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Nolan Ryan Pitching MechanicsProper Pitching Mechanics, up until 15 years ago or so, was understood to refer to those movements that allowed pitchers to move like Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver; to throw hard, but with control and command, while not taking stupid risks.

Nobody really talked about injuries, but the unspoken understanding was that nobody would teach pitching mechanics that significantly raised the risk of injury.

That's all changed.

Weighted balls and other forms of extreme conditioning are now being sold as enabling "anything goes" in terms of pitching mechanics, and are driving the epidemic of injuries in baseball pitchers.

 Something people refuse to acknowledge.

Or even discuss.

Proper Pitching Mechanics

Proper Pitching Mechanics no longer means what it used to, thanks in part to innovations like Tommy John surgery and conditioning programs that (purport to) allow "anything goes" when it comes to pitching mechanics.

That is reflected in how the pitching mechanics injuries views mechanical patterns that create a risk of elbow and shoulder pain.

Proper Pitching Mechanics

Thus The Epidemic

Now, movements that REDUCE the risk of elbow and shoulder pain are now labeled as FLAWS.

Which is insane.

It's the Timing, Stupid

While positions like the Inverted W have gotten the most press, when it comes to proper pitching mechanics, the most important thing is what I call Timing.

Justin Verlander and Anthony Reyes

Justin Verlander and Anthony Reyes

By Timing, I mean the position of the pitching arm when the shoulders start to rotate.

Tom Seaver, Jose Fernandez, and Nolan Ryan

Tom Seaver, Daniel Winkler, and Nolan Ryan

If you compare the position of the pitching arm of dominant and durable pitchers and frequently-injured pitchers at the start of the rotation of the shoulders, you can see an obvious difference.

Tom Seaver, Jose Fernandez, and Nolan Ryan

Tom Seaver, Jose Fernandez, and Nolan Ryan

The pitching arms of dominant and durable pitchers are UP when their shoulders start to rotate — which is usually at front foot plant — and the pitching arms of frequently-injured pitchers are FLAT when their shoulders start to rotate.

Jose Fernandez's Pitching Mechanics

Jose Fernandez

I use the term Flat Arm Syndrome to refer to the tendency for frequently-injured pitchers' arms to be flat at the start of shoulder rotation.

Justin Verlander Proper Pitching Mechanics

Justin Verlander August 21, 2016

Justin Verlander is probably the best current example of good timing and proper pitching mechanics, and I believe his getting back to his original mechanics helped to explain his success in 2016.

The Tragic Two

The definition of proper pitching mechanics is changing, and I believe Timing problems are becoming more prevalent as a result and due to the proliferation of two cues.

Tommy John Twist

The Tommy John Twist is taught using any number of cues, including...

  • Point the ball at second base.
  • Show the ball to center field.
  • Feed the giant.

The idea of pointing the ball toward second base at the power position is advocated by USA Baseball, among others.

Nolan Ryan Pitching Mechanics

Nolan Ryan

I was taught that great pitchers do some variant of pointing the ball at second base. However, when I checked, I found that was not the case.

Matt Harvey's Pitching Mechanics

Matt Harvey

However, if you look at pictures of pitchers who need Tommy John surgery, they are often pointing the ball at second base at foot plant.

Terrible T

The most problematic cue is one that is, tragically, advocated by the Mayo Clinic as being part of the mechanics of a safer fastball.

It's anything but.

Mayo Clinic Power Position

Mayo Clinic Power Position

As I said above, if you look at the pitching mechanics of dominant and durable pitchers like Nolan Ryan, Justin Verlander, and Tom Seaver, their pitching arms are UP when their shoulders start rotating.

Tom Seaver's Pitching Mechanics

Tom Seaver

What the Mayo Clinic is advocating is something you see in the pitching mechanics of frequently-injured pitchers like Henderson Alvarez.

The obvious contrast between what Henderson Alvarez does (did?) and proper pitching mechanics made his injury problems sadly easy to predict.

Dominant and Durable

Every harder thrower doesn't get hurt.

The history of baseball is full of pitchers who were both Dominant & Durable. That includes pitchers like...

  • Justin Verlander
  • Nolan Ryan
  • Tom Seaver

I have spent the past 10 years identifying the differences between dominant and durable pitchers and pitchers who have trouble staying healthy, including...

I believe I have identified the — in my opinion unnecessary — movement patterns that place them at risk.

What are Proper Mechanics?

This is just an overview of my views on proper pitching mechanics.

For an expanded version, see the essay on my client site entitled Proper Pitching Mechanics? It is part of my webbook that discusses the pitcher injury and Tommy John surgery epidemic.

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