Real-Time Illustrations and Analyses of
Improper Pitching Mechanics
The Pitching Mechanic -
While some scouts
would never look at a pitcher under 6'5", because taller pitchers
are supposedly (and I do mean supposedly) more durable, the fact
is that there have been many great, long-lived pitchers who have
been relatively short.
- Mike Marshall 5'8"
- Pedro Martinez 5'11"
- Bob Feller 6'0"
- Greg Maddux 6'0"
- Juan Marichal 6'0"
- Jamie Moyer 6'0"
- Warren Spahn 6'0"
- Bob Gibson 6'1"
- Tom Glavine 6'1"
- Tom Seaver 6'1"
- Don Sutton 6'1"
- Sandy Koufax 6'2"
- Nolan Ryan 6'2"
- Johnny Sain 6'2"
So, if you are on a pitcher but are on the short side, don't give
up on your dreams.
Will Carroll and Mark Prior's
I think Will Carroll is a great,
extremely intelligent guy, but I think he is completely wrong in
the conclusions that he reaches in
this column about Mark Prior's future prospects. Will
apparently buys Tom House's contention that Mark Prior has perfect
pitching mechanics and that the root cause of Mark Prior's
problems is the overuse that he experienced at the hands of Dusty
I think that's a bunch of hooey.
I believe that
has absolutely miserable
pitching mechanics and that those miserable pitching mechanics --
and in particular the fact that he makes the
Inverted W -- are the root cause of the problems that Mark
Prior has experienced.
Because the pitching
Anthony Reyes are very similar, if not worse, I believe that
Anthony Reyes will experience a similar fate.
I believe that if
Mark Prior does not address the root cause of his problems, which
is his terrible pitching mechanics, then the odds are only 50/50
that Mark Prior will ever pitch again in the major leagues. If
Mark Prior does pitch again in the major leagues, then I believe
that he will only last 1 or 2 years before his shoulder (and/or
his elbow) starts acting up again.
Unless and until Mark Prior addresses his very serious
mechanical problems, he will never be able to live up to his
promise. And no amount of tweaking by Dave Duncan, Jim Hickey,
Rick Peterson, or even Leo Mazzone will change that.
The NYC Metal Bat Ban
While I am generally a big fan of
safety-related things, I am against this ban for economic, safety,
and practical reasons.
Wood bats break.
The problem isn't with metal bats per se. The problem
is with HIGH PERFORMANCE metal bats.
It is possible to engineer metal bats that combine the
best of both worlds; the durability of metal and the lower (and
thus safer) performance of wood. The golf industry does this all
the time (by rule, golf clubs can only hit the ball so far).
In many softball leagues, high performance (e.g. Miken)
bats with a high Bat Performance Ration (aka BPF) rating are banned. I think the same thing
should be done when it comes to baseball.
Just limit the BPF of metal bats.
Felix Hernandez Update
It turns out that
Felix Hernandez's elbow problem isn't as bad as it initially
Rather than being a UCL problem as I was initially led
to believe, it is instead
to be just a strain of his Pronator Teres muscle.
Muscle strains heal much sooner than do ligament
injuries, which is good for King Felix and the Mariners.
Of course, this incident makes the case that baseball
pitchers must take care to properly condition their pitching arms
(and their entire body). Pitching is a very stressful activity,
and the body must be ready to handle the stress.
It isn't a coincidence that many long-lived pitchers
(e.g. Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver) were complete freaks about
conditioning and wrote about their conditioning routines in their
Felix Hernandez's Elbow
No sooner did I
review Felix Hernandez's mechanics than he experienced a
his elbow. As I said below,
I mostly like Felix Hernandez's mechanics, especially in terms of
his PAS shoulder. However, I expressed concern about his elbow...
The only thing
that bothers me about this photo is that his forearm is pronated
slightly, which may require him to supinate his forearm through
the release point and increase the load on his UCL.
I believe that King
Felix's problems are likely related to the problem identified
above with his
premature pronation (aka showing the ball to
CF/2B). His problems could also be related to the Power Curve he
throws. This is basically a curveball thrown with a lot of force
and at a high speed. While nasty, I believe that this pitch can
put a lot of strain on the elbow.
