My co-worker Chris Welch recently wrote a great post on how too many youth baseball players swing for contact rather than swinging to “hit the ball as hard as you can.” I thought it was definitely something that needed to be shared with our readers as many of you out there are also coaches in the town leagues too. After reading Chris’ post it made me think of how many youth pitchers, to a degree, do the same exact thing when on the mound.
Many pitchers spend all winter working on improving their pitching mechanics and trying to make them muscle memory. The reason we do this is so that when the player goes out on the field for the spring and summer, his mechanics are sharp and he can think more about things like “what pitch to throw”, “what the hitter did last time he was up”, and “what to do if the ball is hit to me” to name a few. A big thing I see with pitchers, mainly 14 years old and younger is that they pitch in games at practice speed because they either don’t trust their mechanics, haven’t practiced enough at game speed, or are wild with their control (which is typically a mechanical issue anyways). Regardless of the reason, the pitcher will try and “guide” the ball TO the catcher’s mitt rather than “driving” the ball THROUGH the catcher’s mitt. This type of pitching mentality can lead to lots of dirt balls (from shortarming), high pitches (from arm dragging), and low pitch speed (from slow arm speed).
Moral of the story:
1. Improve mechanics/muscle memory
2. Practice both at sub-maximum speeds and maximum speed
3. When you’re in the game TRUST YOUR MECHANICS!
With that said, coaches also have to deal with pitchers who when they do try to explode through their motion can’t throw a strike. Coaches usually tell the player to “slow down” which then leads to the guiding of the pitch which may temporarily work, but coaches have to realize that the reason the kid can’t throw a ball near the strike zone at full or game-speed is more likely a mechanical issue that the player has not fixed yet and not “because he’s overthrowing.”
Have a question you’d like me to answer related to this post? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!