Working the Front of the Rubber

SPENCER asked a good question relative to another post. Baically, he wanted to know what I meant by pitching from different spots on the front of the pitcher’s rubber … in crements.

Moving across the front of the pitcher’s rubber in increments (left/middle/right) does affect your angle of attack of every pitch you deliver.

For example, in our picture(below) this pitcher is making three pitches – all fastballs. However, take a close look at how these pitches are coming into… say, a right-handed batter. Notice how the differences between the release angles at b [/b]for each pitch, seem to be relatively the same. And this is what the batter picks up – visually, when you first release your pitch. In batting circles this is called picking up the pitch at the point of release.

However, take a closer look at our angle of attackb[/b] at the plate. Whoa! Big difference. When a good fastball comes in… say, about five feet in front of home plate, a batter’s hand – eye coordination is functioning on pure perception. Perception, of where that ball is coming in and at what spot that batter’s believes is the best chance to make contact. If this sounds a little confusing – let me explain it this way:
….have you ever seen a race car coming off a far turn then speeding past you? You see the race care as plain as day when it’s coming towards you…but…at about one hundred feet in front of you…then passed you… there’s nothing but blur ! That’s the characteristic of a good fastball.

So, when a pitcher uses the entire front of the rubber to deliver his pitches he’s banking on this characteristic … so to speak, and the ball’s reaction off the bat to be some what predictable. For example, if our pitcher was to deliver two pitches – one from the far left of the rubber, then one from the far right of the rubber to … say a bunt situation, where do you suppose the bunt would go off the bat? Or, how about the same two pitches for a slider – which pitch would give the greatest movement for the momentum of the working with the pitch… and which side of the rubber would actually work against the momentum of the slider? Very few, if any, youngsters give this angle of attack serious consideration when pitching sliders or any other pitch with movement.

With respect to velocity - and radar guns, at the point of release is usually where a lot of these devices “scale” your mph. However, if you look at our pitcher pitching from the far right side of the rubber, it only goes to figure that from this side his pitch is going to cover slightly more ground - thus his velocity at the plate is going to be some what (scaled) slower. Many coaches and pitchers miss this one when using these devices.

Using the entire front of the pitcher’s rubber -left/middle/right, requires serious coaching skills and deliberate dedication by pitcher. But, when perfected - you can command the mound with only two or three pitches, delivering from three different locations on the rubber, and let go with an impressive array of pitches… all with a different look-see and results.

Coach B.

[quote=“Coach Baker”]….have you ever seen a race car coming off a far turn then speeding past you? You see the race care as plain as day when it’s coming towards you…but…at about one hundred feet in front of you…then passed you… there’s nothing but blur ! That’s the characteristic of a good fastball.

With respect to velocity - and radar guns, at the point of release is usually where a lot of these devices “scale” your mph. However, if you look at our pitcher pitching from the far right side of the rubber, it only goes to figure that from this side his pitch is going to cover slightly more ground - thus his velocity at the plate is going to be some what (scaled) slower. Many coaches and pitchers miss this one when using these devices.

Hmm very interesting I guess that’s what it is when batters say the fastball ‘jumps’ at them. I’ll chew on this. On the opposite side of the rubber, the ball is going towards the batter in some amount all the way to the catcher while from the same side of the rubber as the batter, the ball stops going towards the batter at some point and is moving AWAY! awesome

your observation of the fastball coming into a batter is a good one. In fact, take a look at Roger Clemens in the video clip in the center of his videos under VIDEO CLIPS on the title page of Disscussion Forums.

The ball that he’s pitching is blur’d a bit on purpose to give a good effect of what his fastball looks like. Notice after his release point the ball zips by and down off the center of the video frame.

Also, as a matter of studying this detailed point of pitching … take a tour through the video clips here of the pros and see what side of the mound they pick, pitching to various batters in the box. Some of these guys try to …every so slowly…slide from one end to the other without giving the pitch away.

Here’s an idea - if you have access to a video camera try standing on one side of the pitcher’s rubber and run thourgh your pitch selection. Then try the other side. See what your pitches look like. Also, if your working on any pitches with movement -like a slider, etc., try and see if your movement is greater when working with the angle that your movement is going towards. It does make a difference. Hence, you can get greater or less movement on your ball by keeping the same grip, arm action and so forth… just deliver from a differt spot on the rubber. Again, take some video and see for yourself.

