Biopitch - "The Science of Pitching"
Articles and Coaching Tips
The nation's top Orthopaedic Surgeon agrees to recognize the best way to evaluate a pitchers' efficiency is to utilize one specific teaching model, one adhered to vehemently by Coach Short and the staff at Biopitch!
Revolutionary Pitching Analysis and Model Will Prevent Baseball Injuries and Aid Recovery Process
Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine is first in the nation to implement National Pitching Association Model to analyze pitchers’ mechanics pre- and post-surgery to facilitate the best options for correction and recovery.SAN DIEGO and GULF BREEZE, FL (June 27, 2007) – The Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in Gulf Breeze, Florida has entered into an agreement with The National Pitching Association (NPA) to utilize the NPA’s BioMechanics Efficiency Model. The model will be the baseball data capture and assessment tool for baseball pitchers at the Andrews Research and Education Institute (AREI), the research and education division of the Andrews Institute. AREI is the only organization in the United States to utilize this model in addition to NPA headquarters in San Diego.AREI will utilize NPA guidelines to evaluate baseball pitchers mechanics and indicate areas of high risk of injury for all skill levels including professional, collegiate, and local high school and little league players. The NPA Model gauges over 100 different variables to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a pitcher’s delivery by comparing it to NPA standards of angles, distance, velocity, acceleration, and timing. The measurements will be captured in the AREI Biomechanics Lab by utilizing 3D motion analysis with hi-speed MX cameras and Nexus software developed by Vicon Motion Systems, Inc. (“We are thrilled to have the world’s most innovative and comprehensive pitching mechanics analysis system in the world in our facility,” said James Andrews, MD, founder and medical director of the Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze, Florida. “Tom House and the National Pitching Association have continually been on the forefront of research and technology when it comes to assessing, training and coaching baseball pitchers. They have consistently asked the hard questions about physical movement and have provided the medical community with a fresh look at athletic performance from the coaching perspective. We look forward to collaborating with the NPA on new studies and initiatives, in an effort to reduce injuries in baseball.”“Our goal is to provide pitchers, coaches, and medical professionals with the best scientifically based information available on mechanics, conditioning and injury prevention," noted Dr. Tom House, National Pitching Association co-founder. “We are very excited to have the Andrews Institute as a strategic partner to further our insight and knowledge on injury prevention. The Andrews Institute is the benchmark by which all other facilities of this nature will be measured and the NPA is honored to be a part of this great opportunity.”Home to a number of clinical departments, the 127,000-square-foot Andrews Institute provides convenience and improved continuum of care for patients. In addition to the AREI, services at the Institute include diagnostic imaging, rehabilitation, outpatient surgery and physician consultations. The complex is also home to Athletes’ Performance Florida and the Executive Physical Program.There are more than 40 doctors at the Institute that provide consultations and surgery in the following medical specialties: ear, nose and throat; general surgery; neurosurgery; optometry; ophthalmology; orthopaedics; pain management; physical medicine; plastic surgery; podiatry; primary care sports medicine; radiology; retinal care; and vascular care.The proximity of all these services allows the team of physicians at the Andrews Institute to provide proficient world-class care to the patients. Integration of clinical services is a key to providing care for the Institute patients, where the common services utilized to diagnose, treat and rehabilitate musculoskeletal injuries is networked together as a truly seamless experience for the patient.
J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2011 Jan 5. Biomechanical Comparison of Baseball Pitching and Long-Toss: Implications for Training and Rehabilitation.Fleisig GS, Bolt B, Fortenbaugh D, Wilk KE, Andrews JR.
STUDY DESIGN: Controlled laboratory study.
OBJECTIVES: Test for kinematic and kinetic differences between baseball pitching from a mound and long-toss on flat ground.
BACKGROUND: Long-toss throws from flat ground are commonly used by baseball pitchers for rehabilitation, conditioning, and training. However, controversy exists about the biomechanics and functionality of such throws.
METHODS: Seventeen healthy college baseball pitchers pitched fastballs 18.4 m from a mound to a strike zone, and threw 37 m, 55 m, and maximum distance from flat ground. Participants were instructed to throw 37m and 55m "hard, on a horizontal line," whereas no constraint on trajectory was given for maximum distance throws. Kinematics and kinetics were measured with a 3-dimensional automated motion analysis system. Repeated measures ANOVA with post-hoc paired t-tests were used to compare the 4 throw types within pitchers.
RESULTS: At foot contact, t
he shoulder line was nearly horizontal for pitching and became progressively more "uphill" as throwing distance increased. At arm cocking, the greatest amount of shoulder external rotation (mean ± SD: 180±11°), elbow flexion (109±10°), shoulder internal rotation torque (101±17 Nm), and elbow varus torque (100±18 Nm) were measured during the maximum distance throws. Elbow extension velocity was greatest for the maximum distance throws (2573±203°/s). Forward trunk tilt at the instant of ball release decreased as throwing distance increased.
CONCLUSIONS: Hard, horizontal flat-ground throws have similar biomechanical patterns as pitching and are therefore reasonable exercises for pitchers. However, maximum distance throws produce increased torques and changes in kinematics; caution is therefore advised for use of these throws in rehabilitation and training.
J Orthop Sports Phys Ther, Epub 5 January 2011. doi:10.2519/jospt.2011.3568.PMID: 21212502 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher
Am J Sports Med. 2011 Feb;39(2):329-35. Epub 2010 Dec 4.
Correlation of glenohumeral internal rotation deficit and total rotational motion to shoulder injuries in professional baseball pitchers.
Kevin E. Wilk, DPT,Champion Sports Medicine, 805 St Vincent's Drive, Suite G100, Birmingham, AL 35205.
BACKGROUND: Glenohumeral internal rotation deficit (GIRD) indicates a 20° or greater loss of internal rotation of the throwing shoulder compared with the nondominant shoulder.
PURPOSE: To determine whether GIRD and a deficit in total rotational motion (external rotation + internal rotation) compared with the nonthrowing shoulder correlate with shoulder injuries in professional baseball pitchers.
STUDY DESIGN: Case series; Level of evidence, 4.
METHODS: Over 3 competitive seasons (2005 to 2007), passive range of motion measurements were evaluated on the dominant and nondominant shoulders for 170 pitcher-seasons. This included 122 professional pitchers during the 3 seasons of data collection, in which some pitchers were measured during multiple seasons. Ranges of motion were measured with a bubble goniometer during the preseason, by the same examiner each year. External and internal rotation of the glenohumeral joint was assessed with the participant supine and the arm abducted 90° in the plane of the scapula, with the scapula stabilized anteriorly at the coracoid process. The reproducibility of the test methods had an intraclass correlation coefficient of .81. Days in which the player was unable to participate because of injury or surgery were recorded during the season by the medical staff of the team and defined as an injury.
RESULTS: Pitchers with GIRD (n = 40) were nearly twice as likely to be injured as those without but without statistical significance (P = .17). Pitchers with total rotational motion deficit greater than 5° had a higher rate of injury. Minor league pitchers were more likely than major league pitchers to be injured. However, when players were injured, major league pitchers missed a significantly greater number of games than minor league pitchers.
CONCLUSION: Compared with pitchers without GIRD, pitchers with GIRD appear to be at a higher risk for injury and shoulder surgery.
Am J Sports Med. 2010 Dec;38(12):2487-93. Epub 2010 Aug 31.
Passive ranges of motion of the hips and their relationship with pitching biomechanics and ball velocity in professional baseball pitchers.
Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
BACKGROUND: Pelvis and trunk motions during baseball pitching are associated with ball velocity. Thus, limits in hip flexibility may adversely affect pitching biomechanics and the ability to generate ball velocity.
HYPOTHESES: Professional baseball pitchers will have less passive range of motion in the nondominant hip and the measured ranges of motion of both the nondominant and dominant hips will correlate with biomechanical parameters of the lower extremity among professional pitchers.
STUDY DESIGN: Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3.
METHODS: Nineteen healthy professional baseball pitchers volunteered for testing. Fluid goniometry was used to measure passive range of motion of adduction (ADD), abduction (ABD), internal rotation, external rotation, total arc of rotation, and total arc of ADD + ABD. Pitching biomechanical data were collected using an automated 3-dimensional motion analysis system while participants threw fastballs.
RESULTS: Pitchers possessed significantly less passive range of motion in the nondominant hip when compared with the dominant hip for all ranges. Total arc of rotation of the nondominant hip correlated with ball velocity (r = .50). Total arc of ADD + ABD in the nondominant hip and ABD in the nondominant hip were correlated with stride length (r = -.72 and .70, respectively). Dominant hip ABD (r = .63), total arc of rotation in the nondominant hip (r = -.45), and total arc of ADD + ABD of the dominant hip (r = .44) were correlated with trunk separation. Total arc of ADD + ABD of the nondominant hip (r = -.52) and total arc of rotation of the dominant hip (r = -.44) were correlated with pelvic orientation.
CONCLUSION: Passive range of motion is smaller in the nondominant hip than the dominant hip among professional pitchers. The measured disparity between the hips is significantly correlated with various pitching biomechanical parameters of the trunk and pelvis. Future research is required to investigate a causal relationship between less hip passive range of motion and both ball velocity and pitching biomechanics.
Am J Sports Med. 2011 Feb;39(2):253-7. Epub 2010 Nov 23.
Risk of serious injury for young baseball pitchers: a 10-year prospective study.
Glenn S. Fleisig, American Sports Medicine Institute, 833 St Vincent's Drive, Suite 100, Birmingham, AL 35205.
BACKGROUND: The risk of elbow or shoulder injury for young baseball pitchers is unknown.
Purpose/HYPOTHESIS: The purpose of this study was to quantify the cumulative incidence of throwing injuries in young baseball pitchers who were followed for 10 years. Three hypotheses were tested: Increased amount of pitching, throwing curveballs at a young age, and concomitantly playing catcher increase a young pitcher's risk of injury.
STUDY DESIGN: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.
METHODS: In sum, 481 youth pitchers (aged 9 to 14 years) were enrolled in a 10-year follow-up study. Participants were interviewed annually. Injury was defined as elbow surgery, shoulder surgery, or retirement due to throwing injury. Fisher exact test compared the risk of injury between participants who pitched at least 4 years during the study and those who pitched less. Fisher exact tests were used to investigate risks of injury for pitching more than 100 innings in at least 1 calendar year, starting curveballs before age 13 years, and playing catcher for at least 3 years.
