The Pitching Mechanic
Real-Time Illustrations and Analyses of
Proper and Improper Pitching Mechanics
Mechanic - March 2008
Fingers Always On Top Of The Ball?
A couple of times lately I have heard people talk about how
important it is that pitchers always release the
ball with their fingers on top of the ball (and that coaches should
always change a pitchers arm slot to achieve this). I just completed
an essay called
fingers on top of the ball that examines
the wisdom of this idea.
And The Inverted L
Given that I've been spending a lot of time recently talking
Inverted L, I thought I should put together
analysis of Kerry Wood's pitching mechanics.
Will Carroll Weighs In On My Ideas About Mark Prior
Will Carroll has weighed in on
my thoughts about the root cause of Mark Prior's injury problems
on Tango Tiger's blog.
I can't say that I'm surprised that Will's more than a little
skeptical about what I have to say.
All good...except wrong. The “video” he shows tells us
nothing. Bad angles and poorer quality. Our eyes lie.
Computer-aided models with motion capture and joint measurement
are the state of the art. O’Leary’s pretty good with his eyes,
but no ones eyes are good enough to see mechanics or calculate
Needless to say, I disagree with a number of Will's points.
First, the 3B angle I used in my analysis is pretty much the perfect angle (and
height) to use when
looking at a right-handed pitcher's mechanics. That's why I was
so excited to get my hands on the clip.
Second, I completely agree that the naked eye is simply
not up to the task of breaking down a pitcher's mechanics.
That's why I go through the video (and it is a video rather than
a "video") frame by frame. While the frame rate (and resolution)
isn't quite what I'd like, you can clearly see Mark Prior's arm
action in the clip.
Mark Prior - Frame 28
Mark Prior - Frame 29
Mark Prior - Frame 30
Third, you don't need a fancy computer system to observe the
height of Mark Prior's Pitching Arm Side elbow relative to the
level of his shoulders, especially in Frame 30. In fact, all of
that fancy computer technology can mask as many things as it
reveals and in some cases a nice clear photo is the best tool
for the job. I can tell you as a veteran of the computer industry
that the quality of the output of a system depends on how the
system is designed and the assumptions that drive its design
(i.e. garbage in, garbage out).
I’m as guilty as anyone of saying Prior’s mechanics were
perfect. They were pretty damn good, but perfect was an
exaggeration or a wishcast. Saying it in hindsight or Marshall’s
“I told you so” when he predicted an elbow injury, not a
shoulder injury, doesn’t count.*
* I would give Marshall more slack if he hadn’t been so
specific as to the causation for what he said was the inevitable
elbow injury, what he calls “forearm flyout.”
I'm not sure what Dr. Mike Marshall has to do with what I
said about Mark Prior. I'm not simply parroting Dr. Marshall's ideas or saying
things after the fact. Instead, in November 2005 in my
photographic analysis of Mark Prior's mechanics
I expressed concerns about Mark Prior's shoulder (see page 2)
rather than his elbow.
It was that prediction that convinced me (and others)
that I might be on to something and that this was a project that
was worth continuing.
Scott Williamson and The Inverted L
I just completed an
analysis of the pitching mechanics of Scott Williamson. His
is an interesting story because it is similar to the stories of
Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Scott Williamson was a young pitcher
who came out of the gate quickly but whose career was derailed
by a serious mechanical flaw. In his case, that flaw was our old
Scott Williamson's Inverted L
Mark Prior: A Different Perspective
I just completed an essay entitled
Mark Prior's Pitching Mechanics: A Different Perspective. In
this essay I compare and contrast the mechanics of Mark Prior,
Greg Maddux, and Nolan Ryan using video clips of each.
Quick Look: Josh Beckett
Many people have been asking me for my opinion of Josh
Beckett. At some point, I'm going to do a detailed video study of his
mechanics. In the meantime, let me take a quick look at Josh
Beckett's mechanics using some still photos.
The bottom line is that Josh Beckett makes me somewhat
nervous because of some suggestions of
hyperabduction. Josh Beckett's elbow height is right on the
borderline. What's more, what I think I see is that Josh
Beckett's elbow starts out high and then stays high rather than
starting out high and then dropping as Nolan Ryan's elbow does.
However, Josh Beckett has had 7 solid, relatively
injury-free years, which suggests that he may fall on the John
Smoltz and Pedro Martinez side of the borderline rather than the
Kerry Wood or Mark Prior side.
What will be interesting is to see how Josh Beckett
ages and whether he continues to stay injury-free or if, like
Smoltz and Martinez, he starts to have injury problems as his
In the photos above, you can see that Josh Beckett's elbows
get relatively high after he breaks his hands. One thing to note
is that this isn't a classic
Inverted L with the forearm hanging down vertically.
Instead, Josh Beckett's Pitching Arm Side (PAS) upper arm is
starting to externally rotate.
As the photos above show, Josh Beckett's PAS elbow starts
high as he breaks his hands. Josh Beckett's PAS elbow then stays
high, in a position of
hyperabduction, as his PAS upper arm externally rotates and
his PAS forearm passes through the vertical, high-cocked
position. I think this increases the risk that Josh Beckett will
experience shoulder problems.
There are some similarities between the photos of Josh
Beckett and the photos above of Freddy Garcia and Cole Hamels,
both of whom have had shoulder problems, and those similarities
make me nervous.
However, I will be the first to admit that this not a totally
firm concern. If you look at photos of Tom Glavine, you will see
that his PAS elbow gets, and stays, relatively high. This
suggests that, to a degree, there is some variability in terms
of whether hyperabduction is always bad. This may be explained
by the fact that there is variability in the human body, such as
3 distinct types of Acromial processes. This may explain why
hyperabduction is a problem for some people but not for
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