Many Extreme Long Toss programs use what some call the “Pull Down Phase.” This is because after throwing the ball 300 feet in an “Air it out” program, they then want you to pull down your delivery so you do not continue to launch the ball high as you move closer to 60 feet. The problem is this goes against the science of pitching velocity.
Pitching velocity is the product of momentum and torque down a mound. You can read countless articles on this site about Momentum and Torque. The “Pull Down Phase” causes the pitcher to pull down the arm during release prevents early internal rotation which is a key component to pitching velocity as stated in the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) case study called Comparison of High Velocity and Low Velocity Pitch Deliveries.
Science Reveals the Truth Behind Pull Down Phase
Dr. Andrews case study states:
….the maximum shoulder horizontal adduction occurred later and maximum shoulder internal rotation occurred earlier at greater ball velocities.
Notice that Tim Lincecum, who’s fastball averages in the high nineties, proves this component in the case study true in his picture above. He is releasing the ball above his shoulder and head. He couldn’t release the ball any earlier than in his picture. There is no pull down phase in this high pitching velocity delivery. Early internal rotation occurred because he has met ever component of greater ball velocity described in the ASMI case study. He has “less lead knee flexion after front foot contact” which we find just before this image, “greater lead knee extension at the time of ball release,” “Maximum shoulder external rotation” which also occurred before this picture and finally “forward trunk tilt at ball release.” Tim Lincecum is the epitome of this ASMI case study, especially early internal rotation which is the opposite of “Pulling Down” to release.
To give an example of a pitcher who is fighting against his potential velocity by implementing the same mechanics of the “pull down phase” and pulling the ball down to release would be this picture here. This happens because of a flaw in timing. When the front foot lands and momentum is slowing down then the arm must take over. The pitcher must pull the ball down to create more external rotation that was lost when his momentum slowed down. Momentum must accelerate all the way to ball release to support top velocity. Just like a plane taking off, momentum must not stop or velocity will suffer. In the case of pitching, the arm suffers as well because this adds more wear and tear on the arm.
Notice that both of these pitchers are almost in the exact same position but the pitcher here is releasing the ball in front of his face and his elbow has not extended. This tells me that his momentum has stopped and his arm is doing the majority of the work. This also means he created poor hip to shoulder separation at front foot strike which caused his arm to get out front too early in the delivery. The most important perspective of the ASMI Comparison of High Velocity and Low Velocity Pitch Deliveries is the timing of each component. If any of the four pitching velocity components stated in the case study initiate too early then the proceeding component will not reach its maximum potential.
When you find yourself losing momentum and pulling the ball down to release you will notice that your ball pulls down as well as it reaches the plate but when you get early internal rotation, you will notice that your ball jumps out of your hand and looks like it is rising as it reaches the plate. This is an increase in pitching velocity. To prevent launching the ball high, you must make sure you are achieving maximum forward trunk tilt at ball release not “Pulling Down”.
When working to improve on these four components of pitching velocity you must practice them in reverse, not continuing until each component is mastered. This is the only way to develop top velocity and to break the conventional wisdom that says these mechanics can not be taught.
In conclusion, these Extreme Long Toss programs may sound good on video or websites but scientifically it fails. Next time you find yourself trying to pull the ball down at release to increase pitching velocity, check your momentum because your pitching velocity is slowing down.
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