“It’s nothing short of child abuse is what it is,” according to Kevin Rand, who has spent 33 years in professional baseball, the last 12 as the head athletic trainer for the Detroit Tigers when asked about overuse of young arms in this June 2014 article and specifically training over the suggested pitch count limits.
Little League organizations have formal pitch count rules but private travel team coaches are not bound by any rules and can use your sons arm in any way they see fit. Far too often they are prepared to sacrifice a young pitchers arm at the altar of The Holy Tournament Trophy.
A lot of young people are involved in sports today and while it’s great to start being active at an early age, injuries have become an epidemic especially in Baseball. More young pitchers experience elbow, shoulder and other common pitching injuries each year. So why are the pitchers more prone to torn ligaments? It’s because they throw too hard and often too much. The Ulnar Collateral Ligament is the primary support of the elbow when pitching so it is the most common area to be torn. And once it’s injured, the rehabilitation process could be painful and take time to heal.
When learning pitching control, it’s important to note that the proper arm action consists of the throwing arm being in a flexed position as the shoulders rotate. After release if the proper sequencing up along the kinetic chain is followed, the throwing arm will extend on its own “To” and “Through” the target lane (See photo 1).
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.
Before you start to work on any other pitches in your repertoire please understand that your pitching technique has to be solid. You can’t start to learn how to throw a curve ball (or any breaking pitches) if your delivery is inconsistent with your fastball. Not to mention if you experience soreness in your elbow or shoulder.
Okay, so let’s start by translating some important terminology supinate and pronate:
Supinating is a twisting of the hand, wrist and forearm resulting in the thumb or hand rotating outward away from the body. Supinating causes the thumb to go towards the sky where pronating causes the thumb to go towards the ground. When you supinate or twist to throw a curveball (or for that matter any pitch), you are placing the elbow under extreme stress. The photo below is an illustration of the supinating:
Every efficient pitching delivery will exhibit some degree of shoulder tilt. Shoulder tilt as I have repeated many times before is a “result” and not an “action”. When the back foot drives the back hip away from the pitching rubber the shoulders will “tilt” as a result.
What should not happen is the shoulder tilt occurring before knee lift because then it becomes an “action” and not the “result” of driving the back hip away from the pitching rubber.
Shoulder tilt should be maintained as the delivery progresses forward to foot touch. The degree of the slope will start to level off as the foot plants so the shoulders can work around the spine to create the shoulder angle.
When the back foot drives the back hip away from the pitching rubber towards home plate, the shoulders should display some“tilt”. The tilt of the shoulders is a RESULT from the back hip being driven forward, causing the feet to separate while containing the body’s weight to favor the backside of the delivery. “STAY BACK” is the advice given to every pitcher from little league to the big leagues. Somewhere along our careers we have heard this great advice, some more than others “STAY BACK”!
If I heard the term “stay back” once I heard it a million times, but no one could ever really explain how to “STAY BACK”……. Making matters worse, when we finally accomplished “staying back” RESULTING in the shoulders to tilt, the next piece of advice we would hear is “stay tall” “keep your shoulders level”…..
When training pitchers one of the most effective ways to get my point across is to use an analogy. I find it to be extremely helpful in getting a pitcher to feel what I am saying. Another one of my pitching analogies is the upside down tornado. The concept I am trying to convey is the way the lower half should be used compared to the way the upper half should react. As you can see the upside tornado looks like a funnel. The bottom or the base is wide and covers a lot of ground compared to the top which is narrow and tight. The other important thing to notice is the upright posture of the upside down tornado, standing tall from top to bottom.
When I train my pitchers or discuss the kinetic chain linkage the best way for people to understand and relate to the concept is through analogy. The pitching mechanics or as I like to say pitching technique is choreography of movements and each movement both current and future are dependent on one another. The better you are at timing, spacing and distance of the sequential movements will determine the efficiency of the delivery and the output.