We spend a lot of time focused on bat speed in the box – we acknowledge that without bat speed, you can’t hit for power, let alone contact. But why isn’t the inverse true? We speak of ball speed a fair bit, but it’s a common mistake to ignore the practice of building up a pitcher’s arm speed as well. Which doesn’t add up – if the pitcher can throw with more arm speed, than that will increase the ball speed as well! Here are a couple drills that allow you to focus on just that, building up the strength and speed in the arm necessary to throw scorchers down the middle of the plate.
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Setup: The pitcher will need their glove, a quarter inch rope roughly 12 inches long with a knot in both ends, a "ground ball paddle" or boxing glove to protect the hand, a foam pad to protect the forearm, a metal chair, and a partner.
Purpose: To teach pitchers extension and to finish pitches aggressively and to move the release point closer to the plate.
Execution: The pitcher will step up onto the rubber, going into the stretch holding one end of the rope inside their glove instead of a baseball. Their partner will stand in front of them, far enough to force the pitcher to extend, holding their arm out with the paddle and the pad to protect themselves.
The chair will be just outside and behind where the pitchers stride would land, far enough to not obstruct the pitcher’s throwing motion, but close enough that on the follow through the rope smacks the top rung of the chair.
From there, the pitcher will go through their throwing motion, extending out to get the rope to hit the paddle first, and follow through strong, hitting the chair with the rope right after.
Coaching Tips: You really want to emphasize your pitcher getting their throwing arm past their stride leg knee. This is a great finishing point for the pitch, and will ensure strong, loud, contact with the rope on the chair.
Figure 1.1: Pitcher in the windup, with the chair behind him and his partner with his target arm extended.
Figure 1.2: Pitcher extending to hit the target with the rope.
Figure 1.3: Pitcher finishing aggressively through to hit the chair with the rope.
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Setup: Your pitcher will need a glove, a mound, and a dowel. To give it the same feeling as a baseball for this drill you’ll want to tape it up to give it some extra grip and so that it has a nice ergonomic feel in the hand.
Purpose: To encourage good arm speed out in front at the point of release.
Execution: The drill is fairly simple to execute, the pitcher will simply hold the dowel like a ball, with the wand protruding through their fingers, the only difference being they won’t throw it towards home plate.
The part they need to focus on is listening, to hear when the wand whips through the air. If they hear the sound behind them or up around the head, they’re wasting all of their hand speed too early in the throwing motion.
They want to focus on making sure they hear the whip of the wand out in front, where they would be releasing a pitch normally.
Coaching Tips: This is a great drill for the pitcher who tends to cut off the pitch, or who is emphasizing the hand speed too early in the pitch, wasting it all behind his head.
Now speed and power aren’t all it takes to become a great pitcher. You need patience, placement, and practice as well. But there is no doubt that the ability to light up the radar gun will impress scouts and terrify batters.
Figure 2.1: The dowel, and the proper technique for holding it during a pitch.
Figure 2.2: Pitcher showing great technique, using the arm speed out in front.