Welcome to the House of Pitching Newsletter.
A student of mine in Cleveland told me a story that I cannot get out of my head. It completely baffled me. During one of her games, a member of the Pitching coach mafia approached her. Now, if you’re new to the newsletter.. the pitching coach mafia is the name I’ve given to the group of people in the world who try to teach pitching and absolutely destroy the potential in some young pitchers. Most members of the PCM have no actual pitching experience of ANY kind. But, because their daughter played softball, attended clinics, or whatever they fancy themselves as pitching gurus. Many in the PCM actually give pitching lessons where they teach based off what they “know” about pitching. And the fact that some of these people accept money for this should be considered criminal in my opinion.
Now let me be perfectly clear… not everyone who gives pitching lessons without experience is a member of the PCM. Far from it. There are many people who genuinely want to learn and they want to learn what is best. I applaud those people and really respect them. They are the type who TRULY love this game of fastpitch and are dedicated to it. God bless them. But, it’s the type of ‘pitching coach’ in my story that should be arrested under the federal RICO laws used against other types of organized crime. Because much of what these people teach is flat out criminal.
So, my pitcher is at her game and approached by a local pitching guru who proceeds to ask her about her pitching. According to the girl, the man said he saw some talent in her and asked if she had a pitching coach. She said, “Yes. I go to Bill Hillhouse every week.” While I wasn’t there and can only imagine the reaction based off her story (which was confirmed by her parents), the man was distraught. You see, the 2 words of Bill Hillhouse is to the PCM what Kryptonite is to Superman. It makes their knees buckle and get weak. Why is that? Because I have absolutely no problem telling these people they are flat out wrong then personally demonstrating what I’m talking about. But, this man told her: “Bill isn’t a very good pitcher or coach, he only knows 3 pitches! I can teach you 6 pitches!” This is where I’ll stop the story because the young lady was apparently polite and listened to what this guy said then let it pass out the other ear.
Now, we can debate all day about if I’m a good pitching coach. There are some people who simply cannot teach the things they know themselves. Magic Johnson and Eddie Murray are 2 examples of superstars who couldn’t teach what they did effortlessly. But, this was different. Here was a guy who has never thrown a softball in his life trying to tell someone that I must not be a very good pitcher because I only throw 3 pitches. Are you following this? Someone who cannot and has not done it themselves is saying that someone who has won MVP honors for the US National team, played internationally for 16 years, been named All American, etc. “must not be very good”. I’m mortified that this man is walking the street.
When the Women’s World Cup final was on TV the other week, there was a segment where Cat Osterman demonstrated her grips for pitches. At no point did she demonstrate a “screwball” or a “fastball”. Why? Because those are largely pitches that lose games at high levels. And, if you disregard the ridiculous statements by the TV commentators about “back door curve balls” etc. and watch what Cat did in her game… Every pitch was going up or down. Nothing was intended to stay flat and on the same plane. Even when she threw her curveball, there was a rise or drop to it at the same time. WHY? Because flat pitches get hit hard. Sometimes pitches that move get hit hard too but, not as often. The Japanese pitcher was hit hard that game. She had her velocity but no movment. The pitch stayed flat and the US hitters ripped it.
So, while we can debate all day about pitching strategies: what to throw batters and when. One thing we can’t debate is that every pitch needs to move up or down. Look at the success of pitchers who move it EVERY pitch vs the ones who don’t. Yet too many pitching coaches and people teaching pitching do not look at common sense.They teach all of these pitches which are going to be utterly useless when the pitcher gets older and take time away from perfecting the pitches she will need to win the World Cup. Cat’s performance that game isn’t something that only young pitchers should watch and admire but, it should also give pitching coaches a blueprint for successful students. If you haven’t pitched yourself and admit you know nothing about it, then watch the most successful pitchers in the world (Male or Female) and see how they do it. Mechanically speaking the great pitchers in
men’s softball and women’s are almost identical. Moreover, they apply the same strategy of making the ball go up or down every time. Sure a curveball will work once in a while but, it’s twice as effective with a lateral break too. And in 99% of the cases where a homerun is hit, the pitcher will tell you it was a flat pitch that didn’t move. So, why throw that on purpose?