Lower Half Pitching Mechanics: Data-Driven Analysis

The role of the lower half when it comes to the pitching delivery is open to interpretation by many coaches out there, which often serves to confuse the individual athlete. We’ve recently started a long-range analytical project using force plates, EMG sensors, and high-speed video to delve deep into what the lower half is really doing during a high-velocity throw. If you don’t follow me on Twitter (@drivelinebases), then you missed out on a few of our recent findings and data dumps.

Here’s some interesting information from our sports science lab on the lower half:

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EMG Data + Synchronized Video

While this isn’t conclusive, it shows that the trailing leg hamstring and glutes are actually most involved during deceleration and not force production. When you consider that the hamstring flexes the knee, this makes a lot of sense, and that the rear glute extends the […]

By |July 24th, 2015|Mechanics, Research|3 Comments

Explaining the Elbow Spiral in the Pitching Delivery

Hayden Grove conducted a great interview with Trevor Bauer of the Cleveland Indians discussing pitching mechanics at a very in-depth level. I have to give Hayden some props; most beat writers wouldn’t dare to try to get into this kind of depth with a pitcher, and indeed most just shrug Trevor off. Hayden followed up the next day and tried to get into deeper detail, and as a result, ended up with a great interview that, while he may not fully understand, was definitely a net benefit for pitchers everywhere.

Trevor and I started working together in 2013 after his not-so-great year in AAA for Columbus, and that’s when we primarily discussed the concepts of Linear Distraction and Torso Stacking, the latter of which is also a Texas Baseball Ranch cue. Linear Distraction is simply a better and more complete understanding of how the torso stacks behind the midline at stride foot contact; by throwing the hips […]

By |May 27th, 2015|Mechanics, Training, Uncategorized|2 Comments

Why Sir Isaac Newton is Still the Foremost Expert in Pitching Biomechanics

This post was written by Dr. James Buffi.

Most people have heard of Sir Isaac Newton and his famous laws of motion. Most have not heard that he was an expert in modern pitching biomechanics.

So let’s talk about how Newton’s most famous law relates to pitching.

Newton’s most famous law of motion is probably F = ma. Force equals mass times acceleration.

This law dictates that the acceleration of an object, like a baseball, is dependent on both its mass and the outside forces acting on it. F = ma is the foundation of all mechanical analyses and therefore it’s important for pitchers (and really all athletes) to understand what it means.

In F = ma, the “m” stands for mass. Mass is a measure of how much matter, or “stuff,” an object contains. An object can be really large in volume but have very little mass, and vice versa.

A blimp is huge, but […]

By |April 29th, 2015|Injuries, Mechanics|2 Comments

How Muscles Work and Protect a Pitcher’s Elbow

Let’s talk about muscles. Muscles are the motors of the body. They are the components that generate movement. They can also absorb dangerous forces to protect more vulnerable tissues, like ligaments, and this is especially important for baseball pitchers.

Before I dive in, if you missed part one or two of the three part introduction to my views on the biomechanics of pitching, here’s a short summary.

I disagree with using the total elbow load as an approximation of the load on the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). Therefore, I believe using the total load as an indicator of elbow injury risk is flawed.

One of the biggest drawbacks to using the total joint load is that it provides no information about the underlying muscles. This is why I account for the muscles, in addition to the ligaments and bones, when I analyze the biomechanics of a pitching motion using computational modeling techniques.

Now that […]

By |March 9th, 2015|Injuries, Mechanics, Motion Analysis|4 Comments

A More Forward Approach to Understanding Pitching Biomechanics

This is part two of three of the initial guest posts by Dr. James Buffi. Part one was titled Challenges with Typical Biomechanical Analyses of Pitching.

It is impossible to figure out if a specific player scored a run in a baseball game just by looking at the final box score. This is essentially what typical biomechanical analyses of pitching try to do. They attempt to infer the underlying outcome for the UCL from macroscopic surface-level observations of net elbow loading.

As stated in my previous post, the total elbow load is not nearly enough information to determine the underlying ligament load.

Most of these typical biomechanical analyses can be classified as inverse dynamic analyses. The word “inverse” refers to the order in which calculations are performed relative to the way the body actually creates motion. In an inverse dynamic analysis, the total joint loads are recorded and calculated first. The loads on individual […]

By |February 23rd, 2015|Mechanics, Motion Analysis, Research|2 Comments

Keeping Pitching Simple – Setting Artificial Ceilings for Your Athletes

At the 2015 ABCA Convention, the overarching message from pitching coaches and attendees alike was the idea that things need to be “kept simple.” That going into deep detail was ultimately very confusing and hard to understand, and not necessary – after all, pitching effectively simply involves throwing strikes, locating well, having a good pitch selection, and keeping the hitter off balance. What could be more difficult than that?

