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The linear approach to successful pitching.

Although pitchers like Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson may appear to be trying to strike everyone out or see how many line drives their defense can catch, it is never necessarily so.

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Pitching is basically a science. The good pitchers are always building up their store of knowledge and carefully working over the hitters. On the upper levels of the game, good pitching embodies four basic principles

1. Force the batter to swing at your pitch.

2. Minimize your pitches (under 12 pitches per inning).

3. Jam the hitter or get out in front of his power base.

4. Destroy the hitter's rhythm and timing.

That is the basic philosophy, which usually is supported by a straight-line concept ("linear").

When applied to pitching it enables the pitcher to release the ball closer to the hitter, thus increasing his velocity.

As you can see, linear pitching keeps the pitcher balanced throughout his motion, rather than spinning off and rotating away from the target. It also enables the pitcher to hit spots and maintain control of his pitches because his arm is not playing catchup with his front side.

There are tremendous similarities (lower body) between pitching and hitting. Both begin and end in a balanced position, with the feet kept shoulder-width apart and parallel.

The head remains calm and the weight kept back until the swing begins or the baseball reaches the release point. At this time, the weight must transfer to the front side. Both actions are lineal, not rotational.

THE WIND UP

The pitching motion begins with a series of simultaneous and sequential actions.

1. The pitcher's hands are set chest high, with the hand and the ball in the glove while taking the sign.

2. The non-pivot foot takes a very small rocker step back or slightly to the side. However, the weight remains on the pivot foot.

3. The hands begin to rise to face level, the pivot foot moves into a parallel position astride the rubber, and the stride knee rises to a point even with the belt line.

4. The foot and toes are pointed downward, so that the stride leg can relax.

5. The weight is back on the pivot leg, and the knee is bent slightly for added stability. It is imperative for the front shoulder to point directly at the target. If it is off fractionally, it will cause the arm action to lengthen and use more force in an effort to catch up with the front side.

6. As the hands break, the thumbs are turned downward.

7. The glove hand breaks toward the catcher, with the elbow slightly bent and the glove turned so that the web is facing downward.

8. The ball is directed straight back toward centerfield. The throwing arm never goes beyond 180 degrees; it is imperative for the ball not to go behind the head! This will only result in a longer, slower throwing action. Both elbows are bent in a goal post effect. A good technique to aid this action, is to pinch the scapulas together, this will restrict the arm from going past 180 degrees.

9. The front shoulder remains pointed at the catcher.

THE DELIVERY

The delivery also consists of simultaneous and sequential actions:

1. As the throwing action begins, the arm starts forward and the hand turns the ball over. The arm is in the "L" position, with the elbow at shoulder height.

2. The ball is pointed at the target, the front hip begins to open, the glove hand moves toward the face, and the stride leg begins to lower and stride toward the target.

3. The foot does not land, but glides along the surface of the mound. It doesn't land until the ball arrives at the release point.

4. The ball release and the landing of the front foot occur simultaneously. The landing is soft, on the ball of the foot not the heel and in a slightly closed position. We want the pitchers to stride out, take a big stride, enabling him to get a release point closer to the hitter.

5. The glove hand remains in front of the face to help keep the head still and the shoulders at 180 degrees and facing the target (linear) not falling off to the side.

6. We expect the pitcher to release the ball consistently from the same release point. This is a kinesthetic sense that a pitcher must feel and develop.

Rhythm is essential for a consistent release point. We prefer a rhythm of one, two, three in front of the head on every pitch, giving the arm sufficient time to catch up with the front side and affect the release on a downward plane.

FOLLOW THROUGH

1. The ball is released on a down-ward plane.

2. The back hip forcefully releases and rotates into a parallel position to the front hip (180 degrees), allowing the chest to be exposed toward the target.

3. The weight is transferred forward to the front leg.

4. The front knee bends to absorb the shock and allow the pitcher to continue toward the target on a linear path. We do not want the pitcher to push off the rubber. We prefer a controlled fall toward the target. It is imperative for the stride leg to open past the midline of the pitcher's body, thus enabling the pitcher to get shoulders perpendicular to the target, a great aid for command.

5. Upon the release of the ball, the arm continues toward the target. A linear approach allows the pitcher's arm to stay long to the target and not spin off.

6. The back foot lands parallel to the front foot, positioning the pitcher in excellent fielding position.

The linear approach, when mastered, will not allow the front side to fly open giving the pitching arm sufficient time to catch up with the front side before releasing the ball. This will keep the delivery mechanically sound and help prevent arm injuries.

THE STRETCH

This section addresses the stretch position and delivery for right-handed pitchers.

1. From the stretch position, we want the pitcher to again keep the shoulders wide and parallel.

2. Align the shoulders directly at the target.

3. Hold the glove letter high, with the ball in the glove.

4. Hold the hands against the chest, with the wrist and hand completely in the glove, concealing the pitches from a runner at second and the base coaches.

5. The head can tilt slightly forward, increasing the pitcher's view of the runner at first base.

6. The windup and stretch mechanics are identical. We want the young pitcher to work almost exclusively from the set position until they have mastered their mechanics.

7. The stride leg and hands move simultaneously. The leg lifts slightly. By lifting the leg slightly, we can still employ our best pick off move: We do not want a slide step. We also discourage a high leg lift with a runner at first base. (Our objective is to get the ball to the plate in just 1 or 1.1 seconds!)

8. Point the foot and toes down, thus removing all tension in the leg.

9. Keep the weight on the back leg and slightly bend the knee to aid stability.

10. The hands break and the thumbs turn downward, with the glove going toward the target and the ball directed toward centerfield. (Exactly as it is done from the windup).

11. The arms form a goal-post position, (remember to pinch those scapulas together to make sure the ball does not go past 180 degrees) with the throwing arm raised to a level higher than the shoulder ("L" position).

12. As the arm begins forward, the hand turns the ball toward the target, the front hip begins to open, and the belly button--acting as a camera--begins filming the target. This technique of using the belly button as a camera will stop the hip from rotating off the target.

13. The head is still and both eyes are on the target.

14. As the pitching arm starts forward, the glove hand moves close to the face.

15. The front foot glides and lands softly on the ball of the foot. If the front side is slow and does not start forward until the arm is prepared to deliver the ball, the pitcher should be able to take a large stride that will take him closer to the target upon release.

16. The backside releases as the arm continues on a linear path toward the target.

17. The front knee softens the impact by bending, allowing the body to continue forward. The shoulders are parallel at a 180-degree angle to the target.

18. The head is up and slightly in front of the feet.

19. If the back leg is released properly, it will not drag, but rather lift and land parallel to the stride leg. The pitcher lands in a great fielding position.

DIVIDENDS

Master the fundamentals of the linear approach. It will improve any pitcher and make him more consistent.

1. It will increase your velocity because it will put your release closer to the hitter.

2. It will sharpen the command of your pitches because it will improve the consistency of your release point.

3. It will keep your shoulders perpendicular to the target throughout your delivery

4. By using your body more effectively, you will take the strain of your arm and reduce the recovery time.

By Marty Berson, The Lab, MVP Baseball/Softball Academy, Fullerton, CA
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Title Annotation:BASEBALL
Author:Berson, Marty
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2006
Words:1593
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