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A Breakdown of Arm and Hand Position in the Windmill Pitch

I’ve received more than one question about pitcher hand position—what direction a pitcher’s hand should be facing at various points around the arm circle. Today I’m going to break that down, and also point out the overall arm position at various points in the motion as it relates to timing.

An Important Note About Teaching Pitcher Hand Position

I don’t want to say hand position doesn’t matter, because that’s not true. Poor enough hand position can definitely cause problems. However, if you’re a beginner pitching coach or a parent trying to teach your daughter how to pitch, I would strongly advise that you not emphasize hand position too much. Getting proper forearm fire (arm whip) is much more important. When a pitcher has a feel for that, good hand position is likely to follow naturally. You can also get away with slight variations in hand position and still have excellent forearm fire.

Nonetheless, proper hand position is good to know. And, if a young learning pitcher just can’t seem to get a feel for forearm fire, hand position could be a contributing factor and breaking it down could be helpful. Additionally, arm position timing, which we will also discuss, is extremely important.

Diagramming Proper Pitcher Hand Position

Pitcher hand position is an area that is likely to present a lot of conflicting information. What I’m about to present is what we at Fastpitch Power feel is optimal. So you don’t just have to take my word for it, I thought the best thing to do would be to show examples from three pitchers who all throw over 70 miles per hour. Can’t argue with that speed!

Monica Abbot: Team USA pitcher (shown here pitching for Toyota in Japan). Abbott recently broke the speed record for a single pitch.

A breakdown of pitcher Monica Abbott's arm circle

Yukiko Ueno: Japanese national team pitcher. Ueno regularly approaches 75mph and has been considered the fastest pitcher overall in women’s softball. A breakdown of pitcher Yukiko Ueno's arm circle

Jillian Schonberg: former Fastpitch Power student and current Fastpitch Power instructor in the Philadelphia area. Cruised around 70mph in her heyday.

A breakdown of Jillian Schonberg's arm circle

As you can see, I’ve highlighted the same four points in the motion for each pitcher. These are the key points to hit with optimal hand/arm position for the greatest chance of success. Let’s break them down:

Position 1

HAND POSITION: This is the reach stage of the pitch. Here, the ball is facing inward so that if the pitcher were to touch her hands together, the ball (and only the ball—no part of her hand) would be touching her glove. We call this “handshake position.” Simply, it’s the position your hand would be in if you were to reach out and shake hands with your catcher. Incidentally, the whole arm should also take on the relaxed manner of a handshake.

If you watch a lot of great pitchers, this is the position at which you will see the most variation. Technically, if you hit the remaining three positions correctly, position 1 doesn’t matter as much. HOWEVER, we strongly encourage learning pitchers to use the handshake position at the reach stage because it encourages the shoulder to relax and the elbow to point downward, preventing arm lock. Every elite pitcher has a good feel for arm whip, and can generate that whip no matter how her hand starts out—sometimes those pitchers will even intentionally manipulate their hands at the beginning for deception, or to throw different pitches. Most learning pitchers cannot boast that ability, and the handshake position will make things as simple as possible for them.

TIMING: As the pitching arm reaches forward and covers the target, the stride leg and glove move the same way. Yukiko Ueno is outstanding and I wouldn’t tell her what to do, but if you’re a young pitcher I’d recommend modeling this stage of your motion after Monica or Jillian: hands and stride leg all reaching for the target in sync.

Position 2

This is the “K” position that so many pitching coaches talk about. As you can see, the body forms the letter K. The arm is relaxed with a slight bend in the elbow, ball facing out—toward the third base line for Jillian and Yukiko who are righties, first base line for Monica who’s a lefty. The arm is at 12 o’clock and the stride leg is still in the air, but on its way down.

Position 3

I included this one mostly for timing; as you can see, ball/hand position does not change much between positions 2 and 3. When the stride foot touches down, the arm should be between 11 and 10 o’clock (the clock is backwards for Monica). This is key. If the arm is at 9 o’clock or lower when the foot touches, the pitch will have little power. Higher and the arm will be too slow. Notice how the elbow is leading the arm down the back of the circle. This is ESSENTIAL for good forearm fire.

Position 4

HAND POSITION: As the elbow pulls down toward the hip (notice the slight increase in bend), the palm of the hand rotates upward so that the ball is beginning to face the sky. There is a bit of wiggle room here; if you’ve got great shoulder flexibility, you may be able to get your palm fully rotated toward the sky. If that causes ANY tension in your arm, rotating about 45 degrees (halfway) to the sky is perfectly fine. As these three pitchers whip their forearms from this position, their hands naturally snap downward and then flip over rapidly as the ball leaves the hand.

