Tilt/Arm slot

My son is a hard throwing 10 year old pitcher (esp. for his size), with excellent accuracy [about 5:1 K/BB during our travel ball season against good competition].

I was looking at photos of my son pitching and noticed that he has, what looked to me like, a significant amount of shoulder tilt when he throws. I noticed some other good pitchers do this too, but a lot don’t. Is this an issue or a matter of preference/body mechanics?

See (my son compared to Lincecum at about the same point):

Also, Felix Hernandez tilting:

If I recall, we had a discussion on this a while back that led to some excellent feedback. An upright head is preferred. But I think it’s more important that the head be steady than perfectly upright.

Left pic is early Clemens in Toronto. He fixed his head later in his career w/ the Yanks.

That said, your son’s head is quite a bit more tilted than Lincecum’s and Clemens’s.

Additionally, I’m wondering if he might have a little more stride in him? His lead leg is a bit more flexed at the knee at foot strike than Lincecum’s, and his back foot is just in front of the rubber in these pics while Lincecum’s back foot has already started to pull off. In other words, Lincecum’s gaining much more ground (momentum toward home plate) with his delivery.

The tilting of the shoulder is completely fine. It is just the result of changing arm angles properly. The correct way to change arm angles (i.e. 3/4, over the top, submarine, and sidearm) is by tilting the shoulder in either direction so as to keep the elbow slightly above shoulder level. Your son is throwing over the top as with Lincecum and Felix (although it is a little unfair with felix as he appears to be throwing a curveball and could be trying to get more of a 12-6 break on his pitch while lincecum is throwing a fastball in the picture shown). You can see similar shoulder tilt of the opposite angle in submarine pitchers.

To me it also looks like your son could be stepping to the plate vs striding (by that I mean he opens his hips up way to early and his foot is pointed at the plate probably very early in mid air vs keeping the foot pointed towards third base as long as possible to create maximum torque with the hips, whipping the arm through).

Here’s a side view of his stride…

as far as the stride goes, it looks good in that picture

Very hard to make a distinction with these stills and the angle that they’re taken from.

Generally the amount of tilt (shoulder tilt in the Coronal plane or 1st base/3rd base plane) is determined by the arm slot (higher arm slots generally make you tilt more so the body clears the way for the arm to come through). The head generally will stay perpendicular to the shoulders.

It does look like your son tilts his head even more than that. This may be caused by the amount of “intent” he is using to throw the ball and how/when he is applying it.

Would be good to see some video of him throwing (BTW it looks like he can really sling it 8)) to make any further comments.

A few things from the last photo you posted:

  1. Notice his back heel coming up from the rubber. At this point, the entire foot should be rooted to the ground as he drives it down and back. He should work on turning the foot down and inward - rolling it on the inside of his foot. Usually when the heel comes up this early, the back knee is turning in, which leads to early hip rotation.

  2. Even though he has shoulder tilt due to his arm slot (and, yes, significant head tilt), he also is tilting back toward second base too much. I know many pitchers do this but ideally you want to keep “the nose over the belly button” throughout the delivery. Everything needs to come to the plate as one unit - as it is, his lower body is going forward and his upper body is leaning backward.

  3. In this position, his pitching arm should be flexed with the hand and elbow at shoulder height. In other words, his arm is up too early in the delivery. A later hand break coupled with an explosive delivery usually corrects this timing issue. Get the body moving first and get the arm involved as late as possible for better whipping action (“the body delivers the ball, the arm goes along for the ride”).

In the 2nd pic, how does his arm/leg position differ from where Halladay is at pretty much the same part of his motion?


This is where he is slightly earlier in his windup:

As good as Halladay is, I wouldn’t emulate his mechanics. He doesn’t get the most out of his body, in my opinion. Look at his back leg - not close to full extension. He has a short stride, too. BUT, notice that his front foot has turned to land… this is the point that the arm gets moving toward the high cocked position and then reaches the high cocked position once the front leg is down and braced. With the pic of your son, notice his front foot is still sideways; he hasn’t turned it to land yet. Check out this pic of Nolan Ryan - notice his entire back foot is still rooted to the ground in front of the rubber, his front foot is still sideways, just starting to turn toward the target, and then look where his pitching arm/hand is at this point - this is ideal.

The American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) did a study and concluded that slight amounts of tilt create significant increases in load on the throwing arm. The kid who pitched for Curacao in the Little League World Series and few years back tilted significantly (more than your son). This kid just recently had Tommy John surgery.

Tilting will usually cause a pitcher’s shoulders to rotate early which reduces stride length and pulls the release point back and up (which gives the batter more time to see and react to the ball and it makes it more difficult to get over the top of the ball when throwing curves).

Roger, thanks for your post. I posted these pics on the ASMI site to get feedback to see if there was any cause for concern.

Apparently, the main issue is if the elbow is out of line with the shoulders. I don’t see that here (if you draw a line from my son’s shoulders the elbow seems that it would be in-line with his shoulders, in both his early stage wind-up and arm slot).


Just noticed another shoulder tilter (Jered Weaver):

Agreed that the shoulder tilt is not a major HEALTH issue as long as the elbow is in line with the tilt (although I find it interesting that the study was done with “simulated pitching” and not actual pitching - would that cause a different outcome?). The bigger issues (for optimal mechanics) are: 1) the head tilt - usually causes decreased accuracy; 2) the rearward lean/tilt - causes weight shift issues and slows the body down; 3) early hand break - causes poor timing/arm up too early.

