Momentum/Timing

All the while growing up, I’ve had several coaches stress the following instructions for pitching mechanics…

  • STAY BACK! Try to stay back and tall over the rubber for as long as possible. What kind of a myth is this? How can you get any momentum by staying back and over the rubber? Seems like all that would do is NOT create energy and thus you would not gain any distance and direction through the target.

  • Keep your hips closed as long as possible. In my opinion, the hips certainly need to get started before the shoulders and before the plant foot lands. I don’t necessarily believe that they need to stay closed THAT long as long as you can still create momentum and some rotational force prior to your foot landing. Ofcourse, you need to have flexibility in your core to keep your shoulders closed.

Now I have a question for you guys. Throughout my career, I’ve been told to stay back and stay closed over the rubber, but this has only led to a really slow methodical delivery. I don’t have a video for you right now, but with strong core strength, and forearm and hand strength, how much can my velocity be improved with some proper momentum and tempo?

Right now my fastball is in the 86-89 range. Thanks for the responses.

Yes you should be able to gain MPH if you move out to stride While you are lifting the leg this will get you into plant quicker and will be more efficent. Good Luck on the new mechanics

PS go to the video’s and look at randy johnson and mariano rivera how they lift and drive right before peek leg lift.

Thanks for the response.

I see on the website pitching clips . com that many pitchers “lead with the hips”. While doing this, is it the back foot providing the energy to push the hips forward, or do you just fall a few inches with the hips going towards the plate?

you move forward with the hip kind of like a fall but remember to stay tall NOT A push though that will make the timing all messed up.

just keep looking at mariano and randy johnson. See how randy glides forward while lifting his leg.

Yeah, all that definately makes more sense than what I’ve been hearing. My mechanics currently have my hips staying back and I’m constantly fighting my body to get over my front knee. I always feel like my hips are locked up, and I lack a true finish. I’m confident that gaining momentum will help my timing and enable me to free up my hips and finish the pitch.

do you fall off the mound OR plant and drive the back hip through?

This season especially I’ve been planting my foot with a bent knee and then immediately straightening out the knee and kind of getting myself jammed up. I do fall of a little bit. I know I need to keep a bend in me knee throughout my whole delivery? or atleast I think I need to. But, I see some guys like verlander and zumaya who extend their leg almost immediately and thus they fall of hard to the first base side. What exactly is the advantage in keeping the bend in the pitching leg?

Well I think falling off and a straight plant leg can cause injury because the arm absorbs the force of the throw. I like to land with a flexed leg so then you can pull the glove down and in to the knee and have the back hip fly around since you plant.

Phil Hughes does that very well watch a clip of him on MLB.com of the playoffs you will notice how good he roates after he plants.

Aren’t you supposed to plant with a flexed knee and then straighten it? Doesn’t this rotate your hips which then rotate your torso?

you want to plant and straiten a little not to the point which you lock the leg. If you do it right you will rotate around and over the front leg in a compact rotation.

Does this happen naturally?

Well most pitcher land on flexed leg but some land stiff or try to land stiff due to bad coaching. My view is land bent and be compact. Stride out and then turn the front leg over to bent and when you land your hips will have opened and you will have stayed closed and then you will be able to rotate around and over the front leg. Mostly only can be done on a mound.

As long as you get your chest over your front knee, your plant leg will straighten slightly. In my case because of my poor hip placement and lack of momentum I was never able to completely get my chest over my knee, thus causing my front leg to straighten completely almost simultaneously when my plant foot landed.

Hammer,

It sounds to me that you have a good understanding of things as they should be. Yes, the “stay back” stuff is outdated. I suggest that when you hear “stay back” that you interpret it not as “keep everything back” but as “keep your head and shoulders slightly in back of the front hip”. Try to lead with your front hip longer into your stride. Get those hips going sooner and faster. Build that momentum. Lengthen that stride. Do this as much as your functional strength and flexibility allow while maintaining good posture and balance. Don’t get caught leaning back towards 2B. Head stays over belly button.

As for the front leg issue, I wouldn’t worry about it. With good momentum and stride length, it will probably take care of itself. Of course, you should make sure you have good functional strength in the legs because you do want to plant on a bent front leg and you need the strength for the front leg to be able to firm up and brace without having to straighten out.

Hammer,

You have not gotten good advice. As a young pitcher, you don’t have the strength to stay tall and upright. Good balance ensures that your head stays relatively level as you move towards home plate. You need to establish your balance point before you start your pitch so you can generate maximum momentum, of which their are two types–directional and rotational. After you are balanced properly, which means down in as much of a crouch as you need to maintain balance, you need to get your fanny moving to the plate (eyes locked on the target and head level through the delivery). There is no drop and drive. If you get your butt moving fast, footstrike should occur one second or less after your butt starts moving. Your posture should be upright as you move your body forward–head and shoulders behind your butt. At footstrike, your hips should not be open to the plate. Open your hips to the plate right at footstrike and hold your shoulders back as you move forward (body squared up to the plate after hip rotation). Your shoulders will move quickly to release point at about 75 to 80% of stride length. This is where you generate rotational momentum–which creates about 80% of your speed–to build on your directional momentum (moving forward). Dropping and driving does not generate speed for you–it throws you off balance. Speed comes from timing your hip and shoulder rotation around your spine to release point. You will need to do this consistently to the same release point each time. There are other aspects to timing, but I find they need to be shown (hard to describe without a lot of words).

