Falling Down The Mound

Many years ago I asked a few pitchers these questions and they felt that my assumptions may be correct but they also said that they hadn’t given it much thought.

It appears to me that while some pitchers leave their support leg stiff and let there hip fall like a tree in a ballistic fashion, most pitchers bend there knee to let there hip build up momentum, falling straight down before pushing off, down the mound, in a parabolic curve toward the catcher …much like a rollercoaster. Is my observation corrects? There are so many other factors that go into a pitch but I want to zero in on just this one aspect of it, the “down and out” motion.

I assume the mound is not there to give the pitcher something like a 10” over 60 feet down hill slope advantage over the batter. Rather, I would think that it is the ability to let the body fall further, before the actual push off and upper body portion of the pitch, that give the ball a noticeably higher speed. Again, the mound is only about 10” high. “How can that make a difference?”, I ask others. I’m not quit sure of the answer myself.

I notice some pitchers digging a small hole for their forward foot to land in, to increase the distance from the top, to the effective bottom of the mound. I also notice that, while there are several other reasons, stretching out toward the catcher allows the pitcher to fall further down the mound. Again, I return to the very short distance that constitutes a mound.

A 6 foot pitcher can only bind his leg about 16 inches at best, during a pitch. A pitcher with a strong leg may only use 10 inches of that potential drop. On flat grown, it is hard to keep your balance if you use even a portion of that amount. I have guessed that the angle of the hip and keeping your front foot from hitting the grown too early has something to do with that.

If you fall like a tree, rotating down the mound, this distance is also valuable but having a mound to fall off of, seems to be very helpful in maintaining balance so that you can convert downward force into forward momentum if you elect to use parabolic acceleration toward the mount.

10 inches or so seems to be a very large percentage of a 16 inch max. Am I way off in my assumptions about the need for the mound?

My question might be a little confusing and this picture might make it even worse but that was the best that I could do.

I’m wondering if the height of the mound allows the pitcher to change the angle that his hips follow as he drops, making a better curve as he transitions to the drive phase of the pitch. Also, I wonder if this allows the front leg to have more freedom to fall down the mound in the drive phase before it “stalls and falls” to the ground, providing a longer stride.

Does anyone have any thoughts?

I don’t know that there is a correlation between specific amount of inches in vertical movement and velocity because of the fact that some 90+ mph pitchers I’ve seen can throw with the same velocity on flat surfaces. I would also assume that some/most major leaguers that can throw 95+ mph can do so on flat surfaces as well. However, something I think your getting towards is some kind of leverage to explosion timing mechanism that I have kind of begin noticing lately. While I don’t think that a specific amount of vertical movement is required to generate extremely high velocity, I think that a general movement of the body down in a very fast and explosive manner while moving the hips out while still keeping as much weight back as possible before rotation is very key. Whether you bend <6" or >8" on the back knee may not be as important as how fast you do it. If you look at video from the open side or back side of most high velocity pitchers, I think it is safe to say that all of them keep their upper bodies directly under their hips at leg lift until they collapse the back leg, which at that instant, the hips drive forward and the upper body seems to lag behind slightly. It is really easy to notice this with Clayton Kershaw. He pauses in the middle of dropping his leg and never collapses that back leg until he drives his hips towards the target. I say the amount of vertical movement may not be correlated with velocity because of how little movement down Randy Johnson creates when he throws. However, he still falls into the same category as every other pitcher who will not drive the hips past the upper body until the back leg collapses, even if its very miniscule. Whether or not the hips move in a parabolic fashion is unclear. It may be that the pitcher drives his hips directly horizontal or slightly upward and it seems that the hips are parabolic due to gravity. I think once you start getting into what is actually happening and start comparing it to what the pitcher is trying to do it’s easy to be fooled. If you look at video of people long tossing north of 350 ft. (i.e. China McCarney, Vladimir Guerrero), you will notice that none of them begin their crow hops on an upward tilt until they reach the actual stride that will result in the release of the ball. You will also notice how fast they perform that same action as pitching from the point where they are collapsing and tilting on. Does that mean they will throw the ball maybe 380+ ft if they crow hopped off a down hill plane to a destination of flat surface on the same horizontal plane at release? I don’t think so, which is why I don’t think that the mound does any justice for velocity. I think the vertical movement is too small for the mound to have an effect. How far the hips move forward is another story. While I’m sure Tim Lincecum still has his 7 ft. stride towards home, you can see a noticeable drop in his velocity (not like it really matters for him anyways, he’ll still win the Cy Young). It may have been more due to the fact how on point and fast his hips, weight transfer, rotation, and timing resulted in his upper 90s velocity for him a season ago. People with lesser strides like Verlander still generate crazy velocity north of 100 mph because of how explosive their all around movements are. I think what the mound does do is change the mentality of throwing for the person on the mound. When they lift that leg up high before throwing they feel like they know exactly what to in terms of going “down and out” without actually really knowing what they are doing and they end up doing the right thing. The people who really know how sequence their movements can slide step and still hit 98+ mph on the gun. I have seen only 2 people hit 100 mph on the slide step, Joel Zumaya and Marc Kroon.

