Accurately pitching a baseball is one of the most difficult things for an athlete to do. It takes years to develop the speed, control, and variety that a pitcher needs to succeed. If you want to improve your ability, it takes patience, hard work, and discipline.
Setting Up Properly
Building your skills is all about repetition. You need to develop control over the fine muscles that are used to pitch a baseball. This means that every single one of your pitches should be from the exact same distance. Before you do anything else, you’ll need to measure the proper length for each pitch. If you are under thirteen years of age, the mound will be forty five feet from home plate. For everyone else, the standard distance will be sixty feet and six inches. If you’re throwing from the proper distance, you’ll know that your practice pitches will carry over into games.
Every pitch should begin the exact same way. Look at the catcher and place the ball in your glove. Your first move should be a step backwards. If you are left handed, you will step back with your right leg; right handed people will step back with their left leg. As you step backwards, you should raise your hands over your head. This will give you balance as you work through your pitching motion. At this point, the ball should still be in your glove.
The next step is to turn away from the plate. As you turn, tuck your left leg (or right leg if you are left handed) into your body. Never forget that balance is crucial. If you want to generate real force on your throw, there must be a real economy of movement. Focus on increasing your momentum as you move forward. You may even want to pause at the top of your motion. This will help you achieve the balance that you’ll need.
Making The Throw
As you near your release, your attention should focus on your back leg. By driving off of your back leg, you can generate a significant amount of power and torque. This is a fast motion, so try to push yourself as hard as you can. At this point your body should be going towards home plate. Your right arm should be swinging over your body. The release point is crucial. Try to let go of the ball when it is at shoulder level. You shouldn’t expect to master the release right away. The truth is that it requires a kinesthetic feel that takes time to develop.
Pitching Out The Stretch
If you have a runner on, you may not be able to use your full wind up. Instead, you should try to pitch out of the set. For this throw, your back foot should be placed on the rubber while your other front is out front. In effect, you will be standing sideways in relation to home plate. The ball should be in your glove, and your glove should be directly over your head. From this position, bring your glove down until it is near your waist. Once that is done, you should be ready to use your standard pitching motion. To be an effective pitcher, you should be comfortable using both the standard wind up and the set.
Many pitches focus entirely on power and force. While a good fastball can be effective, the truth is that there is no substitute for control. If you want to consistently get outs, you need to develop an elite level of accuracy and precision. In many ways, pitching is a mental game. You need to focus entirely on your target. As you are going through your wind up, think of the catcher’s mitt. If you can block out distractions, your pitching ability should improve.
As a pitcher, a rushed delivery is your worst enemy. This can lead to wild pitches and consistent issues with control. The way to fight this is through tempo. Make it a point to breathe regularly and stay relaxed while pitching.
Make it a priority to visualize good pitches. When your team is at bat, try imagine what it would be like if you could hit your spots consistently. These mental reps will give you more confidence and increased control.
Over the course of a long practice session, it can be easy to lose focus. This will result in pitches that lose their velocity or drift off of their target. To improve your pitching ability, you need to totally commit yourself to every single pitch. This will help you develop the consistency that you will need to succeed.
As a pitcher, you should look to develop as much variety as possible. If you only have one or two good pitches, batters will eventually figure you out. One way to develop variety is to throw sidearm. By throwing sidearm, you can increase the movement that your pitches have. Be aware that this is a less natural way of throwing, so you should make sure to give your arm adequate rest.
A sidearm curveball should be gripped in the same way as a standard curveball. This means that you should place one finger on the baseball’s seam. While the throwing motion is similar, the results will actually be very different. For an overhead curveball, the ball will move from top to bottom. On a sidearm curveball, though, the motion will move from one side to the next.
Snapping Your Wrist
A good pitcher knows how to use his wrist. As you release the ball, there should be a snapping motion. Your digits will move a few inches forward, putting motion on the baseball. This is what will cause the ball to spin. A good curveball can confuse and frustrate batters.
Knowing Your Target
As you try to refine your curve ball, it’s important that you know what you’re looking for. If you’re throwing overhand, a curveball should break with a vertical motion. If your ball is moving from side to side, you’re probably struggling with control. On a sidearm curveball, however, the effect is different. The ball should only drop about seven or eight inches vertically. Instead, the majority of the motion will be horizontal. A good sidearm curveball can move across the entire strike zone. If the batter is anticipating a ball inside, this can be a great way to make him chase the ball outside the strike zone.
Kevin Kerekes is a New Jersey resident and former Division I Rutgers baseball player. His Kevin Kerekes twitter and LinkedIn accounts interact with thousands more in the social world. For more about Kevin Kerekes, see his About.me profile.