I have some questions for the NPA guys since most of your posts are similar and I’d like some things cleared up. The things I’d really like to discuss are head movement and stabilizing the glove. I should also preface this by saying that I’ve done all of this stuff and I’m not necessarily against it—just starting some discussion.
OK, when it comes to head movement, the NPA wants the head to move in a straight line to the plate with the eyes level. So I’m going to bring up the guys with higher arm slots such as Oswalt, Schilling, and Beckett. They all appear to tilt their heads toward 1st base at release. Would they need to be fixed? To get that higher release point, O’Leary would say that they tilt their shoulders, and I believe Nyman would say they tilt their spine (I like spine better). Since they tilt their spine and it appears that their head is tilted, I would say that these three guys in particular do a good job of staying on line with their head even though it doesn’t go straight to the plate with their head and eyes.
On the other hand, a guy like Felix Hernandez whose mechanics have been called violent in the past has his head tilted toward 1st base as well. I think the difference in him versus the previous 3 pitchers is that his head and spine are not aligned, possibly causing command/injury concerns. His spine is still tilted, but his head is tilted even more.
The other concern I have about the NPA’s view on head movement is how many pitchers are encouraged to bend their knees at the beginning of their delivery and this is just not something I see the best pitchers in the world doing. Just because the head will move down during the delivery doesn’t mean it’s unnecessary movement. On the other hand, I realize that there is a such thing as unnecessary movement, I just don’t think it is the same in every case.
Another common debate is whether it is better to have a higher release or a release closer to the plate. I think it’s a combination of both. The NPA would rather have a release closer to the plate, and combined with the lack of head movement, it seems that most of their pitchers throw from a similar slot—Sidearm to Low ¾. (See Anthony Reyes and Ian Kennedy). I think this takes a little away from some pitcher’s downward plane.
Now to stabilizing the glove. I think this is a very important concept, but I’m not sure it’s being taught that well to younger kids. I see the glove action as more of a dynamic movement that involves stabilization at the right time (just before and into release). I feel as though it’s being taught as more of a ‘point the glove and hold it there.’ I’ve seen guys who are really trying to keep the glove stable over their front foot and bring their body to it, and it hinders their intent and aggressiveness. They have really good starting momentum but when they stabilize the glove, they bring the body toward it in a passive way.
Also, I don’t like the way I’ve seen this taught to younger kids—where they are taught to throw their chin/face into the glove. I think this really cuts off the release point and more importantly the natural deceleration of the arm. I think this had something to do with Prior’s injuries (among other things, workload included). He seemed so concerned with keeping the glove stable through release that his arm didn’t decelerate as much as it should have. A good example of glove action from the pitching clips section are Clemens and Johnson. They both have dynamic movement with their glove (especially Clemens), but the glove stabilizes at their release point. After release however, they are not concerned with keeping it there, but instead the glove flies toward 2nd base because of the acceleration of their throwing arm. In the Johnson side clip with Arizona you can see this for a split second before the clip starts over again.
So I think the NPA would really like both Clemens and Johnson’s glove actions, but I think they do something a little different than the NPA would teach.
Please remember that this is discussion, not criticism.