More on improving your Fastball

Just Released ! Coach Bagonzi's new 2-hour DVD, The Holy Grail - The Fastball - the first in the planned 4-module DVD series.  Click here to preview the DVD designed to help one understand, build, and hone this all-important foundation pitch.

 

The Fastball - No one is doomed to mediocrity because of a humble fastball. Even a weak fastball can be juiced up!

Increase Your Velocity And Develop Your Arm (at the Same Time) - gain speed on your fastball while increasing arm strength using these techniques and drills.

The Spin on Speed - Hurling fastballs is an art form.  Here's how to paint a picture for your pitchers.

The Effects of Graded Weighted Baseballs... - When used properly, and with patience, the weighted ball can be an extremely effective aide. I've had nothing but success with them and several of my subjects who've gone on to the pros, swear by them and are absolutely dedicated to them.

Doctoring the Fastball - Getting the Second Stage - Natural movement of the fastball is rare and is reserved for those few individuals by the nature of their anatomy and delivery make a ball move or veer with little or no effort. Most pitchers do not have this arrangement and find it necessary to "DOCTOR" the fastball. "Doctor" here means imparting different pressures, spins, grips and releases mainly to make a fastball act, or do something other than be straight. This article discusses the types of fastballs and provides information to assist pitchers in developing these pitches.

Preview In Pursuit Of The Holy Grail: A Fastball can Be Taught from The Act of Pitching.

 

 

 

 

Expanding the Toolbox - The Breaking & Off-speed Pitches -. Go to the Pitching DVD and Video Clip Library for more info & DVD preview, click the DVD inset to go to detail page and see a preview of the Integrated Curveball Drill Set segment.

GETTING THE FASTBALL TO MOVE

BY DR. JOHN BAGONZI

Former Pitcher Boston Red Sox Organization

One of the conundrums that plagued me in my pitching career and surely has also bothered many pitching aspirants is THE LACK OF MOVEMENT on their fastballs.  The absence of veer or sink or lift renders even the high velocity fastball to a flavorless, bland category and thus demeans the strong armed hurler who may possess outstanding qualities for pitching otherwise.  This person may have great movement on his other pitches i.e. curve, slider, splitter, change-up, but misses on the main order (fastball).  I find in a lifetime of pitching, coaching and instructing that THIS (lack of movement) is the single most consequential and yet lacking trait in prospective pitchers particularly in right handed throwers.  Lefties seem to be inherently blessed with natural movement which prioritizes their southpaw condition.  Some RHP's possess natural movement, but this is much rarer than their counterpart LHP cousins.  This deficit (lack of movement for RHP's) can be improved somewhat with adjustments and insightful doctoring of the ball.

THE ESSENCE OF THE PRIME DIRECTIVE

The great advantage of fastball movement is that pitches that don't look like strikes wind up being strikes and the reverse of this is also true.  The late "life" or "bite" or "overdrive" with veer is a priceless phenomenon, often making a pitcher unhittable.  The true HOLY GRAIL is the late acting explosive type of fastball.  Degrees of explosiveness come varyingly and all are valuable and important to a quality fastball.  The relationship of velocity and movement can never be overstated.  This is where great pitchers reside and where true pitching excellence exists.

There is a level where great movement negates velocity (reverse is also true), however this is a variable and is undoubtedly affected by the amount of rotation.  Pedro Martinez can get movement on a 95 m.p.h. fastball, whereas Greg Maddux is in the 85-87 m.p.h. range for best movement on his fastball.  The ball acts better quite often when it slows down to a certain point.  Power sinker ball pitchers such as Kevin Brown throw sinkers in the 91-92 m.p.h. range or even higher, which makes them very unique, but extremely effective.  A so-called "heavy" ball pitch is created that is ground ball oriented and difficult for the batter to hit long.  Power sinker ballers are not common.

