Recently, I had one of my students tell me “My high school coach told me I can no longer take my hands over my head in my windup.” He was visibly upset, worried he may not be able to do a motion he has worked so hard at over the last several months. I responded, “did he tell you why?”, “He said, it will make my arms tired and cause me to get off balance.” The high school also went on to say, “You don’t see pitchers in the Major League’s taking their hands over their head all the time.”
Is this fair for the High School coach to say to my student? OF COURSE! Most people stay within the comfort zone and are afraid to look outside of the box. If no one on TV has their hands over their head, it must be wrong right?
So, I decided to look back and see how many Hall of Fame Pitchers took their hands over their head in the windup. The numbers are staggering, but paint a very clear picture. The concept of bringing the hands over the head isn’t just for visual purposes, the concept serves a very real purpose that very few coaches, players, or parents understand in the game of baseball today. In simple terms, the movement forces the pitcher to create energy and timing in a rhythmic fashion that keeps the pitcher in a fluid motion and prevents tension within the arm and body prior to the release of the baseball.
The game of baseball has truly changed over the last 50 years. Many things in life have a tendency to progressively change over time, but not the modern day pitching delivery has progressively declined. Just ask Tommy John.
First, after looking at Tommy’s statistics, I have no idea why he is not in the Hall of Fame. The man pitched over 5,000 professional innings over the course of 28 years . The ability to stay in the game that long should automatically enroll you in my opinion. Either way, I had the pleasure of speaking to him about several facets of pitching recently, and I enjoyed every minute. We talked about the current status of MLB injuries, youth baseball, long toss, mechanics, and various other potential factors surrounding the development of a pitcher.
One of the areas I found most fascinating, and continues to affirm my belief in his era, is where Tommy John learned how to pitch. While sitting on the couch watching baseball with his father, his father simply said, “If you want to learn how to pitch, do what the best do.” According to Tommy, the best pitchers at the time and the pitchers he chose to mimic, were Robin Roberts and Whitey Ford. I provided a clip of Tommy John below for you to gain a perspective of his delivery.
The conversation Tommy had with his father brings up a valuable reference point for ALL current players and parents. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, whether it be a high school coach, parent, or young player watching the average MLB pitcher on TV, they will see a style far removed from the one Tommy John witnessed with his father 50 years ago. Therefore, a young kid who has an interest in becoming a pitcher will be inclined to go out in the backyard and mimic what the best in the world are currently doing. The problem, although we have become bigger, stronger, and faster in EVERY major sport in America, a professional pitcher has moved less athletically with each new year. Why is this?
Well, both Tommy John and I agree more kids are worried about lighting up the radar gun from a young age instead of learning how to develop an efficient pitching delivery to truly pitch. Today, kids grow up learning how to throw weighted baseballs, long toss, or lift weights to become a better pitcher, instead of striving to repeat and become an expert in their own pitching delivery. The bulk of pitching instruction both online and in-person is geared just to throw harder. No wonder, we have so many pitching injuries.
I asked Tommy about his thoughts on today’s professional pitcher. He simply referred a problematic culture that involves a declining number of pitchers who know how to move their lower half in pitching delivery (resembling more of the UP, DOWN, & OUT), an overemphasis to throw curveballs to get hitters out from a young age, and too many pitchers long tossing as the source to build arm strength.
Through my research, I can now statistically prove, a pitcher who takes his hands over his head in the full windup, will be more inclined to utilize his entire body which will yield a better support system as the arm moves through its path of acceleration towards home plate. This forgotten move, once rampant through all of Major League Baseball, is outlawed by many coaches, parents, and players in the game of baseball today. Sad, but true.
Later in this article I will provide REAL stories from players and parents about incidents revolving around a pitcher taking their hands over their head.
Lets imagine the kid watching baseball with his father 50 years ago. 50 years sounds like a nice round number and happens to be the era Tommy John was a young professional moving up the ranks. If a dad in 1964 told his son to watch and learn from the best, his son would likely choose from the list below.
10/10 pitchers incorporated the Overhead Delivery.
1/10 pitchers incorporated the Overhead Delivery.
