Eyes vs. Mechanics

In helping my son figure out control and command, I observed that when he struggled to throw strikes or hit his spots, he was frequently taking his eyes off the strike zone at some point in his delivery. Conversely, when he was throwing strikes, his eyes were generally fixed on the strike zone.

A problem we thought was mechanical turned out to be visual.

I’ve since gotten in the habit of watching the eyes of college pitchers who are struggling to throw strikes. Looking away from the strike zone seems to be pretty common for these pitchers.

Anyone else notice this? Anyone have tips for helping pitchers keep their eyes on target while delivering the pitch?

As my Dad always said, Eyes tell the brain, the Brain tells the arm and the arm delivers the ball where you want…. that being said…
I always saw my target, looked away (down) and then picked up the target again after the hands came back from behind my head. This helped me more than keeping my eyes fixed on the target. My take is it allowed me to drop the hard focus that led to aiming and allowed me to soft focus and feel it and visualize in my mind where the ball needed to be thrown. That feeling of being “In the Zone” I rarely had issues with command. So I am not a big believer that you have to have eyes constantly fixed on target and do believe it can lead to a pushy aiming type delivery that can hold you back. Granted like I said you do need to pick up the target again before release you can’t just throw blind.

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I’ve heard from many quarters that “look away, look back” works for a lot of pitchers. I don’t doubt that’s true and would encourage pitchers struggling with their eyes to give it a try. But unfortunately, it didn’t help my son keep his eyes in the zone for the crucial parts of his delivery.

I’ve checked out slow motion video of dozens of top MLB pitchers. Very few did the “look away, look back.” Nearly all appeared to lock eyes on target when they come set and then hold that visual lock for the entire delivery.

When my son makes a conscious effort to lock eyes on the target and not let go, he throws more strikes. But he finds that mentally taxing.

I’ve encouraged him to try the “soft focus” approach. Keep his eyes up and generally in the direction of the catcher/zone while not pinpointing his focus precisely on one thing. That seems to help as well.

I’m afraid there’s no magic bullet solution. It seems to be a “focus thing.” It also seems stress-related. When my son feels confident and loose, this generally isn’t an issue. When the pressure is on, he’s either lights-out or his eyes wander (about 50/50).

Yes its all very individual. You may have hit on it being a focus issue, possibly too focused and not being able to go blank or stop thinking.
I think the look away thing is hard for many today because the windup is so cut down that any movement just messes them up and throws off the sequencing because there is so little flow.
The hard focus all the time has got to be tough, hitters go from soft to hard focus just before the ball is released. I went from hard to soft pitching.

I don’t have any help with techniques to keep the eyes on the plate, but I have to think that it has got to be related to the ability to remain relaxed, My son in college has the letters CIAFI. stitched on his glove to help remind him. it stands for Chuck It And F’ It…. No sense getting tight as you cant control what happens after you release the ball so just CIAFI!

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One of my old coaches told me I had this problem and I got so much better after fixing it

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That doesn’t surprise me. My son pitches so much better when his eyes are on target.

Interestingly, even his velocity and movement improve. It’s like the eyes keep the mechanics synced for proper execution.