There are few things as exciting for a 13-year-old ballplayer as striking out the side, really bringing the heat and dominating batters in a way that they never could have expected.
Toeing the rubber, staring in for a sign, and firing strike after strike (while pushing 70 to 80 mph) as a 13-year-old is a lot easier than most people expect. Especially if you know how to throw harder without doing any damage to your still developing shoulder.
Below we dig a little deeper into the ins and outs of roaring back, gripping a baseball, and zipping it to the plate with a lot of speed but also with a lot of accuracy.
By the time you’re done with the inside info below you’ll know exactly how to generate more lower body strength, more consistent pitching velocity, and more control over your put out pitch than ever before.
You’ll learn that the secrets to throwing harder really boil down to:
- Increasing body mass
- Generating speed with your stride
- Getting your glove arm involved
… And a handful of other tips and tricks we breakdown in this quick guide.
Shall we get started?
1. Add More Mass to Your Frame
Few things are going to help you pump heat to the plate more than adding a bit of muscle to your 13 your old frame, especially if you haven’t seen the inside of a weight room before.
The overwhelming majority of 13-year-olds playing baseball today haven’t been pumping iron for any real amount of time.
Some of that is because they are 13 years old, after all, and some of that is simply because they don’t know how or haven’t been taught how to go through age appropriate workouts to help them gain mass and speed on their pitches.
The old pitching coach adage of “mass equals gas” remains as true today as it was 10 years, 20 years, and 30 years ago.
Now, you don’t have to be a steroid machine to throw 70 miles an hour as a 13-year-old. But you do have to have a little bit of extra weight on your frame.
Look into getting started with age-appropriate personal trainers that can build a plan of action to pack on 10 or 15 pounds of muscle mass over the next six or eight months. You’ll be shocked at just how much more zip your pitches have with that approach.
2. Synchronize Your Stride
The stride you take to the dish going to have a huge impact on the amount of force you’re able to generate, and that will have a direct impact on the amount of speed you’re able to crank out on all of your pitches.
The most successful throwers in the game (real fireball starting pitchers or lights out closers) have a stride foot contact to maximum external rotation inside of 3/10 of a second.
If you’re able to get even anywhere close to that (even half a second) you’ll be able to put a lot more zip on your ball, too. Your fastball will have more punch, your cutter will have more motion, and you’ll be able to fool people a lot more consistently with your changeup.
It’s all about getting your stride synchronized to maximize your stride foot contacting the pitcher’s mound and your external rotation being completely maximized.
3. Learn to Use Your Glove Arm
Far too many young pitchers kind of flail all over the place with their glove arm, usually because they don’t yet understand how important that is for a pitcher.
Even worse, a lot of young pitchers around the age of 13 are told that their glove on as almost everything to do with accuracy and next to nothing to do with speed.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Sure, your glove arm is going to help guarantee proper shoulder alignment to your target and solid and consistent truck rotation. But it’s also going to be used to sort of “pull” your throwing arm across your body with a lot more force and velocity, generating extra arm speed and producing better speed on all of your pitches.
What you want to do (after getting a hang of using your glove to target your catcher) is to start firing your glove out and then yanking it back, making sure that your lead elbow is aimed directly at your target.
This motion is going to force your biomechanical chain to generate more speed than it would have otherwise, upping your speeds across the board on autopilot. It’s not uncommon to see a three mile-per-hour jump on your fastball with nothing but this folded into your delivery.
4. Cut Out the Balance Beam Act
It used to be that you could watch all footage of incredible pitchers with wild motions, with some of the most dominant forces in baseball throwing their body all over the place before delivering their pitch to their catcher.
Today, however, it’s a whole lot less likely to see those kinds of janky mechanics – and for good reason.
For one, the whole idea of “balancing” your front leg during your motion has fallen out of favor almost completely. Pitching coaches aren’t going anywhere near this “conventional wisdom” any longer, mostly because now we understand that it doesn’t help you with velocity – and may actually hurt.
All you have to do is watch some of the best pitchers in the game today (Kershaw, Verlander, Sale, etc.) and how they move smoothly through every moment of their motion. They don’t pause and hold their knee when it gets up near their chest any longer, but instead go through a singular and smooth motion no hitch that produces better speed and accuracy.
This change really started to happen in full force during the 2004 season. Baseball researchers wanted to know exactly how to optimize a pitching motion (if that was even possible) and found that any pitcher sticking to a “balance point” kind of delivery was throwing significantly softer than those with a smooth motion from start to finish.