USSSA Pitching "Limitations"
I believe that
tournaments are a primary contributor to the rise in youth elbow
and shoulder injuries.
Tournaments allow coaches to overuse pitchers by
pitching them at least multiple times in a weekend and in some
cases multiple times in a day. For example, here is a link to the
USSSA Pitching Limitations. Some of the more damning quotes
In the 10U
division, a pitcher may throw up to 4 innings in 1 day and throw
again the next day...In the 10U age division a pitcher may throw
a maximum of 6 innings in 1 day...In the 10U age division, a
pitcher may throw a maximum of 8 innings in 2 consecutive days.
This means that a pitcher would be able to throw any combination
of innings that equals 8 as long as the first day does not equal
more than 4 innings due to Column A requirements.
There are multiple
problems with these guidelines.
First, you've got kids pitching at too young of an age.
Second, they count innings and not pitches. Third, you could
conceivably pitch a kid in 3 games in two days (2 innings in day 1
game 1, 2 innings in day 1 game 2, and 4 innings in day 2 game 1).
This is why my teams absolutely do not play travel ball
and generally do not play in tournaments.
Thinking About BJ Ryan's Elbow
BJ Ryan just went on
the DL with elbow problems, and since I still don't think I have a
good handle in terms of exactly what patterns point to potential
elbow problems, I thought I should take a look at some of the
pictures of him that I have collected over the years.
The first thing that
struck me about BJ Ryan's pitching mechanics was the picture
above. The thing to notice is that his GS knee is locked before
the release point. This is something that Sandy Koufax also did,
and Koufax also had elbow problems. My theory about how this could
be related to elbow problems is that this either lets the hips
rotate too quickly, placing too much strain on the elbow, and/or
that is causes too much shock to be transmitted up to the elbow.
The second photo
that struck me about BJ Ryan was the photo above. Notice how his
PAS elbow is at the level of his shoulders, his PAS elbow is bent
90 degrees, his PAS forearm is hanging down vertically, and his
PAS forearm is pronated.
You can see
basically the same thing in the photo above of BJ Ryan.
can also see the same thing in the photo above of Chris Carpenter.
Again, notice the PAS elbow at or just above the level of the
shoulders, the PAS elbow bent 90 degrees, and the PAS forearm
hanging down vertically.
You can see the same
thing in the photo above of Chris Carpenter.
So why is this bad?
My theory is that this is bad because it increase the
distance over which the PAS upper arm externally rotates as the
shoulders start to turn. Rather than being the typical 90 degrees,
if a pitcher does this then their PAS upper arm will externally
rotate 180 or more degrees. If you do this while the elbow is bent
90 degrees (as it is in the case of both BJ Ryan and Chris
Carpenter) then you will place a significant and sustained load on
This is one more reason for me to hate the
Tim Lincecum: Analysis
my readers recently wrote...
love your blog and your breakdown of pitcher's
mechanics. I've played baseball in some shape or
form my entire life and find the insight you bring
to the table fascinating. I turned a couple of
friends of mine onto you (fantasy baseball guys who
are looking for any piece of information they can
get their hands on) and one of them sent me this
Controlled Fury: Tim Lincecum
I was curious to see what you thought about
Lincecum's mechanics. I'm a Dodgers fan, but more
importantly I'm a fan of good baseball and this
looked interesting. The quality is a little rough
and the guy does seem to be overly gushy about a
subject when he should be objective if he's offering
hard scouting analysis. If you've got the time, it
would be great to see a breakdown. Thanks a lot.
By the way, I hate that a player got injured, but
good call on Carpenter. Every friend I have that
read your site avoided him in fantasy baseball
drafts and they were thanking me profusely for
potentially saving their seasons.
I have seen the side
clip of Tim Lincecum before, but not the front view...
In general, I don't
have a very high opinion of this analyst because he is a proponent
of arm action and things like the
Inverted W that I think are both dangerous and unnecessary. In
general, our views are diametrically opposed when it comes to arm
action. For example, he says...
He "loads his
shoulder" well. His elbow "picks up" the ball. What's not to
like? There is one thing I don't like that I missed in my draft
review. He breaks his hands earlyish, which I personally don't
like because it makes the arm slow down to wait for the body.
