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Shortening the stride for the drop

Ken Krause

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May 7, 2008
3,420
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Mundelein, IL
One of the most common cues for learning the drop ball (either peel or rollover) is that you need to get up and over the pitch. One of the ways of doing that is shortening the stride so you can lean out over it.

NOTE: If you are one of those people who believes that all pitchers can be taught to throw all pitches from the same position, go ahead and skip this article. It's only going to make you mad. My experience is that most pitchers need a little help to get the ball to move the way it should, i.e. they need to vary from their core mechanics, not just spin the ball a different way. If the pitchers you know don't do that, awesome! But not everyone can do that. I've found that leaning over the drop ball, for example, definitely helps.

Ok, for the rest of you, as I mentioned shortening the stride is a well-accepted technique for getting that forward lean. Not a bend at the waist, but a lean out over the front with the head, shoulders and chest. The question is, how much shorter should the stride be? I've seen pitchers who would leap out hard on their fastball, then barely step off to get over their drops. That's way too short, and way too obvious.

The target I like to use is to have the toes land where the heel was. In other words, you land roughly one length of your foot shorter. It's not obvious to the hitter, yet it can have a big effect on the pitcher's success.

Indoors, I use my trusty garden kneeling pad to mark the distance. Outdoors, and especially in a game, there's an easier way to do it. Have pitcher throw her normal fastball, but keep her stride foot in place after she throws. Then pivot on the heel and draw a line. That's the goal line for the drop. It's simple and not very obvious to the hitter. But it does give the pitcher a visual to shoot for.

One thing about the shorter stride to keep in mind: the pitcher still needs to drive out hard. She's not landing her whole body short, just her foot. The effect then becomes akin to stumbling, i.e. the upper body continues out forward while the foot stops short. If she just lets up on her stride she'll remain vertical, and thus there's no reason to land short. She will also lose speed. But if she drives out hard she not only gets into position, she maintains speed. Or in some cases might even throw faster (due to working harder to spin the ball).

If you have a pitcher who's having trouble getting the drop to work, try having her draw the line. It can make a real difference.

More...
 

May 12, 2008
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Yeah now have her throw it with a nasty break from the waist to the knees consistently from a forward position. I view that truism as the one of the reasons most girls can only make the ball break if they are finishing out of the zone.
 

Ken Krause

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May 7, 2008
3,420
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Mundelein, IL
Depends on how you throw it. My students throw it above the knees until right before the plate, and it moves down through the zone at the plate. Adjustments are made to that depending on where the hitter is in the box. I teach them to throw a knee-high strike and let the ball do the rest.
 
May 12, 2008
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Set a hand high barrier approximately fifteen feet in front of the plate and then break your hard drop down to the knees. I see too many girls who can't throw the drop in the zone and make you miss. Being forward up over the foot is part of the problem IMO. A drop is going to break down by definition. Therefore it is going to have to be thrown with more of an initial upward trajectory. Not arguable so far. To achieve an initial upward trajectory, the ball must be released farther in front. This puts the release point farther in front relative to the front leg. This means you are in a less mechanically advantageous position to pull up behind the ball for more spin unless you release it early. This is one of the reasons most girls can make it break much better down out of the zone. Another reason is they don't work at stretching their capabilities. Take that hand high barrier and use it like a weight workout adding difficulty as it becomes easy. When you can throw your hard drop over that barrier and break it down lower than the knees, move the barrier closer to the plate. Rinse and repeat. Moving the posture up over the foot for a drop is a short cut IMO. Instead, stay back and learn to use spin to get the ball down where you want it. A contrarian view, I know.
 

Ken Krause

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May 7, 2008
3,420
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Mundelein, IL
We'll have to agree to disagree on this one. If you miss on the drop you're describing, you're leaving a big fat pitch there. I wouldn't recommend the average or even above average pitcher try to start her drop with an upward trajectory. I see disaster lurking all over that.

If you don't get it to drop when it starts thigh or knee high, you still have a thigh or knee high pitch. You will probably have less damage done on that than you would a hip or waist-high pitch. Just my opinion.

To do what you're saying, how high up would the hand be when you release ball? What type of release would you use?
 
May 12, 2008
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In games, don't throw it any higher than you have to to get a swing or a call. Problem is, most girls, if they don't get a swing or a generous call, can't bring it up into the strike zone and still make a hitter miss. The drill I describe is like weight lifting. Challenge yourself in practice make the ball break more and more later and later. In the game, do what the hitters and or umps make you do. I don't understand your last question. Just standard release for whatever kind of drop you throw. Point is, challenge yourself the same way you do in weight lifting. When one weight gets easy, add some. Here, when breaking the ball gets easy with the barrier at X feet from the plate, move it in some. If you don't like the barrier height, use whatever height you want. Just add height and subtract distance as seems appropriate to you to add difficulty. And make sure the catcher is wearing full gear or they will be wearing the ball. I'll leave the discussion of initial drop trajectory and ballistics for another day.
 

sluggers

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May 26, 2008
5,744
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Dallas, Texas
My favorite drop-ball drill was not to use a catcher, but the famous pickle bucket instead. Lay it on the ground on a back corner of the plate. Put an obstacle between the pitcher and the plate (we used lawn chairs), and have the pitcher throw over the obstacle but still put it into the pickle bucket. Obviously, you need a bucket full of balls. When the ball hits the bucket correctly, you get this wonderful ringing thud, kind of like hitting the jackpot.

The other thing to do is to take a soda can and put it on the plate. (We called this "drop ball bowling".) So, the pitch goes over the obstacle and then knocks over the soda can.

Both of these give immediate, objective feedback to the pitcher.

Ray
 
May 25, 2008
196
16
Pickerington Ohio
MarkH, What type of drop are you throwing? The only point I have to disagree with you on is your quote concerning throwing a drop higher in the zone and "Therefore it is going to have to be thrown with more of an initial upward trajectory." I believe Hillhouse has said and I agree that you can't throw a pitch the opposite way of its intended break and expect much success and by success I mean much break. I have my pitchers throw either at the knees and it goes in the dirt or as Ken said, throw it at the thighs and have break down to just at or below the knees. If you are throwing at the upper thigh you are throwing at least level or slightly down depending on the height of the pitcher and batter and how high the pitcher's release is. The difference in the pitches is one you throw for a strike and the other you throw for a strike out. I have one pitcher that I will have throw a two seam peel drop if there is a runner on third just so it does not go in the dirt as a four seam would and chance a passed ball.
 
May 12, 2008
2,217
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I guess today is the day to discuss ballistics. The drop, spinning forward, breaks down more than other pitches I'm sure we agree? Therefore, if you throw it on the same initial trajectory as any other spin it will end up lower. With me? Therefore, since it will break down, you must begin the pitch at more of an up angle/less of a down angle to arrive at the same spot over the plate. Are we on the same page so far? So far this is just basic ballistics and not really arguable from a scientific stand point though I recognize the feel may be different.
 

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