The numbers paint a very clear picture of the dominant style of pitching in the game today. Young kids will likely aspire to be like the professionals they see on TV. Coaches and instructors will refer to the dominant pitchers of the last decade, and the cycle will continue until a new wave of style surfaces. A style that is reminiscent of 94% of Hall of Fame pitchers. A style Baseball Rebellion aims to educate and show the many positive attributes attached to simply taking your hands over the head in the windup.
Why is Yu Darvish starting the game out of the stretch? Manager Ron Washington has no idea.
He says he figures it out in the bullpen. When he comes in the game if he feels like his stuff is better from the stretch, he will just pitch from the stretch. If he thinks it’s better from the windup he will go from the windup. And certain pitches work better from the stretch than they do from the windup. -ESPN Analyst, John Kruk
First, it’s apparent the Rangers let Darvish do whatever he feels like doing. Rightfully so, he’s been successful. But it’s also apparent; the Rangers don’t have anyone in place to help Darvish feel more comfortable out of the windup. I doubt Yu Darvish would consider starting out of the stretch 50 years ago. It could also be the case; Yu Darvish has never learned or felt the true advantage of any full windup. I’m not sure how certain pitches work better from the stretch than they do from the windup. I would argue you have the opportunity to enhance any pitch if the windup is executed properly.
I’ve had many students opt to take advantage of the Overhead Delivery because I presented options in front of them and let them decide what they feel most comfortable. One of my online students recently made the decision to take his hands over his head.
BR Student’s Decision to Go Hands Overhead
In his words…
I never thought about it to much until recently while I was playing around with it during a catch. I felt that it was helping with my rhythm and timing and it made it easier to bring my hands down the center of my body more consistently. I have only been practicing it for about a week now but I will stick with it. By going over head it brings my body to a more consistent place where I can really drive my hips down the mound better. -BR Student
If you watched the video, you can’t help but notice the dramatic chance in his pitching delivery. Look at the momentum created by simply taking his hands over his head!!! Wow. I taught him the foundation of how to move his body but the decision to go over his head was ALL his.
If you are a young aspiring pitcher, it will be OK to mimic what you just watched above.
Now, here are some factual stories that materialize how ridiculous our culture has become and how little some individuals know about the game of baseball.
Horror Stories! Well, should be.
Yesterday, in my middle school game, I struck out the first six batters, and before I pitched to the first batter in the third inning, the umpire came out and talked to me. He said, ” I need you to stop the acrobatics out here. I was like, “OK”.
My guess is the umpire hasn’t seen a kid move like that out of the windup in a long time and had a hard time picking up the baseball. Hard to define your strike zone when you can’t see the ball.
When my son was small we attended a baseball camp where a highly respected local high school coach advocated not bringing the arms over the head as it would “fatigue” the pitcher. I always thought that was ridiculous. If a pitcher gets worn out by simply bringing his hands over his head, he needs to get in shape.
I felt like I needed to hire this Dad to work for me after his email. He hit so many valid points right on the nose. He went on to comment the following below.
The pitching delivery back in 1964 was far superior on so many levels compared to the average pitching delivery we see today. Why could so many pitchers throw far more innings on shorter rest 50 years ago? Why did Tommy John pitch for almost 30 years? Why have Brandon Beachy, Kris Medlen, and Jarrod Parker undergone two Tommy John surgeries with better nutrition, training, and physically bigger and stronger than Tommy John?
Take a close look and the answers are glaring. Don’t get blinded by the current culture. Do some research and make your own observations. If you are a dad, and sitting on the couch with your son, think twice about who you tell your son to mold himself after.
I have no problem at all if any pitcher wants to keep his hands low and never opt to take his hands over his head. But, I have a major issue with coaches who tell a kid not to take his hands over his head because it doesn’t look normal, or it will make him tired.
Best of luck to all rising young pitchers! Building and developing your own style. If you currently take your hands over your head in your windup, tweet me @justinorenduff and #overhead to become a part of a movement to bring back the style of 94% of Hall of Famers!
–Justin Orenduff, Leader of the Pitching Rebellion