Phil Coke and the Kinetic Chain.

August 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm Leave a comment

Many moons ago, I wrote a piece on the kinetic chain.  It’s an integral system to baseball, describing the flow of energy from the very tip of a pitcher’s toe to the baseball he wishes to hurl toward home plate.  Without it there is no velocity on the ball.  The ball would merely go from the pitcher’s hand straight to the ground while merely attempting to reach terminal velocity.

With a pitcher it is easy to see that the arm does plenty of work to get the ball to the plate.  But the truth of the matter is that the arm, shoulder, hand, wrist, elbow…are more there for providing control to the ball.  The curve on a curve ball, giving some chin music, jamming a hitter inside.  That’s what the arm does.

The lower half of the body however, gives the pitcher velocity and basically all of it too.  Moving the pitchers weight forward, rotating the body through the pitch–those are all more valuable towards creating velocity then any muscle the arm could ever provide.

Now I’ve had to fight this point with people.  I don’t get why.  Yes you can make your arm throw a ball pretty hard while flat footed, your arm is just gonna start to hurt pretty darn quick.  Plus I guarantee you are throwing well below 50mph regardless.  MLB pitchers prefer to reach 90mph at least.  So whenever I am presented with this argument I whip out my evidence.  Today we have Phil Coke.

Phil Coke when healthy can get a velocity on his pitch from anywhere from 92-94mph.  Not bad for a lefty.  Recently enough Phil Coke suffered an ankle injury.  What’s his velocity now?  As of the 2011 season he is averaging about 91.7mph.  I’m assuming that the average is closing in on normal because he is recovering as evidenced by his August average of about 94mph.  Now I shouldn’t have to say more at this point.  Phil Coke hurts Phil Coke so there for Phil Coke can’t pitch like Phil Coke.  But my transgressors would at this point say something along the lines of “something is mechanically wrong.”  No duh.

Ok, so now a more descriptive explanation.  It is a bit of a human instinct to avoid pain.  We avoid getting hurt and avoid making things hurt that are already hurt.  It’s the big reason why we created pain medication.  Hurting isn’t good.  Suffice to say that if Phil Coke has a hurt ankle, he’s not gonna wanna have to feel his hurt ankle.  But his job involves him using his feet to effectively make non hittable strikes.  So to do his but still avoid feeling his source of discomfort, Phil will subconciously decide to use other muscle groups to try and accomplish what he was able to do before using his now injured body parts.

These new muscle groups are not accustomed to generating the velocity he needs to be the same old effective Phil Coke.  They are for one not conditioned for doing so.  His other muscles have had years of training to throw a baseball 93mph.  The others have not.  Secondly, they may have no chance in hell of ever being able to throw that velocity.  Some muscles just have very little to do with pitching and more resemble a “passing through” point with the kinetic chain.  So where the legs now lack in generating velocity, now a pitcher will try to compensate with the ever popular “arm.”

Like I said above, the arm holding the ball is more or less there to give the ball accuracy and movement.  Not velocity.  Yes it gives some, but it can only handle so much of a workload before you start to affect other things (such as how long your elbow will stay together).  Without accuracy all the velocity in the world wouldn’t matter.  I’d rather see a 91mph fastball get placed accurately than see a 94mph one get thrown way too high.

In the world of baseball, pitching injuries are the worst thing.  From blisters to a hangnail the very facets of a pitchers of ability can be greatly affected.  Something like a bone bruise could really throw off a pitchers game simply because he cannot transfer energy effectively through his body.  So yes, while you may give a position player a few days of rest and some DH time to recover from something simple–go ahead and just throw your pitchers on the DL.

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Entry filed under: Pitching Mechanics. Tags: , , , .

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