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Learn How To Get The Most Out Of Your Leg KICK!

Written By: Justin Orenduff

THE LEG KICK

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.

CHOOSING A LIFT

EXPLORING THE “KICK”

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.

  The hips must be moving towards the target as you lift your leg.

bauer

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.

When the knee gets to the top of the lift,  kick out of it.

kurodalift

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.

 ADVANTAGES OF USING THE KICK 

  • Initiates the proper timing mechanism of our legs and arms behind the rubber. 
  • The  hips are able to travel further down the mound before lead foot gets out in front.
  • Delays hip rotation into the throw.
  • Lets the body to work together and maintain a constant flow of energy

CREATING YOUR OWN LEG KICK

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.

Step Back To Create Swagger 

8 thoughts on "Learn How To Get The Most Out Of Your Leg KICK!"

  1. Gerty says:

    Justin,

    Will you be writing anything in the future about pitching from the stretch and doing so with power, velo and accuracy? I was always a catcher with a better than average pop time, and I still have nightmares about my pitchers that never gave me a chance. I’d like to read about your thoughts on how to pitch well from the stretch without getting run on all day long.

    Thanks!

    1. I have a running game article I plan on writing. I appreciate the suggestion and will take note. I learned quickly in pro ball my first year to address how I handle the running game! Thanks for reading!

  2. CoachRyan says:

    To Gerty –

    I tell my players several things

    A) Have a decoy or “bad move” to set up your best move. Show it a couple times. Mix it in enough so that runners are unable to tell when it is coming vs. your best move.

    B) Have a “best move”. Remember, you can still have a variety of moves like picking from the top of your set or the bottom of set. You can have a timing move. But a one particular move should always be your BEST. I have my pitchers also have their hands higher at the set position rather than lower. Easier and faster (IMO) to pull the ball out on a pick throw to first.

    One thing you cannot fall in love with (if you are a right hander) is thinking that you are going to pick off a ton of runners. Your job is to have the runner thinking, taking a shorter lead or hesitant to steal. It’s not to get outs with a pick move. A lefty pitcher…well, that is another story all together. Because they have the advantage of seeing the runner, there are a variety of pick off moves that can be used to get an out at a crucial situation.

    C) Vary your cadence (meaning your holding time at set). Kids do not use this enough. Sometimes holding the ball longer (an extra two or three seconds) gets an overly aggressive baserunner to get flat footed or sometimes the opposite flat-footed, meaning “too antsy” and they simply take off. In that case step off and run at them, get them in a run down.

    D) Use a flex step (going knee to knee) which is basically a quicker move to the plate without losing your top velocity. I have found knee to knee is easier from a shoulder width set up of the feet.

    E) Use a slide step. I tell my kids to take a slightly wider than shoulder width set position with the feet. Simply lift the stride foot a couple inches off the groud and go home. I try to limit the usage of this because ultimately a pitcher is out there to throw his best stuff vs. a hitter and using a slide step doesn’t always allow the pitcher to throw with his best stuff (as far as velocity and command). It can also lead to timing issues with the arm and arm problems if done with too much regularity.

    F) If you can get away with it, pre-set the back heel against the rubber with the front toes slightly towards first and the stride foot leg slighly opened that way. Almost like pre-setting the pick. This is hard to get away with because astute teams will pick this up rather quickly. But hey, if it quickens the move to first base and you can mix it in occasionally. That faster tenth of a second to first can be the difference between an out and a safe call.

    G) Study baserunners. Do your homework. Obviously teams like to put their table setters at the top of the lineup. Have someone use a stop watch to time a runner to second on his steal. You can find out from this how quickly you need to get it to home by adding your delivery time to your catcher’s pop time. Look for things like this too – often times baserunners give away that they are stealing either by leaning, body language, acknowledging a coach’s sign. Find out which baserunners have a tendency to not pay attention – they look at the ground, they cross their feet, they stare at the coach or the dugout. Know who these players are an exploit it.

