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Avoid This Common Drill or Your Fastball May Wind Up In The Trees!!

Written By: Justin Orenduff
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Former MLB Pitcher Mark Prior keeping the glove out in front of his body

One of the most commonly used verbal pitching cues is for an instructor  to say “chest to glove”.  The cue is designed to promote proper shoulder and trunk rotation into the release of the pitch.  Many young throwers struggle with maintaining a firm front side throughout the entire throw and when the mind decides to fire the baseball forward, the front side leaks open, and command issues arise.   The glove (front side) needs to be strong and remain in proper position until the chest drives the front arm out of the way and back into the body.   The idea is:  If I think about driving my chest to my front glove, the front arm will naturally fold back into the body, the shoulders will rotate properly, and I will be able to develop a consistent release point out in front of my body.  I’ve used the term before when working with younger throwers but I DO NOT have my students keep the glove out in front of the body after the ball has been released.  The emphasis on keeping the glove out in front of the body develops a fundamentally wrong approach in pitching.  I will go into more details as to why this is wrong but first watch the videos below to gain a better understanding of how this drill exists within the development of pitchers.

STARTS HERE

Thoughts:

  • “Good Momentum Builder”  How?  This kid is being forced into numerous static positions. ” Glove in front of face and walk all the way forward.”  Do you want to walk towards home plate as the batter is about to hit the ball?
  • Notice how the kid is completely unstable throughout the entire video.
  • What is the purpose of having him fall to the ground without the use of his legs?  When does this occur when we throw a baseball?

“GLOVE OUT FRONT AND IT STAYS OUT FRONT.”  WHY?

Thoughts:

  • I’m assuming the two pitchers in the video are in college and should be fully capable of stabilizing a delivery.  But, notice how they drift forward after each throw…looks like a push to me.
  • Do any of the throws look athletic or powerful?  Building command is great, but we have to have something behind the baseball.

Now, lets explore the fundamental issues associated with keeping the glove out in front of the body through release:

  1. The overall concept of delivering a baseball to the plate should be placed on creating angle, depth, and movement as late as possible towards the target.  By keeping the glove out in front, the body is forced to stay forward and the ball is thrust forward on a flat plane which will stay up in the zone as it heads toward home plate.  
  2. The spine and head remain in a straight line toward the target.  This allows for consistency in throwing the ball forward, but places strict limitations on the complete rotational turn of the trunk and arm back into the body.  The glove position forces the rotation of the trunk to exit forward towards the target , causing the pitcher to get to his front toe and fall forward.
  3. Velocity ceiling becomes drastically restricted.  The firing mechanism of the throw occurs right before foot strike, if the pitcher is focused on the glove position remaining out in front the amount of thoracic extension into the throw becomes limited.  The pitcher begins to rely heavily on arm speed and starts to feel his power generated not from his body but solely on his arm.
  4. The position will continue to build a pattern of the arm not fully decelerating back into the body.  More stress occurs on the shoulder capsule particularly the posterior rotator cuff.
  5. The natural athleticism in the delivery becomes restricted as the body is forced to halt it’s energy to maintain the glove out in front of the body.

A Hitter’s Perspective:

“Justin, you forgot number 6.  Hitters LOVE how the ball looks when it comes out of a pitcher’s hand like that.  If the pitcher stabilizes the glove out in front and brings his chest forward to it, the fastball is going to come out super flat and mostly elevated in the hitter’s wheelhouse.  If you give good hitters flat fastballs that are up in the zone…those TREES better watch out!”  –Chas Pippitt

Over the course of my professional playing and teaching career I have come across numerous pitchers who have been taught to keep the glove out in front of the chest.  Honestly, they look ridiculous playing catch and it’s a position that looks forced and overly mechanical.  They are all tall through the finish and the baseball is flat as a pancake as it approaches the target.  Stressing certain technical elements within the delivery are ok, but not this one.  Let the body and arm continue it’s natural course back into the body after the extension point.   Let the front arm and particularly the glove be strong, but don’t force it to an unnatural position.  If the mind is allowing the torso to fully rotate, the glove will get where it needs to be.

