Professional baseball pitchers make it to the big leagues on the strength or one or two outstanding pitches. There are few, if any, top pitchers who have very good sliders, curves, fastballs, knucklers, cutters, screwballs, and changeups in the same arsenal. There is one thing professional baseball pitchers all have in common, and that is sound fundamentals that allow them to throw the ball hard, with control, and without injuring their arms, wrists and shoulders. Learning the fundamentals of pitching is absolutely necessary if you want to work your way to big-league success.
Whether you are throwing a baseball, shooting a basketball, or spiking a volleyball, a kinetic chain of events takes place in your body to create the movement.
When you pitch a baseball, you begin to generate power in your feet, with your neurons reacting up your body, one after the other. This energy moves through your legs and hips to your core, into your upper body, your shoulder, and back down your arm to your hand. This chain of events lets you efficiently transfer energy from the start of your movement to the end.
If you interrupt one part of the chain, you disrupt this energy flow and decrease your power. With an incorrect motion, you can force one part of your body to do too much work, causing a repetitive stress injury. For example, throwing a baseball without bending your knees or sufficiently rotating your torso can cause you to try and generate your power with more arm effort than you should, which can cause rotator cuff problems.
Start your pitch standing sideways to home plate, with your feet slightly apart. Shift your weight to your back foot as you turn your torso backward and raise your front foot. Bring your hands up toward your ear.
As you rise up, begin your backward turn with your torso. This core movement creates considerable power as you begin your forward movement. Without it, you lose much of the power you generated from your legs and hips, and end up putting too great a burden on your shoulder, arm, elbow, and wrist. Some pitchers rotate backward so much during this phase that the batter can see the pitcher’s back.
To begin your forward movement, start to take your forward stride with your front foot, lowering your leg to the ground with a wide step forward. When your front foot touches the ground, both of your knees will bend slightly. Move your hips forward to propel your upper body forward as you move your legs upward. The hips and legs provide a significant amount of power during a baseball pitch.
You will get more power if your torso drives your shoulder forward, which then takes your arm forward. If you start your forward movement with your arm, trying to move your shoulder and torso forward that way, you will most likely develop an injury. Let your arm initially “go along for the ride” created by the forward movement of your legs, hips and torso. Only after your torso starts your arm forward should you begin actively moving your arm forward.
In order to slow your arm down naturally without losing speed, you will need to pronate your forearm, or turn it outward as you deliver the ball. This is similar to a high-five movement. Hold your arm straight out, with your thumb pointing upward. Turn your thumb so that it points at the floor; you should see the back of your hand. This is forearm pronation.
Some pitches, such as curves and sliders, require supination, or turning your palm inward as you throw, keeping your thumb pointing straight up. If not performed correctly, these pitches can cause shoulder, elbow, and wrist injuries.
Most professional pitchers throw overhand, but many use a slightly side-arm motion. This can be very effective while reducing your risk of injury. Biomechanics researcher Vic Braden recommends a more side-arm motion for both baseball pitchers and tennis servers.
Finish your pitch with your rear foot leaving the ground and coming forward, as if you were taking a step forward. Don’t actively take that step; let your back leg whip around naturally because your quick, forward hip movement causes you to do this.
Once you have the basic mechanics to create an effective kinetic chain for pitching, you can work with a pitching coach to learn how to hold the ball and use your wrist to create different types of pitches.