Throw it as hard as you can?

My son is 9 and is just starting to pitch this year. He throws very hard for his age, but when he gets in games he has a tendency to “dial it back” just a bit and throw at maybe 90% of the velocity he is capable of. He is having a lot of success because he is throwing a lot strikes this way and still throwing hard enough to overpower hitters, but is this best for his long term development? Or would it be better for him to throw as hard as he can at this age even if it means more walks, wild pitches etc.?

That’s fine. Better to learn control and focus. It’ll stay with him his whole life. The arm speed, whether he’s using it every pitch or just once a game, is still there. The power continues to develop if genetically he’s inclined to throw that way. Throwing at 90%, or even 75%, helps the catcher as well. :slight_smile:

Welcome aboard!

Tell you what, get a bucket of ball and throw say…60 pitches as hard as you can and see how your arm feels…Every kid I’ve seen that’s gassed it every pitch has ended up with arm problems.

Not to be an azz, but your son’s job as a pitcher is to get outs, not to impress the other parents/dad’s friends with his velo…

Get a good radar gun and shoot him at 70-90% and then 100, you just might be surprised.

Not to be an azz, but your son’s job as a pitcher is to get outs, not to impress the other parents/dad’s friends with his velo…

Get a good radar gun and shoot him at 70-90% and then 100, you just might be surprised.[/quote]

Good point. My son pitched his last scrimmage this week before the real games begin. He slowed it down to make it easier on the catchers. Results were 8Ks (6 looking), a little grounder to 2nd, no walks, no hits, no errors. Walked away with a smile on just 42 pitches.

After the game he said he has better control when he slows it down. When he throws it @ 100%, he feels his head swinging way to the side and doesn’t see the plate. That tends to lead to a Randy Johnson / John Kruk moment, which is very funny.

I’m no pitcher, but what I think is:

it’s like batting… if you swing too hard, your form goes to pot and you can’t hit anything. There’s a right level of intensity: full force, not holding anything back, but not pushing to the point where you lose control.

I think the same thing is true for pitching. Also, experiments with measuring pitch speed for my kid have shown me that a “110%” effort pitch isn’t really much (any?) faster than typical cruising speed.

If he’s still overpowering the kids at 90%, it’s clear he’s not just tossing darts… I’d stick with the 90%.

At that age, THROW IT AS HARD AS YOU CAN. He has plenty of time to learn the finer points of pitching. I’ve heard people say “they never forget how to throw hard” but I think most kids never learn how to throw hard because of the fear put into them in our society with “Throwing hard will hurt your arm”.

I disagree with most people here. Focusing on control over velocity at a young age doesn’t sit right with me. You can throw hard and have no control and still get drafted high, but if you have control and no velocity you probably won’t get drafted at all. An example would be a kid I played against in high school, he threw around 92-93 mph from a low 3/4 lefty arm angle, but he couldn’t hit his spots to save his life. Would strike out 10-13 a game but would walk 8-10. He got drafted in the 6th round by the Boston Red Sox, now he is in AA throwing 94-95 from a slightly lower arm angle and hitting all his spots. Major League teams know that you can’t teach velocity but you can teach control. At a young age when your body is still developing, you want to throw as hard as possible. Your body will automatically adjust to the throwing motion that creates the most velocity, as you get older and those mechanics become imprinted in your brain, thats when you work on control because then you’ll still maintain the velocity.

The answer isn’t necessarily the same for everyone. Like alot of things, the answer may be more complex than an either/or scenario. You can’t underestimate the value of successful experiences on the mound. That may contribute more to his positive development than focusing on one thing at the expense of others. There is also no reason you can’t develop a plan that incorporates “intent” or purposeful concentration on throwing harder through more efficient mechanics and a strength/flexibility program. You also can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Don’t sacrifice arm health for a few mph especially when he is successful and dominant currently. While we are telling stories:

Locally, my son was always in competition with another kid for the top pitching spot on the local team, high school and tournament teams. My son dialed it back a little with average speed…good location, a ground ball getter. He was always tall, now at 6’8". The other guy had an above average fastball, blew it by batters, high in the zone and day to day you never knew what you were going to get. He was small, now 5’10". He could have three or four perfect innings throwing smoke or just as easily bean three batters in a row and not ever find the strikezone, throw forty pitches in the first inning and be done. It was like this since he was nine and it is still like this today. Both played in college and both performed the same way there too. A story doesn’t prove a theory. This one only proves that pitchers are different. So what applies to one may not to another. You have to tailor your approach to each individual and hope it maximizes their talent.