RESULTS: The cumulative incidence of injury was 5.0%. Participants who pitched more than 100 innings in a year were 3.5 times more likely to be injured (95% confidence interval = 1.16 to 10.44). Pitchers who concomitantly played catcher seemed to be injured more frequently, but this trend was not significant with the study sample size.
CONCLUSION: Pitching more than 100 innings in a year significantly increases risk of injury. Playing catcher appears to increase a pitcher's risk of injury, although this trend is not significant. The study was unable to demonstrate that curveballs before age 13 years increase risk of injury.
CLINICAL RELEVANCE: The risk of a youth pitcher sustaining a serious throwing injury within 10 years is 5%. Limiting the number of innings pitched per year may reduce the risk of injury. Young baseball pitchers are encouraged to play other positions as well but might avoid playing catcher.
Written on August 29, 2010 at 11:45 am, by Eric Cressey
Since a lot of folks reading this blog know me as “the baseball guy,” I got quite a few email questions about the elbow injury Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg experienced the other day.  Likewise, it was the talk of Cressey Performance last Friday – and got tremendous attention in the media.  Everyone wants to know: how could this have been prevented?
On Thursday’s edition of Baseball Tonight, my buddy Curt Schilling made some excellent points about Strasburg’s delivery that likely contributed to the injury over time.  Chris O’Leary has also written some great stuff about the Inverted W, which is pretty easily visualized in his delivery.
The point I want to make, though, is that an injury like this can never, ever, ever, ever be pinned on one factor.  We have seen guys with “terrible mechanics” (I put that in quotes because I don’t think there is such a thing as “perfect mechanics”) pitch pain-free for their entire careers.  Likewise, we’ve seen guys with perfect mechanics break down.  We’ve seen guys with great bodies bite the big one while some guys with terrible bodies thrive.
The point is that while we are always going to strive to clean things up – physically, mechanically, psychologically, and in terms of managing stress throughout the competitive year – there is always going to be some happenstance in sports at a high level.  As former Blue Jays general manager JP Ricciardi told me last week when we chatted at length, “you’ve only got so many bullets in your arm.”
Strasburg used up a lot of those bullets before he ever got drafted, so it’s hard to fault the Nationals at all on this front.  In fact, from this ESPN article that was published when the team thought it was a strain of the common flexor tendon and not an ulnar collateral ligament injury (requiring Tommy John surgery), “Strasburg has told the team he had a similar problem in college at San Diego State and pitched through it.”  It’s safe to assume that the Nationals rule out a partial UCL tear in their pre-draft MRIs, but you have to consider what a common flexor tendon injury really means.
As I wrote in in my “Understanding Elbow Pain” series (of interest: Anatomy, Pathology, Throwing Injuries, and Protecting Pitchers) the muscles that combine to form the common flexor tendon are the primary restraints – in addition to the ulnar collateral ligament – to valgus stress.  If they are weak, overused, injured, dense, fibrotic, or whatever else, more of that stress is going on that UCL – particularly if an athlete is throwing with mechanics that may increase that valgus stress (the Inverted W I noted above) – the party is going to end eventually.  Is it any surprise that this acute injury occurred just a few weeks after Strasburg dealt with a shoulder issue that put him on the disabled list for two weeks?  The body is a tremendously intricate system of checks and balances, and it bit him in the butt.
There are other factors, though.  As a great study from Olsen et al. showed, young pitchers who require surgery “significantly more months per year, games per year, innings per game, pitches per game, pitches per year, and warm-up pitches before a game. These pitchers were more frequently starting pitchers, pitched in more showcases, pitched with higher velocity, and pitched more often with arm pain and fatigue. They also used anti-inflammatory drugs and ice more frequently to prevent an injury.”  And, they were also taller and heavier.
Go back through the last 12-15 years of Stephen Strasburg’s life and consider just how many times he’s ramped up for spring ball, summer ball, fall ball, and showcases – only so that he can shut down for a week, just to ramp right back up again to try to impress someone else.  Think of how many radar guns he’s had to pitch in front of constantly for the past 5-7 years – because velocity is all that matters, right?
Stephen Strasburg’s injury wasn’t caused by a single factor; it was a product of many.  And, it can’t be pinned on Strasburg himself, any of his coaches or trainers, or any of the scouts that watched him. Blame it in the system that is baseball in America today.
We already knew that this system was a disaster, though.  Yet, people still keep letting their kids go to showcases in December.  Heck, arguably the biggest underclassmen prospect event of the year – the World Wood Bat Tournament in Jupiter, FL – takes places at the end of October.  When they should be resting, playing another sport, or preparing their bodies in the weight room, the absolute best prospects in the country are pitching with dead, unprepared arms just because it’s a convenient time for scouts and coaches to recruit – because the season is over.
They’re wasting their bullets.
Now, I’m not saying that Strasburg’s injury could have been avoided in a different system – but I’d be very willing to bet that it could have been pushed much further back – potentially long enough to allow him to get through a career.  An argument to my point would be that if it wasn’t for all these exposures, he wouldn’t have developed – but my contention to that fact was that it is well documented that Strasburg “blew up” from a good to an extraordinary pitcher with increased throwing velocity when he made a dedicated effort to getting fit when he arrived at college.
My hope is that young pitchers will learn from this example and appreciate that taking care of one’s body is just as important as showing off one’s talent.
Fall Ball at University of Virginia 
Staff article taken from: contacted pitching coaches from around the country to give us their input on what types of things they do during fall ball, and what impact it can have on shaping their pitching staff.  We sent each of these pitching coaches an eight question interview for them to answer.  Throughout the month of September, these pitching coaches will answer our series of questions about “Fall Ball”. Part Three of this series will be presented by Virginia Pitching Coach Karl Kuhn. Coach Kuhn is in his eighth season as pitching coach for the Cavaliers. Prior to that he spent seven seasons at Arkansas-Little Rock. 1. How many appearances and innings do you typically like for your pitchers to get in the fall season?

I try to balance  this out with what we feel is necessary for their each individual situation and development.  There are 3 categories of pitchers that come into any program each fall.   The veterans that did pitch over the summer,  the veterans that did not pitch over the summer and the freshman.  Every pitching coach is looking to somewhat define roles,  maybe not totally in the fall but at least try to forecast a little what each guy can and could possibly do for their club.  For the veterans that did pitch over the summer I try to throw them once a week regardless if they are a reliever or a starter.   They have gotten their work in over the summer and now they are trying to show their teammates and coaches how they have improved and will compete.   The veterans that did not pitch over the summer started on a throwing program for me on August 1st and it got  them progressively ready for the start of our individuals that we started in the first week of school.  The last group,  the rookies, this is a little more complicated.  I really try to find out how many innings they threw over the summer and for their HS team during their season and then make my calculations on their workload from that.  Freshman go through a big adjustment with all that a college baseball program , some of them lifting weights for the first time and the new academics demand.  I am more inclined to keep the freshman's pitch counts down and try to get them out there as many times as possible with us as a coaching staff creating situations for them to gain experience. 

2. Which one or two statistics do you emphasize the most with your staff as the fall scrimmages progress?

Probably not much different here than most programs but if you had to ask me just for two I would say strikes and walks.  We really try to stress to our staff, especially our young freshman to get contact and then to not give anything away.  This is probably the biggest adjustment for freshman in my opinion.  They are used to being the best and basically whether it is conscious or subconscious, go for strikeouts a lot.  They inherently do not like to get hit.    We try to teach them to get hit and that location and selection of pitch will take care of the quality of contact by the hitter.  Those two things are what we chart the most I would say for sure.  Strikes and Walks

3. Do you ask your pitchers to use certain pitch sequences in scrimmages or do you have them just pitch straight up?

No, we do not.  We pitch straight up and then we evaluate our strike % for each of the pitches and then go to work for the next outing with the information that we have from the last outing. 

4. Taking all things into account (throwing, lifting, conditioning…) take us through a week in the fall for one of your pitchers

Starting on Day1.  That would inherently be the lift day.  I think that you should start off of the lift day as throwing schedules will all vary but the constant is that all pitchers lift.  We will lift twice a week in the fall.  One day Heavy and one day light.  If we are going to experiment or it is a veteran that we know  is going to be a reliever, than we will go with two light lifts and one heavy in a 9 to 10 day span.  This is just to make sure that we can get them back out on the mound and compete and not wear them down too much with the lift.  Day 2 .  We will do Two sets of 15 towels and Toss to tolerance of the pitcher.  That can be any distance but we do it until the pitcher starts to tire out and as many sets of 15 throws that he can handle to tolerance.  Aerobic Work  30 min at least.  Day 3 probably our first day of skill work.  It could be a pitch,  a motion or a mechanical session that we will target. Sprint work and Body work  Day 4 Skill work again but probably progress into a Flat ground session to see our work progress.  Sprint work and Body work again  Day 5   Sprint work and the light lift.    Day 6  A short and light Flat ground session to get ready for the game tomorrow.  Day 7   Compete / Intra squad or Game

5. What is the one thing you see that most freshman struggle with during the first few weeks of fall ball?

I see most freshman struggle just with the pace of college baseball and how the game is just faster and the practices are more intense.   They will all catch on eventually but the ones that can really slow it down for themselves are the ones that take off and can help your team the quickest.  

6. How much time do you spend on mechanics during the fall season with in-coming freshmen?

We have about 3 weeks of individual work before we start up team practice here at the university of Virginia.  I love those 3 weeks  the most.   We can really spend some quality time with our young guys on the onset and either iron some mechanical stuff out with them individually and or begin to put in our pitching system with our pitchers and catchers.  I really believe that there are two types of pitchers when it comes to mechanics.  Ones that really want to dive in and learn as they haven't had much teaching or the ones that are going to have to fail first before you help them.  I can say that I like to think of myself as a proactive coach and try to spend the time with all the new guys on the onset and explain to them ,   show them pictures and video as to what it is that they are doing and how we would like to help them tweak some things.  Keep in mind, there is only so much that you can really accomplish in 3 weeks.  Then after the fall practice season is over,  we go back into individuals again and that is probably where the multitude of change occurs as they have now had results that we can go  back to and try to learn from.  

