Here are some pitching techniques dealing with pivot foot placement and knowing which side of the rubber you should pitch from.
Alignment with the throwing lanes
Throwing-arm side positioning grants access to all the target lanes; making it possible to “Direct” and “Deliver” the throwing arm “To” and “Through” the target lanes (see Control to Command).
Photo 1 illustrates two tremendously effective MLB pitchers that use the throwing-arm side of the rubber to their advantage. It is no mistake that these guys take full advantage of the angles created by their body and their alignment to home plate.
Envision how hard it would for a left-handed hitter or right-handed hitter to see the baseball, all created just by pitchers positioning themselves on their throwing arm side of the rubber.
Notice in the following photos how these pitchers’ feet are aligned heel to heel as the front foot starts to engage the ground. This will allow the hips to square up to home plate aligning the body to launch the throwing arm through the target lane.
Photo 1-Foot Placement
See how C.C. Sabathia and Zack Grienke utilize the positioning on the throwing arm side of the rubber to take full advantage of their body angle, creating deception, great plate coverage, and throwing lane alignment.
The hitter doesn’t see the baseball until later in the delivery because the angle of the body conceals it from the hitter’s vision. Strike zone coverage, both vertically and horizontally is excellent as well, creating access to and through the left, center, and right portions of the plate.
Both display excellent body alignment and posture at foot plant mostly due to their excellent feet alignment (heel to heel alignment is “pitcher” perfect). I guess it is not a coincidence why these two particular pitchers have an excellent W.H.I.P: Win a lot of games and Have Impeccable Command. A huge contributor in their success is the direct correlation between the angle created from pitching on the throwing-arm side of the rubber and the alignment of their feet.
Now lets reverse the positioning on the rubber and go to the opposite side of the rubber, RHP – left side (1st base), and LHP – right side (3rd base). Now the pitchers are going to be positioned on the glove-side of the rubber.
The angle now created becomes advantageous to the hitter and a liability for the pitcher. The outcome is the hitter has been granted a better line of vision with more time see and to react. The hitter will now see the ball much sooner in the delivery from glove-side positioning compared to throwing-arm side positioning. As the pitcher reaches the high cocked position and starts to rotate the upper body to release, the hitter gains an advantageous angle to see the baseball as demonstrated by Brad Penny and Joe Saunders (See photo 2).
The green arrow represents the site angle of a right handed hitter and the blue arrow represents the site angle of a left handed hitter. See how the angle created is now advantageous for the hitter to pick up the ball earlier; allowing more time to identify and react to the pitch. Those precious hundredths of a second enhance the hitter’s ability to determine the type of pitch as well as the time to adjust to the speed and location.
Photo 2-Pivot Foot Placement
These still photos of Brad Penny and Joe Saunders clearly illustrate the site angle created for the hitter from positioning on the glove side of the rubber. As you clearly see the advantage goes to the hitter!
Also, the strike zone is compromised because the pitcher has aligned himself with the left side of the plate (RHP) and right side (LHP). It also encourages pitchers to not finish pitches or throw back toward the plate in order to cover the right side of the strike zone (RHP) and the left side of the strike zone (LHP).
A pitcher positioned on the glove-side of the rubber will struggle with command and execution because this delivery will have two variations.
1.) Finishing the pitch “THROUGH” the target lane when pitching to the right side of the strike zone (LHP) and to the left side (RHP).
2.) And not finishing the pitch when throwing “TO” the target lane to the left side of the strike zone (LHP) and to the right side (RHP).
Directing and Delivering the arm “TO” and “THROUGH” the TARGET LANE on a consistent basis pitch after pitch, is not possible until the body alignment is positioned to do so. Glove-side positioning will only direct the arm “TO” and NOT “THROUGH” the target lane majority of the time resulting in a lack of command, velocity, consistency, and repeatability.
Photo 3-Pivot Foot Placement
Photo 3 shows the comparison between C.C Sabathia on the left and Cole Hamels on the right. The green arrow represents the angle of vision for a left handed hitter and the blue arrow represents the angle of vision for a right handed hitter. When positioned on the glove arm side of the rubber the angle created IS NOW BENEFICIAL TO THE HITTER. See how just a simple thing as positioning on the pitching rubber can work for you by adding deception? And how by positioning on the wrong side of the pitching rubber can work against you?
Left-handed hitters vs. Cole Hamels can locate the ball earlier and see it for a longer period of time than they would vs. C.C. Sabathia. The angle of vision from both a left-handed and right- handed hitter’s perspective is enhanced when positioned on the glove arm side of the pitching rubber.
