I have worked with a lot of “Side Arm” Pitchers who are worried about losing movement when I am training and coaching them to increase velocity, with 3X Pitching. I am not talking about pitchers who throw upper 80’s, because most of the pitchers I work with are more like upper 70’s. It just blows my mind that an upper 70’s pitcher would rather have ball movement than more velocity.
The reality is, not until you get to professional baseball will ball movement start to become an important factor and at this level you will actually have coaches who will coach this with pitch grips. I really believe that changing mechanics to enhance ball movement is not a healthy approach for a pitcher. A great example was John Smoltz, at the end of his career the Atlanta, Braves made him a closer and also dropped his arm angle to a side arm position, so he could get a more natural run on the ball. This was effective at first, then he was put on the DL with bone spurs in his elbow. I believe he cut his career short when he made this mechanical adjustment for ball movement.
In my career, I never met a scout at any level who said all they are looking for is a pitcher who can throw strikes and has natural run on the ball. During my last recruiting visit, for one of the pitchers I have been working with, the first thing the coach asked was, how hard does he throw. He then told us that he wasn’t interested in anyone that was mid 80’s or less. We were expecting this and this pitcher did well and was offered a great scholarship because of his velocity.
The Road to Pitching Velocity
The best road that a young pitcher can take, in his career, is the road towards his top velocity. This means your main focus your entire career is to develop and maintain a high velocity fastball. Ever other pitch should work to complement the fastball. If a young pitcher will take this road and never go off path, his chances of making it to the top level, is a lot greater. For example, I was watching an MLB game this past season and the announcer pulled some stats on Bartolo Colon. He said that Colon averages 85% fastballs each game. Here is a veteran pitcher in Major League Baseball, he has made it to the top level and he is still throwing fastballs 85% of the time. So if you are a young pitcher playing high school baseball and you are throwing 45% or 65% fastballs then what are the chances you will be a Bartolo Colon or a hard thrower one day? Not good! Oh, by the way, the MLB only drafts hard throwers!
If you decide to go down the road to pitching velocity then you must make time for an off-season. You need an off-season to start a velocity program like the 3X Pitching Velocity program, if you want to increase velocity. Trying to use an off-season program to increase velocity in-season will have little effect. This is why increasing velocity can be such a big challenge, you not only have to work hard through the program but you also have to make at least a 16 week commitment, 5 days a week, 2-3 hours a day. So stop going from in-season to in-season and take the time to develop a high velocity fastball in the off-season.
Location, Location, Location
Before you even start thinking about movement, after you have established a good fastball, you must master pitch location first. This means learn to place your dominate fastball on the corners of the plate. Your fastball can work as an off-speed pitch just by moving it inside and outside of the strike-zone. An inside fastball on the hands of a batter adds 5 mph in perceived velocity to the hitters eye. An outside fastball is just the opposite. This means just throwing the ball inside and outside to the hitter, will throw his timing off and you haven’t even changed your pitch. If you can master painting the corners with your dominate fastball then you could possibly take this strategy all the way to pro ball. Just imagine what scouts will think when they have a kid throwing upper 80’s or low 90’s and all he needs is his fastball to dominate the game. This is a major plus for all scouts!
Now comes the Movement
You don’t have to throw “Side Arm” or “Submarine” to have ball movement. Greg Maddux was the master at ball movement and he did it with an almost over the top release point. The key to his ball movement was pitch grips. Once you have established your fastball and you are throwing it 85% of the time or more, inside and outside, then now you can start to work with ball movement. This doesn’t mean everyone must have the same arm slot. I believe your bone and muscular structure will establish your natural arm slot. All it means is your ball movement must come from your pitch grips. Pitch grips should be a simple process of finger placement and wrist release point. The rest is up to you to spend the time working with the feeling of the pitch, until you can get some good movement out of it.
I highly recommend that you do not spend much time at all with ball movement, until you are heading way done the road to pitching velocity. If you are a young pitcher and you are getting hit around a lot in travel ball or high school baseball then make time for an off-season and develop a fastball.