Whether you go with a big kick or a little one makes less difference than keeping everything nice and smooth across the board.
5. Speaking of Kicks…
If you are going to go with a big leg kick, though, it’s a good idea to keep it to about 60% of your height and never more than 70% of your height – especially if you’re looking to maximize your velocity.
A study done by baseball researchers in 2011 that had a laserlike focus on Gerrit Cole and his mechanics showed that whenever his initial leg kick was less than 60% or more than 70% of his overall height is velocity dropped significantly.
But when it was in that sweet spot – just slightly above his waist – he was able to generate a lot more pop, a lot more push, and a lot more velocity.
As a 13-year-old, you want to try and keep your kick around your waist whenever possible if you’re going to go with a kick at all. Any less and it’s going to cripple your velocity and anything higher won’t just cripple your velocity but also throw your accuracy all over the place, too.
6. Start Flexing Your Elbow
Every pitching coach on the planet will tell you the importance of timing. If there’s one thing that every pitcher strives to do it’s to have consistent timing across the board.
They want the same kind of motion that brings them to rest, they want the same overhand move to kickoff their delivery, they want the same leg kick every single time, and they want the same foot strike as consistently as possible – especially when it comes to timing that strike with their elbow flex.
Pitchers know that if they flex their elbow as much as possible as their foot strikes in front of the mound they are going to be able to generate a whole lot more velocity than they would have been able to otherwise.
We are talking about cranking that elbow as much as you can, too. You might not be able to generate the 90° bend that some of the biggest fireball throwers in the majors can consistently, but the closer you get to that the happier you are going to be with your velocity.
7. Bury Your Head Behind Your Hip
It’s also critically important that you make sure your head never gets out in front of your body when you are going through your delivery.
The second that your head starts to poke its way through the invisible wall that extends from your hips to the heavens is the second that your velocity starts to taper off and the moment that your accuracy really starts to decline.
The longer you are able to keep your head behind your hip (your lead hip) the better off you are going to be. With this approach you generate more speed with less wear and tear on your shoulder, something that is critically important for young 13-year-old athletes.
You don’t want to chew up your throwing shoulder before you get a shot to play more competitive ball.
8. Slow Your Motion and Delivery Down
A lot of great athletes, especially when they are young, think that they have to rush themselves through the movements to speed up their pitches when that’s not the case at all.
Your motion and your delivery should be as slow and as deliberate as possible without becoming uncomfortable. The whole idea of your motion and your delivery is to lock inconsistency.
You need to know the timing of every movement, the sequence of every movement, and how each movement interplays with every other. You’ll never be able to do that if your motion or delivery are sped up faster than necessary.
By keeping things nice and slow you are also able to avoid messing up your own position when your foot (stride foot) comes into contact with the mound in front of you. If that are in position slides lower than the slot it’s going to kill your velocity and also “short” the mound – taking your accuracy along the way.
Keep things quiet, keep things simple, and keep things deliberate and you’ll be throwing a lot harder (and more accurately) in no time.
9. Tilt Your Trunk at Release
Tilting your trunk forward when you release the ball is going to deliver it with the maximum terminal velocity possible, all of the velocity that you’ve generated throughout your biomechanical chain during the delivery.
Researchers in 2008 discovered that extending your front knee during your ball legs (with an angle of between 48° and 68°) guarantees a more forward tilt of your upper body. This guarantees that your arm is in the right slot to deliver a pitch overhand, a pitch with real speed, and also allows you to play with the movement of that ball with your wrist. Instead of your whole arm.
10. Stretch Your Stride
The last thing you want to consider as a 13-year-old pitcher to bump up that fastball a little more is to stretch out your stride.
No, you don’t have to do the splits every time you reach back for a bit of extra gas. But you are going to want to try and stride as far out as you can (ideally striding as much as 90% of your height or even further whenever possible).
The longer your stride the more momentum you create. This is going to produce a lot of extra force throughout your biomechanical chain that starts with your feet, most through your legs, and then goes through your trunk and your torso up into your shoulder and your arms.
That extra stride is going to propel you faster through the movement necessary to deliver a pitch accurately. That’s going to bump up your velocity by up to 50%, helping you hit speeds you never would have been able to without a significantly longer stride.
Keep these tips and tricks in mind as a 13-year-old ballplayer (or the coach or parent of a 13-year-old ballplayer) and you’ll be throwing smoke sooner rather than later!