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Dominant & Durable

The big question when it comes to pitching and pitching mechanics comes in a number of forms...

  • How do you throw harder?
  • How do you improve throwing velocity?
  • How do you increase baseball pitching velocity?

My answer?

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.

Justin Verlander's Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander

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.

Nolan Ryan vs. Mark Prior

Nolan Ryan threw harder than Mark Prior.

Nolan Ryan was also far more durable.

Why?

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.

Comparison of Nolan Ryan and Mark Prior

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.

Comparison of Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Matt Harvey, and Jose Fernandez

Harvey, Seaver, Fernandez, and Ryan

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

Jose FernandezI'm probably best known for my research into the Inverted W, other problematic arm actions and movement patterns, and my resulting pitcher injury predictions...

Tom SeaverHowever, 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.

That research lies behind my earlier Pitching Mechanics DVD, webbooks, and flipbooks and my new Dominant & Durable series of eBooks.

Definition

I define a dominant and durable pitcher as a one who has...

  • A high proportion of strikeouts (K/9).
  • Pitched for more than 15 years.

...and, for practical reasons, of whom good video exists.

Mariano RiveraPitchers who meet these criteria include...

  • Steve Carlton
  • David Cone
  • Bob Feller
  • Bob Gibson
  • Tom Glavine
  • Goose Gossage
  • Randy Johnson
  • Greg Maddux
  • Juan Marichal
  • Pedro Martinez
  • Mike Mussina
  • Jim Palmer
  • Andy Pettitte
  • Mariano Rivera
  • Nolan Ryan
  • Curt Schilling
  • Tom Seaver
  • Warren Spahn

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.

Justin Verlander's Pitching MechanicsOther active pitchers whose mechanics and stuff I believe will land them on the above list in a few years include...

  • Madison Bumgarner
  • Aroldis Chapman
  • Cole Hamels
  • Jeff Locke
  • David Price

Carlos Martinez was originally 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 Pitching Mechanics Comparison

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.

Nice But...

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...

  • Johnny Cueto
  • Mike Leake
  • Adam Morgan
  • Carlos Rodon

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...

  • Aroldis Chapman
  • David Price  
  • Nolan Ryan  

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...

  • Mariano Rivera  
  • Tom Seaver  

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...

  • Zack Greinke
  • Clayton Kershaw
  • Max Scherzer

At a minimum, their mechanics are needlessly complex, with one trick compromising their Timing and another getting it (mostly) back on track.

Where to go from Here

While the results of most of my research are only available to my clients, I have put together a number of ebooks that explain why I have a high opinion of these pitchers' mechanics...

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