To the NPA guys

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.

This question would be better directed towards the man himself (House), but I’ll do my best. I will actually ask him that next time I talk to him. (That might be tonight if you’re lucky, I have some nutritional questions to ask him. :slight_smile: )

I’ll answer that first question after I talk to him. As for the second question, I know the answer to that one. House considers kids that are skinny and tall “cannonballs on broomsticks.” He says this because tall, skinny kids generally don’t have a lot of stabilizer strength and/or don’t have a good center of gravity. They are usually more flexible than others which can be a good thing or a bad thing. The point of bending the knees is to lower their center of gravity. This makes it much easier to keep good balance and posture. You won’t see any professionals doing this, but how many “cannonball on broomstick” pros do you see? Around 99.9% have sufficient strength in areas that are important and vital to successful, injury-free pitching.

As for whether it’s better to have a higher release or a release closer to the plate: I think Randy Johnson would love to answer this one. I believe it’s way more important to be closer to the plate than to throw with a high release point. Generally, the higher the release point gets, the lower the amount of movement the ball has. Now for the closer release: Would you rather have the ball come from a couple inches higher and have the ball move a microscopic amount more downwards or release the ball closer and add to perceived velocity. The average big league stride is six of their own feet. Most elite pitchers strides are seven fo their own feet. That extra foot of distance is equal to around 3 mph of perceived velocity on the fastball. So a 90 mph = 93 mph. I’d love that. Personally, my stride is 6 and 3/4 of my own feet. I’d like to hit that 7 foot mark soon.

I could maybe guess the answer to the first one as I’m sure it’s obvious to Tom and the NPA at 1000 frames per second. They have a database of over 520 major league pitchers. I’m sure Beckett is in their somewhere.

I do like that you brought this up, however. Anytime you have a question, I’ll be glad to answer to the best of my ability.

Head movement-----I’m not so sure the ‘eyes level’ comment necessarily applies. I agree completely that pitchers with a high arm-slot get their high angle primarily by leaning their torso (includes the spine and shoulders) away from the throwing side. And, no, I wouldn’t change pitchers who are able to maintain good dynamic balance with a high arm-slot. What is desirable for all pitchers, even for guys who are leaning greatly to get an elevated arm-slot (T. Hoffman, Billy Wagner, Nomo, etc) is that their head should stay as parallel to the slope of the surface as possible (i.e., as little up-and-down movement as possible from start through to foot-strike) and (this is my interpretation here)… the head tilted or not should move as little as possible from a line directly toward the target. The head can be tilted if the pitcher is able to maintain balance with that, and his tilted head can still move on a straight line to the target. (There is obviously some sideward movement from the starting to the tracking position). In fairness, some notable pitchers have improved their deliveries by lessening the amount that they tilt their head in the delivery, while others seem to get the best out of themselves with the high armslot and all that goes with it–the NPA does not preach cookie-cutter style or ‘pitching signature’, but it does want optimization of your personal mechanics. The eyes, either parallel to the ground (sidearmer) or tilted with the head (high armslot) should be fixed on the target through to release point. There are some exceptions, but notice they look really weird to you? Most people can’t hit a target reliably without their eyes directing their motor responses to the target. If you are one of the few, the NPA wouldn’t train you out of that–but on the other hand, if you were struggling with command, the NPA might recommend that you keep your eyes fixed on your target, if you weren’t already doing it.

One of the apparent disconnects between what NPA does with youth pitchers and its pro-level clients is related to strength issues. Few tall skinny young kids are able to find a tall posture that they are strong enough to maintain through footstrike without lots of unwanted head movement. The NPA often shortens these guys to a starting posture that they can maintain. Pro-level guys are, by definition, stronger–they also should adopt a starting postuure that they will maintain through footstrike–but their strength gives them more postural latitude, I’d say.

I absolutely agree–stabilizing the glove is huge. I also agree that the glove side is nearly as dynamic as the throwing side, and much harder to teach correctly.

The glove side swivels into place briefly after footstrike and the NPA teaches pitchers to bring their torso to the glove (not the reverse) into the release of the ball. After the ball has been released, it doesn’t matter what the glove side does for any command issues–but before the ball has been released, the NPA wants pitchers to have all of their momentum tracking forward to the target. The old teach “pull the glove in” is hard to distinguish from “bring your torso to the glove” with the unaided eye, but they have different consequences. Worst of all is the “soft” glove that flops to the side before the ball is released–at least this is a poor mechanical idea for most kids.

The drill of putting the glove out front and bring the face to it is for very inexperienced pitchers who basically have no glove-side control at all–completely soft glove that flops to the side. Such kids have usually ingrained this bad habit because their dad/coaches may not know anything about throwing–they need a dramatic awareness of their glove side, and they need some mnemonic device to keep them doing good reps until they change. The alternative is simply to not ever learn this neglected but important part of a good delivery–those kids don’t pitch very well beyond about Little League or early HS.

