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This is my original discussion of the concept of Rushing in baseball pitchers.
July 24, 2007
Whenever my pitchers start consistently missing high (or missing high and to the pitching arm side), the first thing that I suspect is that they are rushing toward the plate.
At the most basic level, rushing is a timing flaw.
To understand what happens, and why, you have to understand the timing of a typical pitcher. When it comes to most proficient pitchers, their shoulders start to turn either at, or immediately after, the moment that their glove-side (or GS) foot lands on the ground. This happens pretty much reflexively; the glove-side foot lands and the shoulders start to rotate. In the case of a pitcher whose mechanics and timing are on, at the moment their shoulders start to rotate their pitching-arm-side (or PAS) elbow will be at the level of their shoulders and their PAS forearm will be vertical.
This photo of Danny Haren is an example of what perfect timing looks like. As you can see, his GS foot is planted, which has triggered the rotation of his shoulders (notice that his wrist is flexing slightly). At this moment, his PAS forearm is vertical.
This photo of Casey Fossum is another example of what perfect timing looks like. Notice that his foot is planted and his PAS forearm is vertical but his shoulders have not yet started to rotate.
The same basic rules of timing also apply to side-armers and submariners. In the photo of Jose Contreras above, you can see that his PAS forearm is not yet vertical (relative to the plane of his back), but you can also see that his GS foot has not yet planted.
If a pitcher rushes to the plate, and by that I mean that he moves his lower body forward relatively faster than he usually does, then at the moment that his GS foot lands on the ground and his shoulders start to rotate, his PAS forearm will not be in the vertical Ready position. Instead, it will still be on its way up to vertical. This can cause a variety of problems, including always leaving the ball up in the strike zone.
In many cases, rushing can caused by a pitcher trying to get something extra on the ball by striding especially forcefully toward the plate. The problem is that the stride toward the plate isn't the real source of a pitcher's power; instead, the properly timed and sequenced rotation of the hips, torso, and shoulders is. By trying to stride especially powerfully toward the plate when throwing a particular pitch, pitchers are far more likely to mess up their timing, and possibly even cost themselves velocity as a result, than they are to increase their velocity.
The photo above of Kerry Wood is an example of what rushing looks like. Despite his time spent on the DL, his timing flaws (which are the likely root cause of his shoulder problems) haven't been fixed. The thing to notice is that his glove-side foot is just about to plant (which will cause his shoulders to automatically start to turn) but his pitching arm side forearm is not yet vertical. As a result, his PAS forearm will lay back or bounce especially hard and he will tend to leave the ball up in the zone as a result.
RUSHING IN DETAIL
Let me explain this is greater detail for those of you who, like me, have to really understand something before you can fix it.
Assume a pitcher normally takes .75 seconds from lifting their glove-side foot to planting their glove-side foot (at which point they start turning their shoulders). Also assume that they normally break their hands .5 seconds after lifting their glove-side foot and then take .25 seconds to get their pitching arm up to the high cocked position.
Now assume that the pitcher rushes (their lower body) in order to get a little bit extra on the ball.
As a result, they speed up their lower body such that it only takes them .7 (not the normal .75) seconds from lifting their glove-side foot to planting their glove-side foot (at which point they start turning their shoulders). If they stick to their standard upper body rhythm, where they break their hands .5 seconds after lifting their glove-side foot and then take .25 seconds to get their pitching arm up to the high cocked position, then at the moment that their glove side foot lands, then their pitching arm side forearm will not be vertical at the moment that their glove-side foot lands. Instead, it will still be on the way up to vertical (.05 seconds short of vertical, to be precise). As a result, the arm will bounce (or lay back) differently and the ball will be released from a slightly different point.
Since pitching is timing, that small timing difference is often enough to mess up a pitcher's timing and cause a pitch to be a ball rather than a strike.
If you are having a hard time imagining when or why this timing difference could occur, consider a pitcher who switches from a standard delivery from the Set position (e.g. with a leg lift) to using a slide step. Eliminating the leg lift will allow them to plant their GS foot faster, which can cause problems if their PAS forearm isn't up and in the Ready position when their shoulders start to rotate.
WHAT RUSHING LOOKS LIKE
It's hard to find pictures of major leaguers who are rushing, since few habitual rushers are able to perform at the major league level. However, this photo below of Brad Hennessey comes close to illustrating what rushing looks like.
As you can see, his GS foot is just about to plant. However, his PAS forearm is not yet vertical. In fact, his PAS forearm is still short of horizontal. If he was to start rotating his shoulders at the moment that his GS foot planted, his forearm would not yet be vertical and Hennessey would most likely end up missing up and in.
This photo of Jeff Francis also suggests rushing to me. Notice that his GS foot is just about to plant but his PAS forearm is still below the horizontal.