The bottom line in baseball is to get outs.

HartfordHawks13 said,

I’ll disagree with a caveat. What I mean is, Major League teams start with velocity as a filter. There are so many guys throwing hard that if you are under a certain speed on the radar, you aren’t even “on their radar.” That is not due to philosophy, that is just because they can and still have alot of styles and make ups to chose from. It’s safe. There are plenty of pitching coaches, including those with Major League experience who believe they can teach velocity and a fair amount of evidence to prove it. My son has never hit 90 mph but I could fill a school bus up of pitching coaches who have tried to teach him and there are still more waiting. If you repeat a myth long enough and loud enough it will eventually be accepted as fact. Jamie Moyer just pitched against the Pittsburgh Pirates last night and probably didn’t top out at 80 mph plus or minus a little.

If you want to garner Major League attention, throw hard. If you want to be a well rounded pitcher who contributes to your team, get outs. If you want to do both, then do both.

Dino, I agree with your statement to an extent (not trying to attack you just setting up a debate so people can learn)

Guys like Moyer and Maddux may be the last of there kind. There probably are guys in the minor with similar stuff as they had but will probably never touch the Major League. Also with the statement I made about MLB teams can teach control but not velocity I didn’t mean like maybe squeeze 5mph out of a guy throwing 85 to bring him up to 90 because that has been done (example would be JP Howell off the top of my head) I’m more talking along the lines of a guy like Jamie Moyer (who’s fastball is an average high school pitchers velocity) and making him throw 90. Velocity can be taught up until a certain age, like me being 19 and throwing along the lines of 84, I know I’ll never be able to throw 95-100 but I see 89-90 within my range. And sometimes teams will make a trade off by taking a guy who throws 95 and slowly him down to 90 to gain control. The statement I made was vague but there is a little validity to it along with the statement you made against it.

HartfordHawks13 said,

I follow this logic and I agree with it to an extent. It certainly will work for a portion of the developing pitchers but I think there is a certain percentage that will end up without the control that is necessary to be reliable on the mound. I know…in MLB velocity is the base foundation from which they work and then the finer points are taught, location and change of speed as well as game management, movement, control of the running game, and mental toughness. In college, it’s been my observation that they want it both but will be satisfied if you can get outs and not put people on base for free. A college coach will shut you down in a heartbeat for walking more than one single batter. He has too many arms to choose from.

And in the same way, if you teach a kid to locate his pitches and don’t get to the part where he is maximizing his speed potential, then you have the exact opposite problem. He gets out of whack when you try to get a few more mph out of him.

Here’s where I think you’ve got to have a very good pitching coach who knows when to talk about effort and when to talk about being smart with your pitches. To me, there’s just no doubt about it, pitching is an art and there is more than one way to create a masterpiece and MANY fail to do so.

And that brings me to the failure part, which is what I think the original poster was getting at. How do I minimize the risk of failure? Concentrate on throwing hard? Or on control?

Here’s where it gets philosophical for me. Most people spend their lives deciding before hand what they can and cannot do. They set up artificial limitations and then document their own failures. The biggest hindrance to achievement is believing all the myths that are repeated by others who want us to be just like them…hopeless failures. There is no secret method to winning the lottery of life. It takes concentrated effort, total commitment and sacrifice. You don’t wait for something good to happen, you make it happen. Achieving a goal is 80% attitude and 20% technique.

So whether it’s control that comes first or velocity…in the end, success or failure is going to depend on attitude, desire and just plain stubborn hard work. If that isn’t there…then you aren’t going to the top of the mountain.

What a good recipe for success. I think this hits it out the park. Too many times kids are given limitations and are set up for failure at an early age.