Foot positioning on the rubber also grants the pitcher better strike zone coverage. The throwing- arm side of the rubber grants the pitcher a better angle for executing pitches as the entire plate both horizontally and vertically is available. It allows for a more consistent alignment of the pitcher’s body to throw to the left, center, and right side of the plate.
I have been on record for years saying that Cole Hamels needed to position himself more towards the throwing arm side of the rubber. Another notable pitcher that comes to mind is Jonathon Broxton. He also needs to move over to the throwing-arm side of the rubber and if he does, I guarantee he will show vast improvement.
*Cole Hamels has switched to the left side of the rubber during the 2010 season. Since the change Cole has been extremely effective, although you couldn’t tell from his 8-10 record as of Sept. 3rd. His era is 3.18, left handed are hitting (.183 avg) vs. (.242 avg) in 2009 and (.262 avg) in 2008.
This Illustration is for Sinker Ball Pitchers
Sinker ball pitchers are an exception to the illustration above for the simple reason of plate coverage. Pitchers with a lot of movement from left to right (RHP) and from right to left (LHP) want to position themselves on the glove-arm side of the rubber compared to the throwing-arm side. RH pitchers will be positioned on the left side (1st base) of the rubber and LH pitchers on the right side (3rd base) of the rubber (See photo 4).
Photo 4-Pivot Foot Placement
Photo 4 is an illustration of why Brandon Webb, a sinker ball pitcher, utilizes the opposite side of the pitching rubber in relation to his throwing-arm. He has a tremendous amount of sink action and downward movement on his fastball which, demands positioning on the glove-side of the rubber. The action on his fastball moves down, from left to right of the strike zone, illustrated on the left picture.
If Brandon were positioned on his throwing-arm side of the rubber (3rd base), his movement would work against him; taking the ball out of the strike zone.
For him to maximize plate coverage and take full advantage of the movement on his fastball, he must position his body on the first base side of the rubber.
So in the case of a heavy sinker ball pitcher like Brandon Webb, positioning the feet on the 3rd base side of the rubber would work against him. Remember, the number one rule is to compete, and you can’t complete if you can’t throw the ball over the plate.
Therefore, Brandon in order to compete, and he competes very well, positions himself on the first base side of the rubber taking full advantage of the movement on his fastball. The movement on his fastball works the right side of the plate and his breaking pitches work the left side of the plate. He also has the ability to back door his fastball to right-handed hitters as well as back door his breaking pitches to left-handed hitters. For his breaking pitches, he has a target lane set up on the outside corner vs. right-handed hitters and the inside corner vs. left-handed hitters. He is positioned perfectly for the type of pitcher he is, and the stuff he possesses.
Finally, Brandon Webb’s tremendous movement on his fastball injects a deception variable into his game. The body angle created by throwing-arm positioning is not as important to a pitcher with a Brandon Webb type sinker ball. It would be counterproductive for him to be positioned on the throwing-arm side of the rubber for the reasons mentioned above.
Pitching Technique Tip: center of the rubber positioning is the perfect position to start a youngster who is first learning the pitching motion. First suggestion would be to start training from the stretch — no “WIND-UP”. At the beginning stages of development, the “wind-up” can be too complicated and create an information overload for a beginner. And secondly, mastering the stretch from the early stages of development, I guarantee will pay huge dividends in the future.
Center positioning does create an advantageous angle for both a right-handed and left-handed pitcher. The body adds deception but at a lesser degree due to the magnitude of the angle created by the body (See photo 5).
PIVOT FOOT PLACEMENT
IMPORTANT – When adjusting the foot placement of young pitchers, throwing strikes and competing are the number priorities. Observe the type of movement they get from their fastball and see the results of where the pitches travel.
Example; if a LHP is positioned on the left side of the pitching rubber and is consistently throwing balls off the plate to the left side (away from a RHH), then move the pitcher over towards the center of the rubber. Observe the results and adjust accordingly, if the pitches are still offline to the left side (away from a RHH) move the pitcher over to the right side of the rubber to see if this helps the pitcher throw strikes.
Practice pitching from the throwing-arm side of the rubber until it becomes comfortable. It is not carved in stone that all pitchers throw from the throwing-arm side of the rubber. Again, it depends on comfort level and the ability to compete as mentioned above. Remember when you try something new the first thing that you are going to say is “It doesn’t feel right!” and my reply to my students is ”I know because you never did it before of course it won’t feel right!” Don’t try it one day and discard the next because just because it feels uncomfortable today doesn’t mean you won’t get comfortable tomorrow. Creating angles can be so advantageous for a pitcher, paying off huge dividends.
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