Kyle Harris joined the BR Premium writing team full time in January of 2019. He currently is the owner of FITCorps online personal training, a Physical Education teacher, as well as a hitting/pitching instructor at Bob Harris Baseball School in Ohio.
Reach out to Kyle on Twitter: @hossjob
As a high school pitcher (I use that term very loosely), I developed a very good 12-6 curveball. I coupled that curveball with an above average fastball that was straight as an arrow.
My philosophy was throw hard, change speeds with a slow curveball, throw hard again, throw my curveball as hard as I could down in the zone and it worked really well when I was on. The problem? I was mostly “off”. My quasi-success, in spite of my bipolar mindset and erratic control, was due to accidental pitch design.
Back then, no one talked about pitch design or tunneling, but because I was able to do it accidentally I had two plus pitches that worked together synergistically
I was able to pair two above-average pitches that had opposite actions and effects. My arm slot was nearly identical for both pitches, as was the ball flight (referred to as “tunneling”).
Today, if you’re researching, reading, or following social media, pitch design is very real, and highly discussed topic, that can get highly intricate with the use of technology and data. It can also get expensive.
One of the best follows on twitter is Rob Friedman ( @PitchingNinja) who has made the masses well aware of pitch design, tunneling, and creating a complimentary pitch arsenal.
2018 PitchingNinja "I can't believe these are 2 pitches" Tunneling Award.
Kyle Hendricks: 87mph Sinker and 78mph Changeup. pic.twitter.com/WE5XpyAHfD
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) December 20, 2018
Rick Porcello, Tunneling & Deception. pic.twitter.com/XLwIsNfgi7
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 26, 2018
Kenta Maeda, 91mph Fastball & 85mph Slider, Overlay.
The hitter swung because:
1. of the excellent tunneling of the fastball and slider, and
2. it's Javy Báez pic.twitter.com/Z03yWpG6uP
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 26, 2018
The use of Rapsodo Cameras and Edgertronic Cameras allow coaches and pitchers to work together to design pitches by seeing spin rate, spin direction/axis, pitch velocity, movement profiles, and location, as well as hand position, arm position, and release point via 17,000 frames per second.
Coupling the use of these cameras allows for instant feedback and pitch design that pitchers can use to “tunnel” their pitches, making two or more different pitches seem like the same pitch for long periods leading up to entering the hitting zone.
The issue is these cameras cost $4,000 and $18,000 respectively. Few training facilities, travel, high school, or even college programs can afford to drop $22,000 on pitch design alone. In fact, many cannot even afford the $4,000 it would cost to obtain a Rapsodo camera.
Using these devices, we can record slow-motion video of our pitcher's release from behind the pitcher and plate, while the pitch tracker records and tracks velocity, spin rate, and spin direction. For around $100, you can take images of your pitchers' pitches and overlay them on the Hudl app. After overlaying, you can see if the pitchers are releasing their various pitches in similar windows and also if they are traveling toward the plate in similar trajectories (pitch tunneling). You can do all of this while you instantly record pitch spin rate and spin axis to see if fastballs and breaking balls will compliment each other.
For example, we have been recently using this format to transition three high school pitchers pitch repertoires, so that their respective pitches compliment each other. Here is their breakdown using the Diamond Kinetics Pitch Tracker and picture/video.
-Fastball- Almost True Backspin. Above average velocity and spin rate.
- Curveball (Before)- Gyroscopic. Little to no vertical movement and slight lateral movement.
-Curveball (After) - 1-7. Excellent vertical break. Slight lateral break
-4-Seam Fastball (Before) - Above average velocity and slight lateral movement.
-2-Seam Fastball (After) - Above average velocity. Significant lateral movement to arm side. Slight vertical movement.
-Curveball (Before) - Excellent vertical movement. Slight lateral movement
-Slider (After) - Very late and good lateral movement (to glove side). Good vertical movement.
The goal with athlete 3 was to take two really good pitches (fastball and knuckle curve) and make them better by keeping his arm slot and release point more consistently similar.
He had a tendency to drop down his arm on his curveball and make adjustments with his release point. We are trying to “tunnel” his pitches to make them more difficult to pick up by the batter.
In this situation, we used slow-motion video and screenshots of that video to compare. Using the Hudl Technique App, we can overlay these videos (you can use iMovie as well), sequencing them to be at release simultaneously.
Slow motion video can be taken from catchers view, batters view, or from behind the pitchers. Review these for release point, hand position, ball movement, and they can compare the flight of the pitch to enhance pitchers abilities to “tunnel” the pitch, making it harder for the batter to recognize and react to the pitches.
Below are sample pictures we took (Screenshots of the accompanying video) as he was working on replicating release point and armslot to further his ability to “tunel” these pitches.
This is to illustrate how effective a simple smart phone camera can be when designing pitches and working to replicate release. These pictures were screenshots of slow motion videos captured by an iPhone 6S.
The implementation of pitch design should be better thought out and programmed than simply having pitchers play catch trying out different pitches.
There is a combination of both art and science in pitch development and the use of technology and data can provide the information needed for coaches and players to actually create complimentary pitches that can be used to improve effectiveness.
The cost of pitch design doesn’t have to be $4,000-$20,000 either. It can be effectively done by using a smart phone, a video app, and a Diamond Kinetics Pitch Tracker.
For the grand total of $150 (if you already posess a smart phone), you can accomplish what the pros do at a fraction of the cost. I promise you, the time and effort is low, but the rewards will be great and your pitchers and players will thank you for it.
Bob Harris Baseball School - Group Training Coordinator, Technology Coordinator, &Pitching/Hitting Instructor
Baseball Rebellion - Premium Content Provider
Baseball coaches and players deal with many different issues when it comes to finding ways around inclement weather, small spaces, lack of facilities and time.
Sometimes youth, middle school, and high school athletes can have trouble controlling their effort level when throwing. Because of this, it can make it harder for coaches to make sure their players get the ample throwing time and distance they need.
There are several ways to complete a long toss program inside or in small places, but let’s focus on an alternative to long toss that may be more appropriate for youth athletes or athletes that lack physical, mental, or emotional control to properly perform long toss
Using a throwing progression such as those outlined above, and in the accompanying videos, can provide the stimulus to needed to encourage adaptations in soft tissue that will help protect the arm and increase performance, while also providing for a framework to teaching proper throwing mechanics.
For a full arm care program to pair with your throwing progression, click here to read Baseball Rebellion's Lead Pitching Instructor, Dave Shinskie's arm care program for all levels.