Throwing across your body

I noticed towards the end of the past season, which is when I was enjoying the most success, that the point where my lead foot hit the ground was off to the third-base side from where my back foot touches the rubber (I’m a righty).

I am wondering how this would effect velocity and control.

I am also wondering: is this is an indication that I’m not allowing my hips to fully rotate?

Interestingly — I do remember reading here once or twice that you actually pick up velocity by throwing across your body like that.

So am I then wrong to hypothesize that by throwing kind of across your body like that (ah la Jimmy Key) that you’re cutting off hip rotation too early.

It’s worth pointing out again that during this period of landing toward third that I was really on fire, on a roll. I wasn’t conciously trying to step that way, but I was doing it nonetheless.

How far were you off? That plays a big part in answering your questions.

[quote]I am wondering how this would effect velocity and control.
I am also wondering: is this is an indication that I’m not allowing my hips to fully rotate?[/quote]
I believe that throwing across your body can cause velocity, control, and health issues. First, as you mentioned, you will not get your hips fully squared up to your target and this means to me that you won’t be fully utilizing your hip rotation. The result is a loss of velocity (although I believe it to be minimal) and, more importantly, more stress on the arm since you’re not fully utilizing your body to throw with. Also, unless you’re able to really open up your front foot and plant it so it’s pointing to the target, you’ll put more stress on the front hip, knee and ankle joints since your foot will be closed off yet your shoulders will still try to square up to the target and rotate around further than your lower body. In other words, you’re gonna’ twist up the front leg. This is wear and tear your body doesn’t need.

Finally, there is a control issue depending on how far off to the closed side you stride. The issue is that even though the lower body strides off to the closed side, the upper body will still try to square up to the target. If it is able to do so via rotation only, then maybe this issue goes away. But the farther off you are, the harder it is to square up using shoulder rotation only. If you don’t square up, then you risk health issues in the shoulder due to the shoulder being forced closer to a limit of its range of motion. But what often happens is that the torso bends sideways towards the target at the waste. This posture change can lead to a lack of control.

That doesn’t make sense to me.

Yes. If you accept that the shoulders are going to try to square up to the target then, when you stride closed, the hips will stop short of being squared up. So, compared to how far the shoulders rotate, the hips don’t rotate as far.

It goes back to my first question about how far off you were. I’m guessing it wasn’t a lot. But that little bit might have actually worked out for you timing-wise. Of course, I can only speculate without seeing you pitch.

When I have a pitcher the strides closed only a little bit, the first adjustment I try it to just move them to the glove side of the rubber. This minimizes how much they have to “turn the corner” to get squared up to the target and increases the chance they can square up using only shoulder rotation.

I think this is possible, but not always the case.

It depends on things like how closed you stride and how much you reverse-rotate your shoulders.

I prefer that my guys stride pretty much directly at the target as Sandy Koufax is doing in the photo below…

It wasn’t a lot.

When I would look down on the mound to see my foot prints, the landing was just about right next to where there would be a straight line running back to the point on the rubber where my back foot toes would be during leg lift.

I think this whole thing may have been a result of trying to stay closed during my stride because I know I have a tendancy to fly open too soon if I’m not careful.

I would like to think that keeping my stride off to third base a bit helped my timing. I mean, the results were there. It’s hard to argue with that, right…

There’s somewhat of a tendency for breaking ball pitchers to throw across their body. Watch Zito or Zach Duke for example. It is one of those things pitchers start doing because it works for them. That doesn’t mean it is without risk or that it will always work.

Then the next question is could you have made a different and possibly better mechanical adjustment to get the same timing improvement? Are you now compromising one aspect of your mechanics to make up for a flaw in another aspect? I can’t answer that except to say that it’s certainly a possibility. I’d hate to see you start striding closed if there was a better way to improve your timing. For example, if you were openign the shoulders early, then getting into foot strike quicker might have been a good way to change your timing and prevent that from happening.

getting into the foot strike quicker … something to consider, something to chew on…

To get into foot strike quicker, push the hips sideways to get them going both sooner and faster without sacrificing your knee lift.

who’s a good big leaguer to look at for this? Who gets into foot strike rather quickly? I’m thinking Oswalt, but any others come to mind?

I’m hesitant to say look at this pitcher or that pitcher. There isn’t an absolute measure of quickness into foot strike. It’s relative to you and your mechanics and timing. I’d recommend taking one of two approaches. One approach is to simply make the adjustments I described above to see if you can avoid flying open while striding straight toward the target (assuming that’s what you did before making the adjustment to stride closed). The second approach is to have someone actually put a clock on you to time your delivery from first forward motion until foot strike. See where you are at then decide if you need to speed it up. Last year, Tom House was recommending being in the range of .95 to 1.05 seconds into foot strike. But more recently he’s saying that pitchers who are good at this can get into the .85 to .95 second range. This will give you a quantitative way to assess yourself and the result of any adjustments you make.

