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Justin Verlander Pitching MechanicsWhat pitcher has the best pitching mechanics? The answer to that question used to be simple, because he is still active.

Justin Verlander.

But then JV went and changed his mechanics.

The idea was to be more compatible with the conventional wisdom.

And he broke.

So, while Verlander is still a good answer to that question, now we have to go back into the history of the game to answer that question.

Pitchers with the Best Pitching Mechanics

Where have all the Nolan Ryan's, Tom Seaver's, and Greg Maddux's gone?

They've been ruined.

Coached out of their natural movements.

Just as Justin Verlander was.

Justin Verlander Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander
2016

Prior to 2020, JV was the only pitcher at the MLB level who (still) moved naturally.

Like a starting pitcher.

Like Ryan, Seaver, and Maddux — and Bob Gibson, Mariano Rivera, and so many other greats from the past — and all the other dominant and durable greats of the past.

And then Ron Wolforth told Justin Verlander he needed to change his pitching mechanics and become more consistent with the conventional wisdom.

Which led him to break.

Completely predictably.

November 13, 2019

I get into why Verlander came crashing down to earth in detail in Pitching Mechanics: The Problem and Justin Verlander: What Happened but in this piece I want to discuss what JV did — or was doing — right.

And what changed.

Nolan Ryan

Why was Nolan Ryan both dominant and durable?

Far more so than modern pitchers?

Because he was a freak, right?

Wrong.

Nolan Ryan was more dominant and durable than modern pitchers because he moved better than them.

More naturally.

Understanding why Nolan Ryan was so much more durable than modern pitchers starts with his Timing; with the position of his pitching arm at the moment it starts to come under load.

Nolan Ryan Pitching Mechanics

Nolan Ryan

In the picture above, notice how, as his front foot is planting, Nolan Ryan's pitching arm is almost UP.

Nolan Ryan Pitching Mechanics

Nolan Ryan

That meant that, when Nolan Ryan's front foot planted, and his shoulders started to turn, his pitching arm was in the proper position to handle the resulting loads.

Tom Seaver

Similarly, if you look at the pitching mechanics of Tom Seaver, you'll see that his pitching arm is UP when his shoulders start rotating.

Tom Seaver's Pitching Mechanics

Tom Seaver

Justin Verlander

Why did Justin Verlander have some of the best pitching mechanics?

Because he moved like Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, and the other greats of the past.

Completely naturally.

And well.

And why did he break?

Because he got away from those pitching mechanics. In order to become more consistent with the conventional wisdom.

Which should tell you something about the conventional wisdom about pitching mechanics.

Justin Verlander Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander
2012

I first really zeroed in on Justin Verlander with this 2012 clip, which is one of my favorites and the one that opened my eyes to the wisdom of Scap Loading.

And then, in 2014, Justin Verlander got hurt.

In sum, what I think happened is that the only thing I don't like about his pitching mechanics, what his front leg and knee are doing in Frame 89...

Justin Verlander's Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander
Frame 89

...caused a core injury — twice, now — leading to problems up the kinetic chain.

In 2016, I went to Spring Training hoping to see the Justin Verlander of old.

I was not disappointed.

So what's so great about the pitching mechanics I saw on display in 2016?

Proper Pitching Mechanics

When I look at Justin Verlander's 2016 pitching mechanics, I see a pitching who is moving completely naturally.

Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander
2016

Justin Verlander isn't using any of the tricks and shortcuts that have become established as the conventional wisdom.

Justin Verlander's Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander
Frame 01

Justin Verlander's Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander
Frame 22

In Frame 22, Justin Verlander has completed the Drop portion of the Drop & Drive movement and is just about to start to Drive towards home plate.

Justin Verlander's Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander
Frame 39

Justin Verlander's Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander
Frame 56

Justin Verlander's Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander
Frame 64

Justin Verlander's Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander
Frame 70

Frame 70 is where we can see Justin Verlander's excellent Timing. His front foot is down, his shoulders are just about to start turning, and his pitching arm is UP and ready to accept the load.

Justin Verlander's Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander
Frame 81

In Frame 81, Justin Verlander's pitching arm is at maximum External Rotation, laying back towards second base.

Justin Verlander's Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander
Frame 85

In Frame 85, Justin Verlander is just about to release the ball. Notice that, while some say that pitchers need to keep both feet on the ground, Verlander's back foot is (slightly) up in the air, which is perfectly normal.

Justin Verlander's Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander
Frame 89

Frame 89 shows the only concern I have with Justin Verlander's pitching mechanics; the way he (hyper) extends his front knee and leg which, I'd suggest, is related to the problems he has had with his core in 2014 and 2020. While this works, it's not necessary.

Where to go from Here

I have put together a number of free and other pieces for people who want to dive into the topic of pitching mechanics. 

Pitcher Injury Predictions

Since 2006, I have been making predictions about which pitchers I think are more, and less, likely to experience injury problems.

I mention this because I believe it establishes that I have a deep understanding of pitching mechanics and injuries; you have to understand a system in order to make accurate predictions about it.

Professional Pitcher Analyses

In order to help people understand how major league pitchers actually throw the ball, I have created a number of analyses of the pitching mechanics of major league baseball pitchers, including...

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