Too many pitchers have no idea what makes pitches move. Oh sure, they’ll all answer “spin” if you ask them that question, but all pitches spin and not all pitches move. How can that be?
Learn the 2 keys to making pitches move, and more importantly, how to help your pitchers actually get better.
Pop quiz – what 2 things must exist to make a pitch move? (Hint – both must exist). Give up? If you just asked this question to your pitchers chances are they gave you these 2 answers: spin and snap. In fact, try it. When you get a chance ask your pitchers that exact question – “what 2 things are required in order to make a pitch move?” and see what they say. It will tell you a great deal about why their pitches either do, or don’t, move much.
For any pitch to move the following 2 principles must be present:
- Balls move in the direction they spin
- Balls move as fast as their spin
To help better understand these 2 principles, let’s look at them both in regards to a Drop.
Balls Move in the Direction they Spin – this means for a ball to drop the ball must spin in the direction of the drop, or in other words it must spin toward the hitter with the top moving away from the pitcher and toward the catcher. No matter what signal the catcher gives, or what grip the pitcher uses, or what pitch the pitcher actually meant to throw, if the pitcher gets top to bottom spin (and #2 is also present) then the ball will drop.
Balls Move as Fast as Their Spin – this one’s really important as it’s what sets fastballs and dropballs apart. Let’s say your pitcher has finally gotten the proper spin for the dropball but the ball doesn’t drop. How come? A better question to ask is this – if “spin” was the only thing that made pitches move then how come a dropball and a fastball spin in exactly the same direction but they don’t move in the same way? The answer is the speed of that spin. Fastballs and dropballs do spin in the same direction – no matter what type of drop you throw (peel or rollover) they both spin in the same direction as a fastball. But, when you throw a fastball your focus is on speed of the pitch so you don’t worry about speed of spin. But, when you throw a drop your focus changes and you start to work more on the spin speed – and that’s why both pitches spin the same but move differently – they don’t spin at the same speed. The dropball spins faster than the fastball so it moves more (at least in theory).
So when your pitchers are working on improving their various pitches they should be focusing on making sure the ball is spinning in the correct direction (which is the direction you want the pitch to move) and also making sure they are getting this spin to be as fast as possible. Why does Cat Osterman have such amazing movement on her pitches? Because she gets such amazing spin speed. She focuses on the speed of her spin at release and not on the speed of her pitches.
OK, so once your pitchers know this and start working harder on improving both of these principles with each of their pitches, it’s still hard to know if they are making progress. Sometimes pitchers will be improving their spin speed but the ball still isn’t really breaking yet because the speed hasn’t gotten fast enough to change the path of the ball. And yet they are making progress. This is the hard part about pitching practice.
Most advanced pitchers (for this article we’ll call advanced pitchers any pitcher that throws different pitches) know there are 3 things they are trying to do on every single pitch:
- Throw it hard by the speed of their hand through the release point.
- Create a correct spin direction by the position of their hand entering and exiting the release.
- Create the speed of the spin by the strength and explosiveness of their twist at and through the release.
While they might all know they should do these 3 things most pitchers are simply gripping the ball a certain way and then throwing the crap out of it – and that’s their effort to make a ball move (which is why most balls don’t really move like they should).
This results from pitchers being obsession with speed – they’re always trying to throw the ball faster. And also from there being a way to measure speed. The radar gun has been around for years and as a result it’s the only thing we’ve felt we could really measure when it came to pitching – speed. So pitchers always worry about and focus on speed, even when they’re trying to work on spin. While there are now some devices on the market that do measure spin rate, such as the Rapsodo Portable Pitching Monitor, they may not be for everyone.
When pitchers practice making balls move they usually do it by either doing their “spin” work really close to the pitcher in a half-motion kind of action and then moving back to the mound and mixing speed and spin together. In every case, whenever a pitcher tries to cram spin into speed, speed is going to win. That’s why most pitcher’s balls don’t really move like everyone thinks they should.
A GREAT tool to help your pitchers improve the amount of spin they’re getting is the Zip Ball! I developed this ball for this exact purpose – to help pitchers better increase the amount of spin they get on each pitch by not only doing the first half of the snap (which almost all pitcher get) but by completing the second half of the snap (which most pitchers don’t get). Because the Zip Ball is smaller than a regulation softball it allows the pitcher to focus more on the entire snap zone instead of just the first half – and, pitchers can throw them at full speed.
For more help with all aspects of pitching, checkout the following: