Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lefty Aces

So I'm watching the Yankees, Mets game which promised to be quite the pitchers dual. However, its really becoming a one-sided affair in which Santana is dominating while CC is struggling. Arguably two of the best pitchers in the game matched up tonight, and I was really excited to watch this game considering they are both lefties. Watching the game, I started to wonder what it was that was causing the results for each pitcher. Then I thought it would be a great topic for a blog entry, so here we are.

Santana, clearly having the upper hand in this one, is in complete control of the game. You can just see the confidence he has with every pitch he throws. But what is it exactly that is making him able to silence the formidable Yankee lineup? Well, the main reason is that he is keeping the hitters off balance. This has been mention a few times in the broadcast and it is definitely a good point. Santana doesn’t have that 96mph fastball to blow guys away so he relies on his other pitchers to get guys out. He’s throwing his changeup for strikes and getting hitters to chase his slider out of the zone. He has always had a fantastic changeup and he is using it perfectly tonight. By starting guys off with a changeup for a strike, he is automatically causing them to wonder what’s coming next, and then when it’s the fastball, they can’t catch up to it.

Sabathia, on the otherhand, is not as sharp. His biggest problem, which I’m sure he will describe after the game, is that he is not getting ahead. He is constantly battling back in the counts, and he is forced to come into the zone when he’s behind. He is missing up in the zone with the fastball, and appears to be guiding his breaking ball instead of snapping it off. Against any big league club, this is a bad recipe and proves to end his night after 5 innings giving up 5 earned. When good hitters have an idea of what pitch is coming, its going to be a long night for the pitcher.

If there is one thing you can learn by watching this game, its that if you can keep the hitters of balance, you can beat any team. You don’t need to throw 96mph to get guys out. If you have command of all your pitches, you can be successful. If you can start hitters with an off-speed pitch consistently, you will greatly improve your chance of winning. Most hitters aren’t looking for off-speed on the first pitch, and 90% of the time, they’re going to take it for a strike. This gets you ahead in the count, and shows the batter that you can throw your stuff for strikes.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Muscle Memory

I threw again today. I got out to about 150 feet, not trying to really push it yet. I felt really good, could have definitely gone more. What I really want to talk about is what I tried when I was throwing at shorter distances. I threw an easy flat ground session from about 60 feet. I made sure I took a long, maybe too long stride on every throw. Over exaggerating things is a good way to change muscle memory habits. A pitcher’s mechanics is one of the most difficult things to change because of the amount of times they have done it. So when trying to teach your body something new, you have two options. The first is repeating the same thing over and over again until your body is comfortable with the new motion. This takes an incredible amount of time, which I don’t really have. The second option, the one I am using, is to over exaggerate what you are trying to change. I’m trying to use a longer stride in my delivery, so when I throw now, I take an extra long stride.

This method will work for changing other things in your mechanics as well. Let’s say you normally throw over the top, but you now want to drop your arm angle. An easy way to do this is to drop the angle even more than you wanted to. This way when go up to where you wanted to be, it will feel almost natural. That is what I am hoping for my stride. What I will say about this approach is that you need to take it easy when throwing. If you drastically change something about your delivery, it will affect your arm in some way. If you focus on what you are trying to change, and you just throw easy, you should be fine.

Monday, January 4, 2010


So I have decided that I will never be able to generate the velocity that I want without first changing my mechanics. I have been watching videos of major league pitchers and comparing their mechanics to my own. At certain points, it was pretty clear to see that my mechanics did not match the pro’s. Now I’m not talking about leg kicks and arm angles, but about weight shifts, strides, and release points. Take a look at this video of Tim Lincecum. Try to pause it right when his front foot lands, and then again at release point.

Talk about someone who gets everything from their lower body. For a 5’11, 170 pound pitcher, he has to generate all of his power from his legs. And he does, considering he throws about 97mph. I’m not saying you should try and copy everything that Tim Lincecum does, because I think that would be impossible, but there are a few things about him that I think we should try to emulate. The drive he gets to home plate is incredible. The weight shift from the back leg to the front is perfect, but during that process, the amount of torque in his body almost looks painful. It looks like his arm is forced to move that fast.

