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Focusing on the Drop Ball Could Be Beneficial

The fastball, changeup, curveball, screwball, rise ball, and drop ball are among fastpitch softball’s most common pitches. But maybe it’s time to make the drop ball a primary pitch.

University of Northern Colorado assistant coach Travis Owen agrees. And he notes the drop is essentially interchangeable with a fastball. The spin is identical, but the drop pitch has more movement — when it’s done right.

Not everyone does it right though. And Owen said one problem some pitchers face is trying to turn over too early when they throw a turnover drop.

“You can’t actually release the ball with your hand literally on top of it,” he said. “Well you can, but it would go about 20 miles per hour and into the dirt with no control. What pitchers feel is the turnover immediately after releasing, and this can help them get their hand behind the ball working to get on top as they throw.”

To Owen, whether a pitcher is “turning over” or “peeling up” is irrelevant. He said the key to create drop for pitchers is having more pressure on the top/back of the ball.

“Pitchers just feel different things,” he said. “And the important things that we need to focus on are hand position and pressure, as well as proper mechanics.”

Owen, who helped Radford University go from having the worst ERA in the conference to the second best last season, before moving to Northern Colorado in the Big Sky Conference in 2016, offered some mechanical tips for throwing the drop ball. Most importantly, he said pitchers should not focus on snapping the wrist. Instead, they need to focus on quick arm acceleration headed into the release.

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“When we get too wristy we actually lose velocity since it takes pressure off of our fingers,” said Owen, who was previously the head coach at NAIA Lyon College. “Often this sounds weird to many pitchers, since we’re always taught to snap, but the snap will happen naturally by relaxing the hand at release, and movement happens by having correct pressure on the correct spot of the ball.

“Additionally, when we add in an extra fulcrum, the wrist plus the elbow, we can lose velocity and efficient pressure for movement rather than having just one fulcrum point, the elbow, plus a strong wrist at release for more pressure off the fingers. The fingers are the last thing to touch the ball, so it’s important to transfer power effectively into the ball.”

A problem Owen said he often notices is that pitchers’ arms are too long and high when they finish. He also said some pitcher’s mechanics suffer when their arm accelerates after the release and not just prior to it, like it should.

“We don’t need to torque our shoulder thinking we’re turning over, nor do we need to rip our arm up to peel,” he said. “These styles are fine, just not necessary. And generally not harmful unless we’re doing these movements too early such as before or while we release the pitch.”

And while he said it’s true on every pitch, Owen said it’s essential for pitchers to transfer their weight properly onto their front leg before they release the pitch when throwing the drop.

Owen also said with its downward motion, the drop has potential to generate swings and misses.

“Unfortunately many pitchers settle immediately for a curve rather than drop because A, they think more pitches are better, and B, it looks good since they can locate it on the outside,” he said. “But they’re releasing with their hand from the other side of the plate, so it appears to curve when it isn’t necessarily moving properly.

“A much better pitch to start off learning is the drop on the outside corner. Now we’re throwing essentially the same pitch as a beginner, only we get down movement instead of letting it hang. Again, that’s until or unless it’s a properly thrown curve, which isn’t going to be an easy or first pitch to learn.”

From GameChanger and Thomas Joyce. Photo by Ralph Arvesen.

Softball, Softball Player Development, Softball Tips & Drills