Structuredoc, is this similar to what your referencing re leaning back (upper body leaning back while lower body is moving foward)?

Yes and no… Pettite does keep his nose over his belly button, which is what I like to see throughout the delivery - in his case, at this point in his delivery, rather than a real rearward tilt, he just has his glove side arm raised too high for my liking. I prefer that pitchers look down the arm and use the elbow as a site like shooting a rifle. Notice where his pitching arm is in relation to his stride - late arm action, very nice!

Someone should’ve told this guy how bad tilting rearward is:


Disagree with this also. Tilting (rearward) is simply loading. Some guys to it to get more behind the ball when they throw. Some don’t. IMO has nothing to do with slowing the body down.

Tilting that slows the body down is confusing cause and effect (to me at least).

Do keep in mind dad, that the pictures of the men that your placing your son next to, and receiving opinions and suggestions, are mature, seasoned professionals. Their growth and other issues realted to youth are over.

And yes, good posture and form does have a common thread, BUT, you’re trying to obtain some what of a constant that will benefit your son as he grows and changes, from year to year.

A live time pitching coach who understands the limitations of youth, including tolerance, endurance and comprehension peaks and valleys, should be your next step.

Can’t find such a coach? Then watch your son for lapses in endurance, diet and nutrition disciplines and other things more closely related to home.

Pitching is one of the most un-natural acts that the human body can press into service. Tread lightly, pay attention to signes of discomfort and pain.

Coach B.

I’ll offer this from my own son’s experience…He always had a shoulder and head tilt, 3/4 to high 3/4 delivery. He occasionally had elbow discomfort up through his senior year of high school. He never complained of chronic soreness , however, he occassionaly used ibuprofen for inflammation.

Going into his freshman year of college he was encouraged to reduce the severity of his head tilt to reduce the strain on his elbow. When he made this adjustment he found less soreness after pitching. The adjustment was not easy after throwing this way for 12 years. Usually he found himself resorting to head tilt during the game especially when he was in a tight situation and couldn’t give the mechanical process the same attention.

He even adopted a low 3/4 delivery or sidearm to help with the tilt and now actually pitches from both arm slots which does help his effectiveness.

So the points I guess I’m trying to make are:

Your son is creating muscle memory with repetetive delivery that he will find challenging (but not impossible) to change later. So IF, you think it is important and are concerned about it, THEN find a pitching coach with good credentials to give you an informed opinion. A couple pics I don’t think cuts it.

I’ve seen alot of youth pitchers do this. I don’t think it a necessarily bad thing as long as your son’s arm stays healthy. But you know your son and his arm much better than anyone, so trust your instincts and make sure he has alot of fun.

One thing to keep in mind…

You can always find an MLB pitcher that does this or does that. But you shouldn’t automatically use that as a blank check to do whatever.

Take, for example, Lincecum. Everyone knows he uses a lot of counter-rotation and he tilts his head. He’s got the strength and the practice doing these things to accomodate them in his delivery. But most people would have a hard time staying online with the target and staying closed to rotate late doing these things.

A good strategy would be to look at what lots of pitchers do and then do what the majority of them do. (I don’t think the majority of them tilt significantly though I could be wrong.) Of course, I’m not one for copying other pitchers’ deliveries either.

BTW, here is a synopsis of the study I was referring to that said lateral trunk tilt does put more force on the arm:

Thanks for the study Roger! Dr. Fleisig didn’t seem overly concerned when looking at my son’s photos, but that’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

BTW, we do have an outside pitching coach, who has been out on a 2 week vacation, so I posted these here. I know he generally likes my son’s mechanics, although he, like others here, would, ideally, like his head to be straighter. I would guess that he tilts his head because he’s trying to throw very hard, and is putting everything he has into it.

Thinking aloud, I wonder how much of a player’s mechanics comes naturally and whether changing certain things to be like the ‘majority’ of pitchers would actually hurt things (especially in a young player). For example, the idea of increasing late arm action worries me…it seems like it could potentially put a lot more strain/torque on a young player’s elbow–though it might be acceptable or desirable for an older pitcher.

There are also things like ball-size/weight relative to player size. A 6’10" adult throws the same size baseball that at 4’10" kid throws, though they have different hand sizes and strength capability. I wonder, like other posters have said, whether a 10 year old can mimic any MLB pitcher and be successful and injury free.

Since there’s a great degree of variation among professional pitchers, it makes sense to me that there’s more than one way to do things. Maybe, if you fall in the range of what can be successful, and you come about your mechanics fairly naturally, it doesn’t make sense to change until you don’t have success with that motion (lack of control/velocity) or it has an adverse physical affect.

The positive thing is my son is having success with his current mechanics (doesn’t walk many batters, hits his spots better than others his age, and has velocity to blow it by good hitters–he throws 60 MPH, which is pretty decent for a 10 year old…we’ve only seen much bigger 10U kids throw harder). That being said, I do understand that he’s only 10, and what works for a 10 year old may not work for a HS or college or MLB player. So, I really appreciate the well thought-out comments—it’s a work in progress and probably will always be (which makes it fun).