Let’s back up. I think most people would agree that sprinting is a much simpler activity than pitching – it’s mostly in a single plane, it doesn’t require a second party that is reacting to what you’re doing, it’s generally easier to train for, etc. As we all know, Usain Bolt is one of the best sprinters in the world and of all-time:

Unfortunately, sprinting turns out to be quite a bit difficult to understand – according to lead researchers in the field […]

By |January 10th, 2015|Mechanics, Research, Training|1 Comment

Control Problems on the Mound? It’s Not Always “Mental.”

How many times have you heard these lines?

“It’s a mental issue.”
“He has the yips.”
“He lost the ability to throw strikes.”
“It’s all in his head.”
“He’s mentally weak.”

They’re catch-all phrases that hope to capture the essence of why a pitcher like Daniel Bard can put up these kinds of insane runs:

It’s generally assumed that pitchers like Bard simply lose it mentally and can’t throw strikes because of some ephemeral issue that no one can pinpoint. Let me state for the record that this kind of thing DOES happen, but very often it’s actually an underlying physiological issue, not a mental/psychological one (or at least one rooted in those areas). Daniel Bard can still throw 95+ MPH – just like a handful of my pro clients who were throwing at their top velocities despite spraying the ball all over the place. None of them reported pain, soreness, or weakness – so it couldn’t be […]

By |June 25th, 2014|Injuries, Mechanics, Motion Analysis, Training|6 Comments

The Reinvention of Casey Weathers – Restoring What Tommy John Took

Casey Weathers was the first round pick of the Colorado Rockies (8th overall) in 2007 after putting up incredible numbers at Vanderbilt – striking out 75 over 49.1 innings while allowing fewer than one hit + walk per inning pitched. Casey was throwing 95-97 MPH at the time with a wipeout slider, and was tagged as a fast-mover. In his first full season in Tulsa (AA), he was off to a good start, striking out a ton of hitters and getting very weak contact with his ERA hovering just around 3. He would hit 100+ MPH on several outings in the hot weather. He’d also throw in the 2008 Olympics for the United States, taking home the bronze medal for his efforts.

Things were good, until his command started to desert him, and it finally happened – his elbow hurt after throwing a pitch. He had an MRI done on his arm by the […]

By |May 19th, 2014|Injuries, Mechanics, Motion Analysis, Training, Video|4 Comments

Momentum and Arm Action: Myths and Misunderstandings

Pitching mechanics is a difficult subject to talk about, and one that I don’t touch lightly on this blog. Covering the basics of pitching mechanics like stride length, stride speed, hip/shoulder separation, and even pronation are generally not the topics I tend to discuss – at least not without a significant amount of data. With this post, I’d like to talk about the concept of momentum as it exists in the baseball pitching delivery compared to the generally-accepted definition of the term in the world of physics (classical mechanics, to be precise).

Momentum’s real definition – long before deep analysis of pitching mechanics ever existed – is simply:
…a quantity expressing the motion of a body or system, equal to the product of the mass of a body and its velocity.
Its formula is p = mv; momentum is equal to mass times velocity.
Momentum and Arm Action

Paul Nyman described the ultimate goal of developing pitching velocity as connecting momentum […]

By |April 28th, 2014|Mechanics, Research, Training|12 Comments

Releasing Tommy John’s Grip on Pitchers

It’s about that time, isn’t it? The short period of time where we notice the rash of elbow and shoulder injuries to pitchers and look for answers in the usual places, like Tom Verducci’s columns (never mind that the Verducci Effect has been thoroughly debunked) where the “experts” are interviewed and say some variation on the following:

Travel ball is evil
Showcase ball will cause you to kill your arm, damn those people at Perfect Game
Latin players grow into their velocity
Americans put too much focus on velocity

Let’s not forget: If a pitcher is going to be injured, it is most likely at the beginning of the year. The reasons for this aren’t necessarily clear, but as Dirk Hayhurst pointed out in his latest book, when he hurt his shoulder in the gym, he was tempted to nurse it to the beginning of Spring Training and hope to blow it out on the mound there so medical […]

By |April 18th, 2014|Injuries, Mechanics, Research, Sabermetrics|16 Comments