More on improving your Fastball
Just Released !
new 2-hour DVD, The
Holy Grail - The
the first in the planned 4-module DVD series.
to preview the DVD
designed to help one
and hone this
Your Velocity And Develop Your Arm (at the Same Time)
speed on your fastball while increasing arm strength using these
techniques and drills.
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.
Spin on Speed -
Hurling fastballs is an art form. Here's how to paint a
picture for your pitchers.
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.
In Pursuit Of The Holy Grail: A Fastball can
Be Taught from The Act of Pitching.
Toolbox - The
Breaking & Off-speed
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
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).
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.
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
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
a strong arm:
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.
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.
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.
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
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. Newtons 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
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.
everything you can to make your legs strong. And by all means,
push off that rubber!
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.
action (rhp) comes from a 1/7 rotation.
Sinking action (rhp) comes from a 2/8 rotation.
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.