Monday, March 23, 2015

15 Mechanical Faults That Reduce Pitching Velocity

MLB pitcher Zach Greinke displaying good mechanics at landing

You might say that pitching mechanics is simply moving from the back leg to the front leg using a stable back leg and driving down the mound explosively onto a stable front leg.

Without a stable back leg a pitcher’s mechanics are going to suffer and he will lose pitching velocity.  Then once he lands on the front leg if that front leg is not stable and locked into the mound surface so that his front hip and front knee do not move, he could easily be losing 5-7 mph in potential pitching velocity.

Have you ever heard the expression – you can’t fire a canon from a canoe?

Can you picture that scene.  Firing a canon from a canoe.  What’s the problem?  The problem is the same problem that pitchers have.   A poor base of stability at the beginning of their delivery and again at landing.

So you line up the canon to the target from the back of the canoe.  Ready – aim – fire!  What happens?  You go in the water and the canon misses the target by 50 yards and it goes in the water right after you.  Sounds like pitching.

The Pitcher Must Have A Strong Base Of Support

If the pitcher’s base of support is not stable because of a collapsing back leg or poor posture or a swinging lead leg, then two things are affected.  Force production goes into the ground and over toward 3rd base….so velocity drops.  Secondly,  the likely-hood of the ball hitting the target are lessened dramatically since the pitcher is not moving in a direct line toward the target.

Pitchers…are you focusing solely on the collapsing back leg?  Why not?  Much of it is a strength issue.  There are 29 muscles coming out of the hip.   Those stabilizers, which there are many, help keep the back leg strong.

Why do so many of the elderly need those walkers to assist them at walking? Because many became inactive and their hip muscles weaken and eventually atrophy. Thus no strength to hold them up.

The groin is part of the adductor muscle group (there are several) which must be simultaneously strong and flexible — strong enough to function as a core stabilizer of the pelvis and help transfer energy from the legs upward during both early and late phases of throwing and flexible enough to stretch during the drive toward ball release.

This weakness causes the pitcher to rotate over his back hip and start early hip rotation…the biggest initial velocity killer.  Once the pitcher collapses he can never regain that lost power…so his arm has to do more work. Thus more sore arms.

Guys…here’s the skinny.  Most of your son’s have poor core strength.  Weak hips and tight glutes and tight lats.   Or tight hips and weak glutes.  They can’t stand on a single bent leg without wobbling all over the place.

They can’t land with a stable front hip and leg.  And you wonder why the large majority are losing 5-10 mph at the youth, high school and even college levels.

There are several mechanical faults that reduce velocity besides a collapsing back or front leg.

Here are the ones we regularly see during pitching lessons or while doing video analysis that reduce velocity and control and can add stress to the arm:

1.  poor starting position – the pitcher does not position his weight over his back leg
2. poor posture – trunk slumps forward or backward
3. collapsing back leg – knee continues to drift out over back foot toe during weight shift
4. breaks hands too high or too early
5. swings the lead leg out and around
6. doesn’t lead with the hip – the shoulder and hip move out together
7. leans head and trunk back during stride
8. doesn’t use back leg drive to power the lower body into landing
9. poor landing position
*  doesn’t land on the midline
*  lands with front foot too closed off or directed away from the target
*  knee is not directly over the foot – is positioned either to the inside or outside of     ankle
*  throwing elbow not at shoulder height – either too low or too high
* front shoulder not directed at target
* back hip is not higher than front hip
*  head is either too far back behind bellybutton or too far forward
*  stride is either too short or too long
*  glove arm too high or pulled toward the side too early
10.  Does use glove arm properly to help start trunk rotation
11.  Throwing elbow is not positioned above the non-throwing shoulder during trunk rotation.
12.  Hips and trunk are not facing the target when the throwing arm lays back
13. At ball release the head and shoulders are not out over the landing knee
14. trunk is not flexed forward at finish
15. throwing arm does not finish down and outside of landing knee

Most pitchers have 3-4 major faults that when improved can improve velocity 5-7 and sometimes 10 mph.

Remember the pitching motion is not only a very complex action but it contains the fastest human motion in all of sports.  Trying to just eyeball that motion is basically futile. There is just too much going on.

The most important thing that parents should understand is that in order to recognize these faults video must be used and slowed down frame-by-frame.

Instructors who are not videotaping are just guessing.

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