Ok, I’ve reached my limit. I think if I hear someone say something in regards to this pitching coach’s “style” vs. another’s “style” I’m going to throw up. Some may say that this column is really just about me blowing this out of proportion and it’s just a matter of semantics but, I disagree. The line between pitching “styles” and “absolutes” has been blurred to the point that it’s unrecognizable. Doug Gillis was the first I’ve heard call them by these names and it’s the most accurate definition of what they are; styles and absolutes! The same way that people have gotten lazy with what they consider a riseball, curveball, dropball, etc. they have gotten lazy with the difference between the “absolutes” and “styles” in pitching.
There are many in the world today teaching softball pitching. Many of those are really unfamiliar with what it takes to be a pitcher because they’ve never
been out there. Maybe I’m just the “elitist” that people say I am or arrogant because I think that to achieve the best, we need to learn from the best.
This is why every NBA show or NFL pre-game show is hiring the best/brightest former players to give inside analysis of the game, players, movements, etc. It’s also why more and more major league teams are hiring former pitchers as their pitching coaches! But, I digress!
The inexperienced in the game have never seen a true riseball. Many have never seen a true dropball. They don’t understand that neither pitch is a simply a ball thrown high or low. Nor do they understand that a curve is not when a right handed pitcher can throw it to the left side of the plate. That is what’s called “forced movement” and not a breaking pitch. Then there are those people that have never seen a real riseball therefore they claim it doesn’t exist! They do not understand that mediocrity breeds mediocrity and unless your pitching coach can throw it, odds are, your pitcher won’t either. Moreover, just because someone has thrown at a college level does not automatically qualify them as someone who’s doing something right! Lets face it, there are 1000’s of pitchers in the US today but only a few are household names. Why? It’s because most are being taught things which are actually KILLING their ability to develop to the “elite” level. Again, there is a major reason why there are so few household names in pitching but, countless others that were good but…
I saw a website recently from San Diego where they had clips of pitchers of MAJOR colleges pitching. It was hard to look at in some ways to see the pitchers who are considered the best of the best pitching yet seeing the mechanical flaws in their motions made me lay awake at night wondering, “How good could they be if they could correct those things?” But, they won’t
be corrected because they are at major colleges and are already considered great pitchers. And, I am in NO WAY taking away from their great careers to date! Far from it! It’s a credit to them that they’ve been able to achieve what they have doing some mechanical flaws. But, it’s still very hard to see how much better they could be and how much is being lost. Who knows, with that little bit extra, they could become one of those household names!
Now, let’s get back to the beginning of this article: styles vs. absolutes. After reading what I’ve wrote, many are probably thinking I’m the most arrogant S.O.B. on Earth and that my “style” is the only way or the best way. This is where I have a real issue with people! If you understand pitching at all, you
will know the difference between the styles and absolutes. Absolutes are what EVERY pitcher does that makes them successful. I don’t care if you’re a man or woman pitching; absolutes are non-negotiable and have nothing to do with someone’s opinion. There is no grey area here. Mechanics are mechanics. Styles, on the other hand, are up to the individual and vary from person to person. Many factors determine what “style” someone should take. I can tell you this; all the great pitchers (male or female) to throw fast pitch have the same absolutes but, many different styles.
Let’s review an example of the difference between the two. Grips for pitches are a style. There really isn’t a right or wrong on grips, there are too many things that need to be factored in. Hand size, ball size, etc. are all things that can make the biggest difference in the world. However, ball rotation is
an absolute. While we can have 199 different ways to throw a certain pitch, but without the correct rotation, regardless of how you get it, the pitch simply won’t work. Other examples of absolutes are: balance, leg drive, unlocking of the elbow for diagonal snap, and not trying to “muscle up” on the pitch. All too often I hear how men throw harder because they’re stronger. While that’s partially true, that’s not always the case. After all, who can throw a softball harder, Jennie Finch or Mr. America? Examples of styles include the double pump, the wind up over the head, grips for pitches, etc.
The hardest part in relation to the absolutes vs. styles argument is convincing parents/coaches that when a pitcher isn’t doing something correct in the mechanics, THERE IS NEVER A WRONG TIME TO CHANGE. Just like when Doritos or Coke comes out with a new brand, it’s always “New and improved.” Improvement begins with change! The problem is, people out there are just flat out confused on the difference between styles and absolutes. It baffles me when someone says they don’t want to change anything this time of year or during the season. WHAT? Are you kidding
me? How can there ever be a wrong time to do something the right way? Is the improvement going to take place overnight? Of course not. It takes time
and patience, just like anything else does. The difference between correct and incorrect pitching is equivalent to the feeling of hitting a LONG homerun (where the ball jumps off the bat without even feeling it) and hitting it off the end of the bat on a cold day where the batter’s hands literally drop the bat from vibration pain!
Think of it this way, would you ever hear any pitcher struggling to make it to the Major Leagues, whose mechanics need fine tuned by a MLB pitching coach say something like this; “Gee, I’d rather not change right now, I think I’ll continue doing this incorrectly and making sure I do NOT improve.”
Make sure your pitching coach understands the difference(s) between styles and absolutes and that what he/she says makes sense! Then, compare what he/she says to others and decide for yourself: don’t just follow the leader! And, lastly, make sure YOU understand the difference between styles and absolutes!