Long toss is praised by many and shot down by few. I have heard the likes of Alan Jaeger preaching long toss as the secret to velocity and the likes of Dick Mill’s trying to prove scientifically why you should never do it again. I have reflected on this topic for some time now. In my career, I did a lot of long toss but rarely did I notice any difference in velocity. I refuse to tell you that long toss is a waste of time but what I will do is share with you the Pros and Cons of this kind of practice. It is then up to you to make your own decision on using long toss in your training regime.
When I speak of long toss, I mean throwing the ball more than 120 feet. This means throwing the ball farther than from home to second base. To make this easy to understand and for you to base your opinion, I will break long toss down into a list of pros and cons.
It is a max effort exercise which is pushing the body to generate more force to the ball. If performed with total body mechanics, this can train and help develop the total body.
The long distance toss increases the chance of error in locating the target. This is training accuracy for long distance.
It is a max effort throwing exercise which is putting a lot of stress on the arm. Especially the decelerator muscles. If a pitcher has poor mechanics and throws with more arm than body, then long toss can be very destructive to the pitcher.
It is training long distance accuracy which is a different release point than 60 feet pitching accuracy. If performing long toss, it is important to finish throwing from at least 60-65 feet after throwing long, to re-establish your pitching release point.
The mechanical difference from long toss to pitching on the mound, is almost the same difference as playing home run derby as opposed to hitting off of a live pitcher. There is a mechanical adjustment from hitting slow pitches intended for home runs, to hitting hard pitches intended to strikeout the hitter. This adjustment is proof that throwing long toss to pitching has a placebo effect (A placebo is anything of no real benefit which nevertheless makes people feel better.) For example, hitting the home runs in a home run derby would build confidence, which then would effect how you perform against a live pitcher. Just like throwing the ball 350 feet would give you more confidence when you start throwing the ball at 60 feet. It is now a shorter distance and it requires less effort, so you feel a lot more powerful. This is because throwing the ball 350 feet gives a visual measurement of your strength. To help you understand this point, I ask this question, “Which way do you think it is easier to tell who is throwing harder, the difference between a pitcher throwing 85 mph to a pitcher throwing 90 mph, or the difference between a pitcher throwing 310 feet to a pitcher throwing 350 feet?”
There is a difference in mechanics for a pitcher throwing at max effort from 70 feet away to 350 feet away. The difference is in the release point. A pitcher should always throw with the same release point because it is crucial for velocity and accuracy. Continuously changing release points from throwing long toss to pitching on a mound will effect a pitchers consistency. Therefore, the only reason to perform long toss is for the placebo effect. It is just like taking an over the counter supplement that says it will increase your muscle mass. It gets you all excited and pumped up, but this doesn’t mean it is actually working. If this feeling is all that matters to you, then keep playing long toss. Otherwise, if you feel the placebo effect is a waste of time and emotion, then I would suggest you train your pitching delivery the same ever day. Constantly making mechanical adjustments to increase your velocity on the mound, without putting a lot of throws on your arm. You will see more velocity gains from a total body training program than from a long toss program any day.