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Justin Verlander Pitching MechanicsPitching mechanics has a problem in that it's no longer producing pitchers of the caliber of Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver.

And, worse, pitchers who get in sync with the conventional wisdom about pitching mechanics inevitably break.

As the experience of Justin Verlander so clearly demonstrates.

Pitching Mechanics
The Problem

Justin Verlander's pitching mechanics enabled him to be as dominant and durable as Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Mariano Rivera, and Greg Maddux.

Then Ron Wolforth told Justin Verlander he needed to change his pitching mechanics and move less like Ryan and Seaver et al and more in line with the conventional wisdom and modern pitching mechanics.

Causing JV to break.

A break I saw coming, well in advance...

November 13, 2019

I both expressed concern, and tried to warn Verlander, about the changes he was being told to make to his pitching mechanics.

To no avail.

By Spring Training 2020, the die had been cast. Verlander had moved to the modern pattern.

March 6, 2020

Verlander only started having arm problems — first, and twice, having Triceps problems and then needing Tommy John surgery — when he started listening to Ron Wolforth, bought into the conventional wisdom, changed his pitching mechanics, and started moving like Harvey, Reyes, and every other modern pitcher.

March 6, 2020

Which sums up the problem with modern pitching mechanics.

They involve taking more and more risks, mechanically speaking, all the while hoping the new extreme conditioning programs will balance out the increased risk of injuries.

All experience and evidence to the contrary.

In truth, modern pitching mechanics means turning out a steady stream of hard throwing but fragile, generally reliever-grade arms.

But where are the starters?

And that's the big question.

How do you enable pitchers to throw HARD? Without taking stupid risks? Thus enabling them to remain starting pitchers?

I've spent the past fifteen years working to answer those questions.

That starts with working to understand the epidemic and what's changed in terms of how pitchers are taught and how they move.

The Epidemic

Alex Reyes Pitching MechanicsWhy can't modern pitchers like Alex Reyes stay healthy?

All too predictably?

Because of their pitching mechanics.

Specifically, and as I explain at length in The Epidemic, because of the tricks and shortcuts that are used by pitching coaches to generate quick and easy velocity increases.

March 31, 2014

And that — all too predictably — lead to injury problems.

The Difference

The difference between...

1. Dominant and durable pitchers...

  • Of the past...
    • Nolan Ryan
    • Tom Seaver
    • Mariano Rivera
    • Greg Maddux
  • Of the present...
    • Justin Verlander
    • Aroldis Chapman
Justin Verlander Pitching Mechanics

2. Modern, hard-throwing, but far more injury-prone pitchers like...

  • Matt Harvey
  • Joel Zumaya
  • Mark Prior

...isn't complicated.

Matt Harvey Pitching Mechanics

It can be seen with the naked eye.

In the pictures above, notice how, at Foot Plant, Justin Verlander's pitching arm is UP while Matt Harvey's pitching arm is FLAT.

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

Harvey, Seaver, Fernandez, and Ryan

Similarly, in the composite above, notice how, while the pitching arms of Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan are UP when their shoulders start to turn, the pitching arms of Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez are FLAT or nearly so?

That's bad.

It's a problem I call Flat Arm Syndrome.

And it's the all too obvious reason why modern pitchers both...

  1. (Often) Throw Harder.
  2. (Always) Struggle to Stay Healthy.

Classic vs. Modern Mechanics

What are the differences between Classic and Modern Pitching Mechanics?

Classic Pitching Mechanics

Classic Pitching Mechanics are natural; they are how the vast majority of pitchers — and throwers — move, if left alone. If not taught the Tricks and Shortcuts that define and develop Modern Pitching Mechanics.

Justin Verlander Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander's Pitching Mechanics
August 2016

Justin Verlander was the last, best example of Classic Pitching Mechanics.

And JV broke when he changed his pitching mechanics to be more consistent with the conventional wisdom.

Modern Pitching Mechanics

Contrary to what some say, the father of Modern Pitching Mechanics is Paul Nyman. Tom House is just the guy who stole the baby and raised and passed it off as his own.

Mark Prior Pitching Mechanics

Mark Prior's Pitching Mechanics

Mark Prior is the first example of a pitcher who followed the Modern Pitching Mechanics model.

And who couldn't stay healthy as a result.

Scap Loading

What got Mark Prior was one of the keys of Modern Pitching Mechanics; Scapular or just plain Scap Loading.

What's so — infuriating is probably the best word to describe how I feel — is that, while you do so a lot of Scap Loading in modern pitchers, you didn't see much of it in Justin Verlander.

Justin Verlander Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander's Pitching Mechanics (2012)

Watch how far — how little — Justin Verlander's elbows, and his Pitching Arm Side elbow in particular, get behind his shoulders.

Scap(ular) Loading is one of those things that is sold as a key to Modern Pitching Mechanics but that was never a major part of Classic Pitching Mechanics.

Positive Disconnection

As for Positive Disconnection, which is Driveline's big contribution to Modern Pitching Mechanics, it's not what Justin Verlander does.

