MATTER OF ARM ANGLES
By Dr. John Bagonzi
When correlation are made between
velocity and mechanics, the one area that often gets overlooked
is arm angles. Throwing from the correct arm slot can
often mean increases in velocity, movement, and improvement in
control particularly for someone who has his mechanics
We visually consider a large
clock facing the hurler and he is essentially toward the center
of it - then we can ascribe numbers to identity arm elevations.
(See diagram below)
It is probably almost impossible
to throw from the 12 o'clock position - although some pitchers
come close. A 1 O'clock slot would be overhand. A 2
o'clock slot would be (3/4) three-quarter arm. A 3 o'clock would
be for a right-handed pitcher (RPH). For a lefty (LHP) 11
o'clock would be overhand, 10 o'clock would be three-quarter and
9 o'clock would be side arm.
Anything below 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock would be underhand.
Graduations would be overhand plus (between 1 o'clock and
12 o'clock) for a RHP. For a lefty (LHP) it would be between 11
o'clock and 12 o'clock (overhand plus.
Obviously we faced the picture
from the other side (looking at it from the batter-catcher
standpoint) the clock numbers would be reversed. But let's be
sure we continue with the pitcher facing the clock for this
Overhand minus or three-quarter
plus (same) would be 1 o'clock and 2 o'clock for a RHP. For
a LHP, it would be between 11 o'clock and 10 o'clock. For
three-quarter minus or sidearm plus (same) it would be 2 o'clock
and 3 o'clock for a RHP. For an LHP it would be between 10
o'clock and 9 o'clock.
For my money three-quarter plus
or overhand minus for both RHP's and LHP's is the best
arm slot. It has leveraged the downward trajectory possibility
and, bodes well not only for velocity and movement on the
fastball, but also for breaking pitches. Obviously other arm
slots can also work for various pitches. One might ask how to
determine correct arm slot, and I always use in my instruction
the following drill:
to center field.
up about 5 baseballs (horizontally) on the ground.
pitcher(s) get behind a ball.
a short run to scoop up the ball.
a running step or crow-hop.
to home plate on the fly (have catcher positioned there).
Take note of the arm angle the
pitcher uses to get the ball to the plate with his best throw.
(Record arm angle.)
Another drill with similar effect
is to place FIVE (5) balls in the deep shortstop hole and
have a runner at the plate ready to go on a cue. Have a pitcher
scoop up ball and throw to first to try and beat the runner.
Again note the arm angle and record.
Arm angles are something that
should be stable. Wandering around ala El Duque, Dave Cone, or
Louis Tiant is only reserved for the very seasoned pitchers.
Obviously it is an advantageous way of pitching once a degree of
mastery has been developed - mainly because it offsets the
hitters eye level.
To establish a consistent arm
angle for the fastball, curve (slider) and change-up is
desirable so that the batter cannot detect differences in
pitches due to different elevations.
Good batters look for slight
deviations in arm angles that are associated with variations in
pitches and are quite adept at picking them up and adjusting
quickly to them.
One needs to find out early where
his best arm slot is and then work into his system of refined
mechanics. Fine tuning with arm angles is an area where the
pitching technicians need to observe carefully before making
adjustments - A radar gun will help to determine positive
THE IDEA OF UNDERHAND
PITCHING AND THE CASE FOR IT
I almost always stop short of
encouraging young pitching aspirants to throw sidearm or even
less - underhanded. The radar gun always tells me that the
velocity difference between overhand or three-quarter and
sidearm - underhand is substantial. I've noted as much as a
10-mph difference. Unless a pitching coach with considerable
expertise can recognize that there is a significant
effectiveness and advantage from a "down south (underhand)
approach, I feel strongly that a young pitcher should pitch
"upstairs" (overhand or three-quarter) as far as arm
angle is concerned.
Obviously baseball is loaded with
outstanding underhand - sidearm pitchers. Some have been Dan
Quissenberry, Kent Telkulve, Dick Hyde, Ted Abernathy, Dennis
Eckersley (SA), Ewell Blackwell (SA), Carl Mays, and Eldon Auker
to mention a few. Some were outstanding relievers which seems to
be the underhand (-SA) pitchers forte. Obviously a different
trajectory late in a game will prove to be a dilemma for
batters. Fastballs that sink and curve balls that rise are
surely not the norm as the daily pitching menu will usually
Some reasons why a pitcher might
want to throw underhand are:
throw overhand (particularly hard). There are some that
cannot generate arm speed at the top.
better control underhand,
better movement on the ball (Fastball runs and skinks -
curve ball appears to lt).
pitching from this angle.
more confidence in this arm angle than a higher one.
good results - gets batters out.
The danger of this style of
pitching that you are coming precariously close to the batters
hitting plane and balls that are up may be easy for batters to
see and level off on.
Things that need to be
accomplished in order to make a change to underhand pitching
must run and sink - it does not, then there must be high
velocity to the underhand fast ball. This doesn't happen - can
(get rid of) this delivery.
or slider must rise or appear to rise - this phenomenon is
probably due to release point and the opposite effect from a
sinking fastball. It is likely an illusion, although
trajectory effects may actually be from low to high - giving
the pitch the impression it goes up. Aerodynamically it is
possible the pitch goes up because the slider like spin
(bullet) or curve (3 to 9) spin (sees photo 3B). When this
happens, the uniqueness of the pitch creates a rarity to the
batter making it very effective.
must be very precise and the ball must be generally kept in
the low strike zone.
be stress free.
I once pitched a game underhand -
in college- it was an exhibition game with another college team
- mainly a practice game, and I pitched exclusively underhand
mixing fastballs and curve balls. This was a complete experiment
as I was experiencing shoulder discomfort throwing overhand
which was my natural delivery. I had no discomfort throwing
underhand which is unexplainable (because there probably is a
little more stress throwing underhand particularly in the
shoulder). The result was six innings two-hit shutout. Fly balls
off the curve balls and ground balls off the fast ball which did
sink some - made this an intriguing way of pitching. However I
did not follow up on this, and I certainly was a standard
overhand pitcher in my career. Dabbling with the underhand
version however gave me an appreciation of its effect.
While I'm not a booster of
throwing underhand-sidearm - I surely recognize and appreciate
its potential and all the pitchers who have thrown that way.
One should take the time to
analyze arm angles. Subtle corrections in my experience have
often benefited the pitcher in terms of velocity, movement and
interestingly location. Arm angles are not cast in stone.
Experimentation usually with a coach or fellow pitcher observing
can yield some very revealing developments.
I believe in the three quarter
plus slot (can be called overhand minus) because it enhances a
somewhat diagonal angle as well as the downward trajectory,
thereby suggesting movement, and intimidation along quite likely
Breaking pitches such as the down
curve, slider-cutter and splitter are likely equally enhanced
with the three-quarter plus delivery. This is not to say other
arm angles can't do the same. However, optimum action from the
above mentioned pitches seems to come from this angle.
Parts of developing a functional
value of pitching mechanics as well as an artistic even is
making arm angles fit the mechanical process. Body builds often
limit the desire arm slot. When this happens experimentation
under careful observation may give good results.