7. What affect positive or negative do you think lifting has on the freshman pitchers during fall ball?

I think that the sooner that you can get a freshman's body to begin to adapt the better.   Our body has a great capacity for adaptation,  we just have to convince our minds of the change.  However,  I don't think that the lifting as a whole is at all negative.  The type of lifting ,  the timing of the lifting in the throwing schedule and the weights that are being used are the critical components in my opinion.  We do not lift our pitchers on the same day as the rest of our team just because it is a team lift day.  If we are playing a game tomorrow  and our team lift  is scheduled for today, it does the pitchers that are throwing tomorrow no good to lift heavy the day before.  Especially an under developed Freshman.  Our strength staff will  also take  those first 3 weeks of the fall and do some individual work with our freshman in the weight room and go over the proper mechanics and techniques with all the lifts that we ask of our athletes.  The only negative that we have encountered is the soreness on the onset until their bodies get used to it.  But again we really adhere to the throwing schedule  as when we lift. 
Keeping Score
Studies Show That the Curveball Isn’t Too Stressful for Young Arms
Juan Arredondo for The New York TimesA youth game in Summit, N.J. New research about youth pitching injuries puts some sports medicine experts in an awkward spot.
Published: July 25, 2009
For almost as long as children have been throwing baseballs, adults have been telling them about the worst thing they could do to their still-developing arms: throw curves.  The warnings go back to the earliest days of sports medicine, orthopedic surgeons say, at least to the 1950s. In the 1970s, Robert Kerlan, the eminent surgeon who cared for Sandy Koufax, condemned curveballs as murderous on the elbows of professional pitchers, “to say nothing of the young athletes whose bones and joints are still growing.” That remains the mantra of many sports medicine experts. The orthopedic surgeon James Andrews, who performs more than 100 Tommy John ligament-transplant operations most years, cautions that children should not even think about throwing curves until they are 14. Are those doctors all alarmists? Maybe so, according to two studies in which scientists and surgeons evaluated more closely than before the effects of curves on young arms. The studies were done independently by research teams in Connecticut and in Alabama. Each compared the forces across the elbows of pitchers as they fired fastballs and curves. (The Alabama study also included changeups). Each study concluded that curves are less stressful than fastballs and, based on the data collected, contributed little, if at all, to throwing injuries in youth players. “I don’t think throwing curveballs at any age is the factor that is going to lead to an injury,” said Glenn Fleisig, the chairman of research at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Ala. Carl Nissen, the principal author of the other curveball study and an orthopedic surgeon at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Farmington, echoed that. “I can comfortably stand up and say the curveball is not the problem,” he said. The curveball research has not ended the debate. If anything, it seems to have intensified it. One of the reasons is that the findings come from reputable sources and in particular from the A.S.M.I., whose president and founder is Andrews.Over the years, the institute has produced research studies on all manner of sports movement, from biomechanical comparison of female and male baseball pitchers to an analysis of the swings of professional and amateur golfers. In 2006, Fleisig and Andrews published a study on the effects of curveballs on college pitchers: curves were less stressful on the elbow than fastballs. Intrigued, the research team repeated the study using youth pitchers as their subjects. They posted notices on youth baseball Web sites seeking players in the Birmingham area for a curveball study. Even that proved somewhat controversial. “We had a few complaints from coaches saying, ‘How dare A.S.M.I. promote and endorse the curveball,’ ” Fleisig said.In all, the institute’s study looked at 29 youth pitchers from ages 9 to 14. All were told to throw their curves — fastballs and changeups, too — as if they were in a real game. The results, published last year in the American Journal of Sports Medicine — Nissen’s study has been accepted for publication in the same journal — were similar to those that Fleisig had found with the college pitchers: Curves were less stressful than fastballs; nothing linked curves to elbow injuries. Why for so many decades have most doctors and youth coaches believed otherwise? Fleisig said the evidence had been based largely on anecdotes, and that over the years those stories simply began to sound like fact. “Why did people believe the world was flat? Because one guy told another it was flat and it looked flat. Until someone discovered that it wasn’t,” he said. The new research has put some sports medicine experts in an awkward spot. Topping the list is Andrews, a surgeon sought out by dozens of injured professional athletes each year. In July, Andrews became the president of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, a position in which he is championing a national campaign to curb sports injuries in children. Andrews does not challenge A.S.M.I.’s study. But he is hardly trumpeting the findings. “It may do more harm than good — quote me on that,” Andrews said during an interview in his Birmingham clinic. He fears that parents and coaches may interpret the findings improperly, as a license to teach kids to throw too many curves or begin when they are too young. “There are still some unknown questions,” he said. Andrews cited several limitations of the study. The fact that it was conducted entirely in a lab also needed to be considered, he said. Under game conditions when youth pitchers are fatigued, Andrews suggested, curves could be dangerous. “I just operated on one kid this morning,” he said. “At age 12, he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in two. His travel ball coach called 30-something curveballs in a row. He became fatigued. Then he threw one that snapped his elbow.” Despite differences over curves, experts do agree on other risks to young pitchers. At the top of the list are unreasonably long seasons and pitchers throwing too many innings in individual games. One study of youth pitchers written by Fleisig and Andrews found youth players who pitched more than eight months a year increased their risk of an injury that led to surgery fivefold. Youth players who threw more than 80 pitches a game were four times more likely to need an arm operation than those who did not, according to the study. “I’m not saying, everyone throw the curveball,” Fleisig said. “I’m saying, if we’re going to prevent injuries, change the focus. We should be looking at overuse.”
And we wonder why kids are getting hurt!!!
You read, right, 189 pitches in this day and age where pitch counts are the range. Pitch counts are the big thing in the Major Leagues when pitchers are often pulled after reaching a certain number of pitches even if they are pitching masterpieces.
Haines hardly threw a masterpiece. He walked 10, hit four batters, struck out seven and allowed five hits. He allowed six runs in the first two innings.
When Penns Grove scored four runs in the top of the seventh to extend its lead to 15-8, coach Jim Halter had a chance to pull Haines. Narducci said that Halter had a pitcher warming up in the sixth inning, but that Haines talked Halter into not making a change. Narducci wrote that the rader gun behind home plate was clocking Haines at 86 miles per hour in the seventh. 
But, still Halter probably should have followed his first instinct. A coach’s first concern should be the safety of his players. When a pitcher is throwing this many pitches, the health of his arm is at risk for the long term.
National Federation pitching rules state the following:   (1) “A pitcher may not appear as a pitcher for three calendar days after having pitched six or more innings on any day” . (2) “A pitcher may not appear as a pitcher again for two calendar days after having pitched five innings on any day”. (3) A pitcher may not appear as a pitcher in more than a total of 10 innings during a four-day period’.' One pitch to a batter constitutes an inning. Pitchers can throw multiple times in one day as long as they do not throw more than 10 innings on that day.   
This rule was adopted by the National Federation about 20 years ago and was intended to make sure that coaches did not overuse pitchers.
The intent of the rule is good. I remember hearing stories that pitchers would throw a complete game and then pitch the next day. The rule prevents that. It prevents pitchers from throwing an enormous amount of innings on consecutive days and from wearing their arms out.
However, I also remember when the rule was instituted, coaches said that the number of pitches thrown should be used as more of a barometer than innings pitched. The coaches were absolutely right. Some pitchers can throw seven innings and throw 60-70 pitches and have minimal effect on their arms. That kid could possibly be able to pitch an inning or two, if needed two days later.
Haines will probably need a few days to recover from that outing. Who knows if throwing that many pitches will affect him in his next outing, or the rest of the season for that matter. No coach should let a pitcher, no matter who he is, throw 189 pitches in a game. The rule should probably have a clause in there about pitch counts. Pitch counts are more of a barometer of whether a game was taxing on a pitcher’s arm than innings pitched. One hundred eighty nine pitches is way too many pitches to throw in any game on any level.
Strasburg is on the all-time fastest track!!!!
It keeps showing up, 101 again and again, and as scouts peek at the number, they ask aloud what everyone else in the baseball world wonders: Will Stephen Strasburg someday throw a baseball harder than anyone has before?
Two men holding radar guns as well as his pitching coach said he has touched 103 mph this season. Only three others have done that, and all were major league relief pitchers, not juniors in college. Strasburg is a starter for San Diego State, and his velocity levels off in triple digits, something never seen, not from Nolan Ryan or Randy Johnson or any of the modern fireballers since the advent of the radar gun.
So it’s no surprise that Strasburg is dominating college like no pitcher ever has. He has 74 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings, meaning only 29 outs have come via batted ball. He fanned 23 batters in one game last year, and in seven outings with Team USA last summer, culminating with the Beijing Olympics, he struck out 62 in 41 innings.
And the stories about standing 60 feet away from Strasburg, apocryphal though they may seem, are more of the horror variety even if they sound comedic. His catcher, Erik Castro, tells of the time he thought a changeup was coming and Strasburg went fastball. Decapitation was barely averted.
The day after a recent outing – he had 15 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings against BYU on Friday – Strasburg leaned back in the dugout and marveled at the rapidity of his rise. How he went from an immature, overweight high school senior ignored by every major league team to the most coveted amateur player ever in three short years. How in another three months he’ll have super-agent Scott Boras negotiating on his behalf the largest contract ever given to a ballplayer out of the draft.
Executives believe the asking price for the Washington Nationals, who hold the first overall pick, will start at $15 million. It’s even been suggested that Boras could pull a fast one and attempt to destroy the draft slotting system by shooting for a deal that essentially would treat Strasburg as a front-of-the-rotation starter before he’s thrown a professional pitch.
Just like teams pay for home run power, they pony up huge money for power pitchers who can sniff 100 mph. Strasburg sits there, a red and black cap pulled low on his head, and when asked to contemplate the prospect of throwing a baseball faster than anyone in history, he can’t help himself. A smile begins to creep over his face.
Only then he shows he’s more than a hard thrower. He’s becoming a pitcher, so he delivers a curve.
“No,” he said, the smile suddenly gone. “I don’t think about that at all.”
How can’t he? The only pitch ever clocked faster than 103 mph was a 104.8 mph fastball by Detroit Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya on Oct. 10, 2006, in the American League Championship Series. Mark Wohlers and Matt Anderson are the only other pitchers known to have touched 103 mph on a radar gun, and each did it once.