Justin Orenduff, Leader of the Baseball Pitching Rebellion

One final illustration:

Look at the picture of Trevor Bauer and Hiroki Kuroda below.  There is absolutely no way Trevor would be able to get to his explosive finish if he were trained to keep his glove out in front of his body.  His glove position falls into his back hip.  Notice Kuroda, the finish position can also have the glove continue behind the body to promote a healthy and repeatable finish.

Hiroki Kuroda

Hiroki Kuroda

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Trevor Bauer

9 thoughts on "Avoid This Common Drill or Your Fastball May Wind Up In The Trees!!"

  1. Owen says:

    In my novice career as a pitching coach, I taught pitchers to pull their glove to their chest if they were having trouble rotating, but never taught them to hold their glove in front on the follow-through. Good to know I had at least that part right.

  2. Jeff Pinkman says:

    Justin,

    1. You are correct in that the player was completely unstable in the drill. The reason behind doing the drill was to create stability and teach the player how to balance. Many players we see have no idea how to balance or stabilize on their front leg. The High 5 drill keeps players in line with the target, and teaches them to keep their foot, knee, hip, and shoulders all in line.

    I would rather my players walk towards home plate than spin off to the left or right as they are releasing the ball. By teaching them to stay in line with home plate before, during, and after the throw promotes a more direct approach to home but also protects the middle of the field. If players don’t stay centered as they throw they open up the middle of the field and may potentially miss their intended target due to their mass falling off to the side.

    2. Falling to the ground during the Knee Drill promotes a more natural and proper release. Just about every player on the planet has seen or performed the one knee drill once in their life which we believe prevents players from keeping their head in line with the target and causes more of an early release. By keeping the glove in front of the chest/face at release players help extend their release point to home and by falling forward creates a more realistic throwing experience than just sitting upright after the throw. The glove remaining in front of their body not only helps to extend their release point to home, which decreases the distance the balls travels, which decreases the amount of time the batters have to see the ball. The pictures you show are of players after ball release. How about the pictures of them at ball release? You will find that most pitchers have the glove firmly in front of them at ball release (over their front foot) and it’s not until after the ball leaves their hands when the glove moves back to their chest or hip.

    Both of these practice drills enhance a players ability to explore how to use their bodies differently. As you know many players tend to cut their throwing motions short as a result of thinking that since the ball has left their hand they don’t need to complete the throwing motion or continue to use their bodies. These drills help to supplement the ongoing process of developing an athletic thrower.

    1. Jeff,

      1. I fully understand what you are trying to accomplish with your drills, but I believe there is more efficient way to train the thrower. We all have our own unique methodology, and from what I gather would it be fair to say you are closely aligned with Tom House?

      Proper direction towards the target stems from how the body is moving into the throw, particularly the trunk in this case. Training stabilization within the hips and core is one thing but teaching an individual into a forced position out in front isn’t natural. I’m not sure why you would want to walk towards home plate, your trunk extends out over the knee but the arm has to come back into the body, why allow the body to move out of the throw? I feel like the both drills don’t allow the thrower to continue to use their bodies.

      I’m pretty sure we have many different views on pitching and our drills we use are going to establish the patterns we want to see exist in our throwers. Ours just happen to be different, and if your drills work for your program…great. But, many House/NPA programs seem overly mechanical and non athletic.

