pitching stretch vs windup

Pitching From The Stretch vs Windup: Which One Is Best For Kids?

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pitching from the stretch vs windup

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?

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

  • Often results in better leverage and a longer stride. This can help pitchers generate more momentum and power behind their pitches. Doing this can lead to higher pitch velocity and more movement on the ball. 
  • Additionally, throwing from the windup can help a pitcher develop a better feel. That’s because they have more time to focus on each individual pitch. 
  • It gives the pitcher more time to gather himself before he throws the ball. This can be especially helpful for young kids who may be tense or nervous on the mound.
  • There is more of an intimidation factor when delivering from the windup. 
  • It puts less wear and tear on the throwing arm. It allows the pitcher to use their entire body (not just their arm) to generate power. 
  • Ability to get a high leg kick by lifting their front knee
  • Especially for Little League pitchers, this pitching motion helps kids get comfortable in their delivery. It’s because they are repeating the same motion over and over and that allows them to get into a rhythm. It’s all about consistency and repetition and this way allows young kids to focus more on their body and baseball pitching mechanics. 

Disadvantages Of Pitching From The Windup

  • Pitching from the wind up can be more taxing on a pitcher’s energy levels.
  • Puts runners on base in a better position to steal second or third base. 
  • It’s just basic footwork but many young pitchers find it difficult to perfect.
  • Sometimes accuracy can become an issue with this delivery.  

    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

    • The set position is more versatile than the windup. It also helps reduce the amount of movement you have in your pitching mechanics
    • The stretch is the quickest delivery and is used when a pitcher wants to hold runners
    • Can always get better positioning with your back foot on the pitching rubber from the stretch. This is a major component of the delivery and will assist with foot strike with power created from the back leg and front hip.
    • Shorter leg motion
    • Easier to pick off baserunners
    • You mess up the hitter’s timing a little easier when they are given less time to react. Since a pitcher’s windup typically looks smooth and consistent, it allows the hitter to gather and have better timing compared to the stretch 
    • Unpredictability out of the stretch position makes it harder for hitters
    • Pitching from the stretch offers the pitcher opportunities for deception. They can fool a hitter by using a high leg kick, pitching with a slide step, or maybe a hybrid between the two. Pitching is all about deception and messing up the hitter’s timing. The stretch position offers more ways to do that. 
    • Pitching from the set position is considered to be simpler and therefore less stressful on a young pitcher’s throwing arm

    Disadvantages Of Pitching From The Stretch

    • Slide step from the set position can be a bit tricky
    • Can be more difficult to control pitches
    • Can sometimes lack pitching velocity compared to the windup position
    • It doesn’t give pitchers as much time to gather themselves before they throw. This can be an issue for young pitchers who may already be feeling tense on the mound
    • Might not feel as comfortable as the full windup position where they can use a high front leg lift and take advantage of their lower half to create more velocity

    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.

    stretch vs windup
    pitching from the stretch vs full windup

    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

    Is it possible for a pitcher to pick off during a windup?

    No, a pitcher cannot pick off a runner during a windup. Doing so would be considered a balk.

    Do professional MLB pitchers utilize the windup technique?

    Yes, many professional MLB pitchers use the windup technique, especially when there are no runners on base.

    Can you pick off a runner from the windup?

    No, attempting to pick off a runner from the windup position is a balk.

    Can you fake to throw and throw to first base?

    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.

    What constitutes a balk?

    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.

    Can a right-handed pitcher throw to first without stepping off?

    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!

    Chris F.

    Chris F.

    Chris Forbes is the founder and editor of BaseballMode.com, a leading blog in the youth baseball space. As a lifelong baseball player, coach and fan, he decided to team up with his young son to offer advice and share their experiences with the sport they both love. Chris lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children.

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