To throw a baseball effectively and efficiently, one must understand the components of backside balance, front-side balance, direction, rotation, and arm path. If there is no comprehension of these, then pitching a baseball becomes extremely difficult.
Players must understand that in throwing or pitching there is a chronological pattern of movement with a sequential transfer of energy, power and speed.
When throwing a baseball, have balance on the back leg first. This means for a right hand pitcher will step back with the left foot, with the weight on the right leg. This step should be linear and straight, approximately four to five and half foot lengths of the pitcher’s shoe size. The weight on the back leg enables the pitcher to harness power. As the ball is thrown, the left foot lands directly at the target, with the left shoulder, hip, knee, ankle and head all aligned with the target.
Next, weight transfers onto the left leg, with the leg softening and bending at the knee. At this point, the transfer of balance is shifted to the front-side leg (left leg). During this balance transfer, from back to front, the pitcher is moving linear or forward, directly at the target. This is called direction, or simply put, aligning the head, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle toward the target.
Over the last 30 years of instructing pitching, I have seen direction that is not emphasized in throwing and without understanding of direction, there is a loss of ball placement or control skills, from little leagues to major leagues. To achieve direction when throwing or pitching, it is necessary to turn the pivot foot completely in order to enable the direction side of the body, (the left side for right handed pitchers) to align with the target. (This also true for throwing a baseball from all positions on the field, whether a catcher, infielder, or outfielder).
The rotation process is simply follow-though or finish. The back-side then replaces the front-side, with the back leg and hip turning or rotating so that the body squares up or faces the target.
In the arm path part of throwing a baseball, it is essential to learn down, back, and up, extend and finish.
This sequential movement of the hand and arm is designed to minimize stress and strain on the arm and shoulder, and to maximize arm and hand speed, which results in increased ball speed. The first step in achieving the correct arm path is for the hand to be placed in the glove properly. The fingers and hand are on the ball, and the ball is placed in the glove, not the hand then the ball. A good rule to follow is that when the ball is in the glove, all four knuckles of the hand should be visible. When the ball and hand separate from the glove, the hand comes out of the glove facing home plate. The hand and arm then move back and up with the fingers on the top of the ball. At the point where the arm comes forward, the elbow should be equal or above the shoulder. At release, the hand and the arm should continue to extend or reach forward. This extension is extremely important for maximizing speed.
In the final phase of throwing, the pitcher must have shock absorption to protect the muscles of the shoulder. This occurs when the arm finishes on the opposite side of the body.
A great way to maximize throwing and pitching skills and develop speed and control (ball placement), while minimizing arm and shoulder injuries, is to play catch. Play a good old fashioned game of catch for 15 to 20 minutes, five days a week to reinforce the proper throwing and pitching techniques explained above.
Have fun and enjoy this great game of baseball.