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THE BASIC MOTION AND THE DROP

When learning to pitch, the most natural pitch you can deliver to the plate is the drop.  The mere act of throwing the ball underhand, or pushing it toward the target with the fingers will give it down in the front spin, which is the beginning of being able to throw a drop.

When standing in a relaxed position, notice where the palm of the hand faces.  It will be somewhere between toward the opposite hip to the rear of the body.  This is very close to the position the hand will be in when throwing a ball in an open position.  The result of this is that you don't have to do anything but let the arm go around to have the hand in a good position to let the ball go and easily impart down in the front rotation.

As the arm goes around in the circle, let's follow the position of the hand and where the palm of the hand faces.  As the arm goes up in the front, the palm is on or near the trailing side of the circle while the elbow is naturally rotating toward the leading side.

Keeping the hand and arm in a natural position is stress and tension free.  Forcing the hand, for example, as the arm goes around in the circle, let's follow the position of the hand and where the palm of the hand faces.  As the arm goes up in the front, the palm is on or near the trailing side of the circle while the elbow is naturally rotating toward the leading side.

Keeping the hand and arm in a natural position is stress and tension free.  Forcing the hand, for example, to be on the leading side of the circle at the top and coming down in the back introduces tension, and minimizes the ability for a natural whipping action of the arm.

As the arm is around 12:00 o'clock , the palm is naturally moving more toward the leading side and some cases is still on the trailing side facing home.  The elbow will be more toward the leading side of the circle.  Any position of the hand other than this will have to be forced and will place undesired tension on the arm. Tension in the arm lessens the natural whipping action that happens just before the release.  The whipping action is the greatest contributor to ball velocity, catapulting the ball from the release and it shouldn't be compromised.

As the arm is coming down in the back, the elbow is still on the leading half while the palm is still up or at least on the trailing half of the circle.  As the arm passes the bottom of the circle, the natural movement of the arm will have the elbow go to the trailing side of the circle while the palm will now be more to the leading side of the circle before the ball is released.

This transfer of the elbow from near the leading side to the trailing side (the whipping action of the arm) accelerates the lower arm up to 20% faster than the upper arm.  This whipping action or position change of the arm puts the hand and fingers behind the ball driving it out of the release faster than any other pitch.  Consequently I just call the faster pitch a drop and not a fastball.

Under ideal conditions, at the release, the fingers will be behind the ball driving it toward the target while at the same time imparting down in the front rotation.  However, flexibility being what it is, especially in a younger arm will more than not have the hand lagging behind at the release.  This will have the palm facing away from the body more toward third than facing the target.

If the fingers haven't gotten behind the ball and the palm is still facing a little away from the body, the resulting spin will be more of and undesirable spiral.  With a beginning pitcher, I feel it's more important to develop a smooth, relaxed, and effortless motion than it is to agonize over the spin that is a little to a lot off of the mark.  If the young student has a hard time grasping all the different movements in the new motion they are being introduced to, the spin on the ball is one of the least important things to work on.

When learning a new skill, g ood athletes excel at controlling their muscles as long as they don't have too many things to work on at the same time.  It's easy for most pitchers to change the position of the hand later on to deliver better down in the front rotation.

If there is a problem with the way I start out a beginner, it's in teaching the loosey goosey action of the arm at the beginning.  30 years of teaching young pitchers may not be enough time to figure out the simple pitching motion.  But in teaching beginners to have a loosey goosey rubber arm and helps in having an effortless and natural action of the arm.  Later they can add strength to an already good motion assisting the sound mechanics they should have by then.  However, by starting off with a more relaxed motion, it promotes a more relaxed release that tends to have the position of the hand lag behind making the pitch spiral.  The good side is that it's just as close to having the hand in a position to throw a rise as it is to throw the drop.  And don't tell me they don't throw a rise in college.  All great pitchers throw a rise.

OK now, after the pitcher is solid in the basic motion, my students already have a change and understand the concept of turning the hand for a simple easy to throw change up.  I have them turn the hand in between a change and how they release the spiral rotation and sometimes they understand easily.  For some students, I exaggerate and have them think about turning the hand and pointing the thumb in toward the leg when throwing the drop.  I usually get a compromising position of the hand between the change release and the spiral release which will have the fingers behind the ball at release.

In all aspects of pitching, whether you are learning the basic motion, or advanced pitches, doing it slowly gives you a chance to focus on isolated body parts.  Pitching aggressively, like most aggressive students do, puts the motion on automatic and they continue to do whatever they have done before.  Practice doesn't make perfect, the practice of perfection makes perfect.  (Thanks Dave) if you practice with incorrect movements or an incorrect motion, or an incorrect position of the hand, you will get really good at doing it wrong.  Practice makes permanent.

When it comes time to learn the correct rotation, practice at a slow pace with the correct (down in the front) rotation and develop a habit of doing it correctly.  Build on that.  If you practice at the normal distance you will have to throw hard to make the distance and old habits will take over.  This will bring out automatic tendencies in your motion.  If you throw hard, like I mentioned, the old habits will take over and you will continue to do whatever you did before.  If you want to develop new habits do it at a slow pace and focus on the parts of the motion you want to change.  After enough repetitions you will develop a new habit of movement that in time will be strong enough to replace the old habit.

This is worth repeating for the third time.  Practice doing a new movement correctly to develop a new habit of where the position of the hand is, to deliver good down in the front spin.  In time (lots of reps) the new habit will overpower the old habit.

Now that you have the ball spinning in the right direction, you may want it to spin a little faster (tighter).  Don't fall into the trap of thinking you can have a turn over drop that will be your fastest pitch.  The fastest ball you can throw is a drop and the fastest drop you can throw, in my not so humble opinion, and one that has the greatest spin is the peel drop.  Just by the nature of the pitch, turning the hand over the top of the ball will slow the ball down.  The nature and one of the values of a slower ball is to give in to gravity and drop more.  Adding the direction of spin and you may have a slower pitch that drops off of the table.

Every self proclaimed turn over drop pitcher I have seen or taped either has a slower pitch because they in fact have a legitimate turn over drop, or they have a peel drop with a turn over follow through.  Because they have a turn over follow through, they confuse and misrepresent an actual turn over drop.

Back to the peel drop.  To get more spin you need more lift at release.  To get more lift with the fingers on the backside of the ball, you have to have strong fingers (finger tip push up's, weight on a roll up rope etc.) or a motion that will do it for you.  Actively pushing on the backside of the ball with the fingers, driving it out of the hand is good lift.  A crisp sharp landing of the stride foot stopping momentum is lift.  After the leverage from the fingers comes the driving force from the forearm and biceps, which applies lift as long as the sequential application to force starts at the fingers and ends with the shoulder.

PRACTICE HARD, PRACTICE OFTEN, AND PRACTICE DOING THE RIGHT THING