I received a call a few days ago from a concerned parent whose son (who usually has great command of all of his pitches) couldn’t find the plate and was throwing a lot of pitches in the dirt. He asked if I would take a look at his mechanics too see if I could quickly fix the problem. I agreed and we met the following afternoon.
There are several things a pitcher does mechanically when throwing “too low”.
Check your grip: make sure you are holding the baseball like an “egg”. Don’t throw it like an egg of course, but grip it like you are holding an egg so you are relaxed. Putting a death grip on the ball keeps you tense. Throwing when you are tense slows down arm speed. This time of year (in October) we see pitchers struggle with this very issue in the championship series. Pitchers can get too emotional on the mound, their nerves can get the best of them and they grip the ball too tight. Just keep watching and you will see that this happens frequently in these games as the pressure builds. If you ever wonder what they talk about on a visit to the mound this is one of the topics of discussion “just relax” it’s just the world series.
No Leaners: Make sure as your momentum carries toward the plate you keep your head over your center of gravity, which is your belly button. If your front shoulder tends to drop down before foot strike (leaner) your head will be slightly in front of your belly button. This habit is one of those that sneaks up on pitchers and they can’t figure out why the plate is so difficult to find.
Use hips before upper body: Throwing a baseball is a complete total body exercise. Every part of your body should be used (in the right sequence) to gain maximum control and velocity from each pitch. Often times young pitchers forget how important proper hip rotation is when throwing the ball. Some pitchers who throw in the dirt lean forward with their upper body just before release of the ball instead of rotating around to release. Here is an example of good hip rotation:
There are many reasons why a pitcher throws the ball in the dirt. These are just some of the more common ones that you should look out for.
In regards to the father who was concerned about his son throwing in the dirt? He had all three of these habits and any one of them could be the issue. We gave him some pitching drills to work on so he can start building new habits to throw low strikes.
For a more complete look (breakdown) of pitching mechanics take a look here!