How much of this is natural and how much is contrived and refined?  There are obviously pitchers with anatomical blessings which favor arm angle, wrist angle and release points resulting in that all important and sought after moving fastball. What can be done?  "Doctoring" the ball takes on a whole new meaning and one must advance mentally in trying to improve the fastball and an aerodynamic consciousness is very integral and involved in this pursuit.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

Areas that are critical in the foregoing discussion are:  

1.     ARM SLOT

2.     PITCH SLOT

3.     PRONATION

4.     FINGER PRESSURES

5.     WRIST AND HAND TILT

6.     GRAVITY

7.     SPIN DIRECTION

8.     THROWING ACROSS BODY

9.     TRAJECTORY

10. FORCE APPLICATION  

Each of the areas will be discussed individually and also in conjunction with others as they are often times mutually inclusive.

PITCHING STYLE

Pitching style helps movement.  Ideally an easy, fluid, effortless, and rhythmical delivery which leads to and results in an aesthetic event; can create velocity, explosion, movement and deception on the pitch.  This is utopian of course, and many great pitchers have possessed and do possess this combination.  There have been many others who have contradicted this and been effective although not as pleasant to watch. An aesthetic expression with great function should always be the directive and the search for this should be the grail always. 

 

Everyone wants to get the ball over the plate with velocity and movement without great stress.  In prescribing a basic menu for a pitcher, particularly for prolonged success a moving fastball would be the supreme order and everything else would be built around this.  

After pursuing this phenomenon for a long period of time it is concluded that MORE rather than LESS is involved.  That doesn't mean it is complicated, but rather there are multiple factors involved and the simplicity factor should be left at the door.  To suggest it is quite a simple event is to mock aerodynamics as a ruling condition in physics.

ARM SLOT

The positions of the arm in delivery and the various angles can affect the action on a ball.  In general the following is true.  

1.     OH (overhand) ball is straight 12/6 rotation maybe a lift but?

2.     (three-quarter) ball tends to veer

3.     - (three-quarter minus) ball may sink

4.     S/A (sidearm) ball may sink  

With OH (overhand) pronating outward can result in movement. In all instances when we suggest movement, it is to the right for RHP's and to the left for LHP's.

WHAT IS MOVEMENT?

1.     LIFT almost non-existant but if ball doesn't go down it may give the impression it goes up.

2.     VEER, TAIL OR RUN ball moves to the pitching arm side.

3.     SINK ball goes down, and is usually accompanied by veer.

4.     CUT or FADE ball moves to left for RHP and to right for LHP.  

These are all fastball movements a splitter often referred to as a SPLIT-FINGERED FASTBALL is more in the category of a breaking pitch.

SPIN DIRECTION

One should find the essence of his craft, embellish it, refine it and bring it to its utmost fruition.  This involves mastering spin directions.  Spin directions involve: (actually visualize the clock)  

1.     12/6 twelve six this is an overhand consequence the ball is straight it might hop or rise or give the impression it does.

2.     1/7 one seven this is thrown + and is a classic tailing fastball this would be 11/5 (eleven five) for a lefty.

3.     2/8 two eight this is a tailing sinking fastball thrown arm.   Spin would be 10/4 (ten four) for a lefty.

4.     3/9 three nine this would be a sink mainly, but also can run.  It is thrown S/A (sidearm) or -.  For lefties spin direction is 9/3.  

Obviously there are gradations on arm angles and wrist angles and slight variations on the spin directions.

PRESSURE POINTS

What one does with position and pressure of fingers has a lot to do with the activity of the ball.   Even slight pressure can cause unevenness of airflow, and the ball pushed in a little can cause deviations in its flight.  

1.     Index finger on a running fastball and sinker (although some use middle finger).

2.     Thumb up on side of ball.

3.     Middle finger pressure is usually for cutter (cut-fastball).  

Position of fingers on the ball can cause movement:  

1.     Inside of ball for veer.

2.     Outside for cut.  

One should become an expert when it comes to type of rotation, amount of rotation, quality of spin and pressure points.