The thing I am trying to work on now is my stride. I think sometimes I get lazy and I don’t stride as far as I should. A longer stride does two things for you. The first is that it generates more power from you lower body. The second is that it gives you a lower center of gravity which gives you more control and more consistency. I just started to work on this today and I could already feel the difference in my legs. My hamstring was almost sore after my short throwing session. Also, I felt more in control and it felt much easier to repeat my delivery. So more on this to come after I throw a few more times.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Here's another entry on long-toss. Trust me, it won't be the last either. Long-toss is the single most important activity a pitcher can do. I'm convinced. There are a number of questions raised when the topic of long toss is brought up. How far should you throw? For how long? Throw on a line or with an arc? Use a crow-hop or a windup? No one has all the answers for these questions but I do believe there are a few basics everyone should use when throwing long-toss.

Watch some of this video. It will really change your whole approach the next time you go out and throw.

What I really like about the way these guys throw is how effortless their motion is. They start off close, throwing nice and easy. Then they continue that effortless motion as they move back. You can really see how they stretch out the arm as they move further and further away from each other. The video is pretty amazing because if you have ever tried to throw 320+ feet, you know how hard it is.

Another thing I like about this program are how they use the "pull-downs" when they come back in. What they are trying to do is transform a throw from 360 feet into 60 feet. When you throw long-toss, you want to get to a distance where you cannot throw any further on an arc. Then, during the pull-down process, you want use that same throw, but throw it on a line. So basically, you are stretching the arm going out, and then unleashing it coming back in. In my opinion, this is the best way to throw long-toss. You feel so good about yourself when you are done.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer "Break"

The summer months are upon us, although you would never know by the weather we've been having. It seems like there is just one giant, lingering cloud hanging over New England this month allowing no one to enjoy the sun. Anyway, the summer is here regardless of the weather and it is a great time to work on things as a pitcher. Especially for a college pitcher, the summer is the time where you want to improve or try to fix the things you are doing wrong. The problem with the summer is that many pitchers see "summer break" as a true break from pitching. Summer games are less important, unless you play in a premier college league, and pitchers tend to slack off. A lot of times, players come back to school in the fall overweight, arms out of shape, and having to start from scratch. Then before they know it, it becomes too late to try and fix things before the season starts.

Now when I say "fix things," I'm talking about mechanical issues. Changing your body physically only takes a few weeks for the average athlete. But changing something mechanically takes hours and hours of drill work. A pitcher's body and muscles are used to doing things a certain way. When you go and attempt to change something, it is very difficult to make your body adjust to it. It's all about muscle memory. The more you do something physically, the easier it becomes to perform. I hate when coaches, pitching coaches in this case, tell their players that they're not going to try and change any mechanics. Well thats fine if every pitcher on the staff has professional pitching mechanics. If kids are doing something wrong, it should be fixed. When a coach says he is not changing anyones mechanics, it means only one thing: he simply doesn't know how.

I am at the point in my pitching career where little things are enormous things. This summer I decided to video tape myself pitching in my backyard. I had been watching some videos on YouTube of professional pitchers, pausing at certain times in their deliveries. Then I watched the video of myself and compared.

In the above picture, Andy Pettitte is just about to throw to home. When you look at this photo, focus on two key areas: his chest, and his back leg. As his arm starts moving towards home, his chest will be out in front over that front leg as far as he can get it. His back leg is fully extended which brings him closer to the plate and creates all the power for his pitch. Pitching velocity starts with a transfer of weight from the back leg, through your core, and onto the front leg. This allows the arm to work like a whip when throwing the ball.

In the video of myself, I noticed that I was not fully extending my back leg in my delivery. Also, my chest was not far enough over my front leg at release point. This means I am not generating the maximum amount of power from my lower body and I am not releasing the ball out in front like I should. These two mechanical issues are what I need to fix during my summer break. I will keep you posted on how it goes.