I happen to hate
it when guys break their hands with their elbows and use their
elbows to pick up the ball. I think that this increases the risk
of shoulder (and in some cases elbow) problems. I also like
it when guys break their hands earlier because I believe that
reduces the load on the shoulder.
He does get it right when he points out Tim Lincecum's
large hip/shoulder separation in frame 4 of the clip below...
Large Hip/Shoulder Separation
Notice how in Frame
4 Tim Lincecum's belt buckle is pointing at Home Plate while his
shoulders are still mostly closed. That gives him a differential
approaching 90 degrees, which is outstanding.
In terms of my opinion of Tim Lincecum and his pitching
mechanics, I mostly like him. He is a max effort guy,
which in my opinion increases his overall risk and also makes him
more vulnerable to control problems (his stride is a little too
Rick Ankiel for my taste). However, his arm action isn't
too bad (his PAS elbow doesn't get too high and is relatively low
when his shoulders start to turn), his timing looks good, and he
certainly knows how to throw with his entire body and not just his
David Wells: Arm Action
entry above, I talk about how people who advocate
Inverted W drive me crazy. This is because,
while you see the Inverted W in some -- usually
often-injured -- pitchers like Billy Wagner, you
don't see it in the arm actions of guys like Greg
Maddux, Roger Clemens, and Nolan Ryan. That means
that the Inverted W isn't necessary to pitching
either well or hard.
I just stumbled
across the above photo of David Wells, and it makes my point for
David Wells is a 21-year career guy with 230 (and
counting) wins who, to my knowledge, hasn't had a serious arm
problem and who doesn't make the Inverted W.
Notice how low David Wells' elbow is in the photo
above; how instead of breaking his hands with his elbows, David
Wells instead breaks his hands with his hands.
To prove that I'm
not taking this photo out of context, the photo above is from a
slightly later moment in time. Notice how his PAS elbow is still
low as he swings his PAS hand out and up through the high cocked
position. If David Wells was breaking his hands with his elbows,
then his PAS elbow would be much higher at this point, and not at
roughly the same height as his PAS hand.
As his PAS forearm
passes through the high cocked position, David Wells' PAS elbow is
still relatively low. While he is
scapular loading, his PAS elbow
is just below the level of his shoulders. Also, notice that at
this point David Wells is showing the ball to 1B rather than
So What About King Felix?
Everybody's been talking about Felix Hernandez
lately (I saw him while trying to get some video of
Daisuke Matsuzaka). A while ago I expressed a low
opinion of King Felix's mechanics, but after taking
another, more detailed, look at him I'm not so sure
that that low opinion is entirely warranted. Like
Tim Lincecum, Felix Hernandez is a max effort guy,
which always increases the risk, but his mechanics
look mostly good to me.
photo above is a side view of Felix Hernandez just
after his Glove Side foot has planted. His hips are
starting to open while his shoulders are still
closed. His PAS elbow is below the level of his
shoulders. In other words, like great pitchers like
Nolan Ryan, Felix Hernandez makes the Horizontal W
rather than the
Inverted W. Also, his PAS forearm is pretty much
vertical before his shoulders start turning.
photo above shows Felix Hernandez at pretty much the
same moment but from a slightly different angle.
Again, you can see the scapular loading, but with
the PAS elbow below the level of the shoulders.
Notice that his GS toe is pointing pretty much
directly at the target.
is a third view of Felix Hernandez at pretty much
the same moment in time as the two above. Again
notice that his PAS elbow is just below the level of
his shoulders. In this photo, it looks like
Hernandez is going to throw a change-up. The only
thing that bothers me about this photo is that his
forearm is pronated slightly, which may require him
to supinate his forearm through the release point
and increase the load on his UCL.
photo above of Felix Hernandez is from just a moment
later. Notice that his shoulders have only rotated
slightly but his hips are now fairly open. I'd say
his hips rotate roughly 60 degrees ahead of his
shoulders. Again, notice that his GS toe points
pretty much directly at the target. It does look
like Felix Hernandez lands slightly closed and
throws across his body somewhat.
photo above of Felix Hernandez is from the same
moment in time but from a slightly different angle.
