This one is for baseball pitchers that miss wide of the plate, either right or left. A common thought on pitching is for the pitcher to get everything they’ve got going towards the catcher. In other terms, we want the pitcher to get all of their weight and momentum going in the correct direction. For example, I like to ask a pitcher how much they weigh. If the say “175 pounds”, then I say, “Well you need to get all of those 175 pounds going in the correct direction.” We do not want 25-50 of those pounds going in some other direction. Loss of effort and force in the direction of our goal (the catcher’s mitt) means lost velocity and control.
“Target line” is a term that many coaches use with pitchers. It basically means that there is an invisible line from the center of the rubber that extends through the center of home plate. As pitchers become more advanced, they can adjust target line on their own in order to hit different spots.
The real fight with this one is to get the player to understand how to perform the physical task of staying on target line with their front foot, and placing it into their muscle memory. The earlier that you teach this concept, the easier it will be. I start teaching this concept to players as young as 7. But a 15 year old that does not stay on target line may have 8-10 years of bad habits built into his muscle memory and it will take longer to correct.
How do we get the pitcher to target line?
Begin from set position or “stretch”. Make sure the front foot (strike point foot) has the ball of that foot has target line running right through it.
The foot in contact with the rubber (post foot) can either be even with target line or slightly offset (behind). It really is a comfort level thing for the pitcher.
After balance or knee lift, the front foot that started on target line should land slightly open(45°), but back on target line. If the foot lands totally open or pointing at the catcher, the hip will open up too early and a velocity loss will occur. Compare this to how a front foot should land when a player is hitting. A great tool to use to teach this skill is a balance beam or simply a 2×4. If don’t have either of those, draw a line in the dirt or use a line on a gym floor. Have the pitcher go from the stretch to strike point repeatedly. If the pitcher’s front foot lands off target line the beam will give instant feedback.
Encourage pitchers to direct their chin towards the catcher as well. This will prevent unnecessary force going away from target line.
From the wind up, young pitchers seem to start with their feet directly in the center of the rubber. Well, too often this encourages them to be off target line. I like to start righties on the left half of the rubber and lefties on the right half. As pitchers get older they can vary this position. For example, as a pitcher gets older throwing the ball right down the heart of the plate is not always the best thing to do. Adjust target line to meet their efforts to hit corners and also to come inside from the opposite side of the rubber.
Here are some cool clips from Don Cooper of the Chicago White Sox. A good friend and I were actually at this clinic. I’m a Cubs fan (and a new D’backs fan….Go Clay!!!) and even I’ll say he was an AWESOME speaker!!!
Please check out this poll related to pitch counts. I want your opinion!!!