How To Develop Proper And Efficient Pitching Mechanics

  • Updated on Dec. 17, 2016

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ATTENTION PITCHERS: One of the big misconceptions in baseball is that playing the game keeps you in shape to pitch. I wish that was true. It's not. To get to the next level, preparation matters. Big league pitchers spend far more time preparing to pitch than actually pitching.

If you believe adding velocity could be critical to your success, check out my proven programs for pitchers of all ages.

Kyle Hendricks pitching gif
Kyle Hendricks

The following breakdown of the pitching motion is meant to be a guide for a coach who is instructing a young pitcher, or is attempting to make adjustments for a pitcher who is experiencing specific problems within his motion. As a coach, the key element is to be able to identify the specific fault which is causing the problem. The pitching motion is sequential and often an original fault leads to a series of other faults or actions.

It is not necessary that each and every pitcher use these specific techniques. If the end result is that a pitcher is successful with his own style and motion, do not change him. Use the following breakdown as a guide and checklist.

Basic Pitching Mechanics from the Wind-up Position

Preliminary Stance.

The pitcher should have good balance, be relaxed and squared off to the plate. The pivot foot spikes should be in front of the rubber and slightly open. The free foot should be slightly behind the pivot foot and about shoulder width apart. The pitching hand and wrist should be held deep inside the glove hiding the grip and ball from the batter and coaches.

Hand pump

The pitcher may use an over the head motion or a compact chest high pump. If a pitcher has balance or coordination problems, we prefer the compact wind up because there is less movement and fewer things to go wrong.

The Rocker Step

The rocker step should be a soft, short step back with the free foot at about a 45 degree angle. For good balance, the head should stay over the pivot foot and center of the body.

The Pivot Foot

The pivot foot should be pivoted to a parallel position off the front edge of the rubber. A RHP usually pitches from the right half of the rubber, the LHP from the left half. This position helps the pitcher stride in a straight line to home plate and also improves the angle of the breaking pitch from a RHP to a RHH, and a LHP to a LHH.

Leg Lift

The lead leg knee should be lifted up, not kicked or swung up which puts many pitchers out of balance. Let the free foot hang straight down from the knee. Rotate the front hip closed to at least a 90 degree angle. Keep the weight back over a fairly straight, firm posting leg to maintain balance. Do not allow the body to drift forward until the lead leg reaches its maximum height or starts to move downward. A pitcher may lift his lead leg knee up to the chest area if he can maintain good balance in the posting position.

Hand Break

The hands should break apart between the letters and the belt near the midline and fairly close to the body. The hands break apart when the lead leg starts downward. The throwing hand should go down, back, then up towards the cocked position in a continuous motion keeping the fingers on top of the ball. The glove hand moves forward and upward towards the hitter.

Lead Arm Action

Good lead arm action helps proper shoulder alignment, trunk arching and flexion, and good trunk rotation. High glove action can be deceptive to the hitter. There are two basic methods of developing effective lead arm action.

  1. Fire the glove and lead arm towards the plate and following stride foot contact, violently whip the glove and elbow down and back outside the lead hip. Do not allow the glove to go far behind the lead hip.
  2. Lead the elbow right at the plate, and following stride foot contact, whip the elbow down and back outside the lead hip.

Both these methods help to create trunk arching, horizontal trunk rotational, and centrifugal forces of the upper body which generates arm speed and ball velocity.

The Stride

As the stride leg lowers, the lead foot should move downward and slide just above the mound surface. The body should just drift forward. The pitcher should not push off the rubber until the stride foot has landed stabilizing the body. Actually it is a pulling action of the hip flexors and a pull of the back knee forward and inward not a push off from the rubber.

  1. Stride direction. Measuring from the ball of the pivot foot directly to home plate, the ball of the stride foot should land within one to two inches across the mid-line. This directions helps to keep the front side closed and yet does not overly prevent good hip and trunk isolation.
  2. Stride length. Measuring from the front edge of the rubber to the toe of the stride foot, the length of the stride is usually close to the pitcher’s height. A long stride is not a problem if the pitcher can get his head and shoulders over the lead leg at the time of ball release.
  3. Landing foot position. The pitcher should land on the ball of the stride foot, or flat footed. The toes should point slightly in a close position. If the pitcher lands hard on the heel, the foot will usually fly open which causes the hips and trunk to rotate open too soon. It may also cause the pitcher to get onto a stiff front leg too early which causes recoil action, or puts him out of balance and alignment during the accretion phase. This negatively affects control and pitch velocity.

Transfer of weight

Nearly all pitchers have a problem with rushing their motion. Rushing means that the body has moved forward towards the plate too early, causing the arm position to be too low at the time of stride foot contact and arm acceleration. What I have observed in power pitchers is that the weight is held back over a firm posting leg until the lead leg starts downward. The lead foot comes downward a little more than shoulder width apart and side along the ground to the contact area. The upper body and the head stays at the top center of the widening triangle of the body. The body has only drifted, or fallen forward. There is no major push or drive until the front foot has stabilized the body.

  1. Landing leg position. Upon firm stride foot placement, the lead leg is flexed at at the knee at about a 135 degree angle. As the trunk is rotated to a squared off throwing position, the lead leg starts to brace up so there is a firm base, a firm front side to rotate up against.

Rotational Forces of the Hips, Trunk and Shoulders

The bracing action of the lead leg stops the body from continuing to move forward, allowing the hips, trunk and shoulders to generate tremendous horizontal rotation and centrifugal forces which produce great arm and hand speed, and thus velocity. Many young pitchers, 14-18, after foot contact, allow their lead knee to stay flexed and actually continue to drift forward. This prevents good rotational forces and causes a loss of power and velocity.

Trunk Extension to Flexion

As the high velocity pitcher moves to his maximum cocked position, there is an arching of the spine. This becomes much more pronounced as the trunk rotates squaring off to the plate. The chest is thrust out and the spine arched back.

Arm Action

At this point in analyzing the pitching motion, let’s focus only on the throwing arm action. I sincerely believe this is one of the least studied and discussed phases of pitching; yet, it is one of the most important aspects of throwing a baseball. It is also a phase in which many improper techniques such as wrist hooking, arm hooking, flailing behind the back, stiff arming, etc can occur and severely limit a pitcher’s potential and performance. Again, through the study of high speed video of professional and college pitchers, I have discovered common traits in high velocity pitchers, and have seen common faults with pitchers who either cannot throw hard, have control problems, or have experienced arm injuries.

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Youth pitching program
One of the big misconceptions in baseball is that playing the game keeps you in shape to pitch. I wish that was true. It's not. To get to the next level, preparation matters. Big league pitchers spend far more time preparing to pitch than actually pitching.

If you believe adding velocity could be critical to your success, check out my proven programs for pitchers of all ages.

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