In it, you can see that his PAS elbow is just below
the level of his shoulders.
photo above of Felix Hernandez is from the same
moment in time as the two photos above, but from the
side. Again, notice how his hips are rotating well
ahead of his shoulders and how his PAS elbow is just
below the level of his shoulders.
photo above of Felix Hernandez, his shoulders have
started turning and his PAS forearm is starting to
bounce or lay back as his PAS upper arm externally
final photo of Felix Hernandez shows his just before
the Release Point. His elbow has extended 90 degrees
and his PAS upper arm is starting to internally
rotate. In the photo above, he looks like he is
throwing a 2-Seamer.
The only thing I don't like about this photo is some
suggestions of head jerking, This can lead to
control problems, but obviously isn't a problem for
him at the moment.
Goodbye Mark Prior?
looks like Mark Prior's career (or at least this
phase of it) may be coming to an end. He's evidently
having (more) shoulder problems down in the minor
leagues. As I have said before, this is due to his
far from perfect mechanics.
I take no joy in this. I think it's a tragedy. I also
think the same fate is in store for Anthony Reyes.
The only way that Mark Prior is going to be able to
survive as a pitcher is to rebuild his mechanics
from the ground up.
A Tribute To Kurt Vonnegut
mark the passing of Kurt Vonnegut, and to honor his
memory, I wanted to point you to
Harrison Bergeron, one of my favorite short
Daisuke Matsuzaka's Pitching Mechanics
Everybody seems to be interested in Daisuke
Matsuzaka's pitching mechanics. I recently
found the sequence of photos below of Dice-K
pitching that was shot from the front.
thought that people would be interested if I broke
this sequence down frame by frame and that it would
be interesting to compare it to the breakdown that I
did previously of the pitching motion and mechanics
This frame shows Daisuke Matsuzaka just starting his leg lift
after planting his Pitching Arm Side (aka PAS) foot.
In this frame, Daisuke Matsuzaka is at the top of his leg lift
and is just about to start striding toward the plate. Notice that
his hips are significantly reverse-rotated, but his shoulders are
not as reverse-rotated.
This frame shows Daisuke Matsuzaka just after breaking his
hands. Notice how he is taking the ball back toward 2B and has
dropped his PAS hand back by his PAS pocket. This will help to
hide the ball from the batter, which is one thing that helps to
make a pitcher sneaky fast. His Glove Side (aka GS) foot is
sweeping out toward 3B as he strides and he is leading his stride
with the heel and side of his GS foot. I call this striding
sideways to the target. Dice-K is pointing his glove
just to the 3B side of the plate.
This frame shows Daisuke Matsuzaka in what some call the Power
Position. His GS foot has just planted and his shoulders are just
starting to rotate. His hips are fairly open (45 to 60 degrees)
while his shoulders are still closed. He is still hiding the ball
from the batter. He landed with his GS foot pretty much in line
with Home Plate but with his GS toe pointing just slightly to the
3B side of Home Plate.
This frame shows Daisuke Matsuzaka just after the Release
Point. You can see that Dice-K throws from a 3/4 arm
slot. His glove is in the vicinity of his GS pec. His PAS foot is
still on the ground.
In this frame, Daisuke Matsuzaka's PAS foot has just come up
off the ground as his hips have continued to turn.
In this frame, Daisuke Matsuzaka's arm has pretty much
decelerated. His PAS foot has kept coming forward which helps his
hips to keep turning which helps his arm to smoothly decelerate.
One thing to notice is that Dice-K never locks his GS
knee. Some people think this is important to throwing at high
velocity. It's pictures like these that make me question that
The thing that strikes me in this frame is that Daisuke
Matsuzaka finishes in a solid fielding position. He is square to
the batter, his eyes are locked on the target, and his glove is
near his GS pec. This will help him field his position better
than average (and help to protect him from come-backers).
Cause, Effect, and Pitching
it comes to pitching instruction, my nemesis is one
of the big name gurus named Paul Nyman. I have the
honor of being named his #1
Wannabe Baseball Instruction Guru.
It was an honor just to be nominated, much less to
actually win the award.
