Well I took the extreme long toss debate to Baseball America. This was my latest article in the Baseball America 2013 Draft Preview issue. I have had a great response from the article. Checkout the article below and post your comments below!
Long toss is a very heated debate when it comes to the best way to develop the pitcher. There are two schools of thought associated with long toss. The amount of distance being the center of the debate. One school believes only short distance long toss is necessary to develop the pitcher and the other school worships max distance long toss, like Jobu in the 1989 cult classic film, Major League. If you are from the “Jobu school of max distance long toss”, then more than likely there is no source of information that will change your relentless commitment to this art form. If there is any chance you are on the fence between these two schools, the information contained in this article will open your eyes and change your perspective of pitching forever.
300 feet Equals 90 mph
What makes max distance long toss so attractive is this little intriguing equation of 300ft = 90 mph. The followers of Jobu and his long toss school will recite this simple equation in debate like it is scripture.To those from the other school, they feel that this equation is a little confusing. Common sense will question, “aren’t there other variables that must be present to make this statement true? Like what about time? Don’t you need to know the time it took for the ball to travel the distance to calculate for velocity?” This is when the numbers in the debate begin to change. You will then hear, “well it is actually more like 320 feet to 90 mph or 350 feet to 90 mph,” but if we sit back and look at the reality, it just doesn’t add up. If it was as simple as throwing the ball 300 feet to becoming a 90 mph pitcher then why, after hundreds of years of this practice, isn’t everyone throwing 90 mph? This is usually the point in the debate when the name dropping begins and the debate never ends.
The Science Behind Long Toss
The only way to cut through the debate and to pull us all out of ignorance is with science. Science is mans only way to evolve and the evolution of baseball has been heavily effected by science for the past 20 years or more. When science is brought into a debate like long toss, it gives us a look under the hood. It allows us to see a little deeper into the equation. The problem is that most people are afraid of learning that what they have been preaching or doing for years, may just be wrong. So they choose ignorance and they defend it with vigilance. This is why history shows civilizations either evolving in time or devolving into their own destruction. Not every man has the desire to swallow his pride and evolve.
If you are from the Jobu school of long toss as described above and you are still reading then continue with caution. The information below will challenge your belief system when it comes to the truth about max distance long toss.
*Enter at Your Own Risk*
I am not liable for any damage you do to yourself or your surroundings in reaction to the information below. Please continue at your own risk!:)
The main study that is the focus of this article was performed at one of the most prestigious sports medicine institutes in the world, the American Sports Medicine Institute. Is was founded by the famous Dr. James Andrews who has worked on pretty much every great athlete in this world, at one time or another.
In the ASMI case study from 2011 called, Biomechanical Comparison of Baseball Pitching and Long-Toss: Implications for Training and Rehabilitation, they evaluated seventeen healthy college pitchers through a flat-ground throwing program that started at 60 feet and progressed to 120, 180 and 300+ feet (1). From 60-180 feet the pitchers where instructed to throw hard and on a line. At 300+ feet they where not instructed to throw at a certain trajectory but to “crow hop”.
The most eye opening data recorded in this study was the comparison of throwing velocity to throwing distance. From 60 feet to 180 feet the highest average throwing velocity of the group was 87 mph. When the distance increased to around 292 feet, which was the highest on average, the throwing velocity dropped to 85 mph. More shocking was that the forces added to the body increased significantly while the throwing velocity dropped. Here is an excerpt from the case study in response to this discovery:
Furthermore, maximum-distance throws produced the greatest elbow and shoulder torques, without any change in ball velocity, making these the least efficient throws, as they produced the most torque for comparable ball velocity.
This study also discovered that many of the common mechanical components, that countless other studies have linked to high pitching velocity, did not exist in the mechanics of the max distance throws (2,3,4,5,6,7). For example, many of these case studies have linked maximum external rotation and at the time of pitch release: forward trunk tilt, lead knee extension, decreased shoulder horizontal adduction and decreased shoulder abduction, to higher pitching velocity. In the long toss case study the components of the max distance throws were that the pitchers only showed maximum external rotation with very poor forward trunk tilt, only a 10 degree extension of the front knee from foot contact to pitch release and no difference in horizontal shoulder abduction and shoulder abduction before pitch release. Here are two different excerpts from the ASMI case study responding to this discovery:
Thus the current study did not find greater similarity between particular distances of throws and the pitching mechanics of pitchers with high ball velocity.... Thus, the current study did not indicate that particular throwing distances were superior in training to increase ball velocity.
