Analysis of a New 9 Year Old Pitcher

Hi everyone. I found this site the other day and just made a video of my son pitching. He has been pitching for about 3 weeks now after one of his little league coaches noticed his “strong arm”. They taught him the wind up in the video and he has been practicing alot since then. He really likes it and can’t wait to get on the mound. His first time out he walked all 5 batters he faced, but I think he had fun. He hasn’t gotten to pitch since. I don’t know if he will or should until he gets his control in order.

Now the problem is his control isn’t there but he throws hard. Our Little League opening day ceremonies/festivities included a carnival style pitching game where you guess your speed. He clocked in at 42 MPH on the Radar. I think thats pretty good, but who knows. That said, and after viewing the video below I have some questions. I never played myself, so I am practically useless to him.

  1. Pitch Hard or Pitch for strikes? I have read both arguments but I tend to lean toward pitching hard and control will come with practice.
  2. Looking at the video is there any glaring problems? If so do you know of a drill to correct it?
  3. How many pitches a week should he take?
  4. Should he practice at playing distance? If not, how far?
  5. Is a mound needed?
  6. Should I encourage him to pitch in games now or hold him out to temper dissappointment should he not be able to perform as well as other kids?
  7. General thoughts/comments?

Your boy does indeed look like he’s having a great time.

He’s got some things to work on, of course, and here’s one of them:

He leans way back at the beginning of his motion, but think about it: That can be very counter-productive because his target is straight ahead. He needs to generate momentum (with control) in a forward direction, not a backward direction.

Most pitchers get their hips moving on a straight line toward the target as they start to lift their stride leg–if he leans backward, and still seems to be leaning backward as his throwing arm is beginning to launch the ball, then he really has to overcome that momentum backwards and that involves more moving parts than most kids his age can control. An uncontrolled release point means wildness.

Check out this video clip of a kid named Will: He has pretty efficient mechanics, and you and your son could learn a lot by looking at his form. I’m not suggesting that your son should copy him, but try to pick up these features:

As his leg is starting to lift, his hips are already starting to move forward toward the target.

He keeps his eyes on the target, and his head does not move side-to-side or up-and-down very much. That is, his head and eyes also travel on a line toward the target.

He has good control of his glove-side, which will become important. Your son looks like he is okay on the glove-side, too.

For kids this young, only work on one thing at a time and start from the beginning. He should begin his motion from a stable posture (I actually favor the set position, rather than wind-up for kids his age, because there is less movement. (Less movement = less chance for messing up the eventual release point.)

When he feels comfortable with a starting posture, work on getting his momentum started toward the plate early in the motion.

Have fun with it–when he starts to develop some control, he’s gonna shine!

Looking at the video you posted I can definitely see where Cameron has a lot to work on, which I never doubted. I’ll study that video and try and see if I can pick out some different things for my son.

When you say he is too far back, do you mean his back step when he starts his windup, or are you referring to when he actually releases? Seems both need work, based on your example, but I want to be sure.

You also mention the set position. Is that the position Will is using?

One of the things I noticed and have been struggling to teach Cameron is his stride leg. He kicks it way up and out instead of up and then “gliding” into his release. I think that is messing Camerons balance up. Watching the video you posted seems to reinforce that, but I don’t know how to get Cameron to get his leg up tight and then “glide” into his release.

Also, another thing I am now noticing is Cameron starts with his glove low. Most of these videos the kids have their glove up tight to their chest. Is there a technical reasoning behind this, or personal preference? Should I have Cameron hold his glove higher up? One of the Little League coaches had mentioned this the first time he pitched, but now I can really see it.

I like the way Cameron can’t wait to get another ball to pitch. He looks like he has a real love for baseball. The most important thing is to nurture that desire.

With regard to his technique. I also feel that teaching him to pitch from the set position first is more productive and easier for the young player. I would initially try to position him with his feet slightly less than shoulder width apart and slightly closed so that the shoulder is pointing at least to the right handed side of the plate. A good leg lift height for him is one where he can lift his leg up and maintain a balanced position on his posting leg. I am not suggesting he should pause in the post position when actually pitching, but that he needs to be controlled and balanced throughout his motion in order to have a repeatable delivery, which is the key to learning to throw strikes. His left thigh should be approximately horizontal and it can be useful for the toe to be pointed down a little.

Cameron presently strides from the top of his leg lift which makes it a little more difficult for him to be balanced and repeatable. The cue I use with younger guys when they start is “up, down and then out”. So the leg comes up then starts down and then he glides out straight to the target.

I would also encourage him not to drop his back shoulder so much as correct timing becomes more difficult to maintain.

Closing his body slightly, balance and overall timing are the things that he needs to work on for now.

Make sure to keep it fun while you guide him through those things.

Good luck,

Ted

Good post, Ted.

When Cameron lifts his leg now, he cantilevers backward to compensate for all that weight that he’s lifting out in front of his center of gravity. That creates way too much momentum directed away from the target.

Cameron’s momentum needs to be generated all toward the target. I thought Ted’s discussion of a desirable posture from the set position, and a more balanced leg lift, were very well put.

To answer nor10’s question about the set position…yes, Will is pitching from the set position in that side-view clip. Notice that his feet are about arm-pit width apart (as per Ted’s point) and the big toe of the back foot (the post foot) is aligned with about the middle of his front foot (the stride foot). He has a slight bend at the knees in his starting position, as though he might be getting ready to shoot a free-throw. This is an extremely stable and balanced starting posture, which is also what Cameron needs.

Kids Cameron’s age don’t learn so much from hearing advice as they do from seeing it re-enacted and then feeling the results of doing it themselves. There are several styles of leg-lift that pitchers use, and Cameron’s should be one he is comfortable with–but, he must have a sense of dynamic balance with his leg lift. That is, if his leg gets too far out in front of his center of gravity as he lifts it—you can see the result: He has to cantilever backwards to compensate. If he were to put all that weight to one side and away from his CoG he would have to lean to the other side to compensate. Balance is extremely important to a pitcher because all of the compensatory movements that are necessary to correct imbalances are wasted motion. However, it also important to realize that we are talking about dynamic balance after the delivery begins, not static balance. You will see lots of kids pause at the top of their leg lift–that might look like good static balance, but it is actually very hard for most youngsters to go into motion, stop in a (static) balanced position at the top of the leg lift, then generate forward momentum to the plate while standing on one leg. That is probably easier than overcoming the backward lean that Cameron is doing right now, but it is still not optimum.

Honestly, the best way for you to start teaching Cameron some of these things is for you to physically try out these concepts yourself, right along side of him. As an adult, you can understand all of this complex advice and experiment with the ‘feel’ of putting it into action. Then, you can rationally sift through the stuff that makes sense, cast off the stuff that doesn’t make sense, and teach your son from a position of personal understanding.

If Cameron is also getting outside coaching, don’t be satisfied to be a spectator. Learn pitching along side of him and the two of you will be able to share some really fine times together.