The young pitcher sounds like a teenage girl when it comes to their body weight. “How can I lose weight and throw harder?” “I don’t want to strength train with weights because I will get big muscles.” It is obvious these young pitchers have an elementary understanding of the physics and the anatomy of the high velocity pitcher.
Body weight or mass is very important to any athlete in sports but in baseball and when pitching, body weight must be in balance with some other key parameters. It is uneducated to think that body weight alone effects pitching velocity. In Newton’s Laws of Motion, which we should have all learned in elementary school, specifically his Second Law, states that acceleration equals force divided by mass. This means mass or body weight is only half the equation. So why do these young pitchers have such a poor understanding of how body weight effects pitching velocity? I believe it is due to the ignorance that exists in the conventional wisdom of the game. The same conventional wisdom that believes long distance running is critical for conditioning the pitcher.
Pitching Velocity Science
If you are going to gain a good understanding of how body weight correlates to pitching velocity for the high velocity pitcher then we need to go back to Newton’s Second Law of Motion. We know that body mass or weight is only half the equation. The other half is a force. Force should be the first priority of any pitcher with body weight taking a distant second. The reason is that it doesn’t matter how much you weigh if you can not generate enough force to move your own body weight, then you have zero performance. Of course, it is easier to move a smaller mass but when it comes to throwing something, this doesn’t always apply to increase velocity.
The best way to understand what we are dealing with here when we are talking about the high-velocity pitcher is to make it as simple as possible. With Newton’s Second Law of Motion, we have now defined what it takes to accelerate an object but we also need to know what has more potential to continue in motion once the force has stopped. This is important to understand as well because the mechanics of the high velocity pitcher shows that once the front foot stops the stride momentum, these forces move up the kinetic chain and are accelerated through the stretch-shortening cycle and into the ball. Newton’s First Law of Motion will now help us understand why more body weight can be a good thing.
Newton’s First Law of Motion: An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
The unbalanced force is gravity. This means the heavier object will continue moving forward with more speed because it is a greater force than gravity. The best way to understand this is with the feather and train analogy. For example, if a feather and train were cruising together at the same speed and the force moving the objects at the same speed stopped, which object would stop first? I hope you said the feather because if not then I suck at teaching physics!
Why did the feather stop? Because the forces of gravity far exceed the mass and acceleration of the feather. Now think of the big fat pitcher to the little skinny pitcher. The same physics will apply. The only way for the skinny pitcher to challenge the fat pitcher’s velocity is if he can generate enough force to make up for the loss of mass.
If this isn’t enough to convince you that body mass can increase pitching velocity then check out my article which covers a recent case study that found this exact correlation to pitching velocity. The article is called, Study Proves Body Weight Is Pitching Velocity Factor.
Another case study that gives us some good insight into how body mass can increase pitching velocity is called, Lower-extremity ground reaction forces in collegiate baseball pitchers, by John A. Guido, JR and Sherry L. Werner at the Out-Patient Rehabilitation, Sports Medicine Division, Ochsner Health System, New Orleans, Louisiana; and Sport Science Unlimited, Arlington, Texas. This study was in contrast to another important case study by MacWilliams called, Characteristic Ground Reaction Forces in Baseball Pitching. Here is what the first study above discovered:
The study by MacWilliams et al. failed to document anthropometric and ball velocity data. The athletes in our sample may have demonstrated higher body mass indexes and heights, and higher ball velocities, which could account for the larger ground reaction forces (GRF) found in our study.
The pitchers with the highest ball velocity also demonstrated higher breaking GRF. Although there was a strong correlation between shoulder kinematics, shoulder and elbow kinetics, and GRFs, at the present time, further study is needed to elucidate the relationship between these parameters.
The GRF’s in this study in the landing leg far exceeded 2 times the body weight of the pitcher. They hypothesized that these increase GRF’s in the landing leg could have a lot to do with more body weight and the decline of the mound. This case study proved that pitching velocity is increased if both GRF’s or enhanced and these forces affect the kinetics and kinematics of the throwing arm. This just means that if you build a ton of force in your stride but cannot convert it into the upper body, specifically the throwing arm, then the forces from the stride are wasted.
So what have we learned here today class? We have learned that body mass or weight supports pitching velocity. So will you young pitchers stop acting like teenage girls and man up for a change? To help you, young pitchers, once more, to change this backward perspective when it comes to the physics and the anatomy of the high-velocity pitcher, let’s talk the critical power to weight ratio.
Power to Weight Ratio and the High Velocity Pitcher
So we now know how important ground reaction forces are to the high velocity pitcher. If you need more proof read my article called, Studies Prove Ground Reaction Forces Highly Correlate To Pitching Velocity. Does the question now become do we need to be as big as CC Sabathia to throw hard? Yes, that is one way of doing it but NO, there is more to the equation, right? Tim Lincecum was called the “Freak” when he first made his MLB debut but that is only because he challenged the conventional wisdom of the game with his little frame and explosive fastball. Tim Lincecum is proof that if you do not have the mass of CC Sabathia then you better have insane speed or the force that far exceeds your body mass.
The best way to understand all of this is with the power to weight ratio. This means to more accurately define the high velocity pitcher we must first calculate or guesstimate his power to weight ratio. This simply means how much power can he produce over his own body weight. You can also calculate peak power using vertical jump and body mass which will give you the same measurement but the numbers is in watts which doesn’t make much sense to the average Joe. To learn more about calculating peak power based on vertical jump height and body mass checkout my article called, Holy Grail Study Proves MLB Players Produce More Vertical Power.
In the 3X Pitching Velocity Program we simply calculate a power to weight ratio based off of your 1 rep power clean max and your body weight. Olympians, like the image of Pyrros Dimas, can max out over 2 times there own body weight in the clean and jerk which is why they have such incredible verticals. I believe the elite power athlete in baseball can max out at close to or over 1.5 times their body weight or 150% of their body weight. Anyone with a power to weight ratio over 1.5 would be in the range of a 30 to 40 inch vertical depending on their body weight. I have yet to find a high velocity pitcher that isn’t over 6’9 who can throw 90+ with less than a 30 inch vertical. The performance data from the MLB listed in the article just linked above shows the average vertical jump height of a Major League Ball player around 30 inches and the body mass of 225lbs. It is obvious that weight is not a big deal anymore at the Major League Level. It also should be a big deal for you.
This all means, that the name of the game, when it comes to developing the high velocity pitching, is body weight is not the problem, your power to weight ratio is! So stop eating like a girl and start training like a man because no matter what size you are, based on your power to weight ratio you have a lot of work to do!