Many students of the “max distance school of long toss” will make the claim that this is only one study. The problem is that currently there aren’t any other studies of this caliber comparing the effects of long toss on the pitcher. Here is an excerpt from the case study making this claim:
No previous study has compared the biomechanics of flat-ground throwing and pitching. Therefore, it is still not known whether baseball pitchers use similar kinematics and kinetics during long-toss and pitching. Thus, the theoretical benefits of long-toss for pitchers remain unsubstantiated. The purpose of this study was to compare the biomechanics of pitching and long-toss throwing.
How to Effectively and Efficiently Train Pitching Velocity
There are countless studies that could fill this entire magazine that show the significant correlation of resistance training to pitching velocity (8,9,10,11). A more important case study recorded the performance data of 343 baseball players from a professional organization during a 2-year period from the levels of Rookie, A, AA, AAA and major league baseball (12). This data showed a perfect progression of performance variables up the levels of professional baseball. In laymens terms it illustrates that the bigger, stronger and faster athlete, on average, plays at the higher level of professional baseball.
This scientific information gives us foresight into the future of baseball. It guarantees the young pitcher that, on average, the bigger, stronger and faster pitcher wins in this game and resistance training is the only way to build the bigger, stronger and faster athlete if the genetics of the athlete does not do it for him. Therefore the effective and efficient pitching velocity program must include a strength and conditioning program that trains the pitcher for size, strength and speed and also includes mechanical training through a throwing program that does not use a ton of throws to develop the motor coordination of these documented high velocity components (2,3,4,5,6,7). Studies link overuse to a high risk of arm injury (13).
I highly recommend, any pitcher who is serious and committed to becoming a high velocity pitcher, checkout the 3X Pitching Velocity Program TODAY! Follow the information below!
- Fleisig GS, Bolt B, Fortenbaugh D, Wilk KE, Andrews JR. Biomechanical comparison of baseball pitching and long-toss: implications for training and rehabilitation. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2011 May;41(5):296-303.
- Werner SL, Suri M, Guido JA Jr, Meister K, Jones DG. Relationships between ball velocity and throwing mechanics in collegiate baseball pitchers. J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2008 Nov-Dec;17(6):905-8.
- Stodden DF, Fleisig GS, McLean SP, Andrews JR. Relationship of biomechanical factors to baseball pitching velocity: within pitcher variation. J Appl Biomech. 2005 Feb;21(1):44-56.
- Fleisig GS, Barrentine SW, Zheng N, Escamilla RF, Andrews JR. Kinematic and kinetic comparison of baseball pitching among various levels of development. J Biomech. 1999 Dec;32(12):1371-5.
- Matsuo T, Escamilla RF, Fleisig GS, Barrentine SW, Andrews JR. Comparison of kinematic and temporal parameters between different pitch velocity groups. J Appl Biomech. 2001;17:1-13.
- Werner SL, Suri M, Guido JA Jr, Meister K, Jones DG. Relationships between ball velocity and throwing mechanics in collegiate baseball pitchers. J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2008;17(6):905-908.
- Glenn S. Fleisig, Tomoyuki Matsuo, Rafael F. Escamilla, Steve W. Barrentine, and James R. Andrews, et al. Kinematic Differences Between Highly-skilled And Less-skilled Baseball Pitchers. American Society of Biomechanics, 1999 conference.
- Escamilla RF, Ionno M, deMahy MS, Fleisig GS, Wilk KE, Yamashiro K, Mikla T, Paulos L, Andrews JR. Comparison of three baseball-specific 6-week training programs on throwing velocity in high school baseball players. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Jul;26(7):1767-81.
- Lehman G, Drinkwater EJ, Behm DG. Correlation of throwing velocity to the results of lower-body field tests in male college baseball players. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Apr;27(4):902-8.
- Wooden MJ, Greenfield B, Johanson M, Litzelman L, Mundrane M, Donatelli RA. Effects of strength training on throwing velocity and shoulder muscle performance in teenage baseball players. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1992;15(5):223-8.
- Derenne C, Ho KW, Murphy JC. Effects of general, special, and specific resistance training on throwing velocity in baseball: a brief review. J Strength Cond Res. 2001 Feb;15(1):148-56.
- Hoffman JR, Vazquez J, Pichardo N, Tenenbaum G. Anthropometric and performance comparisons in professional baseball players. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Nov;23(8):2173-8.
- Dave Fortenbaugh, MS, Glenn S. Fleisig, PhD,* and James R. Andrews, MD. Baseball Pitching Biomechanics in Relation to Injury Risk and Performance. Sports Health. 2009 July; 1(4): 314–320.