Softball is often considered to be the women’s version of baseball. However, there are some nuances to it that makes the sport quite different. The most noticeable difference is, arguably, the pitching.
Baseball players generally throw the ball overhand, whereas softball pitchers are required to throw the ball underhand. This leads to some serious differences in mechanics. Figuring out how to launch that ball at a high velocity is going to be totally different for athletes that throw from arm angles that are completely opposite each other. This article breaks down the mechanical requirements for baseball players to chuck their baseballs at 100+ mph (160 kmh), and for softball players to gun their softballs at 75+ mph (120 kmh).
General Pitching Differences
It’s easy to observe that pitchers in baseball throw a lot harder than the pitchers in softball. A decent amount of this can be contributed to the pitching motion softball players have to use. The underhand motion combined with the fact that players have to start with their body square to the batter, are huge velocity killers. Softball players have found a way to make the best of this though. In the past 20 years the game has come very far. Technological advancements have revealed the ideal bio-mechanical movements and timing for a blistering fastball.
Throw Harder in Softball
By performing a backswing, you are giving your arm a greater distance that it can potentially cover. With a greater distance at its disposal, it then has more time to build up speed. If you had two cars with the same exact power battling against each other to see who could get the top speed, but one car had 1000 feet to reach their top speed, while the other one only had 500 feet, which do you think would get a higher top speed? The one with a greater distance to build up their speed. Pitching in softball is no different. Don’t shorten your arm motion; utilize a good backswing.
Strong leg drive
To achieve a strong leg drive, get in a position that is similar to a sprinter getting ready to jolt out of the blocks. This puts you in the strongest position to push off of the rubber and get your momentum going forward. Once you are loaded properly, leap towards home plate with your lead leg, while driving the motion with your back leg dragging behind.
When you leap toward the plate, your hips should transition from facing the batter to then facing the dugout. This rotation loads up power that is going to be released once the hips fire back toward the plate. This is done immediately after the front foot lands.
Now, onto the other sport that is played on a diamond – baseball. Here are some cues that are used to pitch a baseball at a high velocity.
Throw Harder in Baseball
Hip and shoulder separation
Pitching coaches everywhere will tell you that hip and shoulder separation is the most important factor in baseball pitching velocity. What is it though? Hip and shoulder separation is exactly what it sounds like – separating the hips and the shoulders. This means that when the pitchers hips are open and facing the batter, his shoulders are still closed and facing the dugout. This separation creates a rubber band effect that pulls the shoulders around at a very high speed.
Lead leg extension
In the baseball pitching motion, the lead leg should lock right before pitch release. This extension stabilizes your front leg and allows all of the forces behind it to transfer and accelerate forward. Think of it like a head-on car crash. When the car runs into something, it stops completely, but the objects inside of the car keep flying forward. That is what lead leg extension does. When you lock the leg out, it stabilizes and forces everything else to fly toward home plate.
In humans, the trunk of the body is the torso area. This is our center, and it carries the most of our weight. This mass being translated into the baseball pitching motion is paramount. Trunk acceleration is performed by having your center of mass slightly leaned back, then as your front foot lands, whip your torso toward the plate. Your chest should be nearly as far out as your lead leg’s knee upon pitch release.
Regardless of which sport is your favorite, much respect should be given to baseball and softball players. There are so many more complexities that need to be mastered in order to be great at either sport than the little bit that we mentioned. It truly is amazing how much goes through the minds of those players during every single pitch in order to be mechanically sound. Next time you’re watching a baseball or softball game, try and spot some of the mechanical cues we talked about, let’s see how much you learned!