How To Become A Great Fielding Pitcher
It's important to teach youth baseball pitchers to be good fielders. Here are the reason why, and tips for becoming a better fielding pitcher.
WHY PITCHERS NEED TO BE GOOD FIELDERS
1. To protect themselves from a line drive
Without the proper position it is difficult to get the glove up in a defensive position to block a line drive hit right back at the pitcher. This can be very serious. There have been instances of major league pitchers who were never the same after being hit with a line drive off the bat.
2. To be able to field a bunt
Even at the kids baseball league level managers will take advantage of situations were a pitcher may fall off the side of the mound. Managers will have their skilled youth baseball hitters bunt the ball to the opposite side of the infield. When kids get to the high school level it will be exploited by their opponents to the fullest.
3. To be able to field a ground ball up the middle
In kids baseball games many of the hits are up the middle. If the pitcher drags his back foot after pushing off the mound it is hard to get in position for defense. Have you ever seen future Hall Of Famer Greg Maddux? He's one of the best fielding pitchers even and proved it by winning the 2006 Gold Glove award. His position after releasing the ball is exceptional.
4. To be able to cover first base on a hit to the right side
Even at the 7 - 9 year old youth baseball level we teach young pitchers to cover first base on a ball hit to the right side of the infield. This could be particularly hard for lefty pitchers who fall off the mound to the left side of the infield after there release. When this occurs, they have a lot of ground to cover to get to first base.
TIPS FOR BEING A BETTER FIELDING PITCHER
1. Pitch from the stretch
There are less moving parts. The young pitcher doesn't have to displace all the momentum from the big windup; this leads to them being completely out of control after releasing the ball.
I do not understand why we don't see more of this. If you look at the pro relief pitchers like Billy Wagner of the Mets, his velocity is not effected; he still throws the ball over 100 mph; exclusively from the stretch.
2. Don't drag the back foot
The pitcher should bring the leg all the way around and even with the front leg after the release of the pitch. When done successfully they will be well balanced to field bunts, cover first and react to line drives hit bat to the box.
3. Keep your body centered over your torso
What I see as a youth baseball coach are kids leaning toward one side. This is a sign of overthrowing. Keeping the body centered will help the pitcher's accuracy as well.
4. Wear a protective cup
God forbid a ball is hit back to a pitcher in that part of the body where the pitcher cannot defend himself. It could become a very serious injury. As a kids baseball coach I will not let a player pitch without a protective cup. Some of you might laugh - but it's safety first!
5. End your windup in a position of a fielder
After releasing the ball the pitcher's needs to focus on defense and become an infielder. So, the correct stance for a pitcher is to have both legs in front of him, body balanced over the torso, glove hand in front of him with his eyes looking at the plate; and anticipating the ball being hit back at him.