If Strasburg knows anything about Zumaya, Wohlers or Anderson, he doesn’t let on. If he realizes that none of them accomplished much more than a record reading on a radar gun, he doesn’t say. Zumaya is out again with another injury in a never-ending string. Wohlers lost his control and flamed out quickly. Anderson, the first pick in the 1997 draft, lost his velocity and career to a bum shoulder.
No wonder talking about his fastball is uncomfortable for Strasburg. He knows pitching involves so much more. Besides, what on earth could possibly speak for itself more definitively than his crackling heater? Ambiguous it is not. If one day it becomes a pinnacle of human achievement, something noted by Guinness and baseball historians, the feat won’t have required anything more from him than a windup, a delivery and a follow-through. Words would be superfluous.
“The scary thing is he could develop a little more velocity in the next couple of years,” said a scout from a National League team. “He absolutely could be recognized as the fastest pitcher ever, at least since pitches have been clocked.
Check out the video!!!!
Any hitter bracing only for Strasburg’s fastball is set up for failure, however. His breaking pitch – a cross between a slider and curveball – is jelly to the fastball’s peanut butter. He often gets ahead in the count with the fastball then puts hitters away with the 86-mph hook.
“It’s got curveball action and slider velocity,” San Diego State pitching coach Rusty Filter said. “Stephen has an idea how to pitch. He’s not a thrower.”
Unlike almost everything else young and fast, Strasburg is rarely wild. In 210 innings of college and international competition since 2006, he’s walked only 45 batters while striking out 316. He’s a strike-throwing strikeout artist, the rarest of commodities.
“A challenge for him is to hit more bats and keep his pitch count down,” Filter said. “That should happen naturally as he moves on to pro ball.”
Strasburg wasn’t always in such fast company. He’d been at San Diego State all of a week in 2006 and he was doubled over in the corner of the dugout, heaving and vomiting after a routine conditioning workout.
Tony Gwynn, the Hall of Famer and the Aztecs’ coach, shook his head. The sorry spectacle confirmed everything he feared about the freshman pitcher. Filter had convinced Gwynn to give a scholarship to Strasburg, a local kid nobody else wanted.
One thought kept coming back to Gwynn: How can somebody who throws so hard be so soft?
Sure, Strasburg could throw 91 mph, but he was a good 30 pounds overweight. He couldn’t run a few laps without getting sick. He didn’t know how to bench press. The school’s conditioning coach nicknamed him “Slothburg” and told him he ought to quit on the spot.
Questions arose off the field as well. After five days living in a dormitory, Strasburg moved back with his mother, who had recently purchased a house near the campus to help care for Strasburg’s grandmother.
“I wasn’t the most mature guy out of high school, and moving to my mom’s gave me a place to sleep and relax,” Strasburg said. “The dorm was an overload, too much, too soon.” {PHOTO BEGINS}
Famed “Guitar Hero” victim Joel Zumaya leads a group of flame-throwing pitchers. Here’s an unofficial list of the hardest tosses.
(Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Fast company
Easily overwhelmed. That was becoming the label. During high school games he would melt down at the slightest provocation.
“I had a hard time handling anything that would go wrong, whether it was a call, a bad hop, an error, a guy hitting the ball hard,” he said. “I beat myself up. Anything negative would carry over. High school was the dark ages for me.”
Credit Filter with seeing a glimmer of light. Strasburg had a 4.37 grade-point average at nearby West Hills High, so he was a smart kid. He had a live arm despite his woeful conditioning. Filter convinced Gwynn that Strasburg had an upside, that he was worth a gamble.
“After two months on campus he went from 6-foot-3, 255, to 6-5, 225,” Gwynn said. “His was killing it in the weight room. His fastball went from 91 mph to 97. It happened that quick.”
The ascent hasn’t abated. Strasburg was a closer as a freshman, a starter as a sophomore and the only collegiate player on the U.S. Olympic team last summer. His fastball hit 100 mph for the first time last year, and now it exceeds that barrier in nearly every outing.
In a recent outing, Strasburg struck out the side in the first inning, then gave up two opposite-field singles on fastballs to begin the second. Time to adjust: He struck out the next three hitters, all with his breaking ball.
“It’s fun to watch a guy out there with that kind of stuff thinking his way through at-bats and having a plan,” Gwynn said. “You can see him figuring it out on the mound.”
No one ever doubted Strasburg’s brains. His GPA is close to 4.0, and even though he’s a junior, he’ll need only 12 units for a bachelor’s degree in public administration by summer because he accumulated so many Advanced Placement credits in high school.
Yet when it comes to numbers, the ones that measure his velocity and academic progress will pale in comparison to those representing the dollars he will ask from the major league team that drafts him.
The largest guaranteed contract for a draft pick was a $10.5 million, five-year deal the Chicago Cubs gave USC pitcher Mark Prior in 2001. First baseman Mark Teixeira – a Boras client – got a $9.5 million contract that same year. Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price, the first pick in 2007 out of Vanderbilt, signed a six-year, $11.5 million deal that included an $8.5 million guarantee. Sour economy notwithstanding, Boras will try to shatter those numbers.
The Nationals, with the first pick, have scouted Strasburg extensively. Acting general manager Mike Rizzo plays coy, suggesting that the Nationals could pick someone other than Strasburg, but the consensus among executives is that Washington has little choice but to cough up the exorbitant sum Boras will demand. The team lacks a drawing card. The Nationals were outbid for Teixeira during the offseason. Last year’s first-round pick, Aaron Crow, didn’t sign because of a squabble over a few hundred thousand dollars.
The Nationals have told San Diego State officials that their scouts have clocked Strasburg at 103 mph. Yet they won’t say so publicly, perhaps fearing the information will only inflate his price. Asked to confirm the 103 mph readout, a Nationals spokesman checked with top brass and replied via email, “We’re gonna take a pass on this one. Thanks for reaching out.”
If the Nationals don’t take Strasburg out of sheer Boras-phobia, the Seattle Mariners, who pick second, certainly will. The San Diego Padres draft third and they’ve already come to terms with having no shot at the hometown boy.
“There’s no guarantee drafting pitchers, but barring injury, he is as close to a surefire top-of-the-rotation starter as I’ve seen,” one scouting director said. “And that’s the hardest role to fill without going out and paying $100 million on the free-agent market.”
The leverage is with Strasburg. He could create more by holding out until moments before the Aug. 15 signing deadline or threatening to play in an independent league or returning to San Diego State, classic Boras tricks. For now, he’d rather just continue to rear back and fire.
“It’s tough to get it out of my head when people bring it up all the time, but it’ll take care of itself,” Strasburg said. “I’m going day to day and trying not to think about that stuff.”
Strasburg knows he’s the heat of the moment, that his velocity is on the minds of every batter he faces. Don’t get him wrong. He understands the allure of velocity, the bigger, better, faster, stronger ethos that runs professional sports. Knock 5 mph off his fastball and knock $5 million off his asking price.
Strasburg understands, too, that velocity alone will not lead to enshrinement in the Hall of Fame alongside his coach. The list of pitchers who have had fastballs recorded 102 mph or higher confirms that flamethrowing often equates to flaming out.
Only Randy Johnson and Justin Verlander are major league starters. There are eight relievers and 21-year-old left-hander Aroldis Chapman, who pitches for the Cuban national team and hit 100 mph in a World Baseball Classic loss to Japan. Chapman was clocked at 102 mph earlier this year.
Radar guns never caught Ryan faster than 100.9 mph. Walter Johnson and Bob Feller are considered the hardest throwers of the pre-gun era, and it’s impossible to quantify their fastest pitches. Feller once threw a pitch alongside a speeding motorcycle that was approximated at an impossible-to-verify 104 mph. The pitcher widely acknowledged to have thrown harder than anyone in modern baseball history, Steve Dalkowski, never made it to the big leagues because of wildness.
The hardest throwers pitch from a precipice. They are always one delivery away from a catastrophic injury, something tearing in their shoulder or elbow, a direct result of their singular prowess. Mark Prior, the last golden-armed, can’t-miss product from San Diego, hasn’t pitched in more than two years because of injuries.
If Strasburg thinks about any of that, it doesn’t show in his day-to-day routine. He loves golf and unwinds at night by putting into a glass in his bedroom. Although his diet has improved since high school, he devours fast-food chicken sandwiches. And he cracks the books more than a player soon to become an instant millionaire needs to.
Strasburg, it seems, wants to separate himself. Not just from every other college pitcher – he’s already done that. No, he wants something beyond the Zumaya, Wohlers and Anderson numbers. Something beyond their fate.
“When I came here I wanted to prove I wasn’t soft, that I was a bulldog,” he said. “Now I want to leave behind a tradition, that this school is somewhere a player can come to develop, and to win.
“I’ll have more to prove later. I understand that. Maybe if I keep the same approach and just pitch, just get batters out and not worry about the other stuff, I can keep doing this for a long time.”
Michael Inoa, 16yrs. old from Santo Domingo, D.R. signs record deal with Oakland!!!!
Baseball evolved Wednesday. The little guys, the teams that for so many years cried poor, won by spending money. And the recipients of that largess, 16-year-old boys from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, ones who grew up in the third world, are the forbearers for a striking change in the sport.
In recent years, the best players in Latin America have gravitated toward the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox and New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers, the teams that could afford to flash Costanza wallets loaded with cash. Baseball’s continued economic boom, amazing amid the country’s downturn, has infused so much money into the game that no longer is pricey amateur talent simply the domain of the big boys.
The Oakland A’s – low-revenue Oakland, immortalized in the book “Moneyball,” about winning with a scrimp-and-save payroll – signed a 16-year-old named Michel Inoa on Wednesday. Along with his $4.25 million bonus, Inoa got an Anglicized name, Michael, and a ticket to the Dominican Summer League, where he can add weight to his lithe 6-foot-7 frame, throw his 94-mph fastball, unleash his polished breaking ball and work on his changeup.
“Most 16-year-olds are in 10th grade,” said Chris Buckley, the Cincinnati Reds’ scouting director. “This guy compares very favorably to the top high school pitchers in this year’s draft. No. He’s probably more impressive.”
