Most of the articles on this site pertain to pure pitching velocity but what is the value of top velocity when the pitcher can not locate his pitch accuracy? Zero is the answer. There is no value in pitching velocity that doesn't end in a strike.
I have witnessed many hard-throwing pitchers or should I say throwers in my career who could not hit "the broad side of a barn." These guys never made it anywhere because of this major problem of poor pitch accuracy. The problem with coaching pitch accuracy is that most pitching coaches overdo it. They create pitchers who look like they should be throwing darts instead of fastballs. This is why I focus on velocity first and then I teach my pitchers how to control it.
In this article, I will talk about the value of pitch accuracy and how the front side of the pitching delivery is how it is controlled.
The Value of Good Pitch Accuracy
Pitch accuracy is as important as pitching velocity. For a pitcher to be successful on the mound he must disrupt the batter's timing. There are many ways a pitcher can do this. Pitch speed, pitch movement, and pitch location. I believe the two most effective is pitch speed and pitch location. If you can reach your top velocity and locate your pitches then you can make it into minor league ball with just a fastball and changeup. I would recommend you use this strategy in your own career because if you start throwing breaking balls and you have poor mechanics, it can be devastating to your arm. So why take the risk when you can be just as effective or even more effective with your top pitching velocity and good pitch location?
Before you can start hitting your spots with pinpoint accuracy, you must understand how to control your pitches. Conventional wisdom would talk about the balance point and go on about it for hours. I will show you a different perspective.
Accuracy is controlling your momentum. To control your momentum you must have balance but that should be second nature. The goal is to control your momentum without affecting it. This is where most pitchers fail. They try to control their momentum to a point that it slows them down. This is no good. This is why I teach top velocity until it becomes second nature and then I teach how to control that increase pitching velocity.
How to Control the Front Side of the Pitcher
An elite pitcher uses his front side to locate his pitches. You must take aim with your front side as you begin to start your momentum towards the target. This is important because once your hips start building momentum towards the target, you must do everything in your power to release every ounce of explosive energy from your body while using that energy to fire certain muscle groups at specific times in your delivery. So once you lift your leg and kick that butt out to start your load and build momentum, you must set up your front side for pitch location. To do this you must separate your hands and relax your throwing arm while closing off your glove hand. You must also slightly turn your lift leg foot inward to close off your hips. Notice the picture above of Jon Lester performing this setup. This is a similar moment in the delivery as a sprinter would perform just before taking off. The sprinter would set up his body for taking off to control his launch and give his body the best opportunity to reach his top velocity as quickly as possible, which is the same thing we are trying to do as pitchers.
The reason for closing off the front side is because it makes it easier for our momentum to travel straight to the target. If the glove arm was to open early or the lift leg, then this would throw our weight off to the side and more than likely the pitch would follow. So staying close is important because it keeps our momentum going straight to the target. Just like a sprinter wouldn't want to start learning to his left before he fired out of his stance.
Another important tip is to stay closed as long as possible because of the same reasons and also because it will help you build more torque with good hip to shoulder separation. "Separation" is when your hips have opened to the target and your shoulders are still closed like the picture below. Building more torque means more velocity.
Do not forget that you must not affect your pitching velocity when adjusting your mechanics for pitch location. To prevent this you must close your shoulders and hips off first and then the rest of the delivery you must keep them closed while hitting all the key components of velocity that I have described in detail on this site. This takes an advanced level of coordination but remembers not everyone has the ability to pitch in the top levels on the game. The only way you will develop an advanced level of coordination is first by learning the technique and then second by performing the reps necessary to program the new muscle memory.
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