The Arm’s Race…Chase For Velocity

Throwing Harder or Throwing
Better?

Velocity is without a doubt a very important part of
baseball. However, the commercialization of the 90 MPH Velocity programs that
seem to be popping up all over the country is sending the WRONG message! The
focus is not where it should be and the appeal of someone’s ego to say they hit
90 MPH is taking center stage.

The marketing and sex appeal of throwing hard and
fast is due to the fact that both the media and today’s scout use the radar as
the end all be all and forget about the ability to pitch. Are pitchers really
throwing harder today than they were 20, 30 or 40 years ago? The answer is not really, and not when put in perspective. It
is almost like comparing apples to oranges. Why not grade the pitcher’s mechanics?

Years ago, the focus for a pitcher was completely
different than today’s pitchers. 30 years ago when a pitcher took the mound,
they anticipated pitching a complete game, not just 5 innings. Today’s pitchers
come in and do their specialty, one batter or one inning, set up and then
closer role. In order to pitch deep into the game, pitchers had to pace
themselves and also be prepared to return on 3 to 4 days of rest. Today’s specialty
pitcher throws as hard as he possibly can and will do so for a very short
period of time.

Today’s technology is much better and provides a more
accurate radar reading than years ago. Furthermore, media coverage was not what
it is today. Today we can isolate and focus on every pitch being tracked on the
TV Screen and within the stadium. The pressure to throw hard and do so with max
effort is a major cause of the arm issues we have today. The ability to grade or measure pitching
mechanics should be the 1st step any pitcher should take.

Immediate Gratification- There
Are No Short Cuts!

Say “NO to Weighted-ball Programs!

Weighted-ball programs do not create sustainable
velocity and surely have not had any proof of success with athletes younger
than 22 years old. There is a HUGE difference between a 12-year-old and a 22-year-old
pitcher. Would I recommend anyone or have my own son engage in a weighted-ball
program? From what I’ve learned, the answer is NO.

The conditioning portion of the weighted-ball program
is very beneficial and meaningful.  The
actual exercises with the weighted ball in your hand and not actually throwing
are also valuable, in my eyes. But the idea of throwing the lighter balls first
and then the heavier balls at max effort makes me cringe.

Velocity seekers who only focus on reaching the magic
90 MPH club is misled and can suffer greatly when they are unable to command
their pitches. Pitching at 90 MPH with the command is entirely different than
throwing 1 baseball at maximum effort when your sustainable velocity is 85 MPH.
You do not throw 90 or pitch at 90 unless that is your sustainable pitch.

I look forward to educating the professionals and the
public more on the progression or sequence of what should be taught and when it
should be taught. The development of the pitcher and all athletes should have a
sequence and proof of mastery but professionals nor the coaches, players, or parents
have that information to determine what this means.

A pitcher should first be tested for “movement efficiency” and then sport tested to get
benchmark numbers on where they are. Until proper movement efficiency is in
order and the athlete can do very basic functions, the limbs should not be
addressed. Hamstrings, hip flexors, and grip strength should be tested and mastered
before the thought of throwing a weighted ball ever takes place. A bad knee or
ankle can cause arm issues very quickly and are not ever properly addressed. Sports
Performance professionals do not identify the key issues with each individual
athlete because the right testing and process are not in order.

Kids are being thrown into weighted-ball programs by
“hammers” who see everything as a nail. The ability to test and learn broad
jumping and grip strength can
provide the guidance necessary to benchmark where an athlete is in their
capabilities. It can also provide far more value than seeking a temporary
solution that can do long-term harm such as a weighted-ball program.

Solution

My recommendation is that all pitchers have a
“movement efficiency screening ” completed, first and foremost. Once
this is complete the next step should be to have the pitching mechanics graded.
The Delivery Value System is the most sophisticated and
brilliant system to use. This gives you a grade based upon a very systematic
process that identifies weakness and delivers the ability to predict arm injuries.

The pitcher should then be sport tested and have
athletic performance standards benchmarked. Once all this information is
completed, a forensic analysis of this information can give proper guidance to
the athlete, the sports performance professional, the pitching coach and all
other parties to make the best decisions on what next steps should be, specific
to that athlete’s numbers.

Pitchers need to change their mentality and be
rewarded for progressive mastery of spotting pitches and mastering a changeup
versus spending all efforts to throw a 90 MPH fastball. Overthrowing and trying
to get outs by overpowering hitters is a poor approach. I
hope all professionals involved in the development of athletes take time to
reflect and challenge themselves to learn more about the sequence of
progressive development.

A collaboration of efforts and the willingness to
consider all points will create a better environment for all. Get they Ego’s
out of the way and be willing to learn an approach that can add value to the
game.

1 Comment

  1. Fernando Alba on March 1, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    I completely agree, this days is all about the MPH not the mechanics, parents and coaches are not looking at the big picture, most of the kids that come to me from other coaches have bad mechanics. It takes work to make sure they have the correct mechanics to throw strikes, and hit the corners.