Does Throwing Harder Mean Throwing Wilder?

By admin 5

A common sentiment amongst pitching coaches, dads, and your regular everyday baseball fan is that if you try to throw harder, you will be more wild. I’ve written plenty on this topic about it being a load of crap, because the human body learns to throw a ball effectively and more efficiently – not “harder” and “more controlled.” In a properly designed training program, kinesthetic sense improves and force application improves, so velocity and control both go up – not necessarily in lockstep, but they do improve together.

The idea that you first learn how to throw strikes and then learn how to throw hard is the cornerstone of every pitching coach out there that charges for a lesson, throws on a catcher’s mitt, and has the pitcher throw 24 pitches off a mound – regularly being interrupted to demonstrate some drill or pausing at the balance point. It’s garbage, and that’s why we don’t do very many private pitching lessons here – it’s generally a giant waste of time.

Enough Talk, Show Me the Data

Despite all of our experimental data that shows that pitchers in our MaxVelo program improve both velocity and control through the use of strength training, high-speed video analysis, weighted baseballs, and other training methods, I figured I’d show everyone some data from MLB pitchers in 2012.

This first chart shows the results of a regression analysis between average fastball velocity of MLB pitchers and the PITCHf/x Strike Zone % – so whether or not their pitches landed in the strike zone (click for full size):

FBvelo vs Zone

As you can see, there’s basically no relationship between fastball velocity and strike zone %, despite there being a wide band of strike zone % represented.

This next chart reaffirms what is common sense – that the more pitches you throw in the zone, the fewer walks you will issue:

Zone vs bb9

This last chart shows the relationship between higher fastball velocities and walk rates:

FBvelo vs bb9

Interestingly enough, despite there being no relationship between higher fastball velocities and strike zone %, there is a moderate relationship between higher fastball velocities and walk rates – so another factor must be involved.

Send people this post when they repeat the mantra that “throwing harder means throwing with less control.” The data just doesn’t back it up.

David Hirsh

I understand, appreciate, and would like to belive the argument you’re making. But these data are not convincing.

You’re in the business of getting (youth through HS for the most part) pitchers to throw harder as INDIVIDUALS. A more specific statement of your argument should then be “training and teaching young pitchers to throw harder doesn’t mess with their command (assuming they have something approaching command going into the training/teaching)”.

Instead, these data show that there’s no GENERAL correlation between higher velocity and command amongst a GROUP of (not to mention highly experienced) pitchers, which is a different thing.

You can put me in that group of dads who believes you do sacrifice some command in a young pitcher when you focus on velocity development IN THAT individual pitcher, for the time that you focus on velocity development. But I also believe that doesn’t mean command is forever lost once you get a kid throwing 6MPH harder after a period of training/teaching. I believe there’s nothing preventing a bright, young, motivated pitcher with newly developed velocity from reacquiring that command without having to throw less forcefully.

Anyways, I’m not sure how much any of this matter as we all know that velocity catches eyes more than command no matter how lip service the scouts and recruiters pay to the latter.


True, but that wasn’t the point of the article. If we want to discuss the science behind kinesthetic sense and how control and velocity improve together – and what exactly *is* control, anyway? – that’s an article for another day.

The point of the article was just to show that in the population where we have a ton of data, that throwing harder is not correlated with less control. If data was available in the low minors, that might make a more convincing argument. Sadly, we are handcuffed to what we have available.

David Hirsh

Got it. The thing I would find more interesting is whether taking and training a pitcher with good control (however you can quantify that) and so-so velocity messes with their ability to throw strikes. At least for a little while until they get used to all that newly earned velo and reacquaint themselves with their release etc.

Derrik Moeves

You are talking about Professional Athletes that do it every day as compared to young kids.Its obvious professional athlete will have better body control, mechanics, and command already. Thats why they are professionals.When kids “overthrow” they have body parts flying every where with no body control. That is the difference. Nothing to do with velocity, arm speed, or aiming pitches or anything of that nature. There is no correlation at all.

Game 106, Mariners at Indians | U.S.S. Mariner

[…] old saw that you can essentially trade some velocity for control? “If anything, there is a weak positive correlation between the two (though obviously if you throw slower, you probably don’t want to […]

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