Leaving Velo On The Table?
A Case Study In Body Mechanics & Impact On Velocity
A few days ago I met a High School player named Jake (from Connecticut… not from State Farm) who illustrated perfectly the importanfce of physical constraints as they relate to mechanical efficiencies. First of all, Jake is an extremely driven guy and hard worker. He is a stud in the gym. He’s only 5’9”, and he weighs around 180 lbs, but he can deadlift and squat over 450 lbs. Yet, from the mound he tops out at 78 mph…
Our Baseball Training Programs For Jake Start With Evals
Before any baseball training programs, camps or lessons, we started Jake’s day with a physical assessment.
In our baseball training camps and programs, we grade each item on a 3 color scale. Green is go… you’re already good at it, don’t waste your time working on it. Yellow is a caution – just like a stop light – it is something that might be holding you back or putting you at risk for injury. Yellows should be trained. Reds are what we consider significant opportunities for improvement. Red items must be trained as they represent an excellent portal for improvement.
Jake’s Eval Grades Guide His Pitching Workout Program
Jake looked pretty good on most of the items, but he received a red grade on thoracic rotation to his glove side:
and a yellow grade on hip internal rotation…
A yellow on quads….
And a yellow on ankle mobility
These items combined to make his deep squat a yellow as well.
Video Analysis – Key To All Baseball Training Programs
When we got to the video analysis section of Jake’s baseball training programs, things were looking pretty good until right after ball release.
He crossed the acromial line a little, but otherwise his arm action was clean.
His lower half looked pretty good too…
He counter-rotated his pelvis slightly, but then cleaned things up, got his butt behind his heel, and his back knee did not drift forward of his toe. He showed a positive pelvic tilt, symmetrical with and parallel to his shoulders, and then rotated nicely with his back hip to a relatively late launch release point.
But that’s when things started to go south.
Getting To The Heart Of The Problem – Rotational Deceleration
After the ball is released, the work must continue. A proper rotational deceleration is an important part of high level performance and it’s vital to arm health. We stress this a lot in our baseball training camps/classes. You can read more about the dangers of a linear deceleration pattern in my free e-book called Throw Out The D*** Towel.
The fundamentals of rotational deceleration are: the throwing shoulder moves into internal rotation and the forearm pronates, there should be some degree of flexion at the waist, and the shoulders should trade places. The athlete should rotate around the front hip so the elbow remains loose and bent, and never crosses the midline of the body, avoiding a violent bang and rebound on the back of the shoulder.
Despite looking looking relatively connected up to ball release, Jake’s pattern eroded significantly after launch. His body stopped rotating around his front hip and his torso and shoulder rotation also stopped.
Analyzing The Issue
One might typically think of this as a movement pattern issue, however, as I’ve said many times before… mechanical and physical constraints are intimately interwoven. Often one will spawn the other.
Recall that in Jake’s physical evaluation, he received a red grade on thoracic rotation toward his glove side and a yellow grade on the internal rotation of his left hip. So, when he got to the point in his delivery when he should have continued rotating around his front hip, he reached the limit of his available range of motion in his hip and his thoracic spine. When a pitcher runs out of rotational mobility in this manner his body has two choices, and on the two pitches we used for his video analysis, Jake demonstrated both.
On the side view pitch, he showed the first option. The lack of mobility in thoracic spine and lead hip internal rotation precluded him from continuing his rotation. To compensate, he spun on his heel and peeled his motion off to an east-west direction, even falling back toward second base as he finished. This move makes it extremely difficult to direct energy toward home plate and could result in a lack of velocity, poor command, and decreased arm health.
On the next pitch, which we recorded from the front , Jake demonstrated the second option. He stopped his rotation completely and finished with his feet square in a “fielder’s position.”
Usually, when a pitcher stops his rotation in this manner, his arm continues accelerating and angles across his body, resulting in a bang on the medial elbow and posterior shoulder and then a violent rebound of throwing arm. But in Jake’s case, this didn’t happen. His elbow never reached the midline of his body. Instead, it creeped to a stop and gently rocked in front of his belly.
For Jake to be able to hit the brakes that quickly during a max effort pitch, something has to give. Since Jake’s arm didn’t bang across his body and then bounce back, that can only mean one thing… Jake is slowing his hand down before he lets go of the ball. In my view, there is no other way he could hit the brakes on his arm speed that quickly.
And in doing so, he’s leaving leaving a lot of velo on the table.
Fixing Jake’s Problem
You could drill Jake on a more efficient deceleration pattern and pound on his intent to throw hard until the cows come home, but until he improves his lead hip and thoracic mobility, he cannot finish any other way.
Physical and biomechanical constraints are intimately interwoven. Often one will spawn the other.
Are you looking to add velo to your fastball?
Could mobility and/or stability constraints be preventing you from reaching your potential?
We need to take a look at you ASAP!