I have many more thoughts on this, but I’m tired and it’s late. Sorry if I didn’t make sense or my thoughts were discombobulated. This is just my observation. I don’t know if any of this is true or even reasonable.

Of course that vertical makes a difference, it’s why they lowered the mound after Gibson did his deal in “67” or “8”. So stride length does get you that additional torque that way. I was listening to someone on MLB the other day talking about how when they did that the trajectory of the ball stays on a single plane longer which is more consistent with normal swing plane. That and a juiced ball right…I don’t know somehow, that said, no one has hit .400 since the 40’s :bigthink:

Except Taguchi of the Cardinals of '06. He was hitting either .500 or .570 for a long time during season. But then again, he didn’t play that much.

Except Taguchi of the Cardinals of '06. He was hitting either .500 or .570 for a long time during season. But then again, he didn’t play that much.[/quote]

Ehhh? Huh? :?

i thought i remembered taguchi hitting over .400 in the '06 season for the cardinals. Don’t hold me to it. but i believe it was due to the fact that LaRussa didn’t play him very often during the season.

p.s. I was trying to be a smart-allic (is that how u spell it?)

Oh wow. JMB33, you got me there. It was after the NLCS. He was batting .500. I feel like an idiot right now.

I’ll stick to keeping batter’s averages under .500, with pitching that is. :droopyeyes:

Obviously, there are pitchers that use any of several pieces of bad form and can still exceed 95 miles and hour. Also, good form or not, the upper body part of the through can amplify or dissipate the energy that is created early in the part of the pitch that we have been talking about. I’m not suggesting that this is the most important part of the pitch nor am I saying that bending the leg more is better. I have been zeroing in on the “down and out” or parabolic style of pitch just so that I can narrow the discussion. Perhaps I am just subdividing a hair but this is helping me quite a bit.

Noting that experienced pitchers can though about as fast on flat ground as off of a mound, was very informative. I agree that having a mound helps a person slip into the right movement. I also agree that the mound can be an actual benefit because it allows a pitcher to throw more naturally and falling even 10 inches is actually a good bet of help.

I know that we want to cover all aspects with caveats so that we don’t look stupid but understanding the importance of the mound can be very helpful in teaching the pitch so just talking out load, so to speech, will be helpful. That is why I am interested in this part of the pitch, in isolation from the other parts of the through.

That being said, having the hips turned under seems to help a lot in the drive phase. Having them under, in an exaggerated fashion, at the beginning of the through, allows the pitcher to drive at a better angle and to drive longer before he stalls and falls. It is next to impossible to turn the hips under while you are pulling the upper body forward so you have to get all that you can at the beginning and maintain it as long as possible. The raised knee facilitates this during the windup.

Then kicking down the mound is a little easier with that little amount of height because you can have a lazier angle without hitting the ground too early. Whether you fall or drop, 10 inches is a big distains if you compare it to the total amount of downward motion of the hips.

This kick acts as a trigger for the transaction from down to out, if you use a parabolic movement. This same kick also acts as a trigger and helps smooth out the drop if you use Tall and Fall, a comparatively stiff legged or ballistic motion.

Going back to parabolic, the bent leg can generate a lot of force but it is very slow to get started so it needs a trigger to get going. While very explosive, the support leg doesn’t have very much strength or explosiveness until it gets relatively straight. Greater leg bending can build more momentum but it needs help at first. The better the kick, the better the pitch might end up being. There are a lot of different kinds of kicks but they all have about the same effect. It is just a tool that can be used to it’s fullest or not.

Bent leg or not, when a pitcher approaches the stall point he often starts the upper body part of the throw. I think that is exactly when the drop also helps to exaggerate that motion as well.