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I just recently started coaching a little kid (8 years old) and this youngster is part of a travel team. The coaches for that travel team (according to the kid and his father) have instructed all their pitchers to pitch from the 'stretch'.

Now let me tell you I pitched in college for a division 1 team so I have a lot of experience in this field (no pun intended), but I can't seem to figure out a legitimate reason as to why this is preferred.

In my opinion the stretch is more advanced than a wind-up, ESPECIALLY AT THE AGES OF 8-12. I mean, the stretch is used to keep runners close to the bag while they take a lead. At the age of 8, base runners aren't even allowed to take a lead, or even steal until the ball crosses home plate! The timing, the mind-set, and the form is advanced for such young and developing players. And of course when I started coaching this kid and witnessed his stretch, the form was decent, but if you are going to start coaching a kid with pitching from the stretch I think they should at least be taught the correct methods. Such as not allowing the shoulders to move, stopping your glove after you are set, etc.. not a non-stop motion after coming to the set position.

Now, I have played with great players who don't use the wind-up either but again, they are far more advanced than an 8 year old player.

Can i get some explanation as to why this is preferred?

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I'm interested as to why you think the stretch is more advanced than the wind-up. It seems to me like the wind-up includes much of the stretch mechanics (roughly speaking) but with a lot of extra movements involved. The fact that these kids don't have to actually worry about base runners should actually simplify things in learning the stretch delivery.

From one article on Ballfrog advocating for teaching the stretch to young players,

Professional ballplayers have honed their posture, balance, tempo, and timing for decades in many cases. Kids have not had the benefit of this experience ....Pitching is complicated. The mechanics of throwing a ball need to be in sync, and with many components to this motion, it can take time to learn. Starting with the stretch introduces these complicated movements more slowly than does jumping straight into the windup.

They also suggest that injuries are reduced (fewer moving parts) and the wind-up can basically be added on after mastery of the stretch.

Former MLB pitcher Steven Ellis says:

The only reason you lose velocity out of the stretch is because you have spent more time developing your wind-up mechanics. There must be a 50/50 split between practicing both pitching motions. There are tons of MLB pitchers who strictly throw out of the stretch, and many of these pitchers throw above average velocity. In fact, many pitchers prefer throwing out of the stretch because it eliminates any unnecessary movement that could alter the progression of their mechanics.

So he's also saying that it's simpler and, interestingly, that the stretch isn't practiced enough. I think the case could definitely be made then that for the long run it would be best to become very good at the stretch delivery and then, once the kid learns his balance and throwing technique, add the components of the wind-up to be proficient at both.

  • I really like this answer. I guess the point in my question is that if you practice the stretch, at least practice it correctly (i know that is difficult for young developing players). I think I am expecting a little much out of an 8 year old haha – Grizzly Mar 18 '16 at 16:44
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    @BviLLe_Kid I've never had to coach kids this, but I could imagine it being easy for a youngster to get so caught up in the footwork "dance" of a wind-up that they can't focus on the actual throwing. Or conversely, they are so worried about throwing that their footwork suffers. They need to learn one step at a time (pun?). – Dr.DrfbagIII Mar 18 '16 at 17:00
  • I totally disagree with this answer. So on one hand wind-up causes more injuries and on the other hand you use MLB quotes to support it, yet the ultra-analytic coaches/staff/trainers have their pitchers almost always pitch out of the wind-up? The pitchers that only pitch stretch are usually relievers only coming into the game with men on or guys who have a dysfunction and can only make it doing that. The first quote has no semblence of understanding youth pitching - other than being "different". The second quote is some MLB pitcher who advocates (3%) for that method. – Coach-D Mar 18 at 19:41
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I have an 8 year old right now that I am teaching to pitch. Both of his older brothers pitched, I pitched, a family of pitchers (catchers when not pitching).

I will tell you why this has evolved from both a teaching standpoint and a "norm" standpoint.

Stretch only Pros:

  1. Can be used in all situations.
  2. If you are on a good team - select or travel - the systems/teams treat the kids as more commodities now. We have 7 good arms, we should be able to turn 4 of them into pitchers. Much easier to do this factory-like approach by making the assembly line the exact same for each kid. Boom we can train this kid to throw strikes in 5 hours instead of 10 or whatever they think.
  3. The stretch motion has less moving parts which correlates with #1 and #2.

Pros of using a full wind-up with a young pitcher:

  1. They will be able to throw harder out of the gate. I do see that another answer has a quote from a player that talks about throwing hard out of stretch. That is just his opinion and is not backed up with any data. Any data that you get for MLB players will show they throw harder out of the wind-up. Also the variance for less practiced players will be much greater. A MLB player should be able to throw close to same speed since they have the techniques down hopefully (more on this later). Coaching kids for years from 6-20 I can tell you unequivocally there is no discussion here - for sure more speed.
  2. By not focusing on how hard you are throwing you are putting less pressure on your arm, elbows, shoulders.
  3. One of the main points of the wind-up is momentum. Very few kids at age 10 have the big arm and the quickness to snap forward - the kids that are good at snapping forward are usually smaller. I would argue that the momentum a kid gets in the wind-up is a learned behavior that will eventually be carried into a stretch given the right emphasis by coaches.
  4. To further point 3 most or a lot of little league fields do not have mounds. Pitching out of the wind-up should force the new (not pro) pitcher to come forward faster. You will see young kids in the stretch and they are pitching off their back foot almost like a quarterback heaving a long pass. This puts a ton of pressure on parts of a young arm that can get overused quickly when throwing wrong.
  5. And to keep with the momentum thing - it is also hip rotation. When you are in the stretch your hip rotation is a very muscular movement. (people do not understand that the hardest throwing pitcher ever - Nolan Ryan - was a squats/leg press junkie) You have to exert an amount of force by your right foot to get your left foot (RH pitcher example) over, out and straight or you leave yourself in a closed/awkward position to throw. The wind-up takes this muscular movement and puts a high degree of elasticity to it right away.

