Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

The command bullpen: Fixing a wild thrower

September 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Coaching, Pitching

Every coach has dealt with a kid who just struggles to throw the ball over the plate.  Some of those kids, based on their mechanics, velocity, etc., are just shifted to other positions and promptly labeled “not a pitcher.”  But some kids show extreme promise with regard to their throwing ability.  These are the players that frustrate us when they

Command Bullpens may be helpful for wild throwers.

Command Bullpens may be helpful for wild throwers.

just seem to not throw strikes no matter what we try.

There are a multitude of valid reasons why a pitcher has accuracy issues.  Obviously, mechanical issues may be at fault and therefore should be dealt with quickly.  What those mechanical issues may be are elaborated on in a couple basic pitching videos I produced that are located on the VIDEO page on the site.

This post deals with a drill sequence that may be of some help to pitchers who are struggling with accuracy.  I’ll call it the Command Bullpen Sequence.  It works like this:  

Note: the example involves an older pitcher who pitches on a traditional field size – 90′ bases, 60’3″ mound distance.  Tweak the distances as needed based on the field dimensions of the player.  Tweak the number of throws as needed also.

After warming up properly …

  • The pitcher throws from 30 feet (1/2 the distance) with the catcher squatting down behind the plate as normal.  The pitcher uses his correct mechanics (wind-up and/or stretch) and hopefully throws about 10-15 pitches for strikes down in the strike zone.  If the pitcher has trouble with this distance, he should not move on to the next sequence.
  • The pitcher then moves back to 45 feet (75% of the full distance) and does the same thing.  He either stays there or moves on depending on his ability to throw strikes.
  • The pitcher then moves back to full distance (on mound or flat ground is fine) and repeats.
  • The pitcher then moves back to 75 feet (125% of full distance) and repeats.
  • Finally, the pitcher returns to the full mound distance and repeats the throws in the lower part of the strike zone.

This sequence can be beneficial for a several reasons:

  1. The shorter distances require more body control so that you don’t knock the catcher over with a full speed pitch.  Improving body control is always good. Short distances also get pitchers to focus more on finesse and rhythm instead of raw force all the time.
  2. The drill forces pitchers to focus on low strikes instead of just velocity or just strikes thrown anywhere in the zone.
  3. The longer distances can add confidence since if they can throw strikes at 75 feet out, 60 feet doesn’t seem so much of a challenge anymore.
  4. The pitcher is always working on proper mechanics throughout the sequence.
  5. It is a systematic approach to throwing a bullpen which is lightyears from just telling a pitcher to “go throw a bullpen” hoping that he does it well with goals in mind.
  6. Sessions can be easily charted to assess progress from each distance as time goes on.

You will always run into kids who, no matter what you try, can’t throw strikes.  The command bullpen routine may be something you do as a standard for all pitchers or something you try for that kid before sending him away from the mound for good.

Tomorrow’s Post:  Training captains

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