Practice

Drastically Improve Your Pitchers Using a Tunnel

True or false – pitchers don’t need more break on their pitches, they need their pitches to break later.

You might know the answer, but do you know how to practice it?

For years, pitchers have grown up hearing they’ve got to get more break on their pitches, that you can never have enough jump on a ball. And while lots of movement isn’t a bad thing, it is harmful for pitchers to only think about the amount of movement instead of considering when the movement happens.

Most pitchers, in their obsessive quest to “get more break on the pitch” simply make the pitch break sooner – as in almost immediately out of their hand – causing the batter to easily determine where the pitch will, or won’t, end up. The less able a batter is at predicting where a pitch will end up, the less able they are to time it up and hit it squarely.

This concept of not allowing the batter to predict where the pitch ends up is where “the tunnel” comes in. Because a swing takes time, the batter must start their swing before the pitch gets to the plate. Technically, the batter must start her swing when the ball is about 2/3 of the way to the plate in order to have enough time to execute her swing.

pitching tunnel setup break movement hitters practice

As a result, where the ball is at this 2/3rd-of-the-way-to-home-plate-point either helps the batter better predict where it will be when it crosses the plate…or it won’t. As you can imagine, the more predictable the pitch-path is at this 2/3 point, the easier it will be for the batter to hit it.

Our job as pitching coaches is to train our pitchers to have their pitches more AFTER they pass the decision zone (the 2/3rd’s point). As long as the pitch breaks after this point, it doesn’t have to break much for it to end up in a point other than where the batter created her swing to go. Make sense?

Since our mind works in pictures, it’s hard to imagine this 2/3 point, so I call it “the tunnel”.

To practice this concept, I place 2 nets in the bullpen;

  • 1 net is about 15 feet in front of homeplate, and it represents the Tunnel.
  • The 2nd net is just behind homeplate and it represents the catcher.
pitching tunnel players pitch dramatically improvement movement break

Have your pitchers start on the pitching rubber throwing to the closer net. They’ll throw their pitch (any type of pitch), hard, into the net. Then they’ll grab another ball and move over to the next rubber and throw that same pitch into the net at homeplate. The idea is to have focus more on where the pitch passes through the tunnel instead of simply trying to make the pitch a strike down at the plate.

By the way, this tunnel concept is the reason you’ll see great hitters in softball and baseball swing at pitches in the dirt or out of the strike zone. When they had to start their swing, that same pitch was in a sweet spot for that hitter as it passed through the tunnel…it just ended at a different spot.

If you’re wanting more terrific pitching instruction including drills, techniques and workouts – check out our Pitching Summit Vault!

3 Reasons for Pitching Blind Balls

Hold on – before you think I’m suggesting that umpires are blind, or that pitchers should throw balls – read on and then decide. If your pitcher’s ever struggle with their balance, their feel or their confidence then I’ve got a...

 

Read More

Are You Teaching the Whole Elephant?

If you focus on mechanics and are still frustrated that your players can’t perform simple skills in games, I‘ve got a solution for you. You might be surprised to learn that the answer lies with 6 blind guys and an elephant. I...

 

Read More

The Pitching Chart the Champions Use

Now’s your chance to use the same pitching chart used by the national champion Oklahoma Sooners! While you might not have the pitchers that Oklahoma does, that doesn’t mean you can’t chart your pitchers the way they do. Download the chart...

 

Read More

Backwards Softball

Looking for a way to make practice more fun and yet improve your team defense, then try a little Backwards Softball. If it's hard for you to imagine how you could possibly play softball backwards, then let me show you -...

 

Read More