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Justin VerlanderForearm Flyout is the phony flaw that goes a long way towards explaining what happened to Justin Verlander. In sum, JV broke because a pitching guru named Ron Wolforth diagnosed him with Forearm Flyout and broke him in the process of trying to fix him and it, with the help of the Connection Ball.

Justin Verlander Using Ron Wolforth's Connection Ball

This piece is a deep dive into the topic of Forearm Flyout itself; what it is and whether it's bad.

I discuss the relationship between Justin Verlander, Ron Wolforth, Forearm Flyout, what happened to JV, and some related topics in a couple of other pieces.

Forearm Flyout

(Pitching) Forearm Flyout is a term I first heard Dr. Mike Marshall use, but it seems Ron Wolforth has adopted — or, more accurately, co-opted — it.

Dr. Mike Marshall

Marshall's theory is that, in order to protect their elbows, pitchers want to do what Clayton Kershaw is doing. In the picture below, Kershaw is pronating his forearm into and through the release point, so that his pitching elbow doesn't fully extend, preventing the bones of the elbow joint from banging together.

Clayton Kershaw Pitching Mechanics

Clayton Kershaw

That's why Kershaw's pitching arm isn't fully extended and in line with a line drawn through his shoulders, as you see when looking at Arm Slot.

Instead, there's still some flex in his elbow.

All of which seems like a good idea.

Ron Wolforth

Ron Wolforth uses the term Forearm Flyout to describe something different; what most would describe as Long-Arming (as opposed to Short-Arming). And which I discuss in my piece on...

I wasn't completely sure what Ron Wolforth was talking about until I listened to his interview on the YBE podcast — YBE 031: Digging Deeper Into Better Pitching (Part 2) with Ron Wolforth — and looked at the accompanying photos.

Tyler Duffey Pitching Mechanics

Forearm Flyout

Everything came into sharp focus with the April 19, 2019 article Justin Verlander wants to be the Tom Brady of baseball.

In Verlander's case, the fix took a village. One of the key members of Verlander Village (besides the life-saver physical therapist and the ass-to-grass trainer) is Ron Wolforth, a mechanics guru who has worked with Scott Kazmir and Trevor Bauer, among others. Wolforth helped Verlander realize his core injury had caused him to start compensating. Instead of his right arm being bent 90 degrees and looking like the letter L prior to delivery, Verlander's hand had started to drift down and away from his head, creating an obtuse angle that more closely resembled a V and sapped some giddy-up from the hurler's heater.
To fix the problem, Wolforth prescribed something called a connection ball. A squishy, inflatable sphere that's wedged between the biceps and forearm and can stay there only with proper 90-degree mechanics, the tool worked wonders on his arm posture. "It started creeping up and up and up, and I started feeling better and better and better," says Verlander, who still keeps a turquoise connection ball in his locker, just in case his mechanics start to stray. "I started throwing harder and harder and harder again, and that was that. It was off and running."

But, here's the problem.

I remain unconvinced that Long-Arming is bad.

Among other things, Justin Verlander was clearly a Long-Armer during his prime in Detroit.

Justin Verlander Long-Arming

Justin Verlander
Demonstrating Long-Arming

I therefore remain unconvinced that Forearm Flyout is the problem that Ron Wolforth thinks it is.

That's due in part to the fact that the only — now two — times JV hurt his arm was when he tried to fix his problem with Forearm Flyout.

Logically, if something is — actually — a flaw, then shouldn't a pitcher NOT get hurt when trying to move to the "superior" movement pattern?

Conversely, shouldn't moving to a "superior" pattern NOT lead to arm problems?

And Tommy John surgery.

The Science

To justify his belief, Ron Wolforth cites a study of the baseball pitching motion.

According to a 2009 Study commissioned by major league baseball and reported in The American Journal of Sports Medicine (Aguinaldo and Chambers), if a pitcher's torso begins to rotate toward the hitter prior to the moment when his front foot hits the ground, or if at that point in the delivery, the angle between his forearm and his humerus exceeds 90 degrees, there will be significantly increased levels of torque on the ulnar collateral ligament. (Am J Sports Med October 2009 vol 37 no10 2043-2048)

The problem is that's a statement without any evidence.

It also ignores the fact that pitchers NATURALLY shorten up their elbow angles as they throw, as Verlander does (or did).

Tyler Duffey

Twins pitcher Tyler Duffey seems to be Ron Wolforth's index patient for Forearm Flyout, so let's take a look at his pitching mechanics.

Tyler Duffey Pitching Mechanics

Forearm Flyout

Tyler Duffey Pitching Mechanics

Tyler Duffey

Tyler Duffey Pitching Mechanics

Tyler Duffey

While Tyler Duffey is a disaster, mechanics-wise, I don't think his problem is Forearm Flyout. Rather, my concern is how long he keeps his fingers on top of the ball and the impact that has on his Timing.

Justin Verlander Long-Arming

Justin Verlander

It's simply absurd, however, to suggest that Justin Verlander (ever) moved like Tyler Duffey and was therefore at risk and needed to change. While JV, like Duffey, is a long-armer, Verlander doesn't have the Timing problem that Duffey does.

Connection Ball

Why does the Connection Ball work?

When — and if — it does?

I'd suggestion it works because it tends to improve a pitcher's Timing.

Connection Ball Pitching Mechanics

Connection Ball

In the picture above of a pitcher throwing with the Connection Ball, notice how his pitching arm is UP?

Justin Verlander Using Ron Wolforth's Connection Ball

The problem with Justin Verlander's use of the Connection Ball isn't the impact on his Timing; his pitching arm is UP, which is good.

The concern I have is the impact on Verlander's Elbow Angle. I know people like 90 degree elbow angles, because it's a round number, but I have a concern that it's the WORST possible angle in terms of elbow health.

Concerns that Verlander's Tommy John surgery would seem to reinforce.

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