If I am coaching my kid or kids that I care about I will teach the wind-up exclusively at first. I mean that is the reason most leagues have rules of no stealing the first two years kids are pitching. If a kid is using reasonable form and is using their body (momentum and push) instead of their arm they can throw 200 pitches a day without issues. It is really about odd angles and a kid trying to overpitch or "arm" the ball that gets them hurt.

Again not trying to be cynical of the new coaching methods but they were introduced by academies to teach pitchers faster. If your kid has an arm issue, move on to the next kid. I do understand that they are being sold that this is easier for kids since it is less to remember. But it seems crazy that you think a kid is going to learn the forward momentum and hip rotation on their own.

I guarantee 99% of all major league pitchers spent more time during practice growing up in the wind-up than stretch. For the exact reasons I mentioned. Safer initially, teaches forward momentum, helps with hip rotation, defocuses arm action in correlation to pitch speed. What some MLB or college player does later on (stretch only) has really nothing to do with your son as they have already practiced and learned the executions steps of a successful pitch.

  • I do agree that once perfected you are going to get close to 95-99% of the same ability out of the stretch. It does make sense for some relievers to do this so they can always be ready for a man on base. It also makes sense for higher caliber players to do this when they are having mechanical flaws or flaws in doing the full wind-up. I am not dissing the approach, I am dissing when coaches are implementing the approach at the youth level. If I saw my kid releasing the ball early (back or high), not turned, or off their back foot I would simply not allow my kid to pitch. We are taking something done at the MLB level for mainly psychological reasoning and implementing it at youth sports as a "same" alternative. Trust me if MLB owners/coaches/scouts thought throwing from the stretch was the same or better or even close the analytical data would have caused them all to shift to this years ago. In something as analytics and science driven as baseball why would they support a pitching method that is inferior predominantly?

  • Also not allowing wind-up would limit my teaching of the best pick-off play in youth baseball. Runner on 3rd (RH pitcher example), come up high with glove and ball, don't bring them together, step back with right foot at same time, and fire to 3rd... watch player and coach cringe. Then watch coach yell "balk" to ump.

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The old saying, "Opinions are like..... everyone has one" rings true here. Just because a pro says it works for those he's come in contact with does not mean it's gospel truth. I bet I could find other pros who'd differ on the subject. It can be very subjective.

I've been in the game for 30 years and coaching for 20+. I've seen more young arms sore and in pain throwing from the stretch than I ever have with the wind up. People say there are too many "moving parts" to the wind-up, but I don't buy it. I count 5 steps. That's not a lot. Momentum is everything. The wind-up minimizes the use of the arm, therefore reduces the chances of a painful experience. Small, weak, kids have a hard time controlling from the stretch (you'd think that not true, but it is). At the very least, a modified wind-up alleviates that to a certain degree.

My thought is, the stretch can turn into using the arm more. But the wind-up uses (or should use) more of the legs, which, in turn, takes away the possibility of sore arms (which I will always try and avoid with all youth players I work with).

I've watched young kid after kid try and muscle the ball to the plate by using the stretch. They might throw a few good pitches, but, for the most part, it's not consistent, especially with weaker arms. And "Yes" BK, the stretch is more used by relievers when trying to hold runners on base. I have yet to see an MLB starter (in today's game), pitch from the stretch without runners on base. I'm sure they are out there, but they are the exception, not the rule, by any stretch (pun intended).

I was at practice yesterday and some guy (with no experience) was trying to reteach my 8 year old to pitch from the stretch. I guess he did ok, but when he saw a batter he threw (maybe) 2 strikes and the rest were all over the place. Which leads me to believe that just because it might look like an easier approach, does not necessarily mean it's going to work. Also, the raw talent of the child needs to come into play. The more talented, the easier it would be to teach that child virtually anything. For others, it's more of a chore.

When the child I'm speaking of went back to the wind-up, his velocity increased and he threw more strikes than during the stretch position.

Bottom line, for me is, the wind-up may have a few more moving parts, but in the end I think it's better to teach that than it is to (potentially) teach a pitching style that have the potential to put more stress on a young arm.

Just my opinion.

  • Unfortunately this isn't a discussion site, so opinions need to be backed up with citations. You've put a lot of effort into the answer, so could you find some links to back up what you say? It would be a pity for your hard work to be wasted. – TrueDub Apr 25 '17 at 15:34
  • @TrueDub Is expertise enough? "I've been in the game for 30 years and coaching for 20+." Including citations reinforces expertise, but requiring citations on an otherwise expert-based answer undermines said expertise. That said, the question is also based on opinion with no citations. – user527 Apr 25 '17 at 16:54
  • Expertise would be fine, but the anecdote is irrelevant and serves only to demonstrate a lack of mindful practise, not a depth in it. – Nij Apr 25 '17 at 21:45
  • @MASTERMIND_ED I understand your point - expertise is an excellent thing, but it's also tough to prove sometimes. – TrueDub Apr 26 '17 at 8:17
  • I disagree with the dissension toward this answer. As a former high school pitcher, I can attest to some of the experience expressed here and is highly relevant to the question being asked. To say the answer has an irrelevant anecdote, demonstrates a lack of practice, and requires citations is borderline disrespectful to said answer. – user16112 Mar 18 at 13:08

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