Youth Baseball Pitching Drill- Accuracy
I firmly believe that if you can’t throw strikes you can’t pitch. Most youth baseball pitching drills focus on mechanics and throwing harder. The majority of good pitchers will throw around 70% of their pitches for strikes. I think that younger pitchers should throw for a higher percentage than that. Basically a great professional pitcher has spent years honing his craft. Most are able to throw a baseball within a baseballs width of where they want to at any given time. They also tend to overthink how good hitters are.
A great big league hitter is going to get himself out 60% of the time they go up to the plate. The odds are in the pitcher’s favor statistically. The greatest pitcher of all time (in my opinion) Sandy Koufax said, “I became a good pitcher when I stopped trying to make them miss the ball and started trying to make them hit it.” I believe he meant 2 things one he wanted to stop trying to throw the ball by hitters and more importantly, he wanted to throw more strikes.
How to teach Accuracy
This drill will help pitchers become more accurate and can be done at practice or at home. Accuracy requires 2 things from a pitcher. First you need a repeatable delivery. Practicing mechanics is important to develop this muscle memory. The second thing you need is focus. Without the mental side of baseball this game would be easy. Ted Williams said, “Half of this game is above the waist.”
Bucket of Strikes
To do this drill you will need 3 cones, 10 baseballs and a catcher or 5 gal bucket. You should also use a spotter with younger players. You will need at least the distance from home plate to the pitchers mound more if you can spare the space. Place the cones assuming a 46 ft. distance from home to the pitchers mound at about 15 ft. apart. so the first will be 15 ft. away then 30 ft. then 45 ft. Break the distance up into thirds if you are playing in a modified league with different distances adjust the cones. lay the bucket down so the opening is facing the pitcher. You will want to put a couple of extra bats or gloves on the sides of the bucket to keep it from rolling away.
Running the drill
To execute this drill you will have the pitcher start at the first cone. The player will throw the ball at the bucket or catcher. If using a catcher the catcher pitcher and spotter should decide if the pitch was a ball or a strike. If using a bucket it is easier. If the ball hits the bucket or better goes in the bucket it is a strike. When the player throws 10 balls from a cone and gets at least 6 strikes they get to move back to the next distance. Repeat any distance that the player gets less than 60% strikes.
When you are doing anything it is easier to do it live if you have practiced something harder. If you are planning on running a 5K road race you will run it faster if you train by running 10k. The same holds true for pitching. So the easiest variation of this drill is to make the first cone half the distance from the rubber to home. The second cone would be the distance of the rubber to home and then the third would be another 50% past the rubber. By throwing accurately from a greater distance the pitcher will build up arm strength and be more consistent from the actual distance.
Other variations would be to increase the percentage of strikes that a pitcher needs to throw to be able to move back.
This drill will help make a pitcher more accurate. You can do this drill at practice off to the side. You don’t need to have a mound. Because you are having pitchers throw without a mound you don’t want to spend a lot of time working on mechanics. You do want the pitcher to focus on repeating their throwing motion though.
The next drill will be to help players with follow through. Youth baseball pitchers have a tendency to not extend through their delivery. They short arm the ball and this also results in a lack of accuracy it will also decrease power or velocity in a pitcher. This drill will give you as a coach a tool to help your pitchers become better at following through and finishing the pitch every time.
To set up for this drill you will need a strip of towel. The towel should be about 16 to 18 inches long. You tie a large knot in one end of the towel for the player to hold. You will need a target. A wall, fence or another player holding out a glove.
The set up for this drill is simple the player will stand the appropriate distance from the target so that when the player reaches full extension the end of the towel will just touch the target. Coaches you can use this to get a player to extend more or stride longer if you feel either are a problem in the pitchers mechanics by just pushing them back a little farther than they are comfortable.
Running the drill
The execution of this drill will see the pitcher go through their normal pitching mechanics. When the player extends the towel will travel to the front making a whooshing noise. When the towel reaches the target there should be an audible cracking sound. If the whoosh or crack is too far behind the pitcher there is not enough extension in the arm. As the pitcher follows through the throwing arm should cross the outside of the opposite foot. The back foot should leave the ground as the pitcher continues to rotate.
The best way to describe follow through to youth pitchers is to explain that they want to feel like they are trying to put their hand in the catchers mitt after they release the baseball. After that the follow through should feel natural. Just let the arm and the back half of the body travel like they
want to don’t try to stop. As a coach you will also want to point out that the eyes should stay on the target. This will increase accuracy and keep the player looking at the baseball so they have a better chance of avoiding injury.
I like these two drills because they are fun and not very time consuming. You can work them into your normal practice time and the players can work on both of them at home. Teaching pitching is a lot of work and will eat up a coaches whole season if the only place it is being practiced is with the team. You must inspire you want-to-be pitchers to develop their skills at home.