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Troubleshooting Common Pitch Location Problems

When you’re learning windmill pitching for the very first time, the ball is probably going to go everywhere… and that’s normal! Once you sort of get the hang of it, however, you may notice that when you miss your pitch location, it is often in the same spot, or the same two spots. I find myself constantly reminding my students WHY pitch after pitch lands inside, outside, high, or low; I tell them to memorize the reason so they can self-correct in games and practices. Whether you’re a parent trying to teach your daughter to pitch and you’re not quite sure how to troubleshoot location issues, or you’re a Fastpitch Power student already and you need a cheat sheet to help you remember, this post is for you!

IMPORTANT NOTE: While this post will discuss the most common causes of location problems, and will probably help 80 to 90 percent of pitchers, there are so many possible reasons a pitcher can miss her spot. I recommend our video analysis if you want to be 100% sure of what your issue is.

Let’s get started! Please note that we are talking about FASTBALLS ONLY

Missing Pitch Location to Your Pitching Arm Side of the Plate

This might be the most common place for developing pitchers to miss, because a perfect storm of extremely common weaknesses in young girls tends to lead easily to the ball drifting to the pitching arm side—that’s inside to a right-handed batter if a right-handed pitcher is pitching (lefties will miss outside to a right-handed batter).

The Reason: the pitching arm is off the power line, usually before the arm enters the throw zone, or as it’s entering the throw zone.

The Most Common Cause: the hips are blocking the power line and forcing the arm to detour around them, because…

  • They rotated to face the catcher prematurely—sometimes referred to as “slamming the door.”
  • The pitching arm slowed down at the end, resulting in the hips finishing ahead of it.
  • The glove hand flew out to the side early in the pitch, causing the whole upper body to rotate to face the catcher prior to the release of the ball.

The Fix: Establish and maximize your throw zone, making sure that you maintain the tracking of your glove hand as long as possible. Get your arm through the throw zone lightning quick, and don’t follow through with the hips until the ball has left your hand. Say this to yourself: if my body is blocking the power line, the ball cannot be on the power line.

Missing Pitch Location to Your Glove Hand Side of the Plate

Here, righties are missing outside to right-handed batters, and lefties are missing inside to right-handed batters.

The Reason: the pitching arm is off the power line, usually after the arm has entered the throw zone.

The Most Common Cause: your pitching arm is getting flung diagonally across your body, because…

  • You rotated your hips to face the catcher—or “slammed the door”—just as you were about to release the ball.
  • Your glove hand flew out to the side late in the pitch, causing your upper body to rotate to face the catcher at release, and pitching hand to follow the glove hand.

The Fix: Establish and maintain your throw zone. Put extra emphasis on your glove hand maintaining its track—that is, pointing at your target—as long as possible. Say this to yourself: my body, and therefore my pitching arm, will follow my glove.

Missing Pitch Location Low

The Reason: the ball doesn’t make it all the way through the throw zone before it leaves the hand.

The Most Common Cause: the pitcher either slows down her hand coming into the throw zone, or slams on the breaks and stops completely at release.

The Fix: GO FASTER! Make sure you’re accelerating through the throw zone and not slowing down. Allow your pitching hand to follow through all the way to your target, as if you were trying to reach out and put the ball in the catcher’s glove. Say this to yourself: the ball has no brain. It will do what my hand does. My hand needs to move fast and reach for my target.

Missing Pitch Location High

The Reason: the throw zone, and thus the path of the pitching hand, are either angled upward or moving upward during release.

The Most Common Cause: This one has several common causes. Let’s break them down by type:

THE THROW ZONE (HAND PATH) IS ANGLED UPWARD:

  • The drive-through leg has too much bend and is somewhat collapsed under too much weight, causing the front side to be higher than the back side.
  • The shoulder on your pitching arm dips low as you come down the back side of the circle, causing your front side to be higher than the back side.
  • You fling your pitching arm upward, finishing with your hand at eye level or over your head instead of in a straight line to your target. This is a common symptom of a stiff, locked arm.

THE THROW ZONE IS BOUNCING UPWARD DURING RELEASE:

  • You land with a forward lean or a bend in your waist that you correct at the end of your pitch, causing your whole body to snap upright as the ball is leaving your hand—your whole body moves from low to high.
  • You land with a lunge in your front leg and correct it at the end, causing your whole body to move from low to high
  • You land normally, but lift up onto your toes as you finish your drive through (again moving from low to high).

The Fixes:

For an angled throw zone due to leg or shoulder trouble, ensure that your shoulders are parallel to the ground at all times. If your problem is caused by a collapsed back leg, you may have to take steps to correct your drive through. Check out our list of articles that address the drive through for help with this.

For flinging your arm up over your head, work on relaxing your arm and snapping the whole thing through like a whip, rather than pushing it through like a stick. Try stretching a rope at about shoulder height between you and your catcher and doing your arm circle drill (standing with your feet still) under the rope.

For upward movement, work on landing with a solid front leg and good posture, then maintaining that posture throughout the pitch. Your upper body should never lean out in front of your stride leg.

 

About the author

Carly

Carly is a windmill pitching specialist and co-founder of Fastpitch Power. She 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!

17 comments

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  1. Fred Fitzpatrick

    Bullet spin or forward rotation? Which is best in pitching when throwing “fastballs”?

    1. Carly

      Hi Fred,

      I apologize for the slow response; we’ve just come back from Thanksgiving break.
      Honestly, I think it falls somewhere in between and varies a bit. If you’re throwing with absolutely perfect 4-seam forward rotation, you’re probably not getting great arm whip, because it means the forearm and wrist are not internally rotating. This is the sort of spin that a more accomplished “hello elbow” pitcher (a pitcher who finishes with her elbow pointed directly at the catcher) might achieve, but we don’t advocate that kind of finish.
      At the same time, perfect bullet spin MIGHT indicate a little too much emphasis on only internal rotation of the forearm, and not enough whole-arm whip and forearm lag. As you can see in this video, the elbow should lead into the throw zone and the forearm should lag and then snap through, like a whip.
      If you’re teaching a kid, I would focus on arm action, speed, and command without worrying too much about the exact spin. You don’t want the kid to miss the forest for the trees, that is focus so much on the tiny spin action and allow larger mechanics to break down. The exception would be if you’ve got a stiff-armed kid who is pitching with NO spin. Then I would just have her try to get the ball to spin any way as fast as possible, just to break the stiff arm habit.

  2. jordan

    carly,
    do you have any routines/exercises that will focus on properly snapping the elbow/wrist/fingers (aka forearm fire)? My 12 year old daughter has a tendency to sometimes not snap completely and results in a ball that has poor spin. according to her coach, it’s a cause for the ball to be hit to the outfield instead of staying in the infield. i’ll take that with a small grain of salt, but nevertheless, consistent snap is key and any exercises you can suggest?

    thanks
    jordan

    1. Carly

      Hi Jordan, try some of the suggestions in this article and let me know if it helps! http://www.fastpitchpower.com/learning-arm-whip-in-pitching-when-it-doesnt-come-naturally/

  3. jordan

    carly,

    thanks. i’l check these out.
    jordan

  4. Rick Dailey

    My daugther hits her elbo on her side when pitching.

    1. Carly

      Hi Rick,

      This is either an issue with her arm circle or with her hips. Unfortunately I can’t tell which without seeing her. This drill might help with both: http://www.fastpitchpower.com/wall-drills-for-improved-pitching-mechanics/

  5. Bryan

    I have a pitcher that falls off to the pitchhand side of her leg drive. I can’t keep her centered

    1. Carly

      Check her landing position; she needs to be balanced and not leaning when her stride touches down. This problem is usually caused by leaning at that time and then driving through diagonally behind the landing leg. Working near a fence or wall will help.

  6. Bryce

    Carly

    My daughter is a 12u pitcher. Has a decent fastball (upper 40s), good change up and working on her drop ball. When she has a bad day she misses low and inside on a right handed batter ( she is a rhp).

    What things should I look for as her problem?

    Bryce

    1. Carly

      Hi Bryce, that’s one of the most common problems, because that’s what happens when you slow your arm down at the very end. Often when it happens a few times by accident, it gets even worse because the pitcher gets nervous and tries to be more careful, which makes her slow down even more. The lowness comes from losing speed, and the inside miss comes from the hip being faster coming through than the arm, blocking the arm’s straight path and pushing it out to the side a little. If she’s landing in a good tracked position, she just has to make sure that her arm is finishing REALLY fast, brushing past her bellybutton. Note that this is good tracking position: http://www.fastpitchpower.com/tracking-position/

  7. mark

    My son who is 14 is starting to have problems with the ball falling off to the right side of the plate, he throws right as well.

    1. Carly

      Hi Mark, your son is pitching windmill? Sorry for the VERY basic question, but this is the first time we’ve gotten a comment about a boy!

  8. Cheryl Schurlknight

    My granddaughter is 15 and is the pitcher for her high school team . She’s doing great and has been clocked ( by us) approx mid to high 50’s with some hitting in low 60. She is having a problem with leaning forward and I’d like to know how to correct this any advice please?

    1. Carly

      Hi Cheryl, thanks for your comment. This is a GREAT drill for leaning forward: http://www.fastpitchpower.com/wall-drills-for-improved-pitching-mechanics/
      While this will help break the habit, leaning is caused by weakness in the legs and core in the first place. I would recommend that your granddaughter work out with a trainer who understands teenage girls and softball players if she is serious about pitching.

  9. Nick

    My 12 yr old daughter has been on and off with trying to pitch. When she thows a strike its beautiful. But she is consistantly throwing wide outside. She knows her hips and glove is the problem but just cant get it . Is there anything that can help.

    1. Carly

      Hi Nick, doing the wall drill on both sides will be a huge help!

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