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Justin Verlander Pitching MechanicsPitching mechanics.

It's the answer to the question of where all the Nolan Ryans, Tom Seavers, Bob Gibsons, and Greg Madduxes have gone.

Pitching mechanics is also the reason why — after being so good, for so long, and largely injury free — Justin Verlander needed Tommy John surgery.

Pitching mechanics explains the struggles of hard-throwing, but frequently-injured, pitchers like Matt Harvey, Alex Reyes, and Mark Prior, who were betrayed by their pitching mechanics.

All too predictably.

Pitching Mechanics

It's the predictability of pitching injuries that first convinced me, and now others, that this is a solvable problem.

That, and because, it's a MAN-MADE problem.

If you can PREDICT pitching injuries, that means you can also PREVENT them.

And that, in many cases, if not most, injuries are unnecessary to performing at the highest levels.

"All" that's required is the one thing that's too often lacking.


The Problem

The problem with the modern approach to pitching mechanics, and developing pitchers, is that ignores one of the key rules of life.

There's no free lunch.

The tricks and shortcuts pitchers are being taught DO work. They DO help pitchers throw harder, at younger and younger ages, than was previously possible.

But they also take a toll.

A toll that is entirely predictable, down to the injury and order.

A toll that even Justin Verlander had to pay as a result of his decision to abandon the classic, natural, Ryan and Seaver inspired, starter pitching mechanics that got him where he was.

I don't know what you've heard about my work and me, but I hope the accuracy of my predictions about pitchers and injuries, which begin with analyzing their pitching mechanics, makes it clear I know what I'm talking about when it comes to pitchers, performance, and mechanics.

Where've They Gone?

Where have all the Nolan Ryans, Tom Seavers, and Greg Madduxes gone?

The best, most durable and dominant pitchers?

They've been coached out of their natural movements.


Just as Justin Verlander was.

Justin Verlander Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander

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

Like a starting pitcher.

Like Ryan, Seaver, Gibson, Rivera, Maddux and all the other dominant and durable greats of the past.

And then the conventional wisdom got him.

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

Best Pitching Mechanics

What pitcher has the best pitching mechanics?

I answer that question at length in my piece that discusses the best pitching mechanics but, in sum, my list of the best pitchers looks for two things.

  1. Dominance
  2. Durability

Using those criteria, my list of the pitchers with the best pitching mechanics includes...

  • Nolan Ryan
  • Tom Seaver
  • Bob Gibson
  • Mariano Rivera
  • Greg Maddux

As for modern pitchers?

  • Aroldis Chapman

No, Aroldis Chapman hasn't been completely injury-free. But that's what you get when you throw 105. Relatively speaking, compared other super-hard throwers, Chapman has been remarkably durable.

Then there's...

  • Justin Verlander

...who I discuss below, at length.

In sum, Verlander is a GREAT example. As long as you ignore 2020. And, to a lesser degree, his mechanics after 2014.

But I'd put 2009-2013 and 2016-2017 Justin Verlander up there with Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver, which is why it's so tragic that Ron Wolforth decided he could improve on Verlander's mechanics.

Justin Verlander

I've been studying Justin Verlander's pitching mechanics since 2009, seeing in him someone who moved like Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, and the other greats of the past.

A pitcher who moved completely naturally.

And well.

Justin Verlander Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander

And contrary to the conventional wisdom, as this 2012 clip, which is one of my favorites and the one that opened my eyes to the wisdom of Scap Loading, shows all too well.

And then, in 2014, Justin Verlander got hurt.

In sum, what I think happened in 2014 and 2015 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 Mechanics

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

Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander

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.

Verlander: What Happened?

As I explain, in detail, in...

...Justin Verlander changed his pitching mechanics and moved away from the classic, starter model and, instead, became compatible with the Conventional Wisdom.

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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