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The wind-up and stretch in pitching mechanics is commonly misunderstood. Many pitchers believe they can generate higher velocity out of the wind-up, and this may be true. However, it's not necessarily true because of the wind-up.
One of the biggest problems is that most pitchers spend much more time practicing out of the wind-up. In most instances, it's probably about a 70/30 split between wind-up and stretch practice. This routine is detrimental because it diminishes your effectiveness out of the stretch.
Within a baseball game, pitchers are forced to deal with a variety of different situations including having runners on base. If you haven't put in the necessary practice for developing consistent stretch pitching mechanics, then you most likely throw slower and with less accuracy.
Let's make one thing clear: You don't throw slower because of the stretch.
The only reason you lose velocity out of the stretch is because you have spent more time developing your wind-up mechanics. There must be a 50/50 split between practicing both pitching motions.
There are tons of MLB pitchers who strictly throw out of the stretch, and many of these pitchers throw above average velocity. In fact, many pitchers prefer throwing out of the stretch because it eliminates any unnecessary movement that could alter the progression of their mechanics.
Deciding on whether to throw of the wind-up or stretch will depend on if you're a starter or relief pitcher. As you probably know, most starters prefer to throw out the wind-up, and relief pitchers typically pitch out of the stretch.
Now let's take a look at how to properly pitch out of the wind-up and stretch.
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Pitching mechanics of the full wind-up
If you're a starting pitcher, then you will most likely throw out of the wind-up. The modern wind-up motion is much more precise and involves less movement than years past.
Pitchers like Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Nolan Ryan utilized wind-ups with lots of moving parts. There is obviously nothing wrong with this approach because of these pitchers successes.
However, there is nothing wrong with making the wind-up more precise, and eliminated some movement that could cause subsequent issues in the delivery.
Current pitchers who have very efficient and precise wind-ups include Stephen Strasburg (Not implying he has amazing mechanics, just a good wind-up), Justin Verlander, and Aroldis Chapman.
Like I always recommend, watch Aroldis Chapman's pitching mechanics in both the wind-up and stretch. Chapman is a perfect example of how velocity can be generated from both motions. He is constantly clocked above 100 mph when throwing out of the stretch. This is because he's taken the necessary time to practice from both positions.
When you pitching out of the wind-up you will need to consider some options:
Step behind the rubber or to the side?
There are pros and cons of both motions.
Taking a step behind
Old-time pitchers often relied on the step-behind. Some instructors such as the last Dick Mills also recommended it because it's easier to gain momentum towards home and keep the entire body aligned toward the target.
Taking a side step
Most MLB pitchers now take a side step because it's easier to maintain balance throughout the entire motion.
Swing your hands over the head or rock the hands near your torso?
In my opinion, this portion of the wind-up is purely preferential. Do whatever you feel is the most comfortable, but I would avoid any drastic over the head swinging. Not everyone can be like Hideo Nomo.
The initial stages of the wind-up are essential for promoting an effective transition into the leg lift and stride.
Pitching mechanics of the stretch
The stretch is much simpler than the wind-up. There are several things that you will have to keep in mind when throwing out of the stretch. One very important word of advice is to avoid the slide step.
Slide steps put a lot of stress on the throwing arm because it's very difficult to produce energy from the body. As a result, slide steps force a pitcher to throwing primarily with their arm, and not their body. This simply is not an option. So what are the alternatives?
I recommend using a pinch, or a leg lift. Here are some things to consider when throwing out of the stretch:
What side of the rubber should you stand on?
This is an important aspect of the stretch. Deciding on what side of the rubber you should stand on depends on preference, arm angle, and accuracy.
Since I threw from a 3/4 arm slot, I stood the far right side of the rubber. This created an illusion that I was practically throwing behind right-handed batters, and it enabled me to hit the outside corner more efficiently against left-handed batters.
This brings me into an important point. If you're having trouble hitting one side of the plate, then making an adjustment on the rubber might be an effective option. Simply moving over can really help your accuracy.
Whether it's mental or physical is debatable, but it undoubtedly works.
The best strategy for deciding on a side is simply experimentation. While you're throwing your bullpens, experiment on which side of the rubber enables you to most efficiently locate on both sides of the plate. Try not to tinker with this too frequently, but some experimentation is a good idea.
Should you lean over or stand tall when receiving your signs?
Once again, this is preference. By leaning over, you will need to make additional movement to get to the set position. I always recommend the least amount of moving part, so standing tall in the athletic position might be the most suitable option for more pitchers.
Where should your hands come set?
I have found that coming set high with the hands can make it pretty difficult to get the arm in the proper cocked position at foot strike. By having the hand set near the waist, it is much easier to obtain the proper cocked position at foot strike. Higher set hands force a pitcher to create a larger circular motion in route to the cocked position.
Find out what works best for you, but make sure you're utilizing a camera to slow down and see if your are obtaining an effective cocked position at foot strike.
Pinch or full leg lift?
You should always use a pinch or leg lift within the stretch. Deciding between the two all depends on how fast you are to the plate, and how fast you throw. A slower delivery should probably use a pinch.
A pitcher like Aroldis Chapman utilizes a full leg lift because of how fast the ball gets to the catcher. Make sure you have your coach or mentor timing your delivery towards home. Good timing will keep runners from stealing an extra base.
I hope this gave you a better understanding of the wind-up and stretch.
Keep working hard. No off days. No excuses.
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