TIMING: Notice how their glove arms correspond with their pitching arms. The two arms drop together for timing and balance. The drive through finishes in sync with this action as well.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

About the author

Carly

Carly is a windmill pitching specialist and co-founder of Fastpitch Power. After teaching pitching both privately and in clinics for many years in the New York tri-state area, she is now teaching in Pittsburgh, PA, and has coached teams at every level from 10U to NCAA. She also designed and built fastpitchpower.com. Please feel free to leave questions and site feedback in the comments or via our contact page!

13 comments

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  1. Stephen B Weaver

    Hi Carly, My daughter, who is 12 , has had 2 pitching coaches tell her to turn the ball at the top of the arm circle
    towards second base for a straight fast ball. Her natural posistioning of the ball is towards third. Is this ok?

    1. Carly

      Hi Stephen,

      This is typical if she’s being taught to finish her pitch with her elbow pointed at the catcher. Is this the case?

  2. Anthony

    Hi Carly, my daughter is 12, and is having trouble
    with timing. She is landing with arm in 9 o’clock position.
    She throws overhand really hard, but its not translating to
    her pitching. Do you have any suggested drills to help land
    With arm at 11 rather than 9? Thanks!

    1. Carly

      Hi Anthony,
      I’d have to see video to be sure of what’s actually going on, but a common reason for this problem to occur is her stride is landing too late. This could be because it’s too long or too high. Make sure the stride leg is relaxed and that most of the length of her stride is coming from her push, not from an overly high kick. You can also try this drill with her: http://www.fastpitchpower.com/reach-track-fire-and-drive-windmill-pitching-drill/
      Hope that helps!

  3. Jenny

    Hi my daughter is 13 and when she is pitching she is always twisting her hand and if there was a right handed batter she would hit them. Is there any drill that she can do o she doesn’t twist her hand. Her shoulder then eventually starts to hurt. Any suggestions would help. Thanks

    1. Carly

      Turning over the hand is actually good, so what you’re describing sounds more like a shoulder problem. If she’s turning her whole arm over from the shoulder, that’s not good. Here’s an article about it; it says shoulder lift but it applies to all excess shoulder involvement: http://www.fastpitchpower.com/lifting-the-shoulder-while-pitching/

      We can’t provide an exact diagnosis without video analysis, so if she continues to have the problem I would highly recommend that, especially if she’s hurting herself.

  4. Kenny

    hi carly, i already learned to be a pitcher about 3 months, but i got problem about twisting the hip, so when my arms do the snap, the ball direction is not going through the target, and its really hard to do it. and everytime i do the pitch, the ball throwed too high, how to do the proper snap timing? thanks

  5. Kenny

    im lefty btw

    1. Carly

      If the problem is twisting your hips, I recommend this drill: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LVU_gpe1gE
      Being up against a wall forces you to keep things in line.

  6. rudy

    RE: Arm circle

    My daughter (17yrs old) had surgery for a slap tear a year ago. Prior to her surgery she began bending her elbow at the top of her arm circle to compensate for the pain. She has resumed pitching but is reverting back to the elbow bend. It’s pretty bad, to the point where her hand crosses in front of her face. It has impacted her speed and control. I’ve been trying to isolate her arm with just arm circle warmups without using her legs, in hopes of regaining her muscle memory. Is this the correct approach? Is there a drill that can help? I really would appreciate your expertise. Thank you in advance.

    Rudy

    1. Carly

      Hi Rudy, yes this is the correct approach. Isolate until it’s perfect, then move back in gradual steps—for example, when the isolated circle is perfect, do just a circle and a drive through until that’s perfect, then add a step from close distance and half speed, etc. It’s tedious but if you progress too quickly she’ll just continue to ingrain the habit. Doing these drills next to a wall/fence/net can help give her a point of reference; she can imagine she’s drawing a huge circle on the wall with the ball.

  7. Amanda McGuffey

    My daughter is just now getting into kid pitch and has expressed she would like to pitch, but I am helpless because I never played, at this age is lessons worth the cost or would watching videos and helping her myself be sufficient? I would like to give her a heads up before next season because there are several girls who want to pitch in her league. Thank you!

    1. Carly

      Hi Amanda,

      We typically encourage girls to get started with pitching instruction around age 9 or 10. Keep in mind that it’s easier to learn from scratch than it is to break habits. Perhaps she can try a bit to see if she likes pitching, and you can pursue lessons if she does.

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