Influencing Change And Teaching Pitchers To Teach Themselves

Latest post, would love to hear your comments here and on the site. Thanks!

[quote=“Zita Carno”]
January 7, 2013 at 7:22 am:

This is something every pitching coach should be required to read.... I’ve seen so many instances of coaches trying to change a pitcher’s arm action...and it doesn’t work because they’ve been going about it all you have to get all those misguided coaches on board. [/quote]

This is very true. To comment on trying to fix everything you see wrong with a delivery, I agree with the theory that it’s harder to kill hornets one at a time with a rolled up newspaper as they are buzzing about your head than it is to take a step back from the situation and realize that to spray foam on the entire hive is more effective. You have to fix the problems at the source. Often when you fix that one major flaw, several other little flaws fall away.

To help a pitcher, a coach has to do a couple of things well.

The coach must be able to diagnose the root cause of the biggest flaw without being distracted by the other little flaws that are buzzing about your head.

Give the pitcher the feel for the proper movement and not just the positioning of the proper movement. Drills that can’t be done incorrectly and require no coach supervision or comments often work the best. Leave the pitcher alone with the drill, a feel for the right movement, and his thoughts. Often the problem will be solved more quickly than with a coach making a comment after every throw.

As far as arm action, it would be the last thing to alter, and only if necessary. As stated in the article, many arm action issues disappear after fixing a critical flaw. I have been a firm believer that upper half problems are often a compensation for something that went wrong earlier in the lower half movements.

Bob Feller, who was not only a great pitcher but also a top pitching coach, had this to say: DON’T OVERCOACH. A major problem is that so many coaches are so fixated on minutiae, so many nitpick, that they can’t get the whole picture, and it’s no wonder that they fail to resolve a problem that could resolve itself if they would just get the heck out of the way and let the pitcher work on it!
Eddie Lopat, besides being one of the Yankees’ Big Three rotation way back when, was one of the finest pitching coaches anyone could ever hope to work with, and I was incredibly fortunate to have him as my pitching coach for almost four years. He had this almost preternatural way of being able to zero in on a pitching problem, and very often he would use the Socratic method of teaching—questioning and cross-examination, getting the pitcher to find his own answers. No overcoaching for this incredible lefthander.
For example: Lantz mentioned in his article that very often an upper-half-of-the-body problem was really a lower-half issue. What a lot of pitchers—and coaches—and even hitters—don’t realize is that the lower half of the body is the real key to a pitcher’s power. Too many hitters, for instance, are focused on the upper half—the arm, elbow, shoulder, whatever the pitcher throws the ball with—in their quest for the perfect fastball they can blast from here to Timbuktu and points south, and too many pitchers throw with just the arm and the shoulder: yep, the upper half. That’s not how you do it. You have to get the whole body involved.
I discovered this a long time ago when I was watching those Big Three guys in pregame practice and the game itself, and I realized what they were doing. They were driving off the lower half of the body, using the legs, the hips and the torso in one continuous motion, creating a nonstop flow of energy all the way to the shoulder and arm—generating more power behind their pitches AND taking a lot of pressure off the shoulder and arm so they could throw harder—and faster—with less effort.
I call this “The Secret”. I made a note of it and started working on it on my own, and I found that in the process of practicing this essential element of good mechanics I was doing the same thing Raschi, Reynolds and Lopat were doing! And I thought, how not to get a sore arm—or a sore elbow—or a sore shoulder—or a sore anything else! And later on, when Lopat was watching me as I familiarized myself with the slider, he noticed that I had discovered “The Secret” and was working with it, and he made a mental note of this and some other things that I had figured out on my own. He didn’t have to tell me very much about mechanics—just a suggestion here and there about things I could do. Most of his coaching centered on refining a pitch here and there, teaching me some new stuff, and strategic pitching in all its ramifications.
And that’s how you do it, coaches. Pitchers have brains—let them use them.

Great points Zita!

How many times have you heard a PC say, “Wow, that kid has a great arm!”

How many times have you heard a PC say, “Wow, that kid has a great back leg drive!”

I think many pitching coaches only look at and coach the upper half.
And they certainly do not understand the “Secret” that you mentioned. When you mention Lopat and the big 3 I am very fascinated by how much they and you know about pitching. Because you were learning and working on things (lower half H/S separation) that were not commonly known before videotape and software.

Great stuff thinktank and great points everyone!

Eddie Lopat, who had been converted from a so-so first baseman into a top-flight pitcher, had been making an extensive study not only of pitching but also of pitchers—their strengths and how to maximize them and minimize their weak points. I will never forget the first time I met him, on September 17, 1951 after he had beaten the Indians for the umpteenth time; I just wanted to ask him something. He said, “Go ahead—I’m listening”, and the way he said it relaxed me completely. When I said I just wanted to ask him something about the slider, his response was to take me aside and show me how to throw a good one. Here’s the kicker: when a 16-year-old kid, be it male, female or two-headed green Martian, asks a veteran major-league pitcher about something like the slider, this is big-time serious, and Lopat recognized immediately that I was serious, that I really wanted to know and was willing to work at it. And so he had no hesitation about teaching me some very advanced stuff he felt I needed to know.
When he recognized that I had discovered and was working with “The Secret” he took this several steps further. A good deal of what he did was to explain and demonstrate something—no ifs, ands, buts or abstruse technicalities—and then get behind the plate and catch for me while I worked on it. He did away with all that overly technical blah-blah-blah so many pitching coaches are so fond of nowadays; as Leo Mazzone would say later on, “Why take a simple thing and make a Federal case out of it” or words to that effect. I will always remember how he demolished the mystery surrounding the “slip” pitch by telling me what it was: a hard slider thrown with a knuckleball grip—and then he said, “You’ll know what to do with it.” And I appreciated the fact that he understood and expressed his confidence in me and in what I could do.
Would that there were more pitching coaches like that. 8) :smiley:

Totally agree.