Pitching mechanics are known for being one of the most complicated and complex movements in all of sports.
As a result, many pitchers fail to achieve correct pitching mechanics. Sometimes the mechanical issues are difficult to fix, while others are much more common and can be fixed in a single session.
In this post, some common baseball pitching mechanics mistakes will be analyzed. These are the ones that I have seen the most in youth, high school, and college pitchers (some of my teammates).
By fixing some of these common mistakes, you may see an immediate increase in velocity once you fix the issue. Some other issues may take practice to learn the proper technique, but will be beneficial in the long run.
23 common pitching mechanics mistakes
If you are suffering from any of these pitching mechanics mistakes, then it is important that you take it one step at a time. Don't try to fix several mechanical issues at one time. Focus on one aspect until you have mastered it, and then move on to subsequent issues.
1. Not starting in an athletic position
This may not seem like a big deal to many pitchers, but your posture on the mound can really affect your overall pitching mechanics.
You should always stay loose in the starting position, but it shouldn't be a lazy loose.
Your shoulders shouldn't be hunched over, and your glove should typically be up against your chest or out in front. Some pitchers like to keep the throwing arm down to their side in the starting position. There is nothing wrong with this.
Stand athletically and confidently in the starting position. A lazy starting position will result in a lazy delivery.
2. Rocking back when stepping behind the rubber
While this is an old-fashion technique, some pitchers still utilize the step-behind in their windup motion. There is nothing wrong with the actual movement of stepping behind the rubber.
Many great professional pitchers such as Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, and Greg Maddux all used the step-behind.
Like I said, that's not the issue. The issue is when a pitcher steps behind and rocks back too far with the upper body. What happens is that the head is no longer in the center of the body.
This is problematic because it can affect your balance throughout the rest of the delivery. In addition, it may also cause of accuracy issues because your head is no longer aligned with the body.
If you really love the step-behind in your windup, then make sure you keep your head completely aligned down the middle of your body. This is vital to the remaining portion of your pitching mechanics.
3. Rocking back when stepping to the side of the rubber
This is the same exact concept as above. Every rule still applies no matter where you decided to step in your windup. Always keep the head centered with the rest of the body.
4. Using a leg kick instead of a leg lift
Yes, the old-time pitchers like Sandy Koufax would utilize a leg kick. But to be honest, this is really just unnecessary movement in the pitching mechanics.
Every pitcher should simply lift the knee directly up instead of using a kick. It's not completely unacceptable to use a small kick, but for most pitchers, it will only cause further issues in their pitching mechanics.
I'm not completely discrediting the leg kick because Justin Verlander uses a slight leg kick into his leg lift. As we all know, Verlander can throw 100 mph, so the leg kick shouldn't be completely ruled out.
My only issue with the leg kick is that it's extra movement that won't really benefit your mechanics as a whole.
5. Trying to reach a balance point
This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your pitching mechanics. Never try to achieve a perpendicular balance point.
Once you reach the peak of your leg lift, your lead hip should be driving towards home, your lift leg pock should be aimed at the target, and your drive knee should be inside your drive leg.
Your weight should never be over the drive leg, but instead it should already be accelerating towards home.
6. Not closing off the hips
This is an essential step in your pitching mechanics because it ensures that you will achieve proper hip to shoulder separation.
Your lead hip must be closed off at the peak of your leg lift and throughout the stride phase.
By not being completely closed off in these two phases, you will be forced to open the hips prematurely, which will force the upper body to move simultaneously with the hips. We DON'T want this!
7. Pointing your toe in the air
This issue occurs during the leg lift. Some pitchers will point their toe in the air during the leg lift and especially at the peak of the lift.
A pointed toe can sometimes lead into a tendency to bring the lift leg out and around as opposed to down and out. It can result in an awkward landing position with the majority of your weight placed on the heel.
Make sure your foot is relaxed and aimed towards the ground.
8. Turning your back to the target
Sorry, not everyone can be like Hideo Nomo. While he was pretty successful with this technique, it is not a recommended method for most pitchers.
Turning your back and shoulder at the peak your leg lift causes several issues. First, turning your shoulders obviously moves them away from the target. While it's important to have your lead hip closed at the peak of your leg lift, it's still important to have your shoulders aimed at the target.
Rotating will cause accuracy problem because it may actually force a pitcher to pull too far to the glove side. You will notice pitchers who rotate the shoulders too far will often miss to the outside portion of the strikezone. It can also make it very difficult for the throwing arm to catch up with the rest of the body.
9. Upper body leaning forward
Some pitchers will tilt their upper body down at the leg lift and into the stride. This misaligns the head with the center of the body, and instead of leading with the hip, you are leading with the shoulders.
Titled the upper body will decrease accuracy, and will disrupt the remaining portion of the pitching mechanics.
10. Upper body leaning backwards.
Similar issue with the previous one except in the opposite direction. When some pitchers are beginning the "drop and drive" phase, they will tilt their upper body backward forcing the lead shoulder to point into the sky.
There is always going to be a slight upward tilt of the front shoulder, but it shouldn't be excessive.
11. Out and around, instead of down and out
This is probably one of the biggest mistakes that I've seen in many players pitching mechanics. Instead of dropping the lift leg down to the ground and out into the stride, some pitchers will come out and around with lift leg.
What this does is it will cause the hips to open up prior to foot strike, and you will not be able to achieve proper hip to shoulder separation.
Make sure your lift leg and foot is doing down, not around into the stride.
12. Collapsing the drive knee
The whole idea of dropping and driving is a good one, but most pitchers perform this technique incorrectly.
