What determines a pitcher's arm slot?

Let’s talk arm slots… what determines it? Does a higher slot = better control? Can you change a pitcher’s natural arm slot, and if you can should you focus on the tilt of the shoulders or the arm itself?

I believe the pitching arm slot is determined by the tilt (or lack of) the shoulders. So many youth pitchers (including mine) were “over the top” because they were told to get arm up or get on top of the ball. Head direction (of kids anyway) seems to go with the shoulders and the head ends up sideways (like an owl). This does cause control issues. If I had it to do over again he would have been taught from an early age on to keep his head level.

Take care of posture, let arm slot happen.

-Tom House

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Ed Lopat repeatedly emphasized that you don’t mess with a pitcher’s arm slot unless he’s really screwing up. The best way to determine what a pitcher’s natural arm slot, arm angle, whatever you want to call it, is just watch him (or her) in the process of throwing a bullpen session and then take it from there. When he was showing me how to throw a good slider, he watched me as I was familiarizing myself with the pitch, and the first thing he noticed was that I was a true, natural, honest-to-gosh sidearmer with a consistent release point, and he said to himself, okay, that’s what we’ll work with.

I like Pitcher17’s suggestion to keep the head level, Roger’s idea of fixing posture, and Zita’s point of observing first.

A simple rule I follow to determine a proper arm slot for any pitcher is to simply make sure his eyes are level at release point. If the eyes are level - that’s a good slot.

I also use the “head upright” or “eyes level” cue. If you think about it, nature - or more specifically, gravity - gives you a natural frame of reference for creating a repeatable delivery. IMHO, the body can more consistently orient itself vertically than it could orient itself, say, 10 or 20 degrees off of vertical. Just my opinion.

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Lateral tilt of the shoulders determines arm slot. There is no natural slot in an involuntary sense. It is a learned adaptation. Most pitchers have an arm slot determined by 10-25 degrees of contralateral (glove side) tilt. The head may be tilted toward the pitching arm to remain vertical if one likes, but for contralaterally tilted or neutral tilt pitchers, the head should not be tilted past perpendicular to the shoulders toward the glove side, as this lowers the arm path and tends to open the throwing shoulder early causing arm drag.


What do you mean by this? Even toddlers throw things, and I wouldn’t say it’s a learned/practiced trait at that young of an age.

I mean a particular slot is a response to external input or perceived imitation by the thrower. It doesn’t occur naturally as breathing or heartbeat does. Even toddlers try to imitate what they see, but few toddlers do more than push the ball and even fewer are genuine prospects. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Agree 100%. The influence of coaches & dads telling kids to get on top of the ball or get arm up is the reason so many young pitchers heads are sideways at release. Kids tilt shoulders for “high arm slot”. Head goes with the tilt. Not to mention the sideways lean that goes with it (poor posture). My son is a recovering “over the top” pitcher. Dad (me) was an influencer.

Well, maybe it is a flaw, but many do well with it and almost all throw harder at high 3/4 than low 3/4. There are exceptions of course. I like mid to high 3/4 and enough contralateral tilt to have the head over the stride foot but not outside of it. I wouldn’t coach to that though. You do see a lot of kids losing balance to the glove side trying to get on top. My youngest throws straight over the top and I really don’t like it. He throws well and has excellent control. His head stays vertical even though his shoulders are tilted glove side. His over the top style is a response to trying to comply with my instruction to keep his hand behind the ball. It is the easiest way for him not to supinate. I am hoping that as he matures his slot will lower some.

Don’t disagree with you there. My son is never going to be a 3/4 pitcher. Keeping him reigned in is the issue. When things have gone well for a while I can see the arm start to climb higher game by game. The telling symptom is the head. When I see his head & momentum going towards first I know what’s going to happen. Pitches up in the zone and high. Strides closed and throws across his body. I think its much more natural for a kid to throw a ball sidearm than use excessive tilt. I was much to blame for the learned behavior when he was young & keeping it in check now is his biggest challenge.

What do you mean by natural? Do you mean more easily controlled? My oldest would/will occasionally use his head in an effort to throw hard. I tried to tell him his head was his weakest muscle but his college board scores proved me wrong.

I believe a kid would be more naturally inclined to throw a ball side arm than over the top. By over the top I’m talking about shoulder tilt.

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I like the use of “inclined”. You may be right but I’ve never really seen that in youth level baseball though. Most kids seem to throw with some tilt. Outside of pitching and some infield throws where time is important, sidearm throws are vastly inferior to high 3/4 throws. I feel like anytime a youth player wants to throw for maximum distance or velocity most will be inclined to throw somewhat overhand, but I can’t know for sure because most may have already been influenced by the time I’ve seen them. In the field it is important to be able to throw with nearly direct backspin.

I find that young kids often don’t understand bottom-up sequencing nor have they developed the motor skills to make it happen effectively. Instead, many youth try to use their head to help create velocity and that usually leads to head tilt, shoulder tilt, spine tilt and a higher slot.

I agree completely. My youngest is an interesting case to me in that he has a very high slot and substantial shoulder tilt, yet he maintains a vertical head. His control is so good that he can on occasion work both sides of the plate. I attribute this to his upright head and simple delivery and of course my superior genetic contribution. (well probably his mom’s)

A pitcher who comes to mind with a lot of shoulder tilt who keeps head level is Greg Maddux. On the other end of the spectrum is Tim Lincecum who I would say more young pitchers with excessive shoulder tilt resemble (I’m referring to waist up). No doubt Lincecum has been very successful but think it causes control issues with young pitchers.