I Used To Think It Didn't Matter...
I wrote one article that said I don't coach the stride in the pitching delivery a whole lot, even though I believe it's attached to a few of the most critical components of it.
In many ways, I could say exactly the same thing about the landing foot. I started out in my "video analysis career" not paying much attention to the foot.
I viewed it as something that was associated with much more important things that I should be looking at (like the leg). As I went through the years however, I began to understand that the foot itself had more importance than I gave it credit for.
Here's Why It Does Matter:
- The landing foot must be stable. While I don't care much exactly how the foot lands, it must be stable in order to drive energy up the chain and provide a good base to rotate into. For this reason, I am naturally skeptical of "toe landers". If the pitcher is landing on his toe, he must be able to do it with maximum structural integrity. Many "toe landers" will be shaky with the front foot on landing, this should be corrected. If a pitcher is landing on his toe with good stability and no noticeable wobble on landing, I don't touch it. My favorite way to land is just like we walk...slightly heel to toe.
- The hips must rotate on landing of front foot. It is critical that the hips are allowed to rotate hard into the throw when the front foot lands. If the front foot is angled too closed, it will block the hips off and disallow proper rotation. "Too closed" is different for every kid, so my advice is to observe the hip's rotation and see if they're on time and effective. If not, one place to look is the front foot.
- The front leg must be on line and stable. This one is actually something I pay an awful lot of attention to and train intensely. Front leg stability is a major reason why so many youth pitchers have issues with consistency and general accuracy. I won't get into that too much here, but the front foot plays a role. Besides stability, direction of the front leg is important as well. If the front foot is pointed outward (open), the knee has a tendency to follow. When the knee follows, we lose the integrity of our firm base and leak to our glove side.
Here's a free eBook on front leg instability that we wrote awhile back that has some good places to start if this is an issue.
Those are the three primary things that I look at with the front landing foot. What do we do to fix it?
With direction, there isn't a "perfect" angle for the front foot. Look for issues in the pitcher's mechanics and then use the front foot as one of your many tools to fix it. Generally speaking, straight toward the catcher is good and slightly closed is just as good or better. For my way of thinking I don't like to see "open" feet at all, but I believe if you train momentum and hips correctly this is very rare.
While the front foot is just part of a much bigger and more important process, it can give you some clues for problems and offer a small tool to help fix them. I don't touch the front foot unless I've identified an issue that it might be contributing to.
Hopefully this article gives you some ideas as to how to look at and treat the front foot. Remember that every pitcher is different and every foot will land a little different as well.