One of the most common mistakes is when pitchers excessively collapse the drive knee forcing it to drift over the drive foot.
Over-collapsing the drive leg creates a weight shift problem because the power and force isn't being directed towards home. In fact, you are actually losing drive power by collapsing too far.
High velocity pitchers have tripled extended the drive leg before going into foot strike.
Triple extension is a concept that Brent Pourciau of 3X Pitching Velocity has developed. Every pitcher must attempt to reach this triple extension point in their stride phase.
Such extension is not possible if you're collapsing the knee too far.
13. Showing the ball to center field
Chris O'Leary was one of the first instructors to notice this pitching mechanics mistake. There really is no velocity implications involved with showing the ball to center field. However, this technique does have a significant amount of injury potential.
Showing the ball to center field forces a pitcher to pronate the forearm too early, which will add additional pressure to the elbow.
The best strategy is to show the ball to third base at the cocked or loading position.
14. Breaking the hands with the elbows
While this may also not have a serious effect on velocity, it can potentially cause elbow and shoulder issues. I recommend reading O'Leary's articles on the inverted W and inverted L. Both of these explain this common arm action and timing issue.
Every pitcher should break the hands in an almost circular motion. Do not lift your elbows to the cocked position. Your hands should drop down, and back up to the cocked position while keeping both elbows slightly below the shoulders. This will prevent any unnecessary shoulder or elbow issues.
The earlier you notice this mistake, the easier it is to fix. A pitcher who has used an inverted W or L hand break their entire life has developed a strong muscle memory for this action, making it difficult to break. Notice it early, and correct it as soon as possible.
15. Short stride length
Stride length is vital to pitching velocity, and it's important that pitchers try to achieve a stride that is about 85% to 100% of their height.
A short stride does not the allow the arm to get into the proper cocked position, and can add additional stress on the arm, along with reduced velocity. In general, pitchers with longer strides are those who typically throw at higher velocity.
Developing a longer stride length is the result of greater drive leg action. If you achieve triple extension like I discussed earlier, you will undoubtedly have an above average stride length.
16. Hips opening too early
Keeping your hips completely closed prior to foot strike is essential for pitching velocity. Opening your hips prior to foot strike will promote inefficient hip to shoulder separation.
17. Your hips aren't open at foot strike
Unlike the stride phase, you want your hips to be completely open once you reach foot strike. However, at this point in your pitching mechanics, your shoulders and upper body should still be closed off.
If your hips aren't open it will affect the timing of your arm path, forcing it to lag behind the rest of your body. Pitchers who don't get their hips completely open will typically throw inside often, and will be lower velocity pitchers.
18. Your lead foot is too closed off at foot strike
It's important that your lead foot is slightly closed off at foot strike, but it shouldn't be closed to a point where it's almost facing third (RHP) or first (LHP).
19. Your lead foot is too open at foot strike
Having the lead foot open at foot strike will usually force a pitcher to pull too far to their glove side. This creates more of an accuracy issue than anything else. The open lead foot will force pitchers to throw outside of the zone more frequently.
Try to keep the lead foot slightly closed or in a direct line towards home.
20. You have no hip to shoulder separation
This is potentially the biggest mistake you can make in your pitching mechanics.
According to the National Pitching Association, hip to shoulder separation is responsible for around 80 percent of velocity. The problem is that many pitchers don't achieve the appropriate amount of hip to shoulder separation.
The best way to think about it this concept is to split the lower and upper body in half. Think of each section as too completely different sections of the body. Each section is performing its own unique movement.
At foot strike, the hips and lower half should be completely open while the upper half is still closed. Remember, two completely different moving parts.
Once the hips are completely open then the upper body should rotate and open up. This millisecond of separation between the two portions of the body is essential for achieving velocity.
This separation can rarely be seen with the naked eye. Instructors or anyone who is working on a pitching mechanics needs to utilize a camera if they want to properly examine this issue. The issue of course, is that pitchers are not achieving any separation. Instead, their lower and upper halves are rotating simultaneous into external rotation.
21. Front leg is still bent during internal rotation (release point)
It's important that the lead leg is not bent during internal rotation. You will notice in power pitchers like Aroldis Chapman or Trevor Bauer that their lead leg is stiff and barely bent at their release points. This allows the trunk of their bodies to be bent over the lead leg and produces the greatest amount of velocity.
The front leg should be stable and the upper body should be over the top. Making an adjustment to this portion of your pitching mechanics begins by achieving better hip to shoulder separation.
22. The upper body is still tall during at the follow through
Many pitchers have a difficult time properly following through after release point. A proper follow through can assist the deceleration of the arm, and reduce the amount of stress on the decelerator muscles of the rotator cuff.
In a proper follow through a pitcher's body should be over the top of the lead leg, and the back should be flat.
23. You aren't using video to analyze your motion
Not utilizing video is the most detrimental pitching mechanics mistake of all! Every pitcher needs to be analyzing their mechanics by using a video.
In order to properly see and correct some of these mistakes, the throwing motion must be slowed down and stopped. There is no one in the world that can analyze every aspect of pitching mechanics with their naked eye. It's simply too explosive of a motion, with way too many moving parts.
I hope this article gave you a better understanding of the potential pitching mechanics mistakes that you might be currently making.
Keep working hard. No off days. No excuses.
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To get to the next level, preparation matters. Your work ethic matters. Being committed to the process matters. Big league pitchers spend far more time preparing to pitch than actually pitching. The journey is just as important as the end result.
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