Pitching: Dragging the Back Foot

The other day I went to a batting center that included tunnels where pitching lessons were being taught. Over and over I heard the same phrase from the instructor: “drag your back foot!”.

To me that sounded a bit perplexing, and thought perhaps the coach was teaching the change-up. After ten minutes, I realized the coach was using his “drag your back foot” instruction as a means of teaching the fastball.

A few days later I witnessed another pitcher, in another facility, consciously dragging his back foot on all pitches per the instruction of a completely different “pitching coach”.

Now I’m really befuddled.

Perhaps I’ve missed something, but what I have been taught is that you want to do anything BUT drag your back foot if you’re interested in increasing velocity on your fastball. In fact, what you should do on your fastball is push off the rubber with your back foot — much like a sprinter does off the starting blocks — and as a result the back foot should fly up in the air, high over your butt, after the stride foot lands. The back foot pushes, the front foot pulls, and if you get them working in sync, you’ll be using your legs to power the ball (now you know why pitchers do so much running!).

The only time a pitcher would drag his back foot, as mentioned earlier, is on a change-up. If your back foot — or more specifically, your toes — drags along the dirt in front of the rubber as your stride (front) foot lands, then it should help take a few MPH off the change-up. However, that is a pretty advanced technique, and should only be practiced by those who have a very solid understanding and execution of sound pitching mechanics, and whose changeup needs to be just a bit slower.

If I’m missing something with this “drag the back foot thing” — perhaps I’m misinterpreting a newfangled, cutting-edge technique — please let me know in the comments below.

About Joe Janish

Joe Janish has been coaching baseball for 20+ years, and playing for 30+. He was a D-1 ABCA All-American catcher in 1992, when he finished in the top 15 in the nation in hitting. He also coached at the D-1 level, and currently provides private instruction to serious baseball players in the NY/NJ/PA area.

Comments

  1. I think you are mistaken when you say that there should never be a foot drag. Often times, pitching coaches can learn a lot from their pitchers and their delivery and follow through based on the length and shape/direction of the foot drag. A drag that loops too far out (to the throwing arm side) is an indicator of a pitcher that may be throwing across their body a bit. No drag at all is a clear indicator that the pitcher is not extending out far enough during the delivery and is likely understriding, resulting in being off balance after the delivery. I went to a college baseball clinic and one particular pitching coach actually would put sand, dirt, or any other substance that would work on his indoor mounds (portable plastic ones) so that he could see his pitchers foot drags and adjust their deliveries accordingly. I am far from an expert on the matter, but to say that a foot drag is simply for a change up seems to be way off base.

  2. Hmmm …. will have to think about this one. I do agree that monitoring the foot drag as a means of identifying a problem is a good idea. However I see no biomechanical advantage of PURPOSELY and consciously dragging the back foot — not for increasing velocity, anyway.

    Thanks though for the tip on watching the direction of a foot drag … hopefully others will be able to use this as an indicator for adjusting mechanics.

  3. Dragging the back foot enhances a pitcher’s ability to delay shoulder rotation. By doing so, the pitcher will actually reduce the distance to home plate. Secondly the drag line is observed and utilized in the placement of the pitcher on the rubber. The dragline indicates the location of the spine at release. Optimally this line should end on the imaginary line leading from the middle of the pitching rubber to the middle of home plate. A lack of a drag indicates lack of proper use of the lead hip in the lift and thrust phase of the initial leg lift, in conjunction with minimal use of forward momentum.

  4. gshort – I can definitely see the value in monitoring the foot drag — as a coach — and using it as an indicator of what may be going on with the pitcher’s body. However I’m still not convinced it’s a good idea to “teach” a foot drag or for a pitcher to be consciously dragging it. Isn’t it something that should come naturally as a result of other correct actions?

    In other words, isn’t a drag or non-drag more of symptom rather than a cause?

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