Micro-pitches start to break but they don’t keep breaking. These micro-breaks cause curveballs to finish too much over the plate, or riseballs to start rising and then stop around the top of the zone.
Discover the 5 things your pitcher can do to make sure all her pitches fully move.
Micro pitches are extremely common and are the result of a micro snap. As I mentioned in last issue’s article titled Increase Pitch Movement through Knowledge & Competition, there are 2 things that make pitches move, and both of these must be present (it’s not an either-or situation):
(1) Pitches move in the direction they spin – which means if you want a ball to curve the ball must spin outwards (or sideways); if you want the ball to rise the ball must spin up; if you want the ball to drop the ball must spin down…
(2) Pitches move as much as they spin – which means that the faster a ball spins in a certain direction the more the ball will move in that direction.
The concept behind pitches moving is really that simple – at least it’s that simple to understand. What isn’t so easy is making sure that both of these factors are present on EVERY pitch. Pitchers will often get one or the other on a pitch and those pitches kind of move. Then, out of the blue, they’ll nail both factors on the same pitch and the ball will really break – but only once, and then it’s back to the micro pitches, those “kind-of” moving pitches.
This can be incredibly frustrating for pitchers since they work “hard” on getting their pitches to move all the time. One of the problems with pitchers trying so hard to throw different pitches involves the word “hard.” Anything that is hard creates tension and tension to a pitcher means slow. Pitchers tend to work hard on throwing faster so they not only rush the beginning of the motion they also tense up their shoulders, and both actions actually cause the pitcher to slow down. So, the pitcher actually ends up throwing slower, and getting more frustrated (sound familiar?!).
When it comes to making pitches move, pitchers again work hard at this without a clear understanding of what actually needs to occur to result in more movement. Go back to the 2 Keys to Ball Movement: spin direction and spin speed. I said these concepts are simple to understand and hard to make happen. Here’s why: Pitchers really think they work a lot on their “spins” without any understanding of what really makes pitches move. Most pitchers start their warmups close to the catcher doing what they call their “spins”, even doing spins for each of their pitches while up close. Then they’ll work their way back to the rubber and actually start throwing their pitches, full speed. If their pitches work – great, they just keep throwing them full blast. But if they don’t work the pitcher just tries harder to make the pitch work – while throwing full blast and without any specific thing she’s trying to do to change the lack of movement she has.
The problem with this approach is that “working and throwing harder” isn’t specific enough to actually solve the problem:
- No Carry Over Factor – when pitchers practice their spins up-close they are usually in a position that has nothing to do with the actual position their body’s in when they throw that pitch for real. Most pitchers have their weight back during spins when most pitches require a neutral weight placement. Their hand is usually at or behind their back leg when releasing their snaps while all pitches requires their hand to be in front of their back leg to start the pitch. And their focus is 100 miles away, so their brain-body connection is non-existent.
- It’s Too Vague – this means the pitcher’s approach is not specific enough to provide solutions to the actual problem. Most pitchers have the right idea with regards to solving their problems, but their ideas are too big, too vague. While your pitcher might be correct in thinking that her snap is the problem when one of her pitches doesn’t move, that thought alone won’t help her since it doesn’t provide enough detail about the snap. What part of the snap is right (repeat it) and what part of the snap is wrong (then fix that part), what direction is the snap, what speed is the snap? All of these are critical questions a pitcher must ask herself if she’s going to have a chance of correcting that pitch before she has to throw it again. Being calm and thinking very specifically about the problem and solution will help a pitcher fix her pitch, where being vague, frustrated and just trying harder won’t help at all.
- No Clarity – the problem is a lack of movement so the pitcher must understand what causes movement to get it back. Finding solutions under stress requires clear thinking and when your pitches aren’t moving it’s stressful, so having an understanding of what causes movement gives the pitcher clarity and helps calm her down.
With all this in mind here are 5 keys to help your pitchers increase their pitch movement:
- Nail the Entire Snap – There are 2 parts to a snap whenever a pitcher releases a ball and throws a pitch – the first half and the second half. The first half can also be called the entrance or the front half, while the second half can be called the exit or the back half. Whatever you call it, all pitchers that throw pitches that REALLY move – lets call them Macro Pitches – nail both the front and the back half of the snap! In contrast, pitchers that only throw Micro Pitches, those pitches that start to move and then stop moving only get the 1st half of the snap. These pitchers are completely leaving out the 2nd half of the snap. They aren’t leaving it out on purpose; they usually start the snap too soon and then the ball just leaves the pitchers hand instead of the pitcher making the ball leave her hand when she wants it to.
- It’s the Fingers Not the Wrist – For a pitcher to throw a pitch that reallymoves she’s got to have a strong release and a strong release involves strong fingers. A pitcher throws a pitch with her fingers and not her wrist. Sure, forever in softball we’ve talked about “wrist snap” and wrists do snap but they do so in the follow-through which is far too late for what we’re talking about. To make a pitch really rotate in a certain direction, and for the ball to move in that direction a pitcher must aggressively use her fingers to twist the ball in that direction during the release. I know this sounds almost anti-softball to suggest that it’s not wrist snap that makes pitches move, but think about it. The wrist is too vague of a body part. When you just stand there and hold the ball you don’t hold the ball with your wrist, you hold the ball with your fingers. In fact, your wrist never touches the ball, your fingers do. What we’ve come to refer to as “wrist snap” is actually our hand moving either forward (or in a down or sideways direction depending on the type of pitch you’re throwing) as we release the ball. When we pitch or throw a ball our hand forcefully moves forward to thrust the ball out of our fingers. Our fingers are also playing a strong role by pushing forward to help the ball leave our hand – but the wrist itself doesn’t do anything forceful on the pitch or the throw – it’s just the point from which the hand pivots when releasing the ball. To help emphasize this point to your pitcher have her place a ball on the ground, grab it from above and try and spin it like a top. To do this the pitcher must use her fingers to aggressively twist the ball, not her wrist. In fact, we can get more specific than just the “fingers” by saying that the pitcher aggressively uses her thumb, first and middle fingers when twisting, snapping and releasing pitches since these are the strongest and longest fingers on the pitcher’s hand.
- Release in Front – to help a pitch have a lot of break it needs to have a lot of spin which requires a strong hand position at release. The more a pitcher’s hand is in front of her back leg when she releases the ball the stronger her hand will be during the release. In contrast, the more her hand is behind her back leg when releasing the ball, the weaker her hand position and snap power will be. So, help your pitchers increase their chance of having a powerfully moving pitch by having a powerful release position in front of their back leg.
- Change the Word – simply changing a word like “snap” to a more powerful word like “twist” can make the action seem more powerful. Since the pitcher needs to have a powerful release of the ball to have a powerful movement on the pitch, changing to a more powerful sounding word can help a pitcher get on the right track.
- Move the Hand, Not the Chest – the last key to creating a more powerful movement pitch is for the pitcher to make sure her hand is throwing the pitch, and not her chest. Pitchers will often try to pull the pitch with their chest – particularly curveballs – which causes their hands to get behind their back leg at release, thus limiting their pitch movement. What’s important is for pitchers to throw pitches with their hand and not their chest – and to keep their pitching hand in front of their body instead of keeping their body in front of their hand.
I designed the Zip Balls™ specifically to help pitchers better use their fingers. The smaller size allows pitchers to complete the back half of the twist without the ball overpowering their hand. Learning how to complete the entire twist, or snap, is crucial to a pitcher throwing complete moving pitches.
The following products will also help your pitchers improve their pitch movement: