Do Baseball Pitchers Really Push off the Rubber?
Coach Mills on November 15, 2004 | No Comments
You will find many articles online, even from former professional pitchers, who try hard to make the case that you must push off the rubber to gain velocity. I understand what they are trying to say, but do others understand it? Do they make it clear for those reading it exactly how to execute this pushing off the rubber?
Many of these instructors will tell a pitcher that he must get up and over the front leg, which they believe is the object of gaining more velocity. For those of you have our “Pitching DVDs,” you fully understand that you cannot “open a jar” by trying to lift it up and over. You must unscrew it first.
This is the type of information that is flowing online every day. For former professional pitchers who are trying to capitalize on their fame, they probably find an audience that believes that they know what they are talking about. Many do not. They understand how they did it themselves, but have a very difficult time communicating it to others. This is why many pros in all sports admit they are not good teachers.
This is what instructors and high school and college coaches are teaching and communicating every day to their players and students.
Anything else these instructors have to say about boosting pitching performance is something I would really have to question.
There are a lot of holes in their thinking. So parents must beware.
Finding the Right Instruction
This is why Dick has warned us about finding a pitching instructor for our kids. I have thought about this, and every time I do, I start asking questions, and they can’t provide answers. One of the best ones is, “Are you going to video tape him”
I think every parent wants the best for their kids, and wants to provide the best instruction for them. Me, I sometimes think another voice to tell them the same things I am trying to tell them will mean more.
However, I am learning that perhaps I need to be a better listener to my kids. Perhaps they are just needing to hear it from me.
Now that the baseball season is over, most of these players go back to their hometown, and many must work during the winter, due to the fact that they were not made rich in the draft. So, what do they do?
Tell others what they did to make the pros. And it sells. The players make bank and the kids … well, that is where the story’s outcome can mean very many things.
Perhaps the kids will practice and throw more and make the statement” I added 5 to 10 miles per hour to my fastball over the winter (but forgets to mention he put on 10 pounds and grew three inches).
Others, perhaps their mechanics were so bad that one change can make a difference.
Anyway, the bottom line is this: Be very careful to whom you are listening to as most often, this happens by people trying to do what they feel is the right thing.
Detailed Instruction Necessary Regarding Rubber Push Off
From Dick Mills
Yes, what you say, how you communicate, the directions you give, and the cues you use has everything to do with the result you get.
You are correct. The vast majority of kids when told to push off the rubber will not lead with their front hip, will collapse their back leg, lose power, and be in a poor position at landing. That has always been my problem with that cue. It does not convey a good image.
Ultimately, what we say should provide a word picture.
Nolan Ryan has always said there is no push while Sandy Koufax may say there is. The question is not who is right but who will be able to convey what they mean as an instructor.
A pitcher moving off the back leg with efficiency should use a movement similar to a lunge or better yet a skater lunge. The back leg in that case is use as a stabilizer as the center of gravity (belly button) shifts sideways away from the leg.
Shifting the weight early is moving the pelvis away from the back leg.
If you want to say push, I don’t think it matters as long as your student understands why you are saying what you are saying.
But if a pitcher puts himself in the loaded position (weight on back leg), pushing against the ground does not move you anywhere, but shifting your weight from the hips does.
If you were to ask 100 youth or high school pitchers to push off the rubber, more than likely you would end up with very poor results.
If you were to have those 100 pitchers follow the Major Leaguer’s explanation that I referred to starting this post where he gives no explanation of how, you would also get very poor results.
And that is the point. What you say and how you say it has everything to do with the results you get.
If we assume that they know what we mean then we are an – the first three letters of assume.
As instructors, we have another tool at our disposal. It is called demonstration. Show them what they need to do.
Could this former Major League pitcher demonstrate what he has explained about pushing off and then getting up and over the front leg? If he could, then he would more than likely realize that what he is saying does not make a whole lot of sense.
He says some other things in there that I thought you would pick up on, such as most of the weight being on the back leg as you stride out. That, too, does not create a good word picture since the weight is constantly shifting away from that back leg.
Here are some responses about the pros and cons of pushing off the rubber that came about as a result of the Curt Schilling ankle incident during the World Series that had the TV commentators discussing how he lost his pushing ability.
This is the type of information you will get when you buy into some of the online programs that know just enough to be very, very dangerous. Notice how they seem to sound knowledgeable using words like kinetic chain – which apparently the push off the rubber advocate needs to do more studying. He has his kinetic chain theory all backwards. And he learned it online from one of the online pitching geniuses.
Push off the rubber advocate (Advocate No. 1): The hips will not rotate fast enough or early enough without a push off an instant before the stride foot lands. Without proper hip rotation while keeping the shoulders closed, you have a weak link (the hip rotation) in the kinetic chain, which results in slower shoulder rotation and arm speed.
Non-push off the rubber advocate (Advocate No. 2): Push off just before the front foot hits the ground? I don’t see how in the world you can teach that without your pitchers rushing. The hips explode after the front foot hits the ground, and they rotate around that front leg. It seems to me you are breaking the kinetic chain if you teach this. I would think it would cause less power, not more.
Advocate No. 1’s response: The kinetic chain can be thought of as a sequence of events. Each event benefits from the previous event. In this case, hip rotation is the event that precedes the next event-shoulder rotation.
Since the shoulder rotation event begins once the stride foot lands, the rotation of the hips must occur before that.
Correct me if I am wrong here, but they haven’t got a clue on how the mechanics of the hip, the extension of the foot to the toe, and then the rollover of the foot works, so they roll everything into two big words hoping to get around the subject by saying “kinetic chain.” I believe they are missing the “open the jar” sequence.
Have they made a case of what needs to take place? I think they have added more confusion to the subject, as most do, when a person has just a little information.
Proper Mechanics Affects Everything
From Dick Mills
The question you never hear answered that is ultimately most important is: How do you teach any of this. How on earth do you explain this to a youth, high school, or college pitcher?
This statement, by the push advocate says: The hips will not rotate fast enough or early enough without a push-off an instant before the stride foot lands. My question is what gets hip rotation going? Is it this push-off in mid-air an instant before the foot gets down? Does this make any sense at all?
It is also clear that this guy does not understand weight shift or weight transfer and that moving toward landing it is not initiated by the back leg but by weight shift, away from the back leg initiated by the back hip.
So this approach of “pushing” to get fast hips requires early hip rotation. Get the front hip open fast, but don’t put it down on the ground?
Is this clear to anybody?
My other question would be: What is the force that would act upon a constant rate of movement while striding out that would create this extra pushing? This force would come from where in the body?
He is advocating that just before the front foot hits the ground that you apply more force while in midair to speed things up. Doesn’t there need to be a ground force reaction by getting the front foot down?
So is what he is saying even biomechanically possible – to speed up at the very end in mid air after moving at a constant rate while striding out? The pitcher is striding out while in third gear, and then to instantly must speed up in mid-air he has to put himself into overdrive. Where does that come from?
This is called reinventing mechanics. These must be online mechanics only with a caution: “Don’t try this from the mound.”
When you apply force to something that is moving at a constant rate, you would do so at the expense of energy. It’s like driving down the road at 50 mph, and then pushing your foot down to go to 60 mph. More gasoline required.
Getting the Opposite Effect
So, this sudden push at the end would have to be a jerky motion. This jerky motion would more than likely have the effect of slowing down the whole mechanism creating the opposite effect that he actually wants. I wonder what it would look like since I have not seen it done, and I personally never did this sudden push at the end. It must look like some kind of a jump at the end. This would obviously put an end to a smooth delivery, which is created from proper timing. Thus, the end of good timing.
Do we want jerky?
I wonder if this sudden push at the end that Advocate No. 1 is talking about is really the final “peeling away” of the back foot which is the final extension of the back leg that “opens the jar” or drives the back hip around to the front? Which makes more sense?
This push advocate is missing one important point. You must get the foot down first in order to have the back leg act upon the back hip since the pitcher is rotating around the front leg, not around the back leg.
Even Ryan always said that you must get the front foot down first.
Here is what a biomechanist says about lower body mechanics in a javelin throw, which has some similarities to pitching:
“The athlete steps into the throwing stance … the rear leg is vigorously rotated toward the direction of the throw. This action thrusts the hips in the same direction. The key phrase there is “this action.” The action being for the pitcher … the extension of the leg that drives the back hip and spins the pelvis open like a jar.
There was no mention of “rotating or opening into” foot plant as a means of transferring more force. You cannot transfer force to the next part until the foot gets down.
The “push advocate” also believes that upon landing the trunk begins rotating immediately. However, the pelvis rotates at foot plant and then the trunk is handed off the energy to starts its rotation.
The point is that it is extremely important to convey what we know in a way that students will be able to execute the movement.