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Using Mechanics, Command, and Velocity to Develop a Pitcher

Mechanics, command, and velocity are three key ingredients for any successful pitcher. Ask several coaches and pitching instructors to rank them in order of importance, however, and you’ll likely get several different answers.

According to Josh Girdly, a former pitcher who played six years in the Montreal Expos organization, mechanics is at the top of the list, with command and velocity working together in tandem.

“Something I’ve noticed a lot lately is younger kids tend to take off their velocity because they’re worried about command,” explained Girdly, now a pitching instructor at the Leadoff Baseball Academy in Smyrna, Tennessee. “They want to throw strikes. What they don’t understand is, most of the time, when they take off their fastball, or try to control it, their mechanics are not right. They’re changing arm action, release point, because they’re worried about aiming it.”

Girdly, the sixth overall pick out of Jasper (Texas) High School in 1999, learned theleadoff pitching-lesson.jpg basics of pitching command from his high school coach, Mike Rogers. He also attended baseball camps run by legendary Lamar University coach Jim Gilligan, who retired from the Cardinals following the 2016 season.

“One of the biggest things (Gilligan) taught me was once you start, when you’re in a windup or in the stretch, you do not stop,” Girdly said. “There’s no such thing as a bounce point, ringing the bell, anything like that. Keep the body moving.”

Girdly believes as long as a young pitcher has sound mechanics, the ball will go where he wants it to. He recalls a lesson he learned at a showcase tryout in Arlington, Texas. After failing to make the cut, Girdly called Gilligan for advice.

“He asked me, 'Where were your hands when you started,' ” Girdly recalled. “I told him I had my hands down by my belt. He told me to move them up to my chest. A couple days later, we go in the bullpen, I put them up toward my chest, and I was lights-out, like nothing was ever wrong.”

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At Leadoff, Girdly teaches that, except for a curveball, the only difference between each pitch in your arsenal is where you hold the ball. One of his favorite drills from when he was a young pitcher is to put his back and heels about two inches off a wall, step side to side, and throw a ball without touching the wall. Using this drill, pitchers can learn to step toward the plate.

“What that did for me was help create my direction when I throw the ball, regardless of whether I was on the mound, in the field or the outfield,” Girdly said.

Another benefit of this drill is learning to hide the ball. Some young pitchers tend to put the throwing arm behind their back when bringing the leg down and separating the hands, exposing the ball. The wall drill helps disguise pitches by keeping the ball behind your body until you get to the throwing position.

If a pitcher throws side to side or across when they rotate their upper body, this can create a sidearm motion. Girdly says that’s acceptable, as long as it’s done properly. With the wall drill, pitchers are forced to straighten up.

From GameChanger and Stephen Kerr.

Baseball, Baseball Player Development, Baseball Tips & Drills