 

FORCE APPLICATION AND PITCH SLOT this a delicate but important concept in producing an effective pitch slot.  In essence this is directing the body is alignment and energy towards a groove which is optimal for movement.  Driving to the inside or outside part of the plate to take the mechanical process to its most productive channel is the goal.  This is closely interwoven with trajectory.  Being able to recognize where this MOVEMENT CHANNEL exists and to employ it constantly, obviously secures the consistency of a moving fastball and its effectiveness.  Finding the release point which enhances this phenomenon is a matter of trial and error.

ANGLE OF PRONATION as the arm goes through its path it reaches a point somewhere before release in which the force of pronation comes to be.  This is an important factor to correct releasing so that the thumb appropriately turns down and outward facing to the right or 3rd base side for a RHP.  This guarantees that the ball will have other than 12/6 rotation.

WRIST AND HAND TILT

For a RHP a tilt of about 45 degrees or less insures a 1/7 or 2/8 type of rotation desirable for a tailing fastball.  That requires putting the fingers in a 1 o'clock to 2 o'clock position.  If the wrist is flexible, this can be done from overhand to three-quarter arm angle without any difficulty.  Suppleness is a variable her a loose wrist gives rise to more possibilities.  Some persons have a naturally angular hand angle (this seems to be more prominent in left handers).

 

For those whose hand prefers 12 o'clock arrangement and whose wrist is not flexible enough to achieve spin direction (1/7, 2/8) putting pressure on index finger and bringing it to 11 o'clock will get the desired rotation (1/7).

TRAJECTORY

The downward plane gives the flight of the ball a groove which enhances the leverage effect and consequently movement on the ball.  Getting a trajectory horizontally by positioning on the pitchers plate also enhances the pitch slot concept, again promoting action on the ball.

FINGER LENGTH

LONG FINGERS:  

1.     increase leverage

2.     more pronounced clawing effect

3.     more rotation prominent

4.     greater speed transferal that is hand to finger speed

5.     tips of fingers more active in rotation  

THROWING ACROSS BODY or stepping to arm side of stride line.  Ex. RHP to 3rd base side or right of line a little, not a lot or one would be severely throwing against body.  Interestingly movement on the FB can occur this way.

AERODYNAMIC CONSCIOUSNESS

Understanding rotational forces, axes or rotating bodies, pressure pockets.  Bernoulli's principle (the statement that in any horizontally moving substance the pressure increases as the flow decreases) and the MAGNUS EFFECT (faster an object goes the straighter it becomes) are all important concepts into the understanding and insight in creating movement on a fastball.

To get a satisfaction of the wonders of the flight of a baseball, one has to get into an aerodynamic posture (at least mentally) and recognize that balls thrown hard meet more turbulence and begin to curve later.   There are 108 stitches on a baseball and they are not all the same.  One needs to become intimate with portions of ball that are affected by finger pressure and air resistance that occurs from that pressure.

GRAVITY

When its all settled, the eternal force which pulls all objects to the center of the earth (gravity) may be the most domineering force in getting a ball to move, particularly downward.  When rotations, velocities and angles join forces with gravity the utmost movement on a thrown ball will likely occur.

 

In conclusion, any attempts at getting the fastball to act will be wroth the time and effort even if the movement is minimal.  Slight movement is always better than none, particularly if it is late.  Experimentation has always been the lore of the successful pitcher and a thorough understanding of spin directions in the creation of movement on a thrown ball is vital to his developing craft.

One should practice often, but correctly and listen carefully and experiment wisely.  Once you are on the right track, repeat and harness your concentration skills.  

A relaxed wrist and always using the fingertips should be constant focus.  Consistent holding and handling of the baseball enhances the intimacy and sensitivity to different pressures and positions on the ball.  

One should find the essence and grain of his craft and keep the prime directive in mind, give it some depth and be aware of the flaws of the perfect world.  Simplicity, while the most utopian approach and highly recommended by most may not always be on the menu.  A more involved search may be the requirement.  Be wiling to go that route.  The search for the best movement on a fastball and accomplishment of such will be sufficient reward.


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