Pitching Drills For Better Accuracy
Breaking away from all of the velocity conversations of today's pitching 'gurus' is not always easy. Every single place you look you find another article about how worthless it is to throw 78 and how you need to spend every moment of your life training to get to 90.
While we believe that velocity is critical, it's also true that almost every single kid that grows up playing baseball in this country will top out below that mark.
Is this good? Bad?
For this article, it's neither. It's just informative and it gives us another reason to work on, and study, more than just velocity development if we're coaching kids.
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Pitching Velocity is Supremely Important
Again, velocity is important and we believe in training it intensely. It's more than important, it's a prerequisite for most people to ever pitch at any level passed high school. The fallacy of today's coaching has nothing to do with whether velocity is good or bad, everybody agrees that it's good. The mistake is training only velocity, and ignoring everything else.
Already we have gone too far into the debate world, that is not the goal of this article. Simply stated, velocity AND command are important and both can be worked on inside the same training protocol. In fact, both can be worked on in many of the same drills.
Most smart coaches know this, but some of those coaches are better at marketing than they are at truth telling, so you might not ever hear them say it without really digging.
90 mph sells, low BB/IP doesn't.
Working on Pitching Command
We've established that pitch velocity is important, and absolutely necessary to move to high level baseball. Hopefully we've also gotten across that pitching accuracy is important, and should be drilled as well.
One very important thing to remember is that pitching accuracy can take a long time to develop. There are a lot of variables in the pitching motion and often they conspire to lessen the pitcher's ability to throw the ball where he wants to. Just like any skill, throwing the baseball accurately must be practiced with quality repetition.
One of the most important truths in human performance, is that the muscles are controlled by the brain. The brain and the body must connect and be aware of what it takes to perform a goal. This awareness by the Central Nervous System can be increased on a daily basis, laying down a 'memory' to which the pitcher's body can refer on game day.
Quality Pitching Repetitions Matter
We'll leave the science and vocabulary words for another article, but what is important is that we can use our training to ingrain an education in our nervous system. This is much more than just being able to do the same thing over and over, it's the knowledge that our bodies need in order to adapt and improvise to achieve a result.
There are many ways to 'teach' the brain and the rest of the nervous system what it needs to do. It's probably worth mentioning here that it's always learning.
This is both a danger and an opportunity.
It's a danger because if we are engaging in repetitions that are wrong, we teach our bodies the wrong thing. It's an opportunity because we can constantly be working to solidify proper movement patterns, from catch play to isolated pitching drills.
Pitching Drill for Better Accuracy
Now that we have established some of the what's and the why's, let's look at the how. We need to allow our body to feel command and learn what it takes to adjust location. That is what command is all about, micro adjusting location pitch to pitch. It's not verbal cues or big mechanical changes that will do this effectively, it's subtle nervous system calibrations that happen on the fly.
Video and pictures will also not provide the nervous system what it needs to learn these skills. Only quality repetitions with a host of variable stimuli and training environments will do.
One drill that we have found that works really well to train accuracy under these desired conditions is to simply hit different targets of varying size, under some sort of added external pressure.
Let's break that down a little bit:
- Pick out multiple targets of varying size. They do not have to be in a strike zone, in fact they should be in various locations in a zone much larger than the strike zone.
- Have a pitcher attempt to hit these targets at maximum velocity and from different distances.
- Add external pressure by making it a competition, calling out targets late, or simply keeping score and having goals.
The targets being multiple sizes accomplishes the adaptability factor that we're after. Remember we're not trying to repeat the exact same thing over and over, that's not the skill we need. Instead, we're teaching our nervous system how to adjust based on changing demands and desired outcomes.
Sometimes the wind is blowing, sometimes it's not. Sometimes the mound sucks, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes the umpire is calling only the outside edge, or the pitcher's arm is sore, or he has new cleats that effect his stability. Other times it's as simple as moving the ball around the zone. Sometimes you want to throw it in the dirt, and sometimes you want it at the hitter's eyes
Let Your Eyes Guide Your Body, and Learn BIG Adjustments As Well As Small
It also forces a focal training to occur, allowing the eyes to focus on and acquire many different targets. As will be discussed in many future articles on this subject, the eyes are a primary participant in gathering and sharing information with our nervous system. It does a dynamic and explosive body a lot of good to have a strong sight focus and target.
The reason the targets should be much larger than the strike zone is so that your body can feel the adjustments it takes to move the ball around. Big and small differences in release point will combine to inform the brain and body in a more complete manner. The body will feel 'high and in' much better if it's WAY high and in. Then bring in back to WAY low and out, and feel the difference.
Vary the targets and move around the board as much as possible.
Let Your Body Learn What It Takes
The nervous system can learn the adjustments necessary, by throwing at targets of varying size and location.
The reason it's important to throw at the targets with maximum velocity should be obvious by now. We're teaching the nervous system how to pitch in a way that dominates hitters, not how to patty cake a dart into a target. Teach it how to do both at the same time; throw hard and throw accurately.
The external pressure is optional and simply makes the learning environment more robust. The same brain that controls our movements also becomes distracted by trivial stuff that it can't control. Learning to ignore those things and still throw with command is a very complete training drill for pitchers.
Here is an awesome tool for doing exactly what we've been discussing in this article, we highly recommend checking it out:
All of those targets have Velcro on the back so you can move them around however you want. This is a great tool for pitching accuracy and a must have for serious coaches in our opinion.
Alright that's all for now, we have many more articles on the way regarding accuracy and command. Please follow us on Twitter to always be updated about new articles.