Warm-ups Tell the Story

Watching a kid do her warm-up drills tells us exactly the issues she will have in pitching. When coaching travel ball, I would always watch the opposing pitcher as she prepared for the game so we would know what to expect. I really don’t need to see her pitch. All that is necessary is to watch her go through her routine.

There are certain drills that cause very common problems with glove control. An observer who knows a something about pitching immediately knows that this is a pitcher who is stuck with “down and out” pitches and a changeup. We would just adjust our position in the batter’s box and have fun. How do you know? Focus solely on the glove arm. If it is flying to the side, out of sync with the other arm, or very tense when it comes down, she has serious barriers.
Sometimes I see the kid trying to get off the mound by bending her waist. Coming off the mound in that way leaves her hips behind. Okay, this kid is going to miss high and low a lot. She will use so much energy trying to get the hips back into an athletic position that most of her energy never gets to the ball. This focus on getting the hips forward creates a timing nightmare. If they are late, the ball goes high or low. Our batters must force her to bring it into the zone. No worries about the inside and outside pitches. They will not have great movement. And she is likely to get tired quickly.
Another hip issue is this. If I see her twist her hips to try to get more power, she is going to have to resist the body’s tendency to recoil during the stride which would force her into a spin. She may drag heavily or just get extremely tense in order to keep the body in line. Either way, her endurance will be questionable, so take a lot of pitches and plan to win in later innings when she tires.
Then we see the kid who has been taught to open the hips and square back to face the catcher. That means she cannot effectively go up or down and everything will have a spin that causes pitches to “tail”. She is throwing “around the hip” so it limits her tremendously.
If I see a kid doing a walk-through, but she actually runs into it and falls through the pitch, this is a kid who probably does not know how to use her hips to create resistance well, so she will “shoulder” the pitches, meaning her movement, endurance, and speed are very questionable. Sit back and make her work.
Then we see the hop-hop-hop and pitch drill. Likely to have a crowhop which makes it extremely hard to have a fast arm and usually limits deceptive pitches to down and out. Pulling out a weighted ball? Usually her speed will be very poor, that shoulder will be overactive and it is pretty easy for the batter to know what pitch she is trying to throw very early. Falling off to the side a lot? Screwball pitcher. It was always her greatest pitch, but now that habit of leaning has limited her to the point that this is the only really effective pitch.
If she grabs her spinner, watch carefully. If you observe the shoulder from a distance, and you can easily tell what pitch she is trying to throw, it won’t be a strong pitch and she will tip your batters so early that they know exactly what is coming. Just tell the hitters what certain body language means. However, she is light and quick with the spinner, watch out. This one could be good.
Finally, if she warms up five or six different pitches, relax. Every pitcher thinks she has that many pitches, but the best pitchers have a couple of dominant pitches and another pitch that plays off those. I am far more worried about a kid who works to get a couple of pitches exactly right than one who is all over the map.
These are general rules, and there are superior athletes who are so big or strong they can violate one or two of these rules and still succeed. Or, they have other little tricks up their sleeves which help them win such as an incredible ability to spot the ball, or a motion that is so unorthodox that batters struggle with it at first. Also, realize that rec and travel ball are far different from college softball. Colleges have thorough scouting reports so they know everything about a pitcher before the game begins and they prepare for her. Additionally, remember that you play 7 full innings in college softball and you will face great hitters all of the way through the lineup. They are constantly adjusting, your endurance is tested much more, and these hitters have seen it all. Little tricks, unorthodox form, or just trying to blow it by them no longer works.
As you look at these things, evaluate your own pitcher with a very open mind. If you do not understand the harm in the things we have mentioned, you or your pitching coach can always contact me. Remember, people are out there scouting her and preparing game plans to beat her. It is not about hiding the things she does, but about helping her pitch correctly so there is no weakness for the scout to identify. When that happens, her odds of winning escalate greatly.
Footnote: We need to add Certified Instructors in many markets. If you are a former college player with pitching experience, contact us about our training program.

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