If you’ve been involved in youth baseball for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly heard coaches, parents, and even other players debating the merits of pitching from the stretch vs windup.
So, which is better? Let’s take a closer look at some of the pros and cons of each style to find out which one is better for young pitchers.
- Is There An Advantage To Pitching From The Windup?
- When Should You Be Pitching From The Stretch?
- Pitching Rules For The Stretch vs Full Windup
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts On Pitching From The Stretch vs Windup
Is There An Advantage To Pitching From The Windup?
The windup position in pitching is the most basic and common way to throw a pitch. However, it’s also the slowest and least deceptive. The windup in baseball was first used in the game in the early 1800s. Only one way existed to throw a pitch until the 1870s when they introduced the first variations of the sidearm and overhand deliveries.
The windup remained the predominant way to pitch through the early 1900s and one of the biggest reasons for its popularity was that it allowed pitchers to throw a variety of pitches with different arm angles and speeds. This made it difficult for hitters to adjust to a particular pitcher’s style.
What does pitching from the windup mean in baseball?
The windup in baseball is when a pitcher begins their stance with both feet touching the rubber. Their feet and shoulders are both facing forward toward home plate. Aside from Little League baseball, it is mostly used when there are no runners on base.
During the delivery from this starting position, a pitcher can either take a step backward or off to the side with his non-pivot foot to begin his motion. During that sequence, they will then turn their pivot foot to be parallel and pressed up against the pitching rubber. Once the pivot foot is parallel, they lift their front leg and use the rubber to help them generate an explosive stride toward the batter before ball release.
Advantages Of The Windup Position
Disadvantages Of Pitching From The Windup
When Should You Be Pitching From The Stretch?
So why is it called pitching from the stretch? Pitchers are in the set or stretch position when they stand on, or directly in front of, the pitching rubber. Their toes are pointing toward the side and their arms are apart at their sides. For right-handed pitchers, their feet would be pointing toward third base, and pointed at first base for lefties.
The pitcher initiates the delivery sequence after first coming set. Coming set is when the pitcher’s arms come together followed by a brief pause. The pause could be an attempt to deceive the batter or baserunner. It can also just give the pitcher enough time to get the correct grip on the ball. After the short pause, the pitcher then takes a step toward home plate and delivers the pitch.
Check out these two videos comparing the wind up vs the stretch. Can you see how much longer it takes the pitcher to deliver the ball to home plate in the windup compared to the set position? A baserunner would practically be at second base by the time the catcher received the ball.
Advantages Of Pitching Out Of The Stretch
Disadvantages Of Pitching From The Stretch
Pitching Rules For The Stretch vs Full Windup
The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel recently updated pitching from the stretch rules and offers new guidance around legal pitching positions.
According to the rules, the pitcher is considered to be in the windup when he/she is facing the batter while their pivot foot is in contact with the pitching rubber. They are considered to be in the stretch when they are facing the batter and their pivot foot is in parallel contact with the rubber.
The front foot is either facing third base or first base depending on which arm your throw with. Once the two hands connect in the set position in front of the body and come to a pause, the pitcher must deliver the pitch or step off the rubber with his back foot.
If there are runners on base, a pitcher is considered to be in the set position if their pivot foot is placed against the rubber and his other leg is out front facing sideways in relation to home plate.
Do Pitchers Throw Harder Out Of The Full Windup?
A recent pitching velocity case study in MLB games shows that there is no discernable difference in pitch velocity between the two legal pitching positions. The fastballs for windup position pitchers were clocked at the same rate in the set position.
Can You Balk While Pitching A Baseball In The Windup?
The answer is yes but it is very rare. It’s rare because most pitchers pitch out of the stretch with runners on base. You cannot balk if the bases are empty but some pitchers do pitch from the windup with the bases loaded or when a runner is on third base.
When you are pitching from the wind up position with runners on, and your foot is on the rubber, any natural motion associated with your delivery commits you to the pitch. At this point, you cannot attempt a pickoff of the runner and you must deliver the pitch. Failure to do so will result in a balk.
Why Do Most MLB Pitchers Only Use The Stretch Pitching Motion?
You’ll generally see this with relief pitchers since they often come into baseball games with runners on base but what they are essentially trying to do is prevent runners from advancing. This pitching motion offers the quickest delivery to the plate, therefore giving the catch more time to throw out the runner.
Check out this video of the professional pitcher, Michael Pineda throwing from the set position. It’s not a traditional slide step or step backward from the wind-up – it’s more of a hybrid between the stretch vs windup.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, a pitcher cannot pick off a runner during a windup. Doing so would be considered a balk.
Yes, many professional MLB pitchers use the windup technique, especially when there are no runners on base.
No, attempting to pick off a runner from the windup position is a balk.
As of 2013 in MLB, faking a throw to third and then throwing to first is a balk. Before 2013, this “third-to-first” move was legal. Now, it results in runners advancing one base.
A balk is an illegal motion or action by the pitcher intended to deceive the base runner. It results in the runner(s) advancing one base.
If a pitcher pivots on his free foot without taking a step, or rotates his body to throw before stepping, it’s considered a balk.
Final Thoughts On Pitching From The Stretch vs Windup
So, which should you use? Is there a definitive answer when it comes to whether youth baseball pitchers should pitch from the windup or pitch from the stretch?
The answer is…it depends on the situation. If you’re pitching with the bases empty, you can take your time and focus on your mechanics by pitching from the windup. However, if there are runners on base, you need to be quick and focused on throwing strikes, so pitching from the set position is your best bet.
Knowing how to pitch from both the wind up and the stretch will make you a more versatile pitcher who can adapt to any situation. So practice both and learn when to use each one to your advantage.
When you are in Little League baseball, the rules prevent runners from leaving the base during a stolen base attempt until the ball crosses the plate. Therefore, there is no reason to use the stretch unless a pitcher is more comfortable in this position. They won’t need to adapt until runners have the green light to steal whenever they want to.
Do you have any tips when it comes to youth pitching stretch vs windup? Which do you think other pitchers prefer?
Leave a comment below and let us know. Thanks for reading!