The Mechanics of a Good Pitch…

January 25, 2010 at 6:33 pm Leave a comment

(NOTE: Originally posted by myself at Bless You Boys. Go there for lots of great Detroit Tigers related content created by fans)

Given the boredom of the offseason I decided to start studying something that has piqued my curiosity. That curiosity being being pitching mechanics. After some studying of my own I decided why not have the BYB community here either learn with me and/or help me learn along the way? I don’t know if I’m the first member here to delve into this area specifically but I think it’ll be a fun experience for us all. Plus posting stuff here will give me reason to keep on studying it.

I really couldn’t think of a way to properly break this down because good video is hard to come by if you don’t get it yourself and I really don’t really have the means to do that nor do I have any real way to do frame by frames with videos. So I did some looking around and the best way I think I can do this for you guys is via a checklist I found from pitching.com. The checklist after the jump.

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So I figured I’d start easy and look at a guy who has some pretty darn good mechanics. That guy is Justin Verlander. The tall, hard throwing, right handed, former ROY, and ace of the Tigers staff. Heres the best video I could come up with via pitchingclips.com.

Here are the advantages of different view points from video. From the side I can more easily see things like how high the elbow gets, when the hands separate, arm swing, foot separation, how high the knee comes. From the front side I can see a few important things as well. Where the head points, where the plant foot lands, arm action after the pitch…basically things regarding how the pitcher lines himself with homplate.

Now the checklist based upon the video from above. (note: because I only have the one video, I’m forced to skip a few checkpoints. I’ll still cover what I can I’ll offer some extra explanation to other things after the list.)

1. Speed of movement/Tempo: This is easily analyzed with frame by frame video, but I don’t have that but it’s obvious that Verlander moves fast. Check
2. Is the pitcher relaxed? This is more of a judgement call if you ask me. But Verlander’s whole windup looks fluid from start to finish with no stressful looking motions. So I’d say Verlander is pretty relaxed. Check
3. Does the pitcher move from a bent leg to get lower leading with his front hip and does he land on a flexed leg in a straight line toward the plate? You’ll notice in the clip that right before Justin moves his plant leg (front leg) forward he bends his back leg. The advantage in this is it allows you to get your plant leg the proper distance forward which is approximately 80-90% of the pitchers height. Verlander does this. So check.
4. How does the plant foot fall in relation to home plate? This to me is very important because this can affect momentum. Seeing how most of a pitches velocity comes from the core and legs and not the arm anything involving any part down in those area’s can affect velocity but location can also be affected. If the foot is pointing to far back, the entire bodies forward momentum is affected thus affecting velocity. If the foot is turned too much toward homeplate, over rotation of the hips and shoulders can occur and affect location by misaligning the body. I can’t see his foot but given his ’09 season, I’d say he’s doing ok. Shoulder alignment at release at least tells me his foot isn’t too far forward. Check.
5. Is the pitcher properly generating forward momemtum? Lumping a few checkpoints together here because a bunch deal with this in mind. I’ll just tell you guys what I see. Hands separate before moving forward? check. Front knee come to stomach/chest level? check. Hips rotate before shoulders? check. Arm is swung instead of picked up? check. All of these things deal with gaining momentum to drive the pitch and Verlander does them all. Check.
6. Is there any unnecessary movements? Moving side to side, leaning forward/backward, strange motion with the leg kick, etc. Verlander doesn’t do any of that stuff. He aint Dontrelle after all.
7. How is the head positioned at ball release? Ideally a pitcher is looking forward at this point (towards home) and the head is over the knee of his plant leg. This is easier determined by a side view but I can make a pretty good judgment from this view and say it looks pretty good. check.
8. Do the hands move in rhythm with the legs? Now here is one problem I have with Verlanders windup but it is a small one to me given the high tempo at which he works. Normally or at least ideally the pitchers hands move toward the chin at the same time the leg kick begins with the plant foot. This is about rhythm aka making sure the hands/arms don’t get ahead of the legs/core. No rhythm means less velocity and poor location because everything becomes disjointed. It works for Verlander because you could call starting his hands at his chin a quick hand raise that matches how quick is leg kick and succeeding movements are.

Just a couple more points about pitching mechanics.

* The elbow should never go above shoulder level. This causes undo stress upon the throwing arm.
* Do not over extend the joints. Basically your plant foot should be bent upon landing and your elbow of your throwing arm shouldn’t be straight.
* The glove should be tucked up into the arm at ball release. This helps create a more natural follow thru thus reducing stress upon the throwing arm.
* Always remember that most of the velocity on a pitch comes from the core, hips, and legs. Proper planting, pushing off, and rotation are very important to gaining velocity. When executing a pitch properly the actual throwing arm should feel very little stress.

Hope you guys enjoy this. I plan to keep on studying this stuff and doing breakdowns of other players mechanics. Mostly I’ll point out the bad instead of the good points and connect them with stats/pitch fx. If theres a guy you want me to try and breakdown mechanically just let me know. If you think of someone please try to find some video for me. I can judge more from side view than I can a front view. At least at this point in analysis ability.

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Entry filed under: Pitching Mechanics.

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