      Thanks,

      Justin

  3. Kevin Goodman says:

    I do not believe in the “chest to glove” theory of teaching as I believe it does not happen quite that way. My thoughts are that the glove side action should be more active than that. I teach an active swiveling up of the glove side in which the pitcher actively moves the glove side from glove down which should be behind or near his glove side hip as he begins his rotation of the upper body and that the glove and all that comes with it, the arm, so that when the ball is released the elbows are fairly wide. As the pitcher begins the release phase, upper body squaring up to target and upper arm beginning to go from external rotation to internal rotation, the glove is actively going from fingers down to fingers up with the glove fingers facing the hitter. This is a much better way of unloading the scapulas. If you load the scapulas, then you have to unload them that requires engaging the pecs. Perfect timing in unloading the scapulas would require that as the pitcher reaches extension in his throw, the hand folling the ball until it no longer can do so because of maximum reach of the upper arm towards the target, the throwing arm will not cross the midline of the body, the belly button up through the nose line, and go into the finish phase. At this point, the glove side can fall back towards center field with either the elbow moving towards the back or hip like Trevor Bauer in the example or follow the body around as the upperbody reaches full deceleration. If we are going to teach scapular loading, then we need to teach scapular unloading.

    1. Kevin,

      I agree the “chest to glove” is a misguided coaching cue. So your saying you have your pitchers cue the front arm to force the torso to rotate properly? And, I’m not sure if you teach scapular loading or not? You described the ideal progression of the technical positions into the throw, and I honestly had to read your comment over many times to gain an understanding of what you are trying to teach. I think I have a firm grasp on it, it just sounds very technical. We want to try and explain things that allow athletes to be athletes and kids to understand how the body can move in a fluid manner.

      Thanks,

      Justin

      1. Kevin Goodman says:

        Let me say this, I am a huge fan of Paul Nyman. I have known about Paul since 2006/2007 thereabouts. He actually called me after an email I had sent him about what it was he was doing and what he was teaching. It was an honor to speak to him and I was impressed that he took the time for him to do so. So, yeah I am a disciple of scapular loading, Get big in the chest, put an arch in your back to create yet another kinetic chain no matter how small, in the pursuit of velocity. I use a merry go round analogy to describe the reason why we want to actively swivel up the glove side. So, I am not a chest to glove guy, I am a glove to chest guy but more directly, I am a swivel up guy which my research shows a 2 to 4 to as much as 6 mph kick to velocity depending on how poorly a pitcher uses their front side to begin with. Belt someones glove side arm to their side and see how fast they throw and Imean even if you could do after separation is over and tell the pitcher to place their arm next to their side of their body, it isn’t going to be good. I mean, we are trying to create rotation aren’t we? If so, well, physics or engineering says the bigger the radius of the circle the faster the outside edge moves. And if that is correct, then wide elbows during rotation is a faster rotation than narrow elbows. If I can spin a 3 foot merry go round at 10 mph and then spin a 5 foot merry go round at the same speed, 10 mph, the kid is going to have to hang on tighter than if he was on the 3 foot merry go round but yet, the motor is still turning the merry go round 3 mph. That is what is going on at the center of rotation, 3 mph. The outside is different. I see no reason why the principle is different in throwing, except their is no spinning motor or driveshaft, since our spine doesn’t go around but the outside edge will always travel faster. At some point we want to throw the kid off the merry go round, right? The best way is to stop it suddenly. That’s what swiveling up does, stops the merry go round or slows it down more quickly so that the kid has to still hold on pretty tight. That’s the baseball in the pitcher’s hand as he goes from ER to BR to IR (External Rotation to Baseball Release to Internal Rotation)

        If you are going to pull the scaps back, then you have to unload them. They are a springboard to get your upper arm moving forward. It’s kind of liike bouncing the barbell off of your chest when bench pressing or bouncing off the scaps when doing flys with more weight: YOU ARE CREATING MOMENTUM.

      2. Kevin Goodman says:

        Justin; BTW , I failed to answer your very first question. I don’t use the word “force’, I prefer” initiate”.

  4. Brian Akin says:

    Good stuff. The title of this post made me laugh. “To the trees!”

    1. Aka Don Don,

      Haha, you know the term. Made famous by our boy Cory Dunlap. “To the trees blood!!!”

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