Coach B.

Great post Coach B.

Certainly you can use the rubber to your advantage, depending on what type of pitcher you are, and the angles you want to attack each hitter.

Also, some pitchers that I’ve pitched with and against, like to move sides of the rubber depending on the hitter being lefthanded or righthanded. Some RHP’s have dominating sliders to RHH so some prefer to stand on the third base side of the rubber. Then when a lefty comes up, they like to switch sides to open up the plate for their sinker or two seamer away to lefties.

Just more stuff to think about.

Since wr are talking about tricking a hitter would a change-up from the far left have a difference from the far right of a right handed pitcher and right handed batter would this change the effectiveness of the pitch?

So Righty vs Righty would a change-up be more effective from the right or the left side of the rubber?

If your going righty vs. righty and your standing on the 1st base side of the rubber, the plate will be opened up for you. If I were a righty, I’d rather throw my Change from this side of the rubber for one reason.

  • The goal of the change is to have the pitch appear to be a strike, and appear to be a fastball, therefore you WANT a swing on this pitch. The purpose of the changeup is to get a bad swing. Therefore, by starting on the first base side, the change will appear to be splitting the plate in half at release point. Thus, it will look more like a strike, than if you start on the other side, where the ball will start towards the hitter, or behind the hitter.

Very nice article.

Ok I have another question about one of the most important locations in the game Right vs righty the inside pitch?

Which angle of attack would get you the best results?

An angle going from far left to inside so a little behind the batters head or a pitch coming like this / right into the inside corner?

What do you think ?

That’s a good question, to me it depends on what type of pitcher you are. What type of fastball are you throwing in there? If you have a two seamer that has real good sink or boaring action in to the righty, I’d rather you stand on the first base side. Again, you open up the plate that looks like a good pitch to hit at release, and it keeps chasing the hitter inside… i.e. Brandon Webb, Derek Lowe etc.

If your more of a straight four seam guy I’d rather have you on the other side. Reason being is because as a hitter you have to hit the fastball out in front of the plate. If you start a four seamer from the first base side it will be easier for the hitter to get to it, than the angle if you started it on the third base side. Think about the path of the baseball and where the hitter is actually going to hit the ball. There is some good strategy to what angles you want to use as to what type of pitcher you are.

Now this is the angles for an outside pitch on the corner of a fastball.

Now I think for the outside corner I have not clue really which one would be most effective vs a batter right vs right.

What do you think?

HAMMER you’ve got a good foundation for reasoning things out. Very good foundation.

Just a word of caution when delivering a change-up - from any side of the rubber.
1.) when your taking your warm up pitches in the bullpen, try and think of this time as your first inning. Try and target your pitches as best you can to see where is your margin of – drift, or margin of error, on that given day. If you seem to be targeting the right side of the catchers mask for say… your four seam, and the pitch is going off the catcher’s left shoulder more often then not - for whatever reason, then bring that reminder into the game with you and be aware of this drift or margin of error. It will mean the difference between night and day ! For example, if your on the left side of the rubber (your left) facing a right handed batter and your fastball on the corners isn’t working that well after six innings of work – if you try to cut the inside corner with this batter, more than likely your drift or margin of error, is going to put your ball smack-dap in the heart of the plate and good bey baseball.
2.) remember the batting order logic. Less effective hitters with normally slower bats are at the tail end of the order. So, when delivering a creeping off-speed pitch regardless of what side of the rubber your working off of, be mindfull of this. Also, depending on the count and a lot of other things - don’t be too concerned about going in the hole for a ball as a set up pitch, then deliver a rocket with your best heat for the put-away.

To answer your question about “which side - when - how”, HAMMER said it best… “depends on what ya got”. So, see for yourself by going to the park or somewhere else and experiment. Try and toss some BP for a club, any club, and see for yourself. Pitching BP by the way is a great way to test things out. Besides, the batter won’t know the difference - most of the time. But, if you do, make sure you clear it with the coach(s).

Again, HAMMER a real nice job here. If you have some extra time this coming summer, your insites and experience would be welcomed big time by a Sandy Koufax League club. Please consider it. Excellent exchange with RIstar!

Coach B.

Pitchers have so many more advantages vs a hitter but you have to be consistent at it to get them out. One mistake and they could take you out of the park.


