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.

 

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.

Getting the Fastball to Move - 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.

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.

The Fastball

Great Rotation Can Be Felt!

No one is doomed to mediocrity because of a humble fastball. Even a weak fastball can be juiced up. By doctoring -- giving different types of spins to the fastball, one may create deferent forms of effectiveness. A fastball with sinking action may be quite a bit more effective than a higher velocity fastball that is straight. Pure velocity by itself has to be quite high (high enough to challenge bat speed and reduce decision time) to be effective.

Perhaps the greatest identifiable element in a high quality fastball is tight rotation. Tight rotation here infers fast rotation (the number of turns the ball makes over a given distance).

Pressure Points

Too much pressure from the middle finger, or a middle finger that lingers on the ball at the time of release, can cause a cut fastball. Unless this is a carefully manufactured cutter, it most likely detracts from the action of the ball. A true cutter is a special pitch with a lot of possibility to it (see the chapter on breaking pitches to learn how to throw a cutter with a purpose), but an accidental cutter weakens the kick of the ball and causes it to fade -- generally into the batters sweet zone. Many young pitchers will throw this sort of cutter and when the fingers are properly retrained, they may suddenly discover another five m.p.h. on their fastball

Element of Veer

Anytime, in the pursuit of the ultimate fastball, when one recognizes the tail or veer of the pitch, he is started on the trail of the best pitch in baseball. It can truly be a work of art. It is a pure pleasure to watch a pitcher who has diligently and consciously doctored his fastball. Natural movement is rare and is reserved for those few individuals who by the nature of their anatomy and delivery can make a ball move or veer with little or no effort.

Unfortunately, most pitchers -- especially right-handers -- don't have good natural movement on their fastballs. For whatever reason, lefties seem to have a greater natural capacity to make the ball veer off-center. (Perhaps this is a by-product of constantly having to adjust to a right-handed world: having to twist their wrists to use a right-handed scissors, having to drag their pen across the paper with hand bent so they can see what they have just written). Whatever the reason, the fact is that lefties have more natural movement on their pitches. This is too bad because a lot more right-handed pitchers would be outstanding if they could make their fastball move.

It is necessary to do everything possible to get some action or movement on the fastball, especially that second stage movement in the strike zone. Many fastballs are devoid of any late stage movement and lack the activity in the strike zone to be effective. Consequently, these fastballs cannot exist by themselves. To cloak a deficient fastball, one should fortify his survival kit with curves, sliders, splitters and change-ups.

A fastball that is totally straight and around 90 m.p.h. can be somewhat difficult to hit. In effect, it reduces the batters decision time. However, if the velocity gets much less than 90 m.p.h. and travels in a straight line, it becomes relatively easy pickings for college and professional hitters. But when you give that 86, 87 or 88 m.p.h. fastball some late movement, it can become a first class pitch. Give it impact and character (pop) at the end, and you have yourself a fastball you can live by.

Remember, not all fastballs are genetically endowed! Some are manufactured. Great rotation and correct rotation can give a dull fastball a new existence. All measures should be taken if your fastball is missing the life necessary to put the batters on red alert.

Often times a good high school pitcher will delude himself into thinking he has a Grade A fastball. At the scholastic level one has good control, even a sub 80 m.p.h. fastball can get a pitcher by in most situations. Consequently, a pitcher who is having success racking up strikeouts with the mediocre fastball is in for a rude awakening when he moves up to the next level.

Often times a high school pitcher with that sort of mediocre fastball will cruise through a season only to get crushed in the playoffs when he comes up against some better bats. When this occurs, it's easy to blame the thumping on a bad day or bad luck, rather than on the exposure of a weakness. However, the pitcher who wants to move up to the next level had better take a hard honest look at what he is doing and then put in the extra work, so that come the following season, the whole scenario of getting close, but falling short doesn't replay itself.

Feel the burn, hear the whir

You know that you are starting to maximize rotation when you can feel a slight burn on the fingertips with release of the ball. Another telltale mark is that zipping or whirring sound a rotating ball will make in flight. Good fastballs can be heard as they travel through the air.

Prescription for a strong arm:

Consistent Throwing, Weighted Baseballs, And Long Toss

No exercise replicates the throwing of a baseball as much as throwing a baseball. This may seem like an obvious and even trite statement, but the fact of the matter is that overall, developing pitchers just don't throw enough baseballs.

Back a generation or two ago, kids played an awful lot of baseball, a lot more than they play today. For many kids, it was their sole activity, weather permitting. Sandlot and pick-up games today are not a regular occurrence and the little leaguer rarely gets to throw more than twice a week over the course of a few months. The same is often true for high school players as well, unless an interested adult encourages more practice.