Disappointment tinged Buckley’s voice. He had visited the Dominican three times to watch Inoa pitch. Cincinnati – low-revenue Cincinnati, immortalized by former owner Marge Schott’s penny pinching, and only recently willing to loosen the purse strings under owner Bob Castellini – reportedly offered Inoa about $5 million. Inoa preferred Oakland’s track record of developing pitchers, and it didn’t hurt that A’s owner Lew Wolff and general manager Billy Beane commissioned a private plane to the Dominican for a meet and greet several weeks before the July 2 signing date.
The meeting convinced Oakland to shatter signing-bonus records for a Latino amateur not from Cuba. It’s been nearly a decade since the Yankees gave outfielder Wily Mo Peña a $2.44 million bonus and seven years since the Dodgers gave infielder Joel Guzman $2.25 million. The top bonuses each year since have vacillated between $1 million and $2 million.
So to see Inoa’s bonus, and the $2 million Cincinnati gave Dominican prospect Juan Duran in March, and the $5 million the San Diego Padres – low-revenue San Diego, consistently in the bottom third of major-league payroll – spent Wednesday to sign four Latin players and one Australian – well, it’s not just unprecedented. It turns on its head the way baseball has operated, and while there’s trepidation about bonuses spinning out of control, there’s more celebration that the Little Sisters of the Poor are throwing around money like Pacman Jones at the club.
“Large shifts always cause us some concern,” said Rob Manfred, baseball’s head labor lawyer. “But these are individual club decisions at the end of the day. The best we can do is educate people as to the relative risks and rewards and the various talent-acquisition modes. You have to get your talent somewhere.”
Today, Latin America is that place. It’s a continuous gold rush, because players are renewable resources. All 30 teams have a presence there for a good reason: nearly 30 percent of major-league players are Latino, and that number only figures to rise, so long as bargains can be had.
And, yes, Inoa at $4.25 million is a relative deal. Suppose he were born Michael Inoa, raised in California, scouted throughout his high school career, coveted ravenously and picked at the top of the MLB draft. Inoa would command a bonus far greater than the one he received from Oakland.
“Look how far this is from your ‘Moneyball’ theories a couple years ago,” Buckley said. “They were drafting all college pitchers. And now who’s the team that got the 16-year-old? Oakland.”
Buckley understands that it’s not so much a philosophy change by the A’s but a continuation of the lesson “Moneyball” taught: Oakland always tries to capitalize in efficient markets, and high-end Latino talent qualifies. One of Beane’s former lieutenants, San Diego assistant GM Paul DePodesta, called Wednesday “a monumental day for the Padres” on his blog. Buckley, months later, continues to celebrate the signing for the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Duran.
“We recognize how difficult it is to compete on major-league free agents dollar for dollar,” Buckley said. “We’re trying to level the playing field.”
Which, too, is the intent of MLB. The words competitive balance bring a twinkle to Commissioner Bud Selig’s eyes, and with it extending beyond the big-league clubhouses and into farm systems, baseball is pleased that so many teams are trying to build from the bottom up.
“We believe focusing on entry-level talent is the most efficient way to make yourself competitive,” Manfred said. “It’s the best competitive strategy, particularly for smaller-revenue clubs. We think that’s a very good thing.”
It shouldn’t stop, either. Even though San Diego ranks 18th in revenue, Cincinnati 21st and Oakland 24th, according to Forbes, each will continue perusing Latin America in hopes that the Yankees and Red Sox and Mets and Dodgers don’t start emptying their bank accounts.
“Tomorrow,” Buckley said, “we’ll start looking for some new (players).”
August should be a good test. A 15-year-old named Yorman Rodriguez, from Venezuela, celebrates his birthday that month. He’s supposed to be the next Miguel Cabrera. And two executives said they believe he has already agreed to a deal with Cincinnati. The Yankees keep pushing, though, sweetening their offer, doing anything to change the trend that could so affect them.
Evolution, ever slow, came on faster than they realized.
Risk Factors in Adolescent Baseball Pitchers
Olsen SJ, Fleisig GS, Dun S, Loftice J, Andrews JR. Risk factors for shoulder and elbow injuries in adolescent baseball pitchers. The American Journal of Sports Medicine 34:905-912, 2006.
Olsen et al. examined 95 adolescent pitchers who had shoulder and elbow surgery, and 45 adolescent pitchers who never had a significant pitching-related injury. The adolescent pitchers ranged anywhere from 14 to 20 years of age. The study compared their responses to a survey to determine risk factors associated with pitching injuries and surgery. When a pitcher regularly threw with arm fatigue, he was 36 times more likely to be in the surgery group as opposed to the non-surgery group. When a pitcher engaged in more than 8 months of competitive pitching during a year, he was 5 times more likely to be in the surgery group. When a pitcher threw more than 80 pitches in a game/appearance, he was 4 times more likely to be in the surgery group. When a pitcher self-reported that he threw more than 85 mph, he was 2.5 times more likely to be in the surgery group. There were no significant differences regarding private pitching instruction, coach's chief concern, pitcher's self-rating, exercise programs, stretching practices, relieving frequency, or age at which pitch types were first thrown. In conclusion, the factors with the strongest association with injury were overuse and fatigue.
February 24, 2008
Prospectus Q&A
Doug Thorburn
by David Laurila
Pitching is both an art and a science, and from youth leagues to the big leagues, so is the challenge of keeping pitchers healthy. The National Pitching Association (NPA) is on the cutting edge of research and instruction on all three fronts, and many of their concepts are shared in their forthcoming book, Arm Action, Arm Path, and the Perfect Pitch: a Science-Based Guide to Pitching Health and Performance. David talked to the NPA’s motion analysis coordinator and coach, Doug Thorburn.
Baseball Prospectus: The title of the new book includes the term "arm action." How do you define arm action?
Doug Thorburn: That is a question that I’ve asked many coaches and scouts, only to get several different answers. Some define arm action as everything that the arm does from the time the pitching hand separates from the glove to ball-release and follow-through, while others use it to describe a more specific piece of that sequence. You’ll hear other terms such as 'arm path' and 'arm circle,' and some use these terms interchangeably with arm action, while others consider them distinct. Personally, I like to use arm path to describe the route that the pitching hand takes from glove break to the start of upper-body rotation, and arm action to describe the overall arm speed as the pitcher incorporates the rotational elements of the delivery into ball release.
But these definitions are by no means standard across baseball, and I try to avoid these terms because they cause so much confusion. This is a big problem with much of the vocabulary for pitching mechanics, as there are so few definitions that are standard throughout the industry. Two coaches might agree that a pitcher has good arm action, but disagree on what that means. So it seemed an appropriate book title, given that we challenge conventional wisdom throughout the book, and much of that conventional wisdom is rooted in this misunderstood vocabulary. Meanwhile, terms like arm action have been passed down through generations of coaches, and like the conventional wisdom of pitching mechanics, they have survived largely because their interpretations were never challenged.
BP: The terms 'command' and 'control' are often used interchangeably. Should they be?
DT: Command and control are two more examples of pitching vocabulary that can cause confusion. At the NPA, we have unique definitions for each. Command is used to describe the ability to consistently execute a certain pitch type, or as a 'command pitch' that a pitcher can trust to locate whenever necessary. Most developing pitchers start without a command pitch, until they can consistently harness a fastball. But by the time a player reaches the majors, he usually needs to have command of three different pitches to keep hitters off balance. Control is what we use to describe a pitcher’s ability to locate a pitch at any given time, as stuff will vary throughout the season or during a game. A pitcher might have exceptional control of his curveball today, but when he is faced with a jam and runners on the corners, he might go to his command-pitch fastball that he knows he can locate low in the zone. Kevin Goldstein has offered other definitions of command and control, with control representing the ability to avoid walks, and command defined as locating pitches within the zone, and hitting specific targets. I think that Kevin’s definitions are outstanding, and like the NPA versions, they describe two unique aspects of pitch execution. Ideally, we can use Kevin’s definitions in conjunction with the NPA’s to better describe the ability to locate a baseball.
BP: At a recent SABR conference in Boston, Bill James questioned the impact longer games have on a starter’s innings and health, theorizing that it is harder to keep your arm warm for three hours than it is for two. Assuming the same pitch count, is there anything to that?
DT: I don’t know of any research in this particular area, but there could be something to it. We are currently studying several different elements involved with pitcher fatigue, including workloads, mechanical efficiency, functional strength, and stamina. The duration of games could contribute as well, but it’s difficult to study the issue until we have an objective measurement of fatigue. PAP (Pitcher Abuse Points) is a great start, but unfortunately the 100-pitch threshold that is inherent in the system is a bit misleading when applied with individual players, unless an adjustment is made to account for the pitcher’s particular fatigue rate. For example, the PAP barrier for Pedro Martinez might be 90 pitches, and Randy Johnson’s might be closer to 110.
Understanding the factors that lead to fatigue is crucial, as is the ability for a coach to identify when fatigue sets in for an individual pitcher. Fatigue affects different pitchers in different ways, but many will sacrifice their mechanics and timing as they get tired, and the associated risk of pitching while fatigued is at least somewhat dependent on how a pitcher responds mechanically when it sets in. The challenge is different for starting pitchers than for relievers, and until we have a definitive measurement of in-game fatigue, we will have to use educated guesses and previous patterns to establish those thresholds for individual pitchers.
Tools such as motion analysis can help the process, to establish mechanical baselines so that coaches and players can more accurately assess fatigue during the course of a game. Other tools such as PAP and even time-of-game measurements can add to the information we can use to establish fatigue thresholds. A manager can go into a game knowing that tonight’s starter typically goes 95-100 pitches before fatigue has an effect, that it sets in after an average of 140 minutes, and that this player tends to lose balance and posture as he gets tired. All of this information can go into the decision-making process of when to remove the starter for a reliever, and the costs and benefits associated with each side of the decision.
BP: It is often stated that throwing split-finger fastballs increases the likelihood of arm injury. Why?
DT: I haven’t come across any research that found a convincing link between a split-finger fastball and a specific arm injury, and I would put this in the category of unproven conventional wisdom. If the pitch is thrown properly, and with the correct frequency of 15-20 percent, there shouldn’t be an increased risk of injury beyond other types of pitches. Everything about a split-finger delivery is the same as a regular fastball, aside from the grip. The only difference is the physical split of the fingers, and it is true that players with small hands will feel pain in those fingers if they attempt to stretch too far, and get an extremely wide grip. A wide grip is not necessary to throw a split-finger, and what most kids try to find is actually a forkball grip. Forkballs are great if you’re Bob Welch or Jose Contreras, but not so great if your hands are still growing and can’t yet hold a baseball properly. During my playing days, I relied heavily on a split and eventually a forkball, as I couldn’t grip a changeup properly, and had not yet learned how to throw a breaking ball that didn’t hurt my elbow. I would spend hours with a forkball in my left hand, so that I could stretch out my fingers and grip the pitch easily. I never experienced any pain in my elbow from forkballs, and throwing the pitch felt the same as a fastball, but there were nights when my hand hurt from the stretching exercise.
To get around this, I have taught some young players to throw a 'pitchfork,' which is like a combination split-change, or a three-finger splitter. The name fits when the pitch is gripped correctly, with the index and ring fingers split to the sides of the baseball, and the middle finger gripped right over the top, bisecting the ball with the thumb. The pitchfork requires less stretching of the fingers, but allows the pitcher to grip the ball deep in his hand, and create a velocity drop with the same arm action and forearm angle as a fastball.
BP: So, you see no direct correlation between the pitch and increased injury risk?
DT: I am not an expert on how the finger spread impacts the connective tissue within the throwing arm, and would have to defer to our colleague Dr. Andrews for a proper opinion. Mechanically, we have not detected any injury risk factors that are associated with splitters, but the guys at the Andrews Institute or ASMI could definitely add to the discussion. The difficulty with injury prediction and prevention is similar to that for fatigue, as there are several confounding variables. Arm injuries are a product of mechanics, workloads, functional strength and flexibility, nutrition, genetics, and luck. You can have great mechanics and functional strength, like Mark Prior, and still get taken down by a Brad Hawpe line drive or a collision with Marcus Giles on the bases. Of course, Mark was also in the top four in baseball in PAP in 2003 and 2005, while still thick in the injury nexus, so he’s dealt with a combination of bad luck and heavy workload.
BP: When Tom House talked to BP in July 2006, he mentioned the importance of timing in a pitcher’s delivery. Can you elaborate on what he was referring to?
DT: Tom was referring to the amount of time that it takes for a pitcher to execute each individual phase in the kinetic chain of the pitching delivery, as well as the time for the entire pitch cycle from first movement to ball release. In my opinion, timing is the single most important aspect of the delivery, and teaching a pitcher to find his own ideal timing signature is the most critical phase in development. Each player has a unique personal timing, but all pitchers fall within a predictably narrow range, once they’ve achieved a strong level of mechanical efficiency.
Working with our colleagues at Titleist Golf, we have learned that the timing and sequencing for the kinetic chain of events is very similar between a golfer’s swing, a batter’s swing, and a pitcher’s delivery. The best pitchers of all time have been able to consistently repeat their deliveries, including timing, positioning, mechanics, and sequencing. In the book, we challenge the established convention of using a slide step from the stretch, and study how a forced change of timing can impact the effectiveness of pitches thrown with a slide step. There are numerous mechanical flaws that arise from improper timing, and the key to correcting those flaws is the recognition that timing is important, and the identification of the timing that produces the best delivery for each pitcher. The key to mechanical consistency is repetition of proper timing, and it's one thing that pitchers like Maddux and Smoltz do better than anyone else in baseball.
BP: From a motion analysis standpoint, how would you break down Felix Hernandez and Dontrelle Willis?
DT: Well, I would love to get those guys under the high-speed cameras, pitching at 1,000 frames per second; then I could really do a breakdown for you. But going from what I have seen with my 32 fps eyeballs, here’s a brief assessment of their deliveries:
On Hernandez, speaking of inconsistent timing, he is one of the first pitchers that came to mind when I answered the last question. In particular, he struggles with his timing from the stretch, though he is much better from the windup. He also has a pretty big posture change near release point on most of his pitches, particularly from the stretch. Those are the negatives, but there are pitches when he lines it up that look outstanding, with great balance, momentum, and stride, as well as excellent hip-shoulder separation (his greatest asset) and angular-trunk-rotation timing. He is explosive when he lines up all the pieces, but he needs to do that more often. In my opinion, he has a lot more in the tank, and with some refinement with his timing and his posture (possibly related to functional strength), he could really take a big step forward.
As for Willis, he provides one of my favorite examples of signature, and how genetics can play a role in mechanical efficiency. Dontrelle has had the extreme leg kick since he was in high school, and he depends on that leg kick to generate stride and momentum, and to create ideal timing for his personal signature. When the Marlins tried to change the leg kick, it had a disastrous effect on his timing, and he struggled to find rhythm for most of the season. The only issue I have is that he seems to lose balance momentarily as he brings the lift leg up to its maximum height, but he consistently regains that balance before he completes his stride. He could get going to the plate a bit sooner, but he efficiently directs his energy to the target once he gets moving, and finishes with a strong posture and glove position at release point, while releasing the ball close to home plate.
BP: How would you break down Tim Lincecum?
DT: Lincecum is a fascinating case, and he does a lot of things exceptionally well mechanically. He definitely has plenty of Koufax in him, both good and bad, but the pitcher I find myself comparing him to most often is Roy Oswalt. They are very similar with respect to mechanics, size, and stuff. I’m actually going to be breaking down individual players’ mechanics in a series of articles on our website, within the vein of the great work being done by , and Lincecum versus Oswalt will likely be one of the first examples. I’m going to break down strategic pairings of pitchers, either based on age, handedness, stuff, hype, stats, or mechanical trends, and then compare and contrast the pitching motions of those players. The breakdown of similarities between Lincecum and Oswalt is also covered in the book, as we address the conventional wisdom of "don’t rush."
BP: Michael Bowden, a top pitching prospect in the Red Sox organization, has a delivery that has been described as being long in back and short in front. What is your opinion of him, mechanically?
DT: Michael Bowden and I actually share a birthday, though my cake has seven extra candles every year. I have never seen Bowden pitch in person, and have only watched video from a single outing, so I can’t make a full assessment, but my first impressions were that he is a "stay back" pitcher, who is a bit slow to the plate until after maximum leg lift. His balance is strong for the first part of the delivery, but his head tends to trail behind his center of mass as he gets into foot strike, which could hinder his consistency at release point. He has a good, high leg kick, with some funk as he brings his lift leg down near the ground, and then bursts toward the plate with the foot just off the ground. The lift sequence looks a bit funky, but it works well for him, as it helps him get a good stride despite relatively low momentum. He lands with a closed stride, which some scouts hate to see, but he is able to properly time his upper body rotation, and doesn’t throw across his body. He has good delayed trunk rotation, including a bit of a hitch in his throwing shoulder that he uses for extra load, and to buy a split second of time. Like the leg kick, this is a good example of what I call 'functional funk,' which might look a bit weird to the eye, but actually helps him coordinate his delivery. This is an area where I often disagree with other scouts and coaches, because what they see as ugly, I see as something that can disrupt a hitter’s ability to pick up the baseball. Funk can work as an edge for deception, as long as it’s mechanically efficient. In the video I saw, Bowden had pretty good posture on his fastball at release point, but he got on top of some curveballs by sacrificing posture to get a higher release. It’s a common trend that is correctable through mechanical consistency and proper timing, and is likely the result of the overall emphasis on downward plane, particularly with breaking balls. Incidentally, downward plane and its effect on mechanics and batted balls is another conventional wisdom that is covered in the book. Bowden also has a pretty solid glove side, keeping the glove in front of the torso through ball release. I like his delivery overall, as he does a lot of things well, and has some room for improvement. Of course, even Nolan Ryan had room for improvement, so that is no slight to Michael.
BP: You said Bowden has "a pretty solid glove side, keeping the glove in front of the torso through ball release." Why is that important?
DT: Conventional wisdom also dictates how a pitcher should position his glove, as many coaches instruct a player to 'pull the glove to the hip' before ball release. At the NPA, we teach players a strategy that we call 'swivel and stabilize' which involves keeping the glove out in front of the torso through release point. In the book, we break down the motion analysis pitchers into two groups, based on glove position at release point, and compare the data for the 'pull glove to the hip' pitchers to those in the 'swivel and stabilize' group. We also look at pictures of six elite major league pitchers throughout the study of conventional wisdom, including the evaluation of glove position.
BP: You also said that some scouts hate to see a pitcher land with a closed stride. Why?
DT: When evaluating a pitcher, many coaches and scouts follow the conventional wisdom of 'stride straight at the plate,' as pitchers that land open or closed are often assumed to have other mechanical flaws that are associated. So we did some research, using motion analysis numbers and 3-D video, to test the mechanical implications of an open or closed stride. We use a sample of 33 pitchers, aged high school to professional, and look for correlations or trends in the data. We also take a look at elite major league pitchers, using photos provided by Getty Images. The NPA Model is rooted in the motion analysis of elite pitchers, and we have found that mechanical efficiency is strongly related to performance, and that the best pitchers of all time have consistently displayed many of the same mechanical advantages.
BP: Barry Zito and Tom Gordon have outstanding curveballs. What are the similarities and differences in how they deliver the pitch?
DT: Curveballs are a hot topic of debate, given the perceived injury risk associated with Little League players throwing curveballs at an early age. But there is more than one way to throw a breaking pitch, and the NPA method is different from what some coaches teach. At the NPA, we teach a 'karate chop' curveball, where the pitcher throws the ball with the palm facing the body as the throwing arm goes through internal rotation and release point. The alternate method is what many Little League coaches teach, which is to snap or twist the wrist for a curveball, just before release point. Some coaches call it "pulling down the shade," while my Little League coach said it was like "throwing a Pringles can, end over end." Unfortunately, I found out pretty quickly that twisting my wrist near ball release was really painful, specifically to my elbow. But since I joined the NPA, I have developed a decent karate chop curve, which has never resulted in elbow pain.
