We all want good mechanics so that we can achieve the success of an MLB pitcher like Chris Sale.
Check out his pitching motion here:
I remember sitting through a lecture a few years ago with the department head of neuroscience from a major university. He was sharing how athletes can literally only think about one thing at a time—and anytime we give them more than one instructional cue, their focus is lost.
I have no idea how many hours of my life I have spent in a bullpen, but if anything seems to be true it is this:
Pitchers can’t focus on more than one mechanical thing at a time.
We know pitchers always have issues in their pitching motion that they’re working on.
Throughout the course of a season, it’s normal for a pitcher’s mechanics to change or fall out of sync.
To combat this from happening, pitchers will continually be working on their pitching motion. Examples of this might include working on their arm action, keeping their weight back, working on balance, etc…
What pitchers need to remember though, is that there are only certain times when they should focus on mechanics. Not every time a pitcher has a ball in their hand is it right to work on mechanical issues. There are times to focus on mechanics, and they are times where they shouldn’t.
Remember, a pitcher’s focus can only be directed at one place with full attention at a time.
When a pitcher tries to work on several aspects of their delivery at once, their brain becomes cluttered and their practice suffers. To get the most out of their practice, a pitcher’s brain needs to be focused intently on the mechanics the pitcher is practicing. The end goal is to do the motions correctly so many times, that muscle memory takes over and a pitcher’s body remembers the new motions it is practicing.
Below is a list to help pitchers determine which situations allow for attention to mechanics, and which do not:
Dry Drills: Dry drills are anytime a pitcher is working on mechanics without a ball in their hand. A typical example of this is when a pitcher is working on their mechanics in front of a mirror. During this time, a pitcher can work on as many issues in their delivery at a time as they want. This is great for experimenting on what feels right and determining what actions in their delivery work best for them.
Throwing in Practice: This includes anytime a pitcher has a ball in their hand during practice. During this time, a pitcher should only be focusing on one or two issues in their mechanics. The most important goal for a pitcher when he’s throwing, is to practice making good pitches, so naturally, only so many things can be worked on at a time.
Game Time: When the game starts for a pitcher, absolutely no thoughts should run through their mind which relates to mechanics. The pitcher should be focusing solely on executing pitches, nothing else. I like to say that the pitcher should be on complete “auto-pilot”. The only time that mechanical issues should be thought about is when in-game adjustments are needed. This will happen when a pitcher is struggling and needs to find a way to dig themselves out of a hole. Still, those adjustments should be kept to a minimum.
And if you’re coaching pitchers and helping them work through a mechanical change, it seems the best technique is to: