Pitching Techniques Simplified

The old axiom that “you could never have enough pitching” or

that “good pitching will always beat good hitting” is true even on

the youth level. I have made a point to develop my own

philosophy when teaching pitching. I’m the first one to admit that

I am far from an expert when it comes to pitching techniques.

But coaching youth baseball for as long as I have, I see some of

the same mistakes happen over and over again. Like I do with

hitting, I have always found that it is better to under coach rather

over coach as it comes to dealing with 10, 11, and 12 year-old

kids. Do not give the individual player too much to think about

when he is on the pitcher’s mound. I always have some kids on

my team who are superior athletes and their parents are paying a

fortune for pitching lessons at the nearby baseball facility. With

these kids, I try to leave them alone and try to find out quickly

who is receiving lessons. The majority of kids on my team every

year are not in a position to get these private lessons. With them,

I try to share my knowledge and keep it simple. Here are some of

the same things I see every year.

One of the biggest problems I see is youth pitchers being off

balance when they deliver the pitch. And a lot of times it is not

even their fault. Many coaches are hung up on having their

pitchers pitch from the full wind up. I have found that with

young players this throws them off balance a lot and they are

better served by pitching from the stretch position. Years ago the

great New York Yankee pitcher, Ron Guidry, was about to give

up on his major league pitching career. At the time, his manager,

Billy Martin, noticed his wind up was a little out of whack. He

convinced him to pitch from the stretch position. He did this and

it changed his pitching career around.

Another interesting story is Don Larson and his perfect game

in the 1956 World Series. He did not quite pitch from the stretch,

but pitched without a full wind up. As of late, the Giants’, Tim

Lincecum, has experimented pitching from the stretch for a full

game. For young pitchers, I strongly encourage them to stay away

from the full wind up, at least for the first part of the season.

They can always work it in as the season goes on.

As far as it not being the youth pitcher’s fault about falling off

balance on the full wind up, let me explain what I see almost

every year. In our league, our field maintenance board members

have always done an outstanding job. The problem is on some

days the field is used from 10am to 10pm. Of course there is

always the raking and basic “touch it up” stuff done between

games. But with all the games that go on, a hole develops right in

front of the pitching rubber. When the pitcher is in his wind-up

and pivots forward, his foot goes into this hole and his complete

body is thrown out of whack. He tries to regain his balance when

his foot ends up in the hole, but many times he is handicapped

trying to throw strikes. Of course many of you will say that it is

the job of the league to have the field in game condition. This is

true, but even filling in the hole between games I see the same

thing happen game after game. When the player is pitching from

the stretch position, he is already in front of the pitching rubber,

and when he delivers the ball his body is much more compact

and he has more control. I also think coaches worry that pitchers

who pitch from the stretch are sacrificing speed for accuracy.

This is an over-exaggeration, especially on the youth level.

Remember on the youth level, strikes are much more important

than velocity.

There are other basics that come up every year. Youth pitchers

will also start with their feet too wide or too narrow when they

are beginning their wind up. Their feet should be about shoulder

length apart. And many times they will start straight legged when

they should have some bend in their legs. Instead of using the

terms to my players like “bending your knees” I like to tell them

to have “soft knees” when they do their wind-up. I love to

reference the old cartoon character Gumbee, describing how I

like my pitchers to have that type of flexibility.

I used to correct pitchers if their initial step on the pitcher’s

mound is to the side rather than behind them, but I’ve changed

after seeing so many successful pitchers who do take their first

step to the side. I just want the players to make sure that this first

step is not too big as this can also throw them off balance. If it

sounds like I am adamant about my pitchers being balanced, it is

because I am. Many coaches will insist that their front leg come

up fairly high before it comes down as they release the ball. I

maintain every player will bring up their front leg at different

heights, and as long as they are effective and are not hurting

themselves, I leave them alone. With this said, I always look for

the pitcher to see if his front leg is not coming up as high as the

game goes on. If he is not bringing it up as high, this is an

indication of fatigue. Just as you have to watch the pitcher’s front

leg throughout the game, you have to watch the location of his

elbow. If the elbow is going well below his shoulder, this can be

problematic and can lead to potential injuries.

I have also noticed that when the front foot of the pitcher

does come down, many times it is not pointing directly at home.

plate where it should be. The player’s front foot will be going to

the left or the right and this will impede his accuracy. Coaches can

work on this in practice and can use props on the mound for the

pitcher to aim toward so he is doing the correct technique.

I try to learn a little more about pitching every year. Like

hitting, a lot of pitching is theory and if you talk to ten different

pitching coaches, you may get ten different theories. You can

discuss strategies with your youth pitcher but you must keep it

simple. On my team, we have a team rule for pitchers that if the

pitcher has 0-2 count on the batter with no one on base, he has to

throw a ball. I prefer to have my pitcher throw a slow pitch that

does not reach home plate, trying to get the batter to swing and

steal a strike out, than give up a two strike hit. This works, but

make sure you have your pitchers practice throwing a “short

pitch” so they don’t give up a hit on a mistake pitch. These

things, not last inning homeruns, keep me up at night.

Pitching techniques is not brain surgery, but in baseball it is

close. As youth coaches, you have to pick and choose exactly how

you want to approach pitching. Of course the better athletes will

be given more leeway, but I have found the best approach is to

keep it simple, and if you work less rather than more pitching

techniques, your pitchers have a better chance to be successful!

Related Resources:

Pitching Drills & Techniques (video)

Baserunning & Bunting Drill (video)

The 59 Minute Baseball Practice
Backyard Baseball Drills

Baseball Coaching: A Guide For The Youth Coach & Parent

Winning Baseball Strategies (video)

Hitting Drill & Techniques (video)

44 Baseball & Softball Mistakes & Corrections (book)

T-Ball Skills & Drills (video)

T-Ball Skills & Drills (bk)

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