Minor League…first of all great discussion; I love this stuff and thank you for helping me to remain open minded as well as conitinue learning the game.
In response to your post let me first say that I don’t believe I mentioned any thing to do with “stopping” if I did that was my mistake and if I inferred that it would also have been a mistake.
Before I continue let me offer up these examples as part of my opinion regarding all of this since you gave selected big league pitchers as examples.
Clay Bucholz, Johan Santana, Jeff Supan and Cliff Lee are four guys that are regarded by many in professional ranks as well as outside of that arena who have superior mechancis; top 1 or 2% in the professional game. Not one of these guys starts forward right away.
Now of course we could start discussing slide steps and we would open up a whole new can of topic here but lets just stick with what we both have started.
By contrasting comparison to these four guys I use as examples Chris Carpenter and Scott Williamson. These two guys have arguably some of the worst pitching mechanics in professional baseball. Both of them start forward nearly right away, their leg lifts are still trying to be completed as they are about half way to front side landing point. In my opinion as well as many others part of their problems with slot and a long list of other things is due to the fact that they are getting out front far too quickly.
Now obviously we are not talking about comparing Carpenter and Williamson to say what Oswalt does but all three of them basically do the same thing as it pertains to what you suggest pitchers should do and that is start forward first. Simply stated Carpenter and Williamson are no Roy Oswalt and they can’t do it. If they can’t do it with the guidance of their professional coaches then I would imagine youth players in general with the levels of instruction they receive more often then not would struggle not in merely doing it because anyone can do it but having proper slot and front side mechanics if they were doing it.
If were to talk about the stretch lets look at Any Petite. He could in no way shape or form have one of the best pick off moves baseball ever seen if he started forward first from his stretch position…he goes back to go forward…excluding again of course slide steps.
Reiterating there is not stop at any point in time during a pitcher’s motion even at balance point.
To eliminate rearward movement potentially creates many problems and if that is not the case difficulties moving forward espcially for young athletes who are not muscle mass coordinated enough to pull this technique off.
In reference to your question let me break down my side of things this way.
It is easy for a youth pitcher to lift his leg in a controlled manner moving slightly away from target to help him get balanced and go backwards to help him gain momentum eventually to go forward. Load.
Again this approach helps a pitcher especially young one in getting to some type of balance position before the wheels all fall off and he starts drifting and falling to the plate with perhaps his arm dragging and potentially many other things.
At the balance point there is absolutely no stop and the moving of the body towards the the target is a directional approach that again is assisted by gaining some type of balance if due to no other reason then helping to not rush and achieve the optimal directional path (no flying open) towards the target.
With the immediately aforementioned being stated from a stretch position in order to lift the lead leg off the grond even one inch unless using a slide step the pitchers weight abslutely has to transger back wards. The higher the leg lift the more backwards load that can be created and yes too much is not a good thing either…my point is simple physics…if one stands on both feet regardless if they are close together or far apart if they lift one of them off the ground their weight will transfer to the one that stays on the ground.
Unless as you suggest they immediately start forward to the plate when their front foot comes off the ground which to me would be a slide step. However if they immediately start forward with their upper half while using a leg lift in my humble opinion the problem that has been created is as follows; you have a leg lift that is going up and probably back to some degree yet you have an upper half that is going forward…the two are fighting one another…doing this will ultimately have some affects in most cases on slot, and the hand speed needed at separation in order to pull this off…asking a young kid to do this is going to be difficult.
Regarding your comment “…and then move his entire body from this stopped position toward the target all the while standing on one foot or would it be easier to initiate movement in only one direction towards the target while standing essentially on both feet.”
The whole premise behind pitching is to move ones body forward towards the target and unless we are using a slide step this begins to take place at varying points while the pitcher has only one foot on the ground.
In answer to your question yes it would be easier to initiate movement in only one direction but with that come other poor mechanical variables that can take place…especially in young pitchers…arm lagging behind because they are unable to speed it up and get into slot…hips flying open, torso flying open, landing too short, not getting out front…depending on the pitcher many things could negatively happen…then again depedning on the pitcher they all may work even if the pitcher had achieved zero balance at any point in their delivery. However at say high school and below levels the likelihood of kids being able to properly achieve sound mechanics is in my opinion going to be very difficult.
What is easy to me is…teach a pitcher a smooth and controlled leg lift to a maximuim height with the kneee that pitcher is capable of no lower then the waist. Simply in order to attain any type of a balance position there need not be a stop but especially in young pitchers it is of my belief that they set themselves up for failure on the front side if their leg is still coming up while they are falling, moving or drifting forward.
All the pitchers you used as examples are experienced enough to keep their back knee over their pivot foot for a frame or two in order to achieve their varying balance points…this is extrememly hard to do.
All the pitchers I used as examples who have the best mechanics in the game at the professional level all go backwards to go forwards. They get to a balance point stay there in relation to where their back shoulder his, their back knee and still manage to get the momentum going from back to balance and then to front without stopping.
In regards to stopping I would never teach this but for a youth player who was struggling to achieve balance and was doing other things wrong becuase of no balance I would literally rather have then stop for a split second then be all out of sorts falling towards the plate because they had no balance at all to begin with.
I certainly understand with and agree to many of your points but my confusion lies in the fact that it seems to me that achieving balance of any sort in a delivery would not be something you agree on. Therefore you are in a sense throwing out the window what has been a mainstay of pitching for years and is still a cornerstone of pitching at any level.
The question I would like to respecftully pose to you so I can better understand where you are coming from is…what would you teach a pitcher to do from the wind up position in terms of their leg lift, balance point if there is one, the initial position of the hands, the position of the hands apon separation and perhaps most importantly how would you teach the wind up to a pitcher that is long downwards out of the glove with his arm action…after all this type of pitcher in merely going foward right away towards the target is going to have to play a ton of catch up to even get close to slot because his front side will be ready to do every thing and his arm will not even be close.
Also is it easier to teach a pitcher especially young one to “speed up their hands” in order to play catch up with their body or would it be easier to teach and more importantly easier for the young hurler to grasp if they were taught to go back a bit, to stay back a bit but not stop and get every thing in order before they start a front side explosion to the plate?
Again man I love the discussion I really do. I look forward to any and all of your comments…thanks for loving the game and giving back to it like I do!