I think we will all agree that pitchers need to produce torque to maximize their velocity.
How this torque is generated and how this feeling is taught is where there is a lot of divergence of teaching. Also, the speed of even a low velocity delivery is elusive to the human eye. This is why video analysis is absolutely necessary. Fractions of a second of torque production make all the difference.
During the lift or the slide step, the back heel is down and momentum starts to build down the target line. At this point, we are just trying to get aligned and create flow toward the catcher.
The hips lead the body moving down the target line with as much body weight as possible over the back leg. When the weight shifts forward, the body is pulled off the rubber. Pitchers don’t actually push off because there is very little weight left over the back leg at this point and the ankle simply rolls over and the toe either drags for a short distance or comes off the ground entirely. A long toe drag is actually a sign of low momentum down the hill and not getting the hips forward far enough and early enough.
If we have done things properly to this point, we are coming into foot strike and are preparing to separate the average from the above average.
The pitchers who can keep their shoulders closed while their hips are opening will create the torque we need to reach our maximum velocity.
Getting the timing correct for opening the shoulders and the releasing the torque in the torso is the key to high velocity mechanics. If the shoulders come with the hips, it’s easier to control the ball, but it severely limits your top end velocity and this is where most coaches bail out on your development. The “just throw strikes” comments come out and the pitcher becomes entrenched in average to below average velocity with above average control. Here reside the “pull the glove to the chest” coaches. Everything is connected, smooth, and easy. They preach sighting down the glove arm toward the target and keeping shoulders level. What’s wrong with that you say? Everything!
If we truly evaluate the glove’s role in all this, all the glove does is flip from palm down to palm up. That’s it. In actuality, the chest should be firing at the catcher and extending beyond the glove as the arm comes forward. If you have a pitch analyzing program, make a circle around the glove as the pitcher comes into foot strike then let the video roll. The glove stays in the circle and does not retreat back toward the pitcher. Chest to glove or better yet, through the glove.
Into landing position, there should not yet be any upper body rotation toward the plate. Everything is still going toward the catcher. The hips and the shoulders are still roughly pointed down the target line. Some high torque pitchers are even more closed than that. Pulling the glove to the chest causes the shoulders to start their turn early and shortens the length of time the delivery can remain along the target line and starts the rotational phase too early—prematurely releasing torque before it can build to maximum.
At this critical point of front foot strike, the pitcher explodes his hips open while keeping the shoulders relatively straight down the target line for as long as possible. This action creates a great deal of stretch or torque through the torso. If the pitcher is not feeling this incredible stretch, the shoulders are not staying closed long enough. Don’t focus on the shoulders or the arm. The hips will deliver the chest, the chest will deliver the shoulders and then the arm in the proper sequence with the proper separation and lag. We should also be seeing a good degree of tilt with the front shoulder much higher than the back shoulder. If the pitcher is sighting down the glove arm, this tilt is greatly reduced or almost non-existent. This is also a sign of “glove to the chest” instruction.
Where pitchers get into even more trouble is trying to throw harder by consciously rotating their shoulders. Think about what usually happens when even a high velocity pitcher tries to overthrow. It’s pretty much the same thing. The shoulders have to fire naturally and not consciously. You will not do a better job than your brain and natural balance will do on your behalf. If your pitcher misses up and in AND down and away, this is the problem. He will never get the timing right and will revert to connecting his hips and shoulders, effectively lowering his velocity to throw strikes and make the coach happy.