And the fact is that unless a developing pitcher gets involved in a program of consistent throwing, he will not develop the arm strength, the arm speed and arm endurance to throw competitive baseball in an effective manner without risk of injury. Throwing from the mound, throwing from the practice mound, throwing from the flat with regard to mechanics, throwing long toss, needs to become a year around ritual. And not mindless throwing either, but rather giving attention to spin and location with every pitch.

Elastic arm speed Developing arm strength that translates into arm speed is a tricky business. One tool that may help is the elastic cord, which can provide resistance in simulative throwing exercises.

Long toss When playing at long toss, it's essential to employ excellent mechanics.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to developing velocity. The closest thing to a quick fix when it comes to developing velocity is the weighted ball. When it comes to overload training there is no better tool. I've seen youngsters and young men add five m.p.h. to their fastballs after twenty minutes of weighted ball work.

Anatomically the fastball is a constructive pitch – curves, sliders, knuckleballs are not necessarily destructive pitches, but they surely do not develop the arm. Used judiciously breaking pitches enhance ones repertoire, and not overused do not deteriorate arm power. However, overuse of the breaking pitches can result in diminished arm speed. In other words when doing your throwing, at least three quarters of the time, you need to be throwing a fastball. And the younger you are, the more fastballs you ought to be throwing.

Power originates with the legs I suggest that the transfer of energy from the bottom part of the body to the arm and ultimately to the fingers is where the Art of Pitching resides. One must pitch with the legs. One thing most every power pitcher has in common is strong legs. To watch a Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver or Roger Clemons throw you can't help but recognize that their fastballs originate in those tree-trunk thick thighs and tremendous calves.

As I stated in the introduction, I am of a strong mind when it comes to the notion of the pitcher pushing off the rubber. To my way of thinking there is no mid-ground. Newton’s Law holds that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. The rubber is not just a marking point; like the bases it serves a functional purpose. And that function is to provide pitchers with a way to push off into their delivery.

A great fastball requires a commitment from the pitcher to get everything out of his body that he can.

To negate the use of the rubber would be like saying a sprinter doesn't push off the blocks (how explosive of a start would they get without those blocks). To say that it's foolish and a waste of energy is like arguing that a pogo stick doesn't need to go down before it goes up, that potential energy isn't stored up by pushing a spring to the ground. If you don't push off the rubber I will contend that you don't have much of a fastball.

Watching kids standing atop of rubber makes me realize that many pitchers from the word go are being deprived of a chance to throw their strongest. Lift heavy weights with your legs, run.


Do everything you can to make your legs strong. And by all means, push off that rubber!


The Second Stage Fastball

A fastball that veers or sinks in that last instant as it approaches the plate is the devils pitch. Getting the main action of your fastball to take place in the business zone, to get it to dodge, dart, drop or fade as it crosses through the strike zone is to achieve the golden crown of pitching excellence. Of course that goes for other pitches as well. Late breaking sliders, cutters, and curves albeit slower in are as equally devastating.


Veering action (rhp) comes from a 1/7 rotation.
Sinking action (rhp) comes from a 2/8 rotation.


Achieving second stage action on your fastball is all about great rotation. While no pitch accelerates - like a long distance runner crossing the finish line, that delayed movement which destroys the batters reaction time is very real. One could speculate that there is an ideal amount of rotation that creates the greatest movement. Those with lesser rotation will waste that movement before the strike zone, but those who can get a pitch vigorously rotating will have the ball actually decelerating to that magic instant where air pressure and rotation act in the greatest discord just as it crosses the plate.

Your best fastball doesn't have to be overpowering to have a second stage to it. It does however need to have lots of rotation. It behooves all pitchers – but especially those with sub-par velocity fastballs -- to increase rotation to the maximum of their ability. This should be an on going daily effort. In all of ones throwing practice: in long toss, in the wrist drill, in warm-ups great concentration must be put on getting just the right finger pressure and alignment necessary for good rotation. Fingertip sensation will reveal sufficient rotation is being employed.

Velocity happens you do enough correct things.

The ability to get good movement on a baseball is one of the most precious qualities a pitcher can have. It needs to be alive! Even if one throws a fastball with little velocity to it, with crisp rotation and good location, it can still have some character. But getting good rotation doesn't preclude one from achieving greater velocity. Just remember that good intentions are never enough and while it's important to read about this stuff, the knowledge you gain is worthless without diligent practice. Every pitcher has a fastball inside of him waiting to come out. It's funny how those successful searches for Holy Grails always end up by searching within ones self.

For further discussion on other elements of a fastball, stop back again. For a complete illustrated discussion check out The Act of Pitching.


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