Paul Nyman, who coined the term "Scapular Loading", is
a big believer in arm action and as a result
advocates things like the
Inverted W. As you know, I think that the
unnecessary to throwing well or hard.
- Destroys pitchers' arms.
to think that Paul had a basic understanding of how
people throw the ball, but in a
conversation in Steven Ellis'
www.letstalkpitching.com discussion board, Paul
said this to a poster on the board who was
complaining about his low velocity...
Your problem is that you have
virtually no arm action as defined by developing
external rotation of the shoulder. It appears that
your action rotation is at best 120°. High-level
throws approach 180°. A big part of your problem is
you're doing exactly what Chris O'Leary advocates,
using your body to throw the baseball. Contrary to
popular belief you have to learn how to throw with
your arm first before the body can do its thing.
The pitcher on your team that I think you are referring
to develops almost 180° of external rotation of the
shoulder which results in his ability to whip the
ball as opposed to what you are doing which is
pushing the ball.
problem with this statement is that it makes it
clear that Paul Nyman doesn't understand cause and
effect when it comes to pitching velocity.
appears to believe that external rotation (which is
what Billy Wagner is exhibiting in the photo above)
is the CAUSE of velocity.
That is the equivalent of crediting the
tires with a car's velocity and ignoring the role of
that thing under the hood (aka the engine).
In contrast, I believe that large degrees of external
rotation (of the PAS upper arm) is the EFFECT of
throwing hard, not the CAUSE of throwing hard.
I believe that throwing hard is the result of learning
how to throw with the entire body and not just the
arm. That means rotating the hips ahead of the
shoulders, as Casey Fossum is doing in this photo...
....so that the large muscles
of the lower torso powerfully pull the shoulders
around (which causes the external rotation).
I would hope that Paul Nyman, who I believe is an engineer,
would have a decent understanding of something as
basic as the difference between cause and effect.
this is off-topic, but I thought I should warn y'all
about a problem that I am having and that you should
be aware of.
Several years ago I bought a 2000 Honda Odyssey with
the intention of driving it 200,000 miles, because
that is what everyone told me I could expect.
"It's a Honda" and all that crap.
As it turns out, the transmission on the vehicle was
under-engineered, and it burned up at 75,000 miles.
Honda replaced it that time for free, but now at
135,000 miles that second transmission just burned
up and Honda is refusing to help me out.
So I'm stuck having to drop $2,500 into a vehicle that
has basically no resale value, that has been one
problem after another, and that will no doubt burn
up this transmission just when I'm getting around to
selling the vehicle.
I bought a Honda because I didn't want to deal this
kind of garbage. I certainly wouldn't have pay a
$5,000 premium over a Chrysler if I had known then
what I know now.
From now on, I'm a Toyota man.
As long as I'm going
off-topic, I wanted to let you know about an article I just
finished that describes my take on
Rotational Hitting. I think that Rotational Hitting describes
what the best hitters do, and it's what I teaching to all of the
kids that I coach.
Chris Carpenter's Elbow
it when I'm right.
Just a couple of days ago,
I said that I was nervous about the likely
health of the Cardinals' pitching staff. The only
guys whose mechanics that I even sort of like, and
would recommend to a young pitcher, are Kip Wells
and Braden Looper. I said that I was nervous about
Anthony Reyes, Chris Carpenter, and Adam Wainwright
because I felt that their poor mechanics increased
the likelihood that they would have injury problems.
Well, yesterday it was reported that Chris Carpenter
was having elbow problems.
While this wasn't exactly what I expected -- I thought
Carpenter's shoulder problems would flame up again
first -- I am not at all surprised. As I said back
in January in my
analysis of Chris Carpenter's pitching mechanics,
I do not like Chris Carpenter's arm action.
He breaks his hands with his elbows, making something
Inverted W, and his PAS elbow ends up quite
high. Combine this with the fact that Carpenter has
a problem with habitual
rushing, and you end up with a guy who puts a
tremendous amount of strain on both his shoulder and
his elbow. While you can manage this to a degree by
ensuring that the shoulder is well-conditioned, it
is hard to do much of anything about what this does
to his elbow.
Pitching Mechanic - March 2007