Finally, this Spring Training photo of Aaron Harang also shows some signs of rushing. Notice that the GS foot is planted but the PAS forearm is not yet vertical. Of course, the point of Spring Training is to give pitchers the time they need to work on their timing and eliminate flaws like rushing.
When thinking about rushing, one thing to keep in mind is that some pitchers will look like they are rushing when they actually aren't. In some cases, pitchers will lunge into GS knee before they start rotating their shoulders. This lunging action prevents rushing by giving their PAS forearm a little more time to get arm up and in the Ready position.
As a result, when talking about rushing you have to remember that rushing only makes sense in the context of individual pitchers; it makes no sense to say that one pitcher rushes compared to another. This is because different pitchers will have different timing (e.g. of exactly when their shoulders start to rotate). Instead, the way to think about rushing is as a pitcher departing from their usual timing.
POSSIBLE INJURY IMPLICATIONS OF RUSHING
A final thing that I want to say about rushing is that it isn't necessarily just a mechanical problem. Instead, I believe that rushing may increase the risk that a pitcher will injure themselves.
For example, Chris Carpenter seems to exhibit signs of rushing in some photos of him that I have seen; he seems to start turning his shoulders before his PAS forearm is vertical.
I have a theory that this is problem is related to Bicep and Labrum problems in professional pitchers. The logic is that this could cause the pitching-side upper arm to externally rotate especially hard. This could put an increased load on the shoulder and the Biceps muscle (which inserts into the shoulder).
You can see something that looks like rushing in the above photo of Scott Sullivan. Like Jose Contreras, Sullivan can throw from a sidearm to submarine arm slot. Compared to the photo of Jose Contreras above, Sullivan's timing is quite different. His GS foot is planted and his shoulders are just starting to turn, but his forearm only slightly above the horizontal (relative to the plane of his back). I believe that this timing difference could be related to the shoulder problems that Sullivan has experienced over the years.
This photo of Brett Tomko also shows signs of rushing. Notice that his GS foot is planted but his PAS forearm is only slightly above the horizontal. It may not be a coincidence that Tomko has had shoulder problems.
Finally, this photo of Cole Hamels also shows signs of rushing. Notice that his GS foot is planted but his PAS forearm is horizontal. It may not be a coincidence that Hamels has also had shoulder problems.
Rushing usually isn't a very hard problem to fix.
In my experience, problems with rushing tend to arise when a pitcher tries to turn their velocity up to "11" by speeding up their body but doesn't also speed up their arm action (e.g. when and/or where they break their hands). As a result, to fix the problem of rushing you have to get the pitcher's timing back in sync. There are a number of things that I do to achieve this goal.
In general, when I sense that my pitchers are rushing during a game, I emphasize that they need to be steady and smooth when moving to the plate rather than jumping toward the plate. When they are getting ready to pitch, I will call out to them "Nice and smooth" which usually reminds them to not move too quickly toward the plate. If that doesn't work, then I tell that they should only try to throw 90% (rather than 110%).
That makes the point that there are actually two types of rushing: occasional and habitual.
When someone is occasionally rushing (e.g. sometimes missing high), then their timing is only occasionally different (usually when they are throwing hard). As a result, the fix is to emphasize that they need to make their timing more consistent. That means they need to not jump forward when throwing some pitches (and not others).
When someone is habitually rushing (e.g. always missing high), then their timing is fundamentally flawed. As a result, you need to consider changing their mechanics so that their arm is up and ready at the moment that their shoulders start to rotate. One way to do this is to have them break their hands sooner.
MORE EXAMPLES OF WHAT GOOD TIMING
In the above is a photo of Orlando Hernandez, you can see that his PAS forearm is not yet vertical. Instead, his forearm is only slightly above the horizontal. However, his GS foot has not yet planted. In the time it takes his GS foot to plant, his pitching arm side upper arm will rotate so that his PAS forearm is vertical and in the Ready position as his shoulders start to turn.
The photo above is of Miguel Batista and was taken at a slightly later moment in time. As you can see, his PAS forearm is not yet vertical. Instead, his PAS forearm is still only 30 degrees above the horizontal. However, his GS foot has not yet planted. In the time it takes his GS foot to plant, his PAS upper arm will rotate so that his PAS forearm is vertical and in the Ready position as his shoulders start to turn.
Steve Trachsel also exhibits very good timing in the photo above. As you can see, he GS foot is planted, his PAS forearm is vertical and in the Ready position and his shoulders are only just starting to rotate.
As much as I hate to say it (I'm a Cardinals fan), this picture of Cubs pitcher Rich Hill suggests that he has good timing. Notice that his GS foot has not yet planted but his PAS hand is in the proper position (considering that he doesn't come to the traditional high cocked position).
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