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Harnessing the Moving Parts of Pitching

The term “pitching motion” is something of a misnomer. It’s not so much one motion as a collection of many movements from the moment the delivery begins until the follow-through ends.

While no two hurlers are created equally, the idea of harnessing these moving parts is vital to keeping things consistent.

For Juan Rivera, pitching coach at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, the key to keeping the entire process in check is the timing of the rotating parts, which in and of itself is no small feat.

“This is tricky,” said Rivera. “I believe that you first need an understanding of the sequence in which each body part begins rotation. In order to train your body to do it properly, much of pitching is done from the hips on down to your feet. Glutes, hamstrings, hips, and ankle flexibility is key. Rotation occurs from the feet on up.”

It’s a process that Rivera feels should begin in the earlier stages of a player’s development, with the notion that a child’s early development should not be solely focused on the results and that learning the proper throwing sequences will go a long way towards the player being less hesitant and more adaptable to adjustments down the line.

Adding weight and resistance within drills is another area where Rivera has seen results in the building up of a pitcher’s timing. Getting timing down early, especially between the lower and upper half mechanics, will allow the body to become familiar with each part of the rotation, leading to stronger muscle memory with the proper movements and ultimately creating longevity with the consistency.

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“The timing between lower and upper half mechanics is typically the biggest problem. There are times where you come across bad arm action as well,” Rivera said. “I have had the most success while using medicine balls when coaching timing. We put our pitchers through certain drills meant to corral the mechanic within a particular portion of the throwing motion. 

“Applying the added weight creates a tension within these muscle groups that makes it easier for the athlete to learn because they feel that time under tension at a higher rate than compared to holding a baseball.”

Rivera also finds regular film study of similar pitchers and training dry (without a baseball) to be particularly helpful, noting that “consistent velocity and consistency within the strike zone” are the positive byproducts of honing in the timing of the rotation.

Without proper timing, however, things can get to a point where no coach or player ever hopes to venture.

“When you have poor timing your results can vary drastically. Inconsistent velocity and strike throwing. Arm drag, meaning the body is so far ahead of arm action that there's a delay in arm speed,” noted Rivera of the consequences that may occur if all is not in sync. “This can cause injury to the pec minor, labrum, shoulder region, elbow, forearm, bicep, you name it. It can also cause front leg knee issues due to your front leg having to hold all of those ground forces longer than it has to.”

From GameChanger and Craig Forde.

Baseball, Baseball Player Development, Baseball Tips & Drills