Play: As a pitcher, how can I lengthen my stride to the plate? Do you know any drills that I can do to work on this?
Ruling: One way that ‘Ask The Ump’ has seen hard throwers have improved control, while simultaneously increased velocity, is to concentrate on reaching as far back as you can, as you start your delivery to the plate. The best major league pitchers reach so far back that their pitching hands nearly touch the ground behind them AS THEY’RE BEGINNING THEIR STRIDE TOWARD THE PLATE.
This has the effect of twisting or torqueing the body into a coiled spring, so that when you step toward the plate, the momentum that you generate keeps your center of gravity low, ‘pulling’ your arm to the same release point every time you deliver a pitch. Your throwing arm actually ‘follows’ your lower body as it uncoils into a max power-max control mechanic.
You end up positioned square to the plate, ready to field a batted ball coming back at you. Your feet land in perfect fielding position, every time, regardless of whether you throw a straight ball or junk, if you execute this technique properly.
IT’S NOT ABOUT SHEER ARM STRENGTH, AND IT’S NOT ABOUT ‘PUSHING’ OFF THE MOUND. IT’S ABOUT MAXIMUM TORQUE OR TWIST OF THE BODY INTO THAT COILED SPRING ACTION AND REACTION.
Another way to think of this mechanic is that your low center of gravity brings your back knee, DURING YOUR DELIVERY, as close to the ground as possible. If you watch old clips of Greg Maddux, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Bob Gibson, you’ll see exactly what we mean. (Bob Gibson was the toughest pitcher we ever saw, and Don Drysdale the meanest, while Greg Maddux was the most technically proficient and Sandy Koufax the smartest.)
As far as present day pitchers go, NJB believes that Chris Lee and Mariano Rivera exhibit the best mechanics in this respect.
‘Ask The Ump’ appreciates this opportunity to shed some light on this important pitching technique, because we see too many young arms literally ‘thrown out’ before they reach varsity and college levels. Power pitching has its merits in tournament and championship play, but learning to pitch with proper mechanics leads to longer careers on the mound. Young players, their coaches and their parents will do well to learn and apply proper mechanics rather than encouraging the undisciplined throwing of peas through brick walls during the developmental stages of training and physical growth.