Posting a video allows for specific advice.

[quote=“Knightbird”]You need to establish your balance point before you start your pitch so you can generate maximum momentum, …[/quote]I don’t subscribe to this recommendation. Establishing your balance point stops all movement right there, and you must then start all over again. The rocker step and the turn into the balance point is of no use in this scenario. Why not just start at the balance point if you can generate maximum momentum from there?

[quote=“Knightbird”]At footstrike, your hips should not be open to the plate.[/quote]I have not been able to find any videos of high level pitchers who’s hips are not open at footstrike. It is essential in the load and unload process that the hips open into footstrike.

There are no pitchers in the big leagues that don’t have their hips at the very least slightly open prior to their plant foot hitting the ground.

I was just practicing this momentum idea yesterday and without question i gives me a more aggressive finish. I think it may even give me more hand speed when it’s all said and done. I still have two more questions.

A) While allowing my momentum to release forward DURING the leglift, it’s somewhat difficult to get my leg to the “peak” of it’s previous height when I used to stay back. I guess that comes with not trusting this new delivery. How much higher does my leg lift need to go? Currently it’s an inch or two above parallel to the ground.

B) Through gaining momentum I think it’s going to be very important to have the strength and stability from the ground up to the hand to maintain this new found energy. How important is forearm strength and hand strength?

Take a look at Mark Prior and Pedro Matinez side by side on the video page of MLB pitchers. http://www.pitchingclips.com/players/mark_prior.htm Both pitchers are at footstrike before they rotate their hips. You don’t need to subscribe to this if you don’t care about gaining all of the speed you are able to out of your body. Timing is critical to fast and accurate pitching. It is this sequencing that provides most of your velocity and as you can see, even in the slower motion of the videos, the rotation for both Prior and Martinez is quick. It takes about a quarter of a second to get from footstrike to release, and a lot has to happen in that time. Will you lose all of your speed if you are already into hip rotation at footstrike? No you won’t. But at the highly competitive levels of the MLB, It all helps.

And balance does help. I didn’t suggest that you find your balance while you are in your motion. I suggested having it as you begin your motion with your first movement forward. If you cannot get to footstrike without good balance and postural stability, you cannot get the most out of your momentum. This is what happens during the stretch. You have balance before you get your motion. I don’t believe the step in helps all that much.

DM, Knightbird sounds very much like a House guy (Knightbird, no offense is meant by that. I am NPA-certified.) So I’m going to guess that his use of the term “balance point” was unfortunate and was not meant to mean what you or I normally interpret it to mean. Instead, I’m guessing he was referring to a starting posture. One of House’s tactics for dealing with balance and posture issues is to have pitchers adopt a starting posture which they have the functional strength to maintain through the delivery. That results in minimal inappropriate head movement. The usual tactic is to lower the center of gravity by bending the knees and maybe bending forward slightly at the waist. If you watch closely, many pitchers start off standing up straight and then they adjust to this posture during their stride. The problem with that is there is too much unwanted head movement and that means there is energy being exerted in directions other than toward the target.

Knightbird, correct me if I’m wrong here.

Most pitchers don’t have enough flexibility to open the front into foot plant yet keep the hips 100% closed. Most pitchers need to start opening the hips to let the foot open up to the point the toes point at the target. The key is to open the hips only as much as is necessary at foot plant. Hip rotation is maximized by delaying it until the front foot has planted and the front leg has firmed up and braced. That stops the forward motion of the front hip and causes the back hip to rotate around the front hip more explosively.

Knightbird pointed out two pitchers who can keep their hips closed into foot plant. I was familiar that Prior did that but not Pedro. In any case, it is my perception that guys like that are the exceptions and that most pitchers must start to open the hips to allow the front foot to open up.

[quote]I was just practicing this momentum idea yesterday and without question i gives me a more aggressive finish. I think it may even give me more hand speed when it’s all said and done. I still have two more questions.

A) While allowing my momentum to release forward DURING the leglift, it’s somewhat difficult to get my leg to the “peak” of it’s previous height when I used to stay back. I guess that comes with not trusting this new delivery. How much higher does my leg lift need to go? Currently it’s an inch or two above parallel to the ground.[/quote]
By maintaining your normal knee lift height, your front leg has to be quicker through knee lift and out front into foot plant. This will definitely be uncomfortable at first. Stick with it and it will gradually become more comfortable. Maybe implement it as a series of smaller adjustments instead of one big adjustment. Also, note that this will require more core strength to stabilize the torso while moving faster down the hill.

The forearm/hand is the last link in the kinetic chain. Since you’re only as strong as your weakest link, you obviously need proper strength there (primarily in the flexor muscles of the forearm). But I don’t think there is a need to go overboard. I have my pitchers do a number of forearm, palm and fingertip presses during our warm-ups. (I incorporate some strength and flexibility work into our dynamic warm-ups to “kill two birds with one stone”.)