Three Postures for a Pitcher's Mechanics
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about proper posture when pitching and how detrimental it can be for a coach to try and force all of his pitchers into one “ideal” posture through delivery and release. Coach Wolforth at the Texas Baseball Ranch recognized the importance of allowing each individual athlete to be unique and to have the freedom to incorporate his innate movements into the pitching delivery and consequently decided to quit trying to steer his athletes into what used to be considered the “perfect” mechanics (shoulder level and head over landing foot at release). Instead, Coach Wolforth decided to group pitchers into 3 different categories, thereby allowing diversity among postures. He called these 3 posture groups A, B, and C. The benefit of grouping pitchers into three categories is so that they know from the time they get to the Ranch what type of posture/movements they generally have and can immediately identify with other pitchers that have the same movements throughout delivery. Before I elaborate on this, let me first explain the 3 postures Coach Wolforth has identified that encompass all pitchers.
The first posture that has been identified is called the “A” posture. This is the classic idea of “perfect posture” that I discussed in my last post and the one that most pitching coaches would probably point to if asked what they want their players to look like. This posture has the head over the belly button throughout delivery, and at release the head is directly over the landing leg and the shoulders are level. There is no backwards tilt/angle to the torso/spine during posture “A” deliveries. Pitchers that have this posture include Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, and Pedro Martinez to name a few.
The second posture, called “B” posture has a little more tilt throughout delivery. Pitchers in posture “B” do not stay over their balance leg during leg lift or at foot strike. Instead, their head tends to be slightly behind their center of gravity and at foot strike they are tilted over toward their glove side, with their head outside of their plant foot. Pitchers that have this posture include Cliff Lee, Sandy Koufax, C.C. Sabathia, Roy Oswalt.
The third and last posture is the most dynamic, and as a result, the most heavily debated among all pitching postures. This posture is called the “C” posture at the Texas Baseball Ranch. During the delivery of pitcher with a “C” posture, there is maximum tilt and spine angle during rotation and landing, such that the head is often far behind the belly button and at foot strike the head is way outside the landing leg. Most pitching coaches would immediately try to change a pitcher on their squad who showed up with mechanics like a “C” posture because of its tremendous angles and seemingly out of balance positions. But, these coaches would be wrong to change this type of pitcher’s mechanics. One only has to look to Tim Lincecum and Trevor Bauer to see that this posture can be effective.
Some of you may be thinking: if it is bad to “cookie cut” pitchers, why would we even want to take an individual and put him into a group? The answer to this logical question is that identifying a pitcher as an A, B, or C posture doesn’t have anything to do with trying to make him replicate any other pitcher who is also in that group, but instead, it allows the pitcher to identify with other successful players who have similar mechanics.
This is extremely beneficial for athletes because they can study the movements of other successful pitchers to get a better understand of how they perform certain movements. Nearly all pitchers can become more efficient in their delivery and by watching and studying some of the most best pitchers in the world who look like them during a pitch, it gives these athletes an understanding of what they could possibly do to improve or maximize their delivery.
When I played coaches constantly tried to correct my mechanics so that I would get into an “A” type posture, especially at foot strike. But looking back now, I know that I was naturally a “B” posture and by trying to place me into an unnatural position it only had a detrimental effect. When a player is naturally a “B” or “C” and yet coaches try to force him into an “A” posture this generally leads to a late disconnect. The disconnect occurs because the athlete is trying to maintain this upright, head over belly button type posture throughout delivery, but as he get to release, his body is going to revert back to its innate posture to release the ball.
This late movement at release, as the pitcher goes from an upright posture into a more tilted “B” or “C” posture is bad for multiple reasons. First, this late movement/disconnect is not good for the health of the arm. Late disconnects can cause extra stress on the elbow and/or shoulder because of the sideways movement generated and often can cause a banging out of the arm to occur. Additionally, command/control will be decreased. Because of this drastic last second change in positions, the release point is very tough to replicate making it hard for the pitcher to continuously hit his spots. Last, the pitcher loses efficiency because of the late sideways movement, which takes away from the momentum and energy that is being placed behind the ball.
If you are a coach or player and are dealing with/have a “B” or “C” posture, the key is to try and get into this posture as early as possible so that you can maintain the angle/tilt throughout the delivery. This type of pre-setting can be done in the set position or early into leg lift so that as momentum toward home plate increases the pitcher is already in his natural posture. This will keep prevent a late disconnect, thereby improving arm health, command, and velocity.
Until next time,