Or did.

Justin Verlander Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander's Pitching Mechanics (2016)

In the picture above of Justin Verlander, at Stride Foot Contact, notice how his pitching arm is UP, his shoulders are closed, and his Glove Side elbow is in line with the target.

Of all the changes Verlander made in 2020, changes that in my opinion contributed to his needing Tommy John surgery, adopting Driveline's idea of Positive Disconnection is at the top of my list. It caused obvious changes to Verlander's Timing.

Changes I tweeted about as soon as I saw them.

And that led me to change my opinion of Verlander's mechanics and prospects.

Before he broke and needed Tommy John surgery.


Scap(ular) Loading, Positive Disconnection, and all the other ideas that comprise Modern Pitching Mechanics are problematic because of their impact on Timing.

The position of the pitching arm when the shoulders start rotating and the pitching arm starts to come under load.

Dominant and durable pitchers have exceptional Timing and consistently get to the Ready Position. In contrast, modern pitchers increasingly exhibit flaws like Flat Arm Syndrome and the Tommy John Twist.

That DOES allow them to throw harder, at younger ages.

But there's No Free Lunch.

The tricks and shortcuts that are at the center of Modern Pitching Mechanics work by overloading the pitching arm.

These differences explain why Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez quickly experienced both dominance, and injury problems, early on in their professional careers while Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan were equally dominant and far more durable.

The Root Cause

The root cause of the problem is that...

  • The definition of proper pitching mechanics has changed.
  • How pitching mechanics — and, more fundamentally, throwing mechanics — are being taught has changed.

I'm not just talking about the Inverted W, although that is increasingly, inadvertently, and again becoming an important and relevant topic. Instead, I'm talking about all of the different problematic pitching cues and drills that "work" by creating a Timing problem.

There's no question pitchers at all levels are throwing harder than ever.

However, the latest research into pitching mechanics suggests that these changes to how throwing and pitching are taught are contributing to the rising injury rates to pitchers.

How Things Have Changed

To fix the problem with how pitching mechanics are taught, and reverse the course of the pitcher injury and tommy john surgery epidemic, we first need to understand how things have changed in terms of throwing and pitching mechanics and how they are taught.

I grew up hearing stories about Bob Gibson...

Bob Gibson's Pitching Mechanics

Bob Gibson

...and Tom Seaver...

Tom Seaver's Pitching Mechanics

Tom Seaver

I was able to watch Nolan Ryan, on TV, if not in person.

Nolan Ryan's Pitching Mechanics

Nolan Ryan

As my kids got older, I focused my attention on Greg Maddux, his pitching mechanics, and the ridiculous ways he could get the ball to move...

Greg Maddux's Pitching Mechanics

Greg Maddux

...and Mariano Rivera and his cutter.

Mariano Rivera's Pitching Mechanics

Mariano Rivera

The more I studied pitchers and pitching mechanics, the more obvious it became to me that modern pitchers looked — and moved — differently than the pitchers I idolized and studied ad nausea.

Mark Prior Pitching Mechanics

Mark Prior

Mark Prior and his pitching mechanics were part of it, but he wasn't the only one. Living in St. Louis, Anthony Reyes quickly caught my eye due to his pronounced — even worse than Mark Prior's — Inverted W.

Anthony Reyes' Pitching Mechanics

Anthony Reyes

Yes, there were guys like Justin Verlander...

Justin Verlander's Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander

...but there seemed to be fewer and fewer pitchers who displayed the pitching mechanics of the greats.

What I came to understand over time was that the differences in how pitchers moved were due to differences in how they were being taught.

Matt Harvey

As I discuss in my analysis of Matt Harvey's pitching mechanics, in my opinion the root cause of Matt Harvey's elbow — and eventually, shoulder — problems is something called the Power T. If you got here by Googling "pitching mechanics," "proper pitching mechanics," or something similar, you likely came across a piece with these two pictures illustrating what are (supposedly) proper pitching mechanics.

Power T

Power T

Power T

Power T

I assume that Matt Harvey was taught something similar.

Matt Harvey's Power T

Matt Harvey's Power T

The problem is that the Power T works by creating a Timing problem; the pitcher's arm isn't up and in the correct position when their front foot plants and their shoulders start rotating.

Matt Harvey's Power T

Matt Harvey's Power T

The Power T works — for a while — by overloading the arm; by pushing it past the red line. That will often yield quick velocity increases but, in my experience, will also lead to elbow and/or shoulder problems.

I believe that people who teach the Power T think they are teaching pitchers to throw like Roy Halladay.

But they aren't.

Jose Fernandez

My analysis of Jose Fernandez's pitching mechanics discusses my belief that other common cues are compromising his pitching mechanics and are putting his career in jeopardy.

Jose Fernandez

Jose Fernandez

I say this in part because, of all my pitcher injury predictions, my...

...unfortunately proved to be the most accurate, which suggests that the problem with Jose Fernandez's pitching mechanics is extremely serious.

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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