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The big question when it comes to pitching and pitching mechanics comes in a number of forms...
Study the similarities and differences between pitchers like Nolan Ryan, Mariano Rivera, and Justin Verlander who were dominant and durable and pitchers like Mark Prior and Matt Harvey who weren't.
As a result of that (on-going) study, I have discovered how dominant and durable pitchers create velocity in ways that are efficient and that don't put pitchers at an excess risk of injury.
Ways that are increasingly being coached out of modern pitchers and that are driving the epidemic.
Dominant & Durable
Nolan Ryan threw harder than Mark Prior.
Nolan Ryan was also far more durable.
The conventional wisdom assumes that Nolan Ryan was simply a genetic freak and has nothing to teach us about proper pitching mechanics.
However, like many assumptions, I'm not convinced that one is correct, and questioning assumptions is what Dominant & Durable is all about.
When I compare the pitching mechanics of Nolan Ryan and Mark Prior, I see subtle, but in my experience important, differences in how they moved.
Nolan Ryan and Mark Prior
When I include Tom Seaver, Mariano Rivera and other dominant and durable pitchers in the sample, and compare and contrast them with contemporary, injury-plagued pitchers like Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez, I see a similar pattern of differences.
Differences I believe go a long way toward explaining the pitcher injury and Tommy John surgery epidemic and that suggest that there is a secret to durable dominance.
Dominant & Durable
However, identifying pitchers with problematic pitching mechanics is only part of what I do, and the least interesting part, at that.
As the father of two pitchers, and the pitching coach of many others, I'm far more interested in the mechanics of pitchers who demonstrated the highest levels of success while experiencing far fewer injury problems.
Pitchers who are, and were, both dominant and durable.
I define a dominant and durable pitcher as a one who has...
...and, for practical reasons, of whom good video exists.
Pitchers who meet these criteria include...
Sandy Koufax is another pitcher whose mechanics I use when talking proper pitching mechanics, basically a left-handed clone of Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver, and one of the most pitchers of his day during his short career. So what happened to his elbow? In my opinion, Sandy Koufax is an example of the limits of proper pitching mechanics; no matter how good a pitcher's mechanics are, if you abuse them, they will have problems.
Justin Verlander is back at top of my list of active pitchers, having returned to the perfect form he exhibited from 2009-2012 but for some reason got away from.
Other active pitchers whose mechanics and stuff I believe will land them on the above list in a few years include...
David Price was a pitcher who I was studying with some interest, but the more I studied him, the more I saw something problematic. This was pretty clear during his time with the Rays but then largely disappeared during his time with the Tigers and Blue Jays.
However, from literally the first moment I saw David Price in a Red Sox uniform, I saw that he had gotten back to doing what I call the Tommy John Twist.
I rate Justin Verlander more highly than David Price because JV has a better glove side, and I wonder if the Red Sox contributed to David Price's borderline glove side getting even worse.
Carlos Martinez was also on the list of active pitchers with good pitching mechanics and may go back on it. However, in his last start of 2015, Carlos Martinez displayed pitching mechanics that were drastically different from any he had shown previously.
Carlos Martinez Before & After
Carlos Martinez's "new and improved" pitching mechanics were completely in line with the conventional wisdom, and rigid and un-athletic as a result.
In essence, the Cardinals are trying to change Carlos Martinez from Drop & Drive mechanics to Tall & Fall.
Which is simply idiotic.
And, frankly, insane.
The Cardinals did the same thing to Michael Wacha's pitching mechanics; they "improved" him out of good, natural pitching mechanics and he can't stay healthy as a result.
There are a number of active pitchers who pitching mechanics I like a lot. The problem is they all exhibit the Tommy John Twist and have an elevated level of risk as a result. That group includes...
You should study and copy everything they do, but NOT how they Point the Ball at Second Base.
Focus of Current Studies
This Summer I drove to Detroit five times and Chicago and Kansas City once each to photograph and film Justin Verlander pitching, so that should tell you who I am currently focusing on.
Other pitchers who I have been focusing on of late, because they have demonstrated the ability to hit 100mph while staying healthy include...
Other pitchers who I am currently studying, and whose mechanics I like at lot, but who are "only" hall-of-famers and couldn't touch 100 mph — which matters to some people, but not me — include...
But What About...
There are a number of active pitchers who have been both dominant and durable but aren't on the lists above. Why not? Each of these pitchers has a significant flaw that concerns me but that they have (mostly) managed to work around via one trick or another...
At a minimum, their mechanics are needlessly complex, with one trick compromising their Timing and another getting it (mostly) back on track.
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