Back foot


#1

Greetings Steve,

First time blogger. My 14 yr. old son, Jordan, pitched a complete game today (playing on varsity team)and was very sharp. He hit his spots very well (with exception of a couple of pitches on 0-2 counts). Kept the ball down and worked ahead on 21/28 batters faced with no walks. The hard work and knowledge gained from your instuction is paying off. I video taped his delivery today and while reviewing it this evening I noticed something I hadn’t really picked up on before. Jordan lands in a good postion (stride length is about 85%), but as he begins to rotate his trunk and move over his front leg his back foot drags off the rubber and his toe lifts up off the ground. Specifically, his back foot rotates properly, it’s just that when I freeze the video just as he is about to release the ball out of hand, his back foot (toe) is about 3-4" off the ground (and his foot also drags about 10" off the rubber). We “Googled” a bunch of pitchers (Clemens, Schilling, Prior, Hudson) in the exact same position just as they are about to release the ball and their back toe is still on the ground and in contact with the rubber.

I wonder if this is a core strength issue? Obviously this is something we need to work on but my question is do you feel I should be overly concerned with his back toe coming up off the ground at just prior to release? Or, his foot dragging so far off the rubber? I know this has to effect his stabelization some but it doesn’t seem to effect his control in any way unless he has just “trained” his muscles to compensate for this. Is he leaving some velocity of the table because of this? I would be interested in your thoughts on this.

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#2

It’s definitely not a problem that his back foot is off the rubber. Instead, that is a good thing because it increases the amount that his hips rotate and thus increases his power.

Given that he’s pitching well, I also wouldn’t worry about his toe being off the ground. It just means that his weight is more on his glove-side leg, which will also helps his hips rotate.


#3

All of the elite pitchers keep their back foot on the ground until after the ball has been released. What this indicates is that they are keeping their upper body more upright through release. Pitchers who lift their foot off the ground too quickly are getting too far out in front with their upper body. This means they don’t fully use their hip and shoulder rotation to throw the ball - they throw with the arm more than they need to. If your son is doing this then it certainly does mean he could be “leaving some velocity on the table”. But, more importantly, this could cause some extra wear and tear on the arm that might lead to an injury.

The cause of the foot lifting off the ground too soon is a lack of flexibility and/or functional strength in the lower back. It takes flexibility to achieve the upright spine late in the delivery and it takes strength to maintain it up to release. When the shoulders square up to the target and the throwing arm lays back in external rotation, the lower back arches and holds an isometric load for a short period of time. About the time the throwing arm snaps forward, the lower back releases. If done in this sequence, then the shoulders have rotated around an upright spine and power is optimally transeferred through the chain of links from legs to hips to shoulders to arm to baseball.

The fact that your son’s back foot dragged for 10" is an indication that he has a reasonably long stride - this is a good thing. But the fact that his foot drags that far and still lifts off the ground before the release of the ball (which seems strange to me) tells me that your son lacks lower back strength moreso than flexibility. That is, he apparently has enough flexibility to initiate an upright torso but lacks the strength to maintain it all the way to release.


#4

Does he do the towel drill?

If so, he could be doing it wrong and leaning forward too soon as Roger suggests.

I agree that it’s important to rotate the shoulders while the torso is erect, not while leaning forward. Rotating the shoulders while the torso is angled is a prescription for lower back problems (e.g. Chad Bradford).

In fact, I don’t think pitchers should lean forward much even after releasing the ball.


#5

Roger. Another very nice post!!! I wish we had some “clapping” emoticons.