The temptation to offer advice to pitchers is almost unavoidable. For many coaches, they must win and must win now. There is more information in books, videos, and online in many forms than ever before. The advances in technology have given coaches and players the ability to micro-analyze every movement of every body part from every possible angle.
So my first bit of advice is very simple. Be prepared to give good advice before giving it. Do your homework by receiving education and training from credible resources. Know when and how to use and not use technology. However, do not be dissuaded from giving advice to them even though you are not yet well-versed in using technology and data analytics. There remains many other ways to improve your pitchers, physically and mentally, until you are comfortable using those methods.
I approach almost all issues in coaching from a person-athlete-player perspective. This issue is no different. The right time to make a change to help a pitcher is when you have established a relationship with the person so they are willing to listen to you and trust what you have to say. They must have a teachable spirit - they must be open to making a change and to working hard to effectuate it. The must have a growth mindset, i.e., an understanding that while growth is possible, not all improvement is in a straight line and that failure is a natural and essential part of growth.
Most knowledgeable coaches now agree that there are many different styles and deliveries that can be successful in pitching. I think the step most often overlooked in determining whether a pitcher needs to make a mechanical change is an assessment of the pitcher’s athleticism. Does the pitcher’s delivery look fluid and easy with their lower and upper body sequentially in sync? If so, and if he can throw strikes, I would be very hesitant to make a mechanical change. If not, the solutions to the issues are probably best addressed off the mound to improve the athlete’s mobility, flexibility, stability and their ability to apply and effectuate force efficiently and quickly.
It is only after establishing the foundation of earning the trust of the person and properly assessing and training the athlete can you consider making a change to the player-pitcher. When considering whether to make a change to the pitcher, one of the most important issues is time. What time of year would you make the change and how much time does the pitcher have to accomplish it? As with any athlete, confidence is paramount. A very young pitcher may be best left alone so they can just continue success and gain more confidence in their ability. An older pitcher may need changes, but making significant ones during the season could not only lead to bad results, but to an injury too. It might be best to work on the mental and emotional aspects of pitching during that time and just have the pitcher continue “pitching to his strengths”.
When evaluating a pitcher’s stuff, I think one important tool that coaches often overlook is standing in against the pitcher. Good coaches know that a pitcher’s motion and delivery needs to be analyzed, by the naked eye or by technology, from every possible angle, but how many actually stand in to see what a hitter sees in real time? Hitters say it all the time, “90 mph on the gun looks like 95 mph out of his hand.” Be sure you and your best hitters stand in from both sides of the plate before making a mechanical change to a pitcher.