Pitching Ropes are one of our favorite ways to help a pitcher improve her accuracy. They are perfect for the earliest of beginners and the most elite pitchers alike. If a pitcher can hit a rope repeatedly, then she should have no problem not only throwing strikes, but also dominating hitters! We prefer to use Chinese Jump Ropes because when the ball hits them, they do not change trajectory. They appear to fly right through the ropes making it safer for catchers during practice.
Beginning with the first lesson, we expect our pitchers to use ropes to help them learn control and accuracy. We want pitchers to learn to throw low in the zone, as well as encourage our catchers to keep their glove at the same height as the rope. Do not teach your pitcher to throw meatballs!!! Our set up consists of 2 ropes that are 5 feet out in front of home plate. Set up your top rope approximately 25 inches off the ground, and a second rope 6 inches lower. You can use PVC pipe, batting tees, or even hooks on a wall to fashion the ropes to your liking.
The top rope is the “set ’em up pitch.” When the pitcher throws at that height over the plate, the umpire should call that pitch a strike. The bottom rope is the “set ’em down pitch.” It sits at the very bottom of the strike zone. When thrown immediately after the top rope pitch, the bottom rope pitch deceives the batter and tricks them into thinking it’s on the same plane as the pitch before, causing them to swing and miss. (Almost like climbing the ladder in reverse). One important concept that was discussed at the 2016 Pitching Summit, hosted and led by the brightest pitching minds in the college game, was the notion that the same pitch back to back works great as long as the second one has a slightly different location or height. Hence “Set ‘Em Up, to Set ‘Em Down!”
Watch the video below for more details on setting up ropes for beginners.
Video Clip 1
Advanced Rope Set Up
Fastballs and Change Ups
“Control is a dominant pitch” This concept was another one of the takeaways from the 2016 Pitching Summit. One ball width or height can make all the difference when it comes to dominating hitters. The set up pictured below includes the first two ropes discussed above with Beginner Ropes. To make this more challenging, we added two additional horizontal ropes 4.5 feet back from the initial set (so they sit just over the plate) with an 8 inch drop. So the top rope over the plate is 17 inches off the ground and the bottom rope is still 6 inches lower. When a pitcher develops good topspin, she will learn how to hit both ropes with her fastball. However, we’ll save this topic for another post. We also added two vertical ropes that are placed in the river (space between plate and batter’s box) on both sides of the plate.
One way that pitchers can practice command of their fastball is to hit a vertical ropes in the river. The next pitch try to miss the rope one ball width closer to the plate. After that, she may try to put the third pitch one ball width outside of the river. Equally important to changing speeds, changing your pitch location just by one ball width can make even an average fastball much more difficult for batters. For the toughest challenge, try to hit both top ropes that intersect with the vertical, followed by both bottom ropes that intersect with the vertical. Check out video clip 2 to learn how to get this set up in your practice arena.
Video Clip 2
Drop and Rise Ball
A common problem we often hear pitchers say is that their drop ball either breaks too early, or too late. Our set up here allows them to learn exactly where they need to release to get that perfect break point. A pitcher that can hit a rope 25 inches off the ground 5 feet in front of home plate, and then hit another rope 17 inches off the ground four and a half feet later, has some SERIOUS movement! That gives the batter very little time to react to the movement of the pitch.
It’s helpful to have tall poles that you can raise your ropes to help with high heat and rise ball pitches. Pitchers can learn to “climb the ladder” using ropes at various heights, as shown in the video clip #1 above. Using your vertical ropes increases preciseness of both drop balls and rise balls by teaching pitchers how to hit the corners with these pitches.
Curve and Screw
The vertical ropes here are a huge asset. Teach your pitchers to hit the vertical ropes with their curve and screw ball, as well as, learn to pitch around the ropes. The horizontal ropes here help with attaining the appropriate height for each of these pitches. Encourage your pitchers to hit multiple ropes on her movement pitches!
Swing and a Miss
MLB legend, Sandy Koufax that said ” I became a good pitcher when I stopped trying to make them miss the ball and started trying to make them hit it.” Having great accuracy and command of a few pitches can make a pitcher much more successful than a pitcher that has every pitch known to man, plus a few extra. My advice to pitchers – find one or two pitches you throw well, and become a master with those pitches. Be able to throw those pitches in any count. Learn how to change your location by just one or two ball widths/heights and you can be a hitter’s nightmare!
To purchase your Chinese Jump Ropes, and other pitching tools, visit our online store! Buy 5 ropes, get one for FREE when you purchase our 6 pack rope bundle set, and have our complete Advanced Rope set up at home! Join our mailing list (see button below) to receive helpful articles and discounts delivered directly to your email address. Additionally, for more videos with tips and drills, subscribe to our YouTube channel! Come train with us in Virginia to learn our ENTIRE accuracy and speed building program. Please check out our contact page to come train in our indoor facility in Richmond, Virginia!
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