Barry Zito actually has two curveballs, and takes advantage of both the karate chop curve and the twister. But he is most famous for his huge looping curveball, which I call the 'grandfather clock,' since it's so much deeper in shape than your standard 12-to-6. The grandfather clock is a twist curveball, and twist curveballs typically leave the pitcher’s hand with a slight upward trajectory when compared to a fastball or karate chop curve, so many hitters can identify it right out of the pitcher’s hand. So a pitcher needs to have exceptional spin and depth on his twister, like on Barry’s grandfather clock, in order to be effective at the highest level. The karate chop curves typically look more like a fastball when they leave the pitcher’s hand, and are more likely to generate a swing-and-miss when buried in the dirt. Gordon appears to be a karate chop guy, but I would have to take a closer look at high quality video to be sure.
BP: You said that Zito throws two distinct curveballs, a karate chop and a twister. Which is more common, and how many pitchers utilize both?
DT: Zito is the only example that stands out as a player that uses both, and most pitchers that make it to the major league level use a karate chop curveball. But I would need high-speed motion analysis video of every major league pitcher to make a true count, as the twist occurs in about 0.01 seconds, just prior to ball release, and is difficult to see with our eyes. Roy Oswalt is a great example of a major league pitcher with an outstanding karate chop curveball, as he gets a steep downward break on his curve without the use of a twist. [Editor’s Note: Further information on the subject can be found on the NPA-produced DVD, Safe Curveballs.]
BP: Rich Harden, Francisco Liriano, and Ben Sheets have all spent time on the disabled list in recent years. To what extent do you feel their mechanics may have contributed to their injuries?
DT: Unfortunately, I cannot publicly go into the details of these three players’ injury histories or their possible association with mechanical trends. But injury analysis is also covered in the book, as we have found some particular mechanical inefficiencies that are potential precursors to injury, and an astute reader that is familiar with these players’ mechanics could put the pieces together. In the cases of Harden and Liriano, however, I will say that they have likely suffered from the injury cascade effect. As Will Carroll has noted, non-arm injuries can cause a pitcher to alter his mechanics in order to compensate and avoid pain, creating an immediate increase in further injury risk.
BP: If you did a motion analysis of every pitcher in a given organization, to what extent could you predict short- and long-term arm health?
DT: Again, pitching mechanics are just one element of the injury prediction equation, and the precursors that we have found are the result of some of the latest research. We continue to gather the data necessary to further verify the trends that we have come across, and to search for other potential precursors. From an organizational standpoint, motion analysis could be used to monitor the mechanics of every pitcher in the system as they develop, to help with the assessment of health and performance. This could be used to assess short-term injury risk by looking out for precursors, and perhaps setting up workload limits based on mechanical efficiency, so that pitchers with higher-risk deliveries are kept on a shorter leash until they improve. But the key would be to establish mechanical baselines and player signature, and then monitor that progress throughout the year, and from season to season. For pitchers in the low minors, that might mean two or three analyses per year, while the pitchers on the major league staff might benefit from an analysis per month.
I think the most practical and immediate application would be to find the baseline for individual major league pitchers, and anchor on the mechanics that produce the best results. Then, if a pitcher does go down with any kind of injury, the anchor would be treated as a goal line, and a pitcher wouldn’t be put back on the field until he had reached his established level of efficiency. This would help to greatly reduce the occurrence of cascade injuries, and to ensure that pitchers have reached full strength in their recovery before they toe the rubber. Meanwhile, teams can test their own methods of coaching and development by making the appropriate measurements for the players in their system, and compare the motion-analysis results to performance. In this way, each organization has the ability to use motion-analysis data to create their own model for pitching or hitting mechanics.
BP: One last question. A BP reader recently asked if James Shields' changing mechanics may be due to his regaining velocity and control post-surgerically. Can you address that?
DT: Well, it is likely that the causation arrow is pointing in the other direction, in that his regaining velocity and control post-surgery may be due to changing mechanics, and some of the mechanical alterations may have been necessary due to the surgery. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with the specific mechanical adjustments that he has made since 2002, but I did notice an improvement with his balance and posture in 2007 compared to 2006, which I believe helped with his effectiveness. In general, the easiest way for a pitcher to improve his stuff is to work hard on mechanical efficiency, as well as functional strength and flexibility. Mechanical efficiency can improve real (radar gun) velocity, perceived velocity, command, deception, and the available options for playing the chess match between hitter and pitcher. This is why I have a hard time with scouts that are quick to hand out ceilings and projection, because in most cases they underestimate the ability for a player to hone his skills and improve his talent level beyond raw tools. By definition, player development requires athletes to learn, and the learning curve in baseball is steeper than any other major sport, as evidenced by the minor league system. Learning ability is one of the strongest tools a ballplayer can have, and the motivation to improve through hard work is what separates success from failure for countless athletes. But they can only get so far without quality information and communication, which is where we come in.
Anyone know someone that tries to teach follow through?
It's a mechanical inevitability based on the precursory movements of the delivery.  You certainly wouldn't build a house by constructing the roof first! Outdated methods of teaching and these conventional wisdoms of those individuals not up to speed with the current technology and medical/scientific information remain a major reason for the ongoing struggle to keep pitchers healthy. Plain and simple what was thought to be the best way 30-40 years ago has been proven to be one of the greatest contributors of current arm injuries today!
Myth #5: Follow through is one of the most important mechanics of
Truth: Follow-through matters, but it can’t be forced. There are too
many young pitchers who force their follow through because they
don’t understand what is supposed to happen after the ball is released.
This causes their body to over-rotate. The important object here is to
control the head, front shoulder, and front hip. Keep those parts inline
and the whole lower half will generally allow the pitcher to throw
where he is looking. The finish of the pitch will come natural and can
be a step through, high back leg or whatever the player does naturally
and athletically to “finish” the pitch.
For pitchers, shoulder surgery cuts both ways
By Winslow Townson, AP
In what would be his final big-league appearance, the Red Sox's Curt Schilling leaves the field during Game 2 of the 2007 World Series. He had the biceps tenodesis procedure to repair his right shoulder in 2008 but retired in 2009 for reasons unrelated to the injury.
 -- Think you're hearing of more professional baseball players being diagnosed with injured labrums in their shoulders these days? Noted sports orthopedist James Andrews has, and he's concerned."It's markedly over-diagnosed, unfortunately," Andrews said, citing a recent study of asymptomatic shoulders in professional pitchers.About 50 pitchers with no symptoms were given MRIs and 84% of them showed labral injury, Andrews said. "So, it's a wear phenomenon that occurs commonly in asymptomatic throwers that don't hurt," he said. "That's one of the problems nowadays. People are doing MRIs earlier and earlier, the first time somebody has a little pain, and they read a labral tear. It may not even be the cause of their problems."He said older athletes encounter the condition normally. "It's just a normal aging problem in your shoulder with activity, period," he said. — Had Curt Schilling elected to complete the arduous rehabilitation, the procedure might one day have borne his name, like Tommy John surgery.The retired Schilling says he believes he could have returned to pitch effectively after being the first major league pitcher to undergo a controversial shoulder surgery in 2008."I would have been, at worst, a healthy version of my '07 self," said Schilling, 44, whose last big-league appearance was a victory for the Boston Red Sox in Game 2 of the 2007 World Series. Years ago, the elbow injury was the No. 1 career-ender for big-league pitchers, before Frank Jobe pioneered the ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction in 1974 on John, then a Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander.Today, the shoulder is the pitcher's most precarious joint, and two studies this year seek to provide answers about a procedure that proponents say could increase the success rate of surgery for labrum injuries known as SLAP tears (Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior).
In the procedure, the biceps tendon is cut away from the shoulder and attached with a screw to the humerus (upper arm) bone. It's known as a biceps tenodesis.
 How a new biceps procedure can repair a shoulderAnthony A. Romeo, of Midwest Orthopedics at Rush University Medical Center, said the biceps tendon is often a major cause of pain in rehabilitation after surgical repair of the superior labrum. The question is whether high-level pitchers need the tendon to perform effectively. Romeo and a team of researchers studied the shoulders of 16 cadavers to measure range of motion before and after the procedure, and concluded that removing the biceps tendon doesn't have an adverse effect on the stability of the joint.But noted sports orthopedist James Andrews urges more research before recommending the procedure."It's a hot topic. It has been a big debate at sports medicine meetings for the last couple of years," Andrews said. "We don't have enough experience in high-level pitchers to know."Studying the biceps tendon Andrews said his American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Ala., has initiated a project to study the function of the biceps tendon across the shoulder joint in athletic "throwers."The surgery is not terribly rare among the general population, but it's believed no major league pitcher has ever undergone it and attempted to come back. The first is likely to come from a volunteer like John — who knew he was at the end of his career if he didn't try Jobe's experiment.Schilling said he would highly recommend it under the right circumstances, but adds, "I think it's a last resort."Romeo, who performed surgery on Chicago White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy for an unrelated shoulder injury this summer, received a $50,000 grant from Major League Baseball to study the biomechanics and was visited by Commissioner Bud Selig for a presentation in the lab.Andrews said the rotator cuff "is still the granddad of the problems" in pitchers' shoulders, but surgeons aren't satisfied with the success rate on SLAP repairs."We're all trying to figure it out — how to fix the damn thing," Andrews said.Romeo said various studies put the success rate — returning to pre-injury levels of performance — between 33% and 66% for overhead-throwing athletes.Based on the findings of his study, Romeo believes tenodesis should be performed on pitchers who still encounter persistent pain in the biceps area after a surgical repair of a SLAP tear."We didn't prove that you should take out the biceps every time you have a SLAP lesion," he said. "I think the immediate clinical relevance is going to be if you fix the SLAP and it's not any better and we have this anterior (front) shoulder pain, we should (then) take the biceps out of there without worrying that you compromise … the potential" to return to form.Romeo said the study showed the tenodesis surgery "does not change the stability or biomechanics of the shoulder, and it is very likely to alleviate the pain." The procedure has been successful with football quarterbacks, tennis players and baseball pitchers on the high school and college levels, Romeo said. "We believe that the biceps tendon is not that critical for most throwing activities," like football, tennis or volleyball serves, he said. Baseball still doesn't have a test case with a high-level athlete.Andrews is more cautious, saying the medical community "is all over the board" as to the function of the biceps tendon in the shoulder. He and others believe it's a stabilizer of the shoulder, that patients might lose stability in the joint over time without it.Schilling: 'The pain was gone' Schilling, who was operated on by Craig Morgan of Philadelphia in June 2008, says he's confident his velocity would have returned, and he believes would have come back around the All-Star break of '08 had the Red Sox given him the go-ahead for the surgery in January. But he doesn't necessarily accept the theory the tendon has little purpose."I tend to believe everything in that shoulder is used for an exact purpose — the throwing mechanics, the motion, the forces. … Everything is there to weight and counterweight, to balance and counterbalance. I have a hard time believing that anchor muscle isn't something significant. But the pain was gone and, honestly, it was just a matter of getting used to a uniquely different feel."Adds Andrews: "It's there for a purpose — it's too intrinsically associated with the shoulder joint. … Until we know what the real function of it is, we're stabbing in the dark."Moreover, Andrews doesn't accept the comparisons with Tommy John surgery. In the elbow ligament reconstruction, in which a tendon is removed from the patient's wrist or hamstring and grafted into the elbow, "we're actually restoring anatomy. In this case (biceps tenodesis), you're deleting anatomy." Andrews removed Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre's biceps tendon before the 2009 season — without reattaching it to the bone — and Favre enjoyed one of his best years. But the surgeon said it was a different injury and a different part of the tendon that was hurt. And quarterbacks put less stress on their arms than pitchers throwing curveballs and sliders. (Favre this week complained of shoulder pain and suggested he may contact Andrews, but later downplayed it).Among Romeo's successes with lower level-pitchers is Mario DiCostanzo, who pitched for Hinsdale (Ill.) South High School. He was preparing to try out for the team at Valparaiso University when he suffered a torn labrum and underwent the biceps tenodesis. While he decided against trying out again, he pitched in an amateur league in the Chicago area with no problems."I was able to throw the ball the same as I did back in high school. My velocity is about the same. My movement is about the same," said DiCostanzo, who said he topped out at about 80 mph in high school. Schilling says Morgan, who also repaired his shoulder in 1995, "is a decade ahead of everybody in the baseball world" and that the medical community in MLB "is a closed group." The pitcher and doctor wanted to do the tenodesis in January 2008, but the Red Sox prescribed rest and rehabilitation. When he continued to have pain in the rehab, Schilling had the surgery in June. He had started to throw again when he decided to retire in March 2009 for reasons unrelated to the injury.He said his pain was "absolutely" gone and he doesn't question that the shoulder strength would have returned. "I was throwing hard enough to know that I had a lot more," said Schilling, who was training with Eric Cressey in Hudson, Mass.Does he think the procedure could work for a major league pitcher?"I don't doubt it for a second," Schilling said. "It's far less risky than it's going to be presented as, if you go to the right surgeon."