Just adding some things to think about:

(1) Moving from one side of the rubber to the other does not come without risk. Depending on the direction of your stride, moving too far to the throwing arm side can result is postural issues as the upper half attempts to get inline with and square up to the target. And these issues can affect control, movement, and stress on the arm.

(2) House would disagree with moving on the rubber to get more “angle” because of (1) above and because the difference in release point at the mound end really doesn’t amount to much of a difference at the home plate end.

I agree with (1) but I think (2) is rather subjective.

I keep hearing postural issues. I want to hear more about this.

With postural issues are you talking about head allignment? Trunk flexion?

Thanks Roger.

I’m talking head and upper trunk alignment. Many pitchers who stride to the throwing arm side will still attempt to get their upper half back in line with the target to end up with the shoulders squared up to the target at ball release. Some of these pitchers are able to square up using only rotation. Others, on the other hand, will bend toward the glove side at the waist. This represents a late posture change that messes with the release point which can affect control and movement. It also can cause more of a “cartwheel” motion of the upper half and that can open the shoulders early.

Good points Roger

I’m sure this gentleman (House) has an impressive set of credentials and I would be the last person on earth to question anything that he or people like him have to offer. I’m only in the amateur game and my skills are far from impressive and the player and other resources that I’ve had to deal with have gone from feast to famine.

However… on this subject of head and upper trunk alignment, I’ve never see this to be a problem. Again, I haven’t seen the spectrum of players and playing scenarios that these experts have under their belt —but, the rubber is only twenty four(24) inches wide and the plate –sixty(60) feet away is only seventeen inches wide. That’s a pretty narrow angle of attack for anybody’s release point, arm slot, upper torso, stride foot —whatever.

I honestly believe that the major point of concern is the fundamental training of a youngster coupled with the condition of the mound’s surface that’s at issue here.

The rubber which is twenty four(24) inches wide can only accommodate a pitcher’s movement – laterally, by about eight to ten inches with the placement of the stride foot and the corresponding exchanging of the shoulders and final release of the ball – for all pitches. This holds true for either a right-handed or a left-handed pitcher no matter what side of the box the batter is in. Add to this picture the dimensions of the plate – that far away, and we’re talking mini-angles, even with the breaking stuff.

I have a book cases full of 16mm and VHS of pitching analysis of players from Babe Ruth to frosh level ball and I’ve never picked out of a lateral movement distortion/deficiency in any of the pitchers in my rotation.
(given that they’ve had a sound mechanics foundation to start with, and a decent platform to work off.)

However, I’m sure Mr. House has his reasons and I’m also sure he’s done his homework. These men are experts. In fact, if pitcher came to a club with that instruction, and I were the pitching coach, I wouldn’t coach or advise to the contrary.

Coach B.

Moving 2 ft. on the rubber would cause about a 0.1 mph change in the velocity reading on a gun. That’s well within the margin of error on a gun. Less if you assume the middle of the rubber as the starting point and go 1 ft. to either side.

The difference in distance the ball travels is less than 4" for a 2 ft. lateral move, in other words absolutely meaningless in terms of velocity at the plate, reaction time or anything else.

Moving on the rubber can help a small bit with the angle the ball approaches the plate at, but in general pitchers are better off deciding where on the rubber they get the best movement and location from and then sticking with that spot on the rubber. Most of the time it is more a matter of where a pitcher is comfortable rather than any significant change in the pitch.

Good points, CADad…and derived from real trigonometry using the relevant diamond dimensions.

I very much like the concept of finding the optimal spot on the rubber for each individual pitcher and sticking with it (and I also like the drag-line as a diagnostic for finding that spot).

My reason for wanting a consistent starting spot on the rubber for each individual pitcher is similar to why I’d like each pitcher to develop a very consistent release point for all of his pitches, and it does basically boil down to a trigonometric reality…(sorry, guys, I can’t help myself).

Anyway, if you make an isoceles triangle that has the pitcher’s release point at one vertex, and the 17" base of the triangle is the front edge of home plate, the two long sides of this triangle will each be about 54 feet long.

So far, so good. Here’s the trig quiz: How much of an angle change at the pitcher’s release point will account for 17" of difference in pitch location at HP?

Trigonemetry says, (are you ready for this?): About 1.5 degrees of lateral (left-to-right angle) change at the release point will cause 17" of difference in pitch location at home plate.

You guys are friggin’ surgeons without even knowing it!