Better Pitching Mechanics
In our pursuit of improved pitching mechanics, this article will highlight one critical component that happens right at the beginning of the motion. The way we begin our motion will really tell the story of what our pitching mechanics look like all the way through.
In order to be fluid and explosive, have good momentum, be in sound dynamic balance, and be fundamentally correct, we must start the right way.
In this article we'll address the mechanic of leading the motion toward home with your hips.
Read our article about Loading The Hips here for more tips on why the hips are so important in the pitching delivery. The term "loading the hips" is something of a buzzword these days, we suggest you read our article to see what we mean when we say it.
Leading With The Hips The Right Way
Leading with the hips means that when your body begins to move forward toward home, right around maximum leg left, the front hip must lead the way.
There is often discussion among coaches about when we should move our hips forward, and it's our opinion that it depends a bit on each individual pitcher. Everybody's balance and stability is a little different, as is the height and length of each pitcher's body. There is no "perfect" instant to move your hips forward.
Having said that, earlier is typically better. There are a great many MLB pitchers that begin the hips forward just before their lift leg reaches the top of it's height. Many others start moving forward as they reach maximum leg lift, and a few start after the knee starts to come down.
We recommend being on the side of the majority of MLB pitchers, and starting your hips toward the catcher just before or right at maximum leg lift.
This is a big subject, and we'll be writing a lot more about it on this blog so we suggest subscribing at the end of the article so you don't miss anything.
For now though, let's take a look at what leading with the hips looks like:
Zack Greinke starts his hips forward just as his lift leg reaches it's maximum. This is several frames after he has started forward, where you can see that his front hip is leading the way.
Roy Oswalt starts his hips just before his lift leg reaches it's maximum height. Notice the angle in his post leg, toward home. This pushes his hips forward early, and generates good momentum.
Felix Hernandez starts his hips forward as his knee reaches it's maximum height. Here's hand break where his move toward home is clearly led by this hips.
Mariano Rivera begins to move his hips toward home just before his lift leg reaches it's maximum height. After that, his body is led by his front hip toward home.
Aroldis Chapman begins to angle his post leg toward home very early but his hips don't typically start toward home until his lift leg is at maximum height. He does a tremendous job of leading with his hips.
So while they're isn't a one-size-fits-all timing for the move forward, it is important that the move starts with the hips.
The biggest mistake that younger pitchers make in this regard is that they start their front leg forward before they start their hips. This leads to a "reaching out" of the front leg, disconnected from the center mass and from the energy of the body.
The lower half's main job in the pitching delivery is twofold:
1: To gather energy from the ground and begin to generate momentum toward home.
2: To be in a good position to support the upper half so that it can do its' part.
One of the main issues with disconnecting the front leg is that it prevents the lower half from doing either one of those things. It doesn't build momentum it simply "takes a step", and it doesn't provide a great base for the upper half because it gets too spread out.
Keep the front hip in front of the lead leg on the initial move toward home and you'll go a long way toward improving your pitching mechanics.