After my students have mastered the foundation of how the body should move into the throw, we transition into building their delivery from the windup. I always enjoy this phase as I allow each student to fully be creative in a style they may want to follow. When we start talking about the leg kick, I present them with a variety of options to choose from but ultimately the decision is their own. I have found that many of my students never imagined a lift could look like that of Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller, and to an extreme degree Juan Marichal. Their faces are dumbfounded, and they ask “You can pitch like that?” . You can see the wheels begin to turn and instantly they realize many options exist. It’s rewarding as a teacher seeing the change that occurs after a student begins to understand they can take ownership over their delivery. And, as they work to perfect their craft, a confidence grows in knowing that the delivery they have created is a product of their own work.
Just to be clear, I refer to the pitcher’s leg lift in the delivery as “A LIFT WITH A KICK” or “LEG KICK”. Most commonly the position is referred to as simply the lift position, but it’s my belief, that every leg lift should have a degree of kicking action as the pitcher comes out of this position into his throw. Why? It allows the pitcher the ability to add rhythm, timing, power, and efficiency built into a consistent movement…..with just one KICK! And, no matter what your current lift may look like, you can easily add the kicking element without overhauling your entire delivery. I will break down how the kick can benefit any lift further in the article but first lets explore the variety of lifts that have existed throughout baseball history.
Now that you have a vast assortment of lifts to choose from dating back to Lefty Grove, lets look at how adding the kick to the lift will allow you to enhance your own delivery. There are two crucial steps you must instill when training your new lift.
Notice how current Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer’s hips are constantly moving towards the target as he gets into his lift. As your body begins to fall towards home plate, make sure your pelvis is leading the way. Initially practice a controlled forward movement of the hips as you practice bringing your lead leg to the peak of the lift. The true acceleration of the hips towards your target will happen once you complete the kick.
The clip shown here is current Yankees pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. Notice as he kicks out of his lift. Once you reach the top of you lift, kick your leg (knee to ankle) out away from your body. The kick can be very subtle to slightly moderate but NEVER overly agressive. Once the kick has been initiated, let your entire lead leg to completely relax as you move towards the target. The natural relaxation of the lead leg will allow the leg (knee to foot) to look like it’s kicking out. As you become more advanced, you can supply more force to the kick to create greater momentum.
Give yourself the creative freedom to decide the kick that may work best for you. Start with what feels natural and expand on it as you begin to feel more comfortable. You may have noticed from the “choosing a lift” clip that many of the pitchers pre-1970 exhibited a kick and displayed their own unique style. This style can still be represented in the game of baseball, it just needs to be taught properly. I hope this article enables you to think about throwing a baseball a bit differently and realize you have the ability to choose and create a delivery that you can be proud of for your career.
-Duff, Leader of the Pitching Rebellion
In case you missed it, check out the article below to learn how to step into your delivery.