Hey Roger, along these lines, I know you talk a lot about getting the hips going early… I’ve tried to practice this recently in that as I swing my leg up it’s almost like a step forward, shifting my weight ahead of the rubber.

I gotta say, it’s very uncomfortable and totally throws off my timing. Is this typically something that is tough to do, tough to master.

Conversely, I remember reading in this book, ‘a pithcer’s story’, where David Cone said he likes to stay back, keep his weight over the rubber as long as he can … I’m tellin you, he said that. Maybe Cone just isn’t so good at articulating what he means, but it’s defintly a different school of through, right?

I just completed a frame by frame analysis of Dizzy Dean that’s a great example of what this looks like…

Watch how he gets his lower body moving toward the plate even before he breaks his hands.

Chris, good stuff, right at clip 25 you can see he’s already moving forward…

It’s like, as his hips move out, he’s leaning back with his top half… if you look at clip 27, it’s like his right side is forming the letter C.

Now, Roger, the benefit to getting moving early like that is power, right? You supposedly generate more powerful momentum this way?

Yeah, this is Tom House stuff (although I believe there are others - Paul Nyman? - who also agree with it). Obviously, not everyone agrees with House. But I’ve seen House work with pitchers who were opening up or falling off to the side and this adjustment of getting into foot strike quicker works.

Any deviation you make from your normal routine will seem like a big change regardless of what the change is. So, to a certain extent, you will have to practice it enough to get comfortable with it. But it will also affect your timing so you will have to figure that out. For example, you might have to shorten your arm swing or change the location of where you break the hands.

A lot of pitchers have been able to be successful while doing things like “staying back”. But, according to Tom House, that injects a lot of extra time into your delivery - time for the body to mess things up (like opening the shoulders before the lower half is ready).

In general, when the timing of one part of the body doesn’t match the timing of another part, you have a situation where one part is faster and the other part is slower. In the past, coaches often tried to get the fast part to slow down because it was viewed as rushing. Well, do you really want to slow down the fast part of your body? Shouldn’t you speed up the slow part? Remember, you need to build momentum so that you can transfer that into velocity. Now the trick is to do it in a way that helps you stay healthy. It turns out that getting into foot strike quicker lets you build momentum and it keeps you from opening up too soon which, in turn, allows you to throw with your body instead of just with your arm.

[quote=“andrew.ra.”]Chris, good stuff, right at clip 25 you can see he’s already moving forward…

It’s like, as his hips move out, he’s leaning back with his top half… if you look at clip 27, it’s like his right side is forming the letter C.[/quote]
Your head and shoulders should stay behind his hips - but not too much. You want to lead with the hips but you don’t want to create a poor posture issue.

As I said in my previous post, getting moving early does a number of things. It helps you build momentum which should translate into velocity. It takes away extra time for your body to screw up (like opening up early). And it helps you better use your body to throw which eases the stress on the arm because you’re not trying to just chuck the ball with all arm.

I was just going through my motion here in the conference room at work, trying to get the hips going… I think you might be onto something about it taking away the time for you to open up too early… I’m gonna keep trying to feel comfortable with it … the off season is a time for tweaking.

If it’s possible for you (time, location and $$$), you might try hooking up with an NPA-certified instructor. Look here to see if there is one in your area: NPA Certified Coaches

Cool. Thanks Roger. That’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. I was doing google searches of ‘new york’ ‘pitching coach’ ‘pitching instructor’ etc. and it was getting frustrated.

Do you know the NY NY guy, Michael McGuire? I’m gonna contact him tommorrow.

The two Connecticut guys are close to me too. Do you know them?

Unfortunately, I don’t know any of those guys.

Keep in mind that it’s not a given that all the guys listed on the NPA website give lessons. Some of them are high school or college coaches and don’t necessarily offer lessons outside of their programs.

I find it interesting when players describe their own mechanics. Not that they’re wrong, they just don’t always see things the way someone else would.

This first photo shows that while Cone is trying to stay back, and he does, his staying back is mostly with his upper body. His hips look like they are leading the way. I know still photos are not the best to use, but I think this gets the point across.

In the second photo, he looks like he is trying to keep his weight back over the rubber as he said, but that doesn’t change the fact that he probably led with his hips.