Just after writing my latest article on how Met pitchers continue to have arm problems I get the alert that another one is down for the count. Bobby Parnell is out with a partial tear of his UCL. I then searched YouTube for some video of him pitching and look at what I found. I found Parnell in Spring Training do the conventional “Balance Drill.” Check out the video below.
If you look at Parnell’s pitching mechanics he is an obvious victim of the “Balance Drill.” When is the MLB going to learn that slowing down the lower half may help with control but it will eventually ruin the throwing arm.
I blame this upper-half approach to pitching for the insane amount of arm injuries that Major League Baseball is dealing with today. We can get into the specifics of the arm path and how it effects the load on the throwing arm but what it really comes down to in the end is that if you do not power your pitches predominately with your legs and core then your arm will pay the price.
In this article, I will talk about the damage the “Balance Drill” does to a high velocity pitcher and I will look into the pitching mechanics of Bobby Parnell. I will also make the point more clear that slowing down the lower half is detrimental to a MLB pitching career.
The Met’s Bobby Parnell and the Balance Drill
Here is the video of Bobby Parnell preparing for the 2014 season using the conventional “Balance Drill “as the announcer makes it sound like this has all prepared him to be the closer for the Met’s in 2014. Unfortunately, this did not prepare him for the season as he started it with a torn UCL. Learn more…
I can not say that this drill is the reason for his poor lower half mechanics because I have no proof but it definitely has not helped. I have watched his mechanics for some time now and Parnell mainly rotates his drive leg off the rubber. He initiates a drive of the back leg early in his stride but most of the the drive leg dynamics is internal rotation. He also lands with a soft front leg and does not extend it into pitch release. This is the perfect example of a poor lower half that is mainly rotational.
Most critiques of the 3X approach to high velocity pitching mechanics would use Parnell as an alternative to using an explosive lower half because he can throw hard. Yes, he does throws hard with this approach but it is in sacrifice for the health of his throwing arm. 3X Pitching trains and coaches a dominate lower half when it comes to generating speed and power. In itself this is a challenge but the results is not only potentially higher ball speed but less wear and tear on the throwing arm which means a healthier arm.
Why Bobby Parnell can throw so hard with a poor lower half is because he times his lower half to upper half movements almost perfectly and his body dynamics to mobility is elite. He is obviously a great athlete but mechanically he is a lazy pitcher in my book which is detrimental to his health as a professional pitcher.
The Fastest Way to Ruin an MLB Pitcher
Here is one of the most common stories I hear on a monthly basis from minor league pitchers who come into the 3X Pitching Velocity Program. So, I got drafted out of high school throwing 95mph and 2 years later I am now throwing 85mph. I usually ask the question, what did you do when you were throwing that hard outside of pitching mechanics? The answer I always get is, I played football or I did some explosive style training. I then ask them, why did they stop this style of training and the answer is either; I didn’t think I needed it with baseball or my professional organization will not let me use it.
I also have had a first hand experience with this with Matt Southard who came through two 3X Pitching Velocity Camps and then got drafted. He went from 82 to 94mph on the program and this took him from Juco to the minor leagues with the Phillies. Once he got to the Phillies he tried to continue the program but the Phillies told him he could not do it with them. Here is his interview after his second 3X VCamp.
After about 4 months in minor league ball with the Phillies he was back down to the low 80’s. After the season he did some 3X Training this fall and he got back to the 90’s again but once he arrived for the spring with the Phillies they kicked him out of the weight room for doing overhead squats.
When I tell this story to young pitchers and their parents the question is always why would they do this to Matt? My answer is, because this is how they have always done it. They do not develop players but try not to screw them up and because most draftees are great athletes it is hard to screw them up. In the case of Matt Southard, we enhanced his athleticism so he could play at that professional level. This means he will always have to maintain this athleticism if he wants to continue to play at the professional level. If the Phillies will not let him do it then he better find a way around this or they will release him faster than they drafted him. This is the same for all the other minor leaguers or college pitchers who are in the same situation. This is a cynical game and you better take care of yourself because no one else will.
The lesson here is don’t expect the top level of this game today to be any better developmentally than the bottom. I have had the same debates on conventional wisdom with professional pitching coaches and little league pitching coaches. This game is extremely political which puts unqualified personnel at all levels of the game.
In the case of the Met’s, if they do not make an organization wide change to implementing a lower half approach to developing their pitchers then you will continue to see this novice style of training like with the “Balance Drill” influencing their major investments like closer Bobby Parnell. We expect more from this level and the MLB needs to live up to these expectations.