One of which, in my opinion, would be to throw as hard as possible and worry about location later. Should they throw with intent at an early age? Sure, but there is more to it than throwing hard. What is wrong with teaching the proper mechanics to achieve velocity and control at age, say, 9?

It seems the more a kid is taught about the art of pitching at an earlier age, the more successful pitcher he will become, no matter how far he goes. We always use what MLB scouts are looking for as the basis for what we preach. There is a whole lot of baseball to be played before professional considerations. I’ve seen alot of kids throw really hard at younger ages and they are the heroes of their travel teams, LL teams, etc. Problem is some of these guys aren’t complete pitchers, they get to HS and although impressive in bullpen sessions, good hitters will catch up to there once overpowering fastball or the control is lacking. Now they are stuck scrambling for ways to get outs.

So, yes, kids should be taught from a young age to throw hard with intent to do so. But, they should also put just as much focus on controlling their pitches, ALL of their pitches

I believe that successful pitching is a holistic thing, without fundementals, proper diet, solid strategic knowledge, arm care and maintenance that is regularly practiced…grades, dedication, additional effort, at some point the endeavor will fail…they pay millions because it is harder to do than most anything out there…Faint of heart need not apply…or at least they need to understand that at some point they will be in the stands.
Even with all of those attributes, one ill timed or unfortunate moment and it’s over.
So if you think emphasizing one aspect over others is the way…well good luck to your student, he’s going to be challenged to compensate for all of the other aspects he lets fall to the side as he develops.
Intent is a very important aspect to reaching the upper tier of the strata…but if you have let areas go that are important augmentations to that…imo you are negligent.

The original line of thought was the 9 year old already throws hard. This is a huge starting advantage in pitching. Throwing hard doesn’t have to be taught when it’s natural.

The art of pitching, though, needs to be taught. The artistry is an ongoing process. Pitch location, changing velocity, throwing with different grips, gaining a comfort zone on the mound, mound presence, fielding, etc - - these are taught and go beyond the natural ability to throw hard. Inpressive is a 12 year old who not only throws hard but has command of his pitches and presence on the mound. Wild fear is conjured up when I think about a hard throwing 12 year old who can’t find the plate.

If a 9 year old throws hard for his age at 9, most likely, he’ll throw hard at 12 as well. I like what JD says, [quote]" believe that successful pitching is a holistic thing, without fundementals, proper diet, solid strategic knowledge, arm care and maintenance that is regularly practiced…grades, dedication, additional effort, at some point the endeavor will fail…they pay millions because it is harder to do than most anything out there…Faint of heart need not apply…or at least they need to understand that at some point they will be in the stands. [/quote] I would add to JD’s list learning respect and learning how to play with others as character traits that goes along with the physical aspects of becoming a ballplayer.

Personally, I feel that people over value velocity way to much and that they undervalue Control and Movement. Speed is defiantly valuable, but no more valuable than control and movement. A good example of this would be Jared Weaver, his fastball hardly brushed 90 in his No Hitter yesterday. The reason he did well is because he had good control and movement. Additionally, the fastball is only one pitch, 99% of pitchers have at least 3 pitches, an exception would probably be Mariano Rivera. The point is that you need all speed, movement, and control to truly be a successful pitcher.

Velocity is so important since most coaches feel like they can teach control and repeatable mechanics but they can’t really teach velocity. So basically coaches look for velocity that they can coach into location and speed differences.

I would agree

I would agree as well with one exception.

I think to a certain extent that velocity can be taught

Well I said it’s a general feeling of coaches looking to recruit and eventually draft players, not saying that velocity isn’t something that isn’t a “coached” activity, but generally what would they be happy having, “velocity”!

As a follow up to my original post, he has already intuitively figured out how to pace himself as he pitches. He will “bring it” with 2 strikes or when the other team’s best hitters are up, but also knows when he can back off just a bit. He has only walked 3 in 8 innings of pitching which is very good for a 9 year old that is just learning to pitch. I think there have only been 4 balls put in play against him.

Sounds good, nice low numbers of walks, I would be careful with feeling good about only 4 balls put in play on him though…to keep pitch counts down, you need more balls in play. Look for the 3-10 pitch innings if possible.