Foot plant at landing: flat foot, heel or ball?


#1

I’m seeing more and more instructors encourage their pitchers to land on their heel. But I’ve always felt that leads to a number of mechanical problems and a better method is landing essentially flat footed.

What do you like to see kids do and why?


#2

I’ve always looked at it from a perspective of “can the pitcher manage their stride?” If they can land and get their body up and over their landing leg, I really don’t mess with how their stride foot lands. For example, if they are over-striding and their torso is low and they can’t catapult over their landing leg, then I suggest they shorten that stride a bit which tends to result in landing more flat footed, which I believe makes it easier to get up and over. I also believe that it’s easier to have more efficient transfer of energy up the chain if the entire foot lands at once because it immediately arrests forward momentum of the body. All the spikes are grabbing the dirt at once vs. the front spikes landing first followed by the back spikes or vice versa. Again, personally I believe that energy is transferred early when landing on the ball of the foot and late when landing on the heel, but it matters just as much if your upper body is ready or not to accept that energy transfer in that instant, so without knowing how that timing works for that specific pitcher, I don’t think I’d zero-in on landing foot position and I don’t believe that I’d change it automatically if it wasn’t landing flat. I guess what I’m saying is that I’d have to look at the entire delivery and how the upper and lower half are in sync before deciding if anything would benefit from changing the position of the landing foot.


#3

I agree @CoachPaul. I prefer the pitcher should land essentially flat footed. The toes should point slightly in a closed position. If the pitcher lands hard on the heel, I’ve noticed that the foot will usually fly open which causes the hips and trunk to rotate open too soon. It may also cause the pitcher to get onto a stiff front leg too early which causes recoil action, or puts him out of balance and alignment during the accretion phase. This negatively affects control and pitch velocity.

Here’s a side view of Clayton Kershaw:


#4

How the foot plants may be an indicator of other things but, to me, it is otherwise a non-teach.


#5

Continuing the discussion from Foot plant at landing: flat foot, heel or ball?:

I also agree about the toes slightly closed and that sometimes the pitcher who lands on his heel rotates his foot and hips outward at the same time, which is a bit too early.


#6

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc90/CoachBaker/lester-1_zpsqtsr3qu6.jpg

The heel or flat discussion pertaining to the stride foot plant is a matter of degrees, and even that has to do with the physique of the pitcher , in addition to their physical maturity/coaching.

John Lester is a bulldog of a competitor. He’s big, aggressive, and loaded with power to spare. In picture -1- his approach down the mound seems like he’s walking his stride, with his stride foot’s toe up, about 45 degrees. At the last minute before landing, picture -2-, his stride foot almost flattens out 100%. That’s because he’s about to drive all that mass and bulk physique of his, downward into the ground slight via his stride leg. In our picture -3- we see the short version of his complete pitching cycle. There, his stride leg is accepting all that mass of his downward into the ground, the hips are acting like an axis where his upper body’s mass is driving forward, releasing the ball, and his pivot leg is a balancing all the forward weight. In picture -4- all of this put together shows that pitching (ball) coming right off his pitching shoulder and right down range to his backstop.
Early pitcher development has a lot to do with this topic also. Physical makeup (physique) as well as professional coaching can have a great influence on a pitcher. Randy Johnson in picture -5- was in the very early stages of his career with this picture was taken. Notice the leading heel of his stride foot. As Johnson progressed both in physical strength, body composition, and I’m sure some professional coaching along the line, his stride foot approach was different.
Greg Maddux has a stride foot approach that, at first, appears to be heel first, but it’s not. His stride foot has his toe pointing sideways a bit, thus allowing him to stay closed in the hips as long as possible. At the moment just before landing on his stride foot, his foot points towards his backstop, flat and in contour with the mound. Refer to pictures -7-, and -8-.

By the way, those pitchers in youth baseball tend to use the heel first landing, a lot, mostly do so because of the lack of coaching, strength and coordination issues, in addition to poor surface conditions on the mound. I’ve also seen youth pitchers who are fatigued use the heel landing a lot.

Personally, I’m not persuaded to judge one over the other too much. One method or the other seems to work better for some.