Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Uphill vs downhill

July 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Pitching

One of the more consistent problems I see with young pitchers is the inability to throw on a downward plane.  The reason why they

Tall ...

have trouble doing this is simple.  They all play other positions on the field and do most of their throwing away from the mound.  

In the eight other positions on the field a player needs to throw on somewhat of an upward plane.  Because of the size of the field, the shortest throw they will have to make is usually about 90 feet.  Of course, an outfielder routinely throws much farther than 90 feet.  To accomplish this a player must get “carry” on the ball so that it travels the distance needed.  He does this by getting his body to go from low to high in the throwing process.  Think of a shortstop.  He’ll field the ball fairly low to the ground and gradually come up to throw the ball.  He will be at his tallest after he is finished his throw.  This low to high or “small to tall” process allows the ball to carry across the entire infield (120+ feet) to first base.  He also wants the throw to be easily caught by the first baseman so he’ll try to throw it chest high.

A throw from a pitcher is vastly different.  He only needs to throw the ball about 60 feet.  He also wants to throw it at the batter’s knees.  He’s also standing on a 10 inch hill before the process even starts.  To throw a pitch down in the zone he needs a downward or “tall to small” motion with his body.  When he starts his motion and brings his knee up, he should be at his tallest position.  When he proceeds to throw, he will gradually go downhill and be at his smallest position when he is finished.

Unfortunately, most young pitchers do not do the “tall to small” routine.  Because they do most of their throwing in the “small to tall” motion as a position player, their body gets used to that motion.  When they are asked to pitch, muscle memory takes over and

... to small.

they still pitch uphill or “small to tall.”  They are often at their tallest when they are finished with their pitch.  It’s not surprising that most of their pitches are up in the strike zone.  That’s because the motion they used to pitch was meant for a position player who throws much farther than a pitcher.

If a young pitcher understands that this is a natural challenge for all players who play multiple positions, he can take the steps to prevent it from happening.  Focusing on good mechanics and practicing them often is important but it all starts with a young pitcher reminding himself that when he steps on a mound, he is a pitcher and can no longer throw like a position player.  He needs to throw downhill in a “tall to small” motion.  


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