I must have missed the stabilization part, or you just added it in. :slight_smile:

For glove stabilization: I see where you are coming from, and I asked Tom the same question last weekend. The reason behind having kids hold it in front of their face is simple. Building muscle memory quickly. Most younger kids haven’t developed bad habits yet, so this is a quick fix for them. Tom calls them tricks. Eventually the feeling of having the glove in front of the torso sticks. They will eventually not need to hold their glove in front of their face and will find a comfortable position to stabilize their glove. Personally, I feel that stabilizing my glove at release puts less stress on my arm. When everything is moving in the same direction (or for the glove, it’s stabilized instead of moving towards the chest) it makes the throw much more efficient.

House actually brought up Clemens during one of his lectures. He likes what he does. Everybody’s a bit different. Some can handle doing what Clemens and Johnson. The reality, though, is most people can’t. House actually refined Clemens mechanics through Nolan Ryan when he went to the Astros.

I wish I could explain all this a little bit better. That’s as good as it’s going to get from me right now I think.

Very interesting post

NPA pitcher you have a Private message {PM}

I understand the concept of perceived velocity (and effective velocity), and they both have a lot of value. That’s why I said I’d rather see a release point that maximizes both height (depending on arm slot) and proximity to the plate. When the release is lower and way out in front, I’ve noticed less movement and the ball travelling on the same plane. That said, 90 may look more like 93, but we know that at the highest level, anybody can hit a fastball whether it’s 90, 95, or 100; especially one that is flat and stays in the hitting zone longer.

On the other hand, a pitch with some kind of downhill action goes through the optimum hitting zone for less time than a flatter, straight fastball. So while getting closer to the plate may make a pitcher sneaky fast, I’m not sure it’s necessarily the best way to get hitters out.

BTW, when I talk about throwing downhill, I don’t necessarily mean throwing from a high arm slot–it’s more like the path the arm takes to throw the ball. I feel like even low slot guys can throw downhill.

As far as the knee bend, I can see the reasoning when it comes to younger pitchers but I’ve seen Tom change well developed professionals too (to a crouch). No matter how effective, this just doesn’t fly in pro ball.

If he’s making a change like that with a pro guy, then it must be for better command. The only thing I can think of is the path of the head. If the head bobs up then down or down then up during it’s path towards home, then I can see Tom lowering him down.

As for downhill plane: I don’t agree with the lower release = less movement idea. If height really mattered that much then we’d see a hell of a lot of 6’10 over the top throwers. I can’t see how you can make someone throw higher without changing their natural arm slot. I don’t know how you can want someone not to throw from a higher arm slot than they already do and make them throw with more downhill angle

And for 90 looking 93: Not only does it look faster, but most hitters will tell you that the ball has a lot of “pop” or that it “sneaks” up on them. That’s compared with normal 93 on the gun.

Not all pro guys are perfect. There are plenty of professionals who have strength problems and such.

NPA Pitcher, batters also say the ball ‘jumps’ 8)

Yes that is true. Their strength deficiencies are generally a bit different from a younger kid though.

And “jumps” was the word I was looking for! Thanks! :slight_smile:

Edit: And a question for palo: What exactly do you meant by “it doesnt fly?”

What I meant by “It doesn’t fly” is that pro coaches who see a big crouch on a guy, particularly a very tall pitcher, will usually not let it continue. I’m not saying that style can’t be effective, but pro coaches are very worried about downhill plane (whether it’s right or wrong, they are).

Of course they are, but not in the major leagues. Everybody has established downhill plane by then or they didn’t make it through minor league or even college I’m sure. “Flat” throws are reserved for high school kids or kids that don’t make it to college. Hell, even the DII schools I looked at (Central MO State included) won’t take kids that through flat.

I still don’t see how you are going to make someone throw more downhill without chaning their arm slot.

Let me start by saying that this thread is blending discussion of pros with discussion of kids. While the best pros in the game set the example upon which we base what we teach to young kids, we have to remember that young kids often do lack in certain departments like functional strength.

There is a potential health issue here. If the tilting of the spine causes other problems - specifically sequencing or timing problems - then extra stress can be placed on the arm. The guys you named have been able to accomodate the tilted posture without other ramifications - so far. By the way, the top pitcher for the Curacao team that played in the Little League World Series a couple years ago really tilted his spine and his head. He just had Tommy John surgery.

I could be wrong but I have the impression that House doesn’t automatically set out to eliminate all downward head movement with every pitcher. Rather, House has pitchers lower their center of graity when they appear to have balance and posture issues. House might also do this when he tries to get a pitcher to stride further. Personally, I don’t worry about downward movement unless I have reason to think it’s actually causing a problem.

