, leading to the release. This turning over of the shoulder is where much of the pitch’s power comes from.
At the turnover, the pitching elbow leads the way with the hand following behind and slightly higher. When the pitching arm comes in line with the body, it is time to release the ball. The pitcher absolutely must flick the wrist to release the ball. Failure to release the ball through a wrist flick puts the player at risk for shoulder and elbow injuries. It also decreases velocity and makes the ball easier to hit.
The flick should come down and across the body as the pitcher finishes the circle. This is a natural motion that prevents injury and allows the elbow to break outside the shoulder, which until this point has not happened.
The entire sequence may seem like a lot to remember, but with consistent practice, your pitchers will retain it all as “muscle memory,” and won’t need to think about each movement independently.
Next step: for more free tips, drills, and coaching ideas, check out this free baseball drills video. Inside, I reveal the #1 drill I use almost every single practice (my players LOVE it – and it’s amazing how quickly they’re improving). Here’s the link to check it out: