What is the power line? And how can it keep your pitchers' stride mechanics on track? Here are some tips for ensuring your young hurlers are fundamentally sound--and maximizing their potential.
Diagnosing the Problem
If you are working with a pitcher and you are the one catching for her, it's tough to see exactly what is going on with the stride foot when it touches down. ( You are around 40 feet or so away and, let's face it, you have a ball coming at your nose at 45 to 60mph.)
With 99 percent of your attention devoted to catching the ball and not getting hit, it is very hard to try and focus on the pitcher's feet to see exactly where she is on the power line. Unless something is DRASTICALLY off, you probably won't see it.
What Most Coaches Do
To check a pitcher on the power line most folks will take their shoe and draw a fat line in the dirt right in front of the rubber.
This is OK and it will help the pitcher, however, it seldom gives the person catching a good point of reference to see EXACTLY where the foot comes down. There is a lot of room for error.
Finding the Powerline
When I have a pitching student that I want to 'fine tune' them, ( because of problems staying on the power line) here is what I do.
- I will drive a 16 penny nail into the dirt just behind the back tip of home plate. I will use a roll of bright colored construction twine and stretch it tightly from that nail at the back tip of home plate, to the front of 2nd base. This will place the twine going over the exact center of the pitcher' s rubber. I leave the twine lying on the dirt in that straight line.
- I will then drive a 16 penny nail, touching the twine, about 10 feet in front of the rubber.
- Then I drive nails just behind the rubber and just in front of 2nd base.
- Then I stretch the string from home plate to the next nail in front of the rubber and tie them off so the twine is taught.
- Then I let the string go loose and all the way around the edge of the circle (so it is not in the pitcher's way of throwing) and tie it to the nail behind the rubber.
- I then stretch the twine taught to the nail in front of 2nd base and tie it off there.
Now we have a taut power line from home plate to second base, except for the 10 feet just in front of the rubber.
Have your pitcher take a pitching position with the power line exactly under the center of her body, feet equally far from the power line to each side.
Using a Separate Catcher
If you have some ont to catch as your pitcher is throwing, take a position about eight feet in front of 2nd base and get down on one knee or sit on the power line to where your eyes are directly over it. Do not move the twinewhile sitting or kneeling.
Have the pitcher throw the same pitch several times and focus only on the legs and especially the feet.
Having a thin and bright colored power line behind the pitcher will give you an exact reference point and you will see exactly where the stride foot comes down in relationship to the power line and any inconsistencies with the feet.
Doing the Catching Yourself
If you don't have someone to catch for you, set up a video camera at the same spot you were sitting/kneeling down. Make sure the picture shows as much of the power line behind the rubber as you can get in the shot and still see the pitcher at least from the middle of the back down.
Again, have her throw the same pitch several times and then review the tape with her. You will both be very surprised at how much you can tell about the pitcher's motions when you see it from behind.
How the Analysis Works
As an example (R/H pitcher). If the pitcher is occasionally throwing wide to one side or another she might very well be crossing over the power line or landing way to the left. This will be very evident in the rear view.
Rewind the tape and watch it a few more times and you might also discover the pitcher leaning at the waist to the opposite side of the power line to try and compensate for the error and still hit reasonably close to the target. Her landing might not be off by much and she might not be leaning much to compensate for it, maybe not enough to be evident from 40 feet away when you are concentrating on catching the ball.
You will definitely see it show up from behind when you have 100% attention on her feet and the power line. Letting the young pitcher see it is always beneficial for them.
If you are catching the pitcher, having that bright colored twine power line, going from home plate to 10 feet in front of the rubber, will make it much easier to tell if the pitcher is off the power line without distracting you from the ball coming at you.
Never stare at the line, always watch the ball during a pitch. With the line extended you will be able to tell, fairly well, if she is off the line.
Judge the stride length of your pitcher and you can extend that section of the line closer to the rubber than 10 feet but make sure it does not get so close she lands on it or gets her feet caught up in it.
If you do have a video camera, also try to get shots from the left, right and front views too. There is also much that can be used for analyzing a pitcher from those angles.