Taking the Mound, Pitch by PitchTaking the Mound, Pitch by Pitch May 2007
Pitchers are constantly faced with strategic choices. With every pitch, the pitcher has to decide what pitch to throw and where in the strike zone to throw it. With the ability to throw multiple pitches and knowledge of the pitch percentages, a pitcher can maximize his effectiveness on the mound. For any pitcher to have a complete set of choices he must have command of three pitches: a fastball, a breaking ball (curve/slider), and a change-up/splitter. And he must be able to ‘locate' each of these pitches in four different locations: low-inside, high-inside, low-outside, high-outside. Three pitches and four locations add up to 12 different possibilities from the mound. The best hitters in baseball are successful only a third of the time. When the pitcher has command, that is, when the pitcher is able to 'get ahead' in the count and 'hit his spot' with his pitch, the pitcher will win more than 80% of the time.
So, what is the most important pitch? The most important pitch is: the next pitch! All great pitchers have learned to pitch one pitch at a time. Strategy happens between pitches and constantly changes with each new count. During a pitch, the target is all the pitcher thinks about or sees.
In picking a strategy, the pitcher has to decide the type of pitch and the location of the pitch. He will have to consider the abilities of the batter and the count. For the purposes of this discussion, we will assume that we don't have information about the batter and will think mainly about the type of pitch, the location and the count. Pitchers learn early in their careers that it is better to stay ahead of the batter in the count. Most pitchers think that the throwing a first-pitch strike is the most important pitch in baseball. Certainly, it is important to get ahead of the batter quickly. However, the first pitch strike may not be the most important pitch. Let's take a look at some of the rules that should guide pitching strategy. ·  The most important pitch is the 1-1 pitch. Throw a ball on the next pitch and statistically batters will bat over 300. Throw a strike on the next pitch and batters will hit only less than 200. This is the pitch that changes the batter chances most significantly. ·  Never throw a curve ball unless you are ahead in the count. The only counts in which to throw a curve all are 0-2 and 1-2. Make the batter hit the ball. ·  When behind in the count, throw the pitch that you can command the best to a good location. Make the batter hit the ball. ·  Throw a change up any time a fastball is in order. ·  Don't waste pitches. Get ahead and finish the batter off. There is nothing worse than getting the batter in a hole and then letting him out. The more pitches he sees the better chance he has of reaching base. ·  Any pitch you throw at 2-2, you should be prepared to throw at 3-2. ·  When the batter is ahead of the ball, keep the ball away. When he is behind the ball, bust him inside.
·  Every pitcher must learn to throw 'in'. No pitcher can afford to give the batter half of the plate all the time. ·  If the batter is hitting your fastball, slow down. Trying to throw harder usually results in the ball being hit harder. It is hard for hitters, especially young hitters to hit the curve ball. Don't fall in love with the breaking ball too early though. Not only is it harder on the arm but few pitchers can be successful long term relying primarily on the breaking ball. The most successful pitchers throw:
·  Fastballs 60 - 65% of the time
·  Curveballs 20 - 25% of the time
·  Change-ups 15-20% of the time The old adage that Babe Ruth is dead seems like good advice. Throwing strikes is the key to becoming a good pitcher at every level. The best pitchers can throw three pitches to four locations for strikes. Using the right strategy can help a pitcher win even when he doesn't have his best stuff. Get ahead, stay ahead, be aggressive, don't waste pitches, throw the high percentage pitch even if the batter thinks its coming. And if you can throw a first pitch strike, get the lead-off batter out in every inning and retire the side without any runs after your team has scored, your pitching staff will win more than two-thirds of their games.
Obviously winning two thirds of the games will make any team a force to be reckoned with. And while that may be a lofty goal, knowing how to utilize strategy on the mound will increase your chances of getting closer and closer to that goal. Good luck!
Epidemic of Elbow Injuries in High School Baseball Pitchers Requiring UCL Reconstruction (“Tommy John Surgery”)
1. Petty DH, Andrews JR, Fleisig GS, Cain EL.  Ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction in high school baseball players: clinical results and injury risk factors. The American Journal of Sports Medicine 32(5):1158-1164, 2004.
2. Fleisig GS, Kingsley DS, Loftice JW, Dinnen K, Ranganathan R, Dun S, Escamilla RF, Andrews JR.  Kinetic comparison among the fastball, curveball, change-up, and slider in collegiate baseball pitchers. The American Journal of Sports Medicine 34(3):423-430, 2006.
In recent years, there has been an epidemic of elbow injuries in baseball pitchers requiring UCL reconstruction (“Tommy John Surgery”). For example, Dr. James R. Andrews performed Tommy John surgery on 164 baseball pitchers (81 professional, 63 collegiate, 19 youth & high school, and 1 recreational) between 1996 and 1999, on 446 baseball pitchers (151 professional, 207 collegiate, 86 youth & high school, and 2 recreational) between 2000 and 2003, and on 588 baseball pitchers (133 professional, 307 collegiate, 146 youth & high school, and 2 recreational) between 2004 and 2007. Comparing these consecutive four-year periods, the total number of surgeries continues to rise.  Most notably, the number and percentage of patients at the youth & high school level has gone up most dramatically. It is impossible to speculate what part of these dramatically increased numbers are due to an epidemic of increased number of injuries versus other factors, such as improved ability to identify injuries and improved recognition of our senior author’s expertise in this field. Regardless, elbow injuries requiring UCL reconstruction due to baseball pitching are clearly a growing problem at all levels, and particularly at the high school level.
Coaching Tips
Generally speaking, a pitcher has their own signature.  Just like that of a golfer's swing a pitcher's timing is unique to himself.  Most coaches will instruct a young pitcher to slow down when things seem to be falling apart on the mound.  However, fewer mistakes are made when there is a smaller timeline involved when performing a physical activity.  Simply put, speed them up.  Get them going toward their targets in a straight line as quickly as they can.  It also takes less functional strength if a task is performed quicker rather than slower!
Coaches, have fun, be a role model, and try to be as positive as you can, there are already too many negatives in our sport!
It's that time of the year again, Little League All-Star Tournaments.  With great anticipation also brings enormous concerns.  Unfortunately when coaches see that hitters, even all-stars, can't hit breaking pitches, they will call for more and more.  Parents and coaches, please limit your pitchers to a ratio of 2:10 (curveballs to fastballs).  That is of course, if they are physically strong and mature enough to throw one correctly.  If you don't need it, guess what!?!?, don't throw it.  Save it, when needed for the top third of the lineup.  Learn a changeup, practice throwing it daily, and use it in a game!!! 
Having the pleasure and torture of growing up playing baseball in Toms River I have had both ends of the spectrum when it comes to experiences on and off the field!  I have also seen some amazing coaches and some that don't necessarily fit the bill.  I had the pleasure of directing my own camp at TR East Little League in 1995 and seeing some of my campers go on to the Little League World Series, not once but 3 times, including a World Series title in 1998.  Conversely, I have spent numerous hours watching coaches and parents berate, ridicule, and verbally punish kids for failing on the baseball field.  One of my favorite things to tell players while training is, "tell me of another profession where you can fail 70% of the time and be considered one of the greatest of what you do?"  So coaches and parents, please keep this in mind when trying to deal with kids.....Baseball is a negative sport, it is more the norm to have a negative result than positive.  Accept that, don't add to it.  It's hard at times because we all root for our players to do well, and instinctively we want to help.  Just be careful about the words you choose and the tone you take.  Instead of "don'ts" use "do" words.  How many times have you heard a coach tell a pitcher, "Don't walk this guy" or "Just throw strikes?"  Well, duh!!! Do you really think your pitcher is trying to???  Give all players affirmations and encourage as much as possible.  Dare to be different, be a positive in a game of negatives!!
Website Builder provided by  Vistaprint