    H) Learn counts and the hittesr better. What counts are typical hit and run situations? Who is good at hitting behind runners, showing bunt to disrupt a catcher’s vision to on the pitch and their throw to second base. If you have an idea of when your opponent might be stealing, you have the opportunity to pitch out.

    I) Pitch out. See H above.

    J) Lastly,PITCHERS when in doubt and unsure if the lead is too big, I simply tell my kids – step off. Regroup. They should never be thinking pitch and pick at the same time. You should have that decision already made up in your mind and not try to do it mid set up or mid delivery (moreso for a RHP). Sometimes LHP are good enough to do it mid stream because they can always see the runner

    I’m sure there are other ideas and solutions that I am forgetting, but this is the stuff I teach my players.

  3. CoachRyan says:

    BTW – great advice in the video. Love the fact that watching it from a side angle and keeping it simplistic makes it relatively easy to teach to the kids. I will forward the link on to some of my players who seem to be struggling with this aspect of their delivery. Dan Blewitt does a nice job incorporating this as well with his bucket drill as does Ron Wolforth and Derek Johnson with their “Hook Em'” drills. Anyway – great job. Love the explanation…

    1. CoachRyan,

      That’s the beauty of it. It’s simple but allows kids of all ages and ability levels to effectively use the hips into each throw as well as establish a rhythm. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Caleb D says:

    Justin,

    Should there be any rotation in the torso when a pitcher lifts his leg, like King Felix pitches? Or is it more ideal, in your eyes, to not rotate and then begin the stride by leading with the hip?

    Thanks

    1. Caleb,

      Great question. I don’t have a problem if you rotate the torso early as the leg lifts, but you have to prove you can maintain the consistency in getting to the ideal position coming down the mound. Rotating the torso forces a pitcher to be more synched with his timing and rhythm, and sometimes can lead to being too fast or too slow coming out of the turn. If your not diligent in staying consistent with your timing, and can cause inconsistent patterns.

      Thanks,

      Justin

  5. Don Ervin says:

    Hey Justin
    Great web site.
    Great informative article and info. on taking the ball in glove and hands above the head during. the wind up, along with the hip movement and leg kick and yes, as you state if this arm and hands movement makes one tired one needs to get themselves into better shape arm and shoulder wise.in particular, repetitious full range of motion of this arm and shoulder movement along with a constructive exercise program of isolated 3 to 5 pound weights will do the trick.
    I teach pitchers that the first / initial movement is of the utmost importance and as the knee approaches it’s peak at app. belly button height to close the knee off towards the throwing side hip which automatically sets the front hip ahead of the upper torso so as not to physically force the hips forward’ while at the same time sets the upper torso and hips into a counter balance body position, with hips leading in a sideways movement accelerating the stride foot and leg to touch / plant down/ soft knee deceleration into a braced up stride foot and leg stabilized position With proper drive foot ankle fllexion ground force action drive, knee and hip flexor extension into a stride length of matching ones body height, then moving through hip to shoulder separation on to and through externally laid back arm position, on to internally extended fore arm position, on to ball release point, on to a nice flat back fielding position follow through, get past the wall, {THE VERTICAL BODY POSITION} with absolutely {NO} arm recoil, Let the arm just hang there momentarily and rest to relieve the tension and strain it acquires during the throwing movement.

    Two more items to bring to the table.
    #1. There is no such thing as {MUSCLE MEMORY,} {MUSCLES HAVE NO MEMORY,}
    The {Optic Nerve} is the {NERVE} that transmits visual information from the {Retna} to the brain.which in turn relays messages to the body, the brain is one’s control panel to all physical actions via the eyes and the optic nerve.
    These two words are used extensively and out of context.
    #2. PREVENT,
    as far as the chronic sore arms, elbow and shoulder surgeries are concerned there is no possible way to {PREVENT} these types of injuries due to the fact that { Prevent} means to keep or to stop from happening.
    To make impossible.
    You know as well as I do that every time one throws a ball or any other object hat the arm, shoulder and all other body parts involved in the throwing movement are susceptible to injury, even surgery due to injury.
    Great Baseball-N
    Don Ervin
    dfervin32@yahoo.com

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