I think this might be something coaches would pay more attention to with tall pitchers who are perceived to have a competetive advantage due to their height. I could certainly see a coach wanting to maximize downward plane with such pitchers. But I’m not so sure it would be as big of a concern with shorter pitchers. The difference between a low slot and a higher slot might be only 8" to 10". That difference, when compared to the distance to home plate, only accounts for a small angle at home plate.

One thing to remember is that the NPA places a lot of importance in injury prevention. The number of injuries - especially to young pitchers - is skyrocketing. Now, I’ll admit a lot of that is due to overuse. But what happens when you couple poor mechanics/timing with that overuse? :wink:

I agree. It’s important partly for balance but mostly for timing, IMHO. And timing is a concept that I think most pitching coaches fail to understand and appreciate. House says he spends more time these days fixing timing than fixing mechanics.

That’s an excellent description! When I’ve tried to explain “opposite and equal” as being a momentary position in passing that occurs at foot plant, I’m never confident people really understand the timing aspect.

I share your concerns - especially about the “hold it there” part. I think it really all comes back to timing. When timing is on, things happen when they should and nothing needs to be held for an artifically long time. Everything feels more natural. So, your concern about stabilizing the glove hindering the pitcher is really a concern about proper timing, IMHO.

I’m not familiar with the face/chin to the glove teach. But I agree with your comment that the glove arm can be relaxed after ball release.

Well, since I believe House still works with Johnson on occasion, I wouldn’t assume he has an issue with Johnson’s glove.

Why you little... :tongue:

Sounds to me like you are correct in wanting balance between height and proximity to the plate. Too high will make it harder to get movement as will “way out in front”. I believe there is an optimal release point that maximizes movement although I do prefer the height/proximity scale to be tipped in favor of proximity.

How do you define “hitting zone”? Is it the strike zone? Or is it the swing plane of the batter?

Probably depends on a bunch of other variables like your deception, your pitches, your command, your movement, etc.

Very well said Roger. I was hoping you’d be here soon. :smiley:

does the npa suggest working with the strength a young pitcher has or try to develop additional core strength to throw?

do they think it can be developed effectively in pitchers who have not reached puberty?

Well put Roger, you’re right about comparing pros with kids–not always the best way to fix mechanics.

[quote]How do you define “hitting zone”? Is it the strike zone? Or is it the swing plane of the batter?

I’m talking about the point in the strike zone when it is best for the hitter to hit the ball. For simplicity sake, let’s define this as any time the ball passes by the hitter from his front hip to his back hip. A pitch that is flat will stay at a similar level as it passes the hitter. A ball with better downward trajectory will pass by the hitter at a harder angle to hit. This may sound vague, but I’d say it’s difficult to quantify and even more difficult to explain/discuss on a forum. I think we all agree that a pitch with life is harder to hit than one that is flat. Deception is also tough to quantify–the hitters usually tell the story.

[quote=“dusty delso”]does the npa suggest working with the strength a young pitcher has or try to develop additional core strength to throw?

do they think it can be developed effectively in pitchers who have not reached puberty?[/quote]
I believe the answer to both of your questions is “yes”. The core strength exercises I’ve seen from the NPA are all performed using body weight only and some are isometric (optionally with perturbation). So they are fairly safe even for young kids.

Roger is completely correct on both counts, although ‘core strength’ may not go far enough.

From what I understand of general usage of ‘core’, you’re talking about abs, obliques, etc–in that area of the torso.

NPA also recommends that most young pitchers are far too weak in the decelerator muscle groups in the legs–the ratio of accelerator muscles to decelerators in the legs is 4:2, which may be a reason why running athletes who train to accelerate, without commensurate work on their legs’ decelerator groups, may tend to injure the decelerators first, e.g. pulled hamstrings.

In the shoulders/arms, the imbalance is 3:2 accelerator groups to decelerators so the NPA recommends strengthening the shoulder capsules and triceps to a level commensurate with the strength of the accelerator muscle groups in those areas.

There is a pretty dramatic demo that each of us can/should try on ourselves:

Make a bicep, feel the volume of your bicep with a cupped hand, then make a tricep with the same arm. The bicep and tricep volumes should be about the same. However, they hardly ever are because most pitchers are only aware of their biceps.

Where do you get the 90 for 93 out of releasing a foot closer? No way. That’s another one of these myths being pushed with nothing to back it up. Do the math. Releasing the ball a foot closer is overshadowed by so many other things, i.e. spin, hiding the ball, etc. Anyways, the speed the ball approaches the plate at is far more significant than the overall reaction time and that is virtually unchanged with a foot closer release, coming to about a 1/8 mph difference. If you don’t believe that is true just take some LL’ers who can hit 70+ mph fastballs at 46’ and put them up against 90 mph fastballs from 60’ and see how they do. They won’t come close despite the overall reaction time being the same. I don’t know how many LL studs I’ve seen who can’t catch up with mid 80s fastballs several years later in HS.

All other things being equal a more downward plane is far more useful for most pitchers.