Toward the end of the summer 2020 season (if you can call that a season), one of my pitching students, a terrific lefty named Sammie, developed some control trouble. Suddenly, out of nowhere, she started throwing everything off the plate to her throwing hand side.
We got together and we worked on it. I thought she might be going across her body instead of straight so we set up a couple of giant cones to try to steer her back down the straight and narrow as it were.
It helped a little, but not enough. She still struggled in her next game, and in her practice sessions.
This was definitely a problem that needed to be corrected so I racked my brain on what the probable root cause might have been. As it turned out, however, I didn’t need to think so hard.
In this case, I only needed to remember the opening song from “Les Miserables” – look down.
When I looked down at Sammie’s feet on the pitching rubber I knew exactly what the problem was. She was like this:
We have been working on her sliding her foot over the center of her body and I thought she had that down. But somewhere along the way she stopped centering, and instead would only slide her foot slightly. As a result, everything was going down the left side, often off the plate.
So we worked once again on the proper slide across, placing her left foot more in this position before driving off:
Once she got her foot more in this position all her problems with being off the plate went away, as if by magic. Control was regained and she once again began dominating hitters.
So there’s the lesson for today. Sometimes a pitcher’s (or any athlete’s for that matter) issues aren’t being driven by some horrible breakdown in mechanics.
As we coaches work to acquire knowledge and hone our craft, we can get caught up in over-thinking the issues and the solutions. This is a good reminder that often a simple adjustment on a pitcher who has been doing well can get her right back on track.
William of Ockham may have been born in 1287. But he would have made a heck of a pitching coach.