How We Evaluate Hitters and Pitchers for Characteristics That May Inhibit Their Efficiency

Thu Sep 24, 2020 by OnBaseU

Pitching Characteristics: Hanging Back, Closing the Front, High Hand and Early Flexion

Hanging Back: The first lines we draw are at the pivot.  When the stride leg starts to lift, we want to see if the pitcher is Swaying or Hanging Back.  Sway is excessive lateral movement away from the plate during leg lift.  Hanging Back is when a pitcher hasn't moved towards the plate by maximum leg lift.  As you can see, this pitcher is definitely Hanging Back.  Most elite pitchers will start moving towards the plate almost immediately upon lifting their stride leg.
Hanging Back can be caused by a number of physical limitations we can identify in screening such as hip mobility, hip stabilty, ankle mobility, spine disassociation or lower body strength.
Closing the Front or Closing the Back: To identify Closing the Front or Closing the Back, draw lines across shoulders and pelvis before foot plant.
If lines converge in front, the pitcher is Closing the Front. If lines converge behind them, they are Closing the Back.  We want to avoid Closing the Front. Most elite pitchers are parallel while some Close the Back (Tim Lincecum is one of the most obvious examples of Closing the Back).
High Hand: At maximum layback, we want to see the hand below the elbow.  If not, we call it a High Hand.  High hand is often the result of limited flexibility, especially shoulder mobility or spine extension.  
Early Flexion: As the pitcher goes from the cocking phase to the acceleration phase, we want to see their trunk remain tall and upright with a large arch in the lower back.  At maximum layback (shoulder external rotation), we are looking for a curvature in the lower back.  If there's no arch or lordosis, we define that as Early Flexion. 
Both High Hand and Early Flexion will limit velocity potential.

Hitting Characteristics: Sway, Dead Hands and Drift

Sway: We define Sway as an excessive lateral move away from the pitcher during the negative move.  Draw a vertical line up the middle of the back foot at Stance. If the middle of the back knee moves outside the vertical line during the negative move, we consider it a Sway.  Sway can affect consistency and power.  It's commonly related to physical limitations such as limited mobility in the back hip or ankle. 
Sometimes an athlete doesn't know how to avoid sway. Pulling or pushing an athlete INTO a fault is an example of Reactive Neuromuscular Training.
Dead Hands: Dead Hands refers to the inability to create live and independent hands in the Positive Move.  We want to see the distance from the hands and nose INCREASE in the Positive Move.  If a hitter has Dead Hands, they aren't taking advantage of a stretch-shorten cycle to increase arm power. 
Drift: We look for "Drifting" at the end of the First Move.  The First Move is the first 3 - 4 inches that the hands move forward in the swing.  At the end of the First Move, draw a line directly in front of the pelvis.  If the pelvis moves in front of the line, they are Drifting.  A firm front side is critical to maximize rotational speed and power.  
If a hitter lacks mobility or stability in their lower body or lead hip/ankle, there's a good chance they will Drift in their swing.  If rotation isn't present, lateral movement tends to dominate the pattern. 

Hitting Characteristics Toe Touch or Ready Position




We define the Toe Touch/Ready Position as the position when a hitter can efficiently start their swing. Ready Position usually occurs at Toe Touch, but some hitters get their foot down early and then make a positive move to Ready Position.

Flying Elbow: This characteristic is identified if the back elbow is sticking out behind the hands at Toe Touch.  It's really difficult to maximize bat speed with a Flying Elbow.  Flying Elbow is often a precursor of a Push.  Some hitter's may also compensate by collapsing the back elbow before whipping the bat.  This can help keep them from Pushing, but still reduces velocity of the bat.
Flying Elbow can be caused by limited shoulder mobility, scapular mobility or the inability to disassociate the lower body from upper body.
Unstable Base: If weight in back heel comes off too early or front knee cap points towards the pitcher (instead of inward), we call that an Unstable Base.
Unstable base can be caused by poor mobility in the ankle or front shoulder and limited stability in the core or lower body.