This is an exciting time for baseball because science is starting to have a major impact on the game. A sign of this impact has been the increase in pitching velocity across the board. We are hearing more and more about 100 mph pitchers coming out of high school and college ball today. Pre-Steroid ERA this would have been unheard of.
TopVelocity.net has been at the forefront of this cutting edge information. What we have done here is interpret this new scientific data into laymen’s terms to help the young pitcher benefit from it. One of the latest studies to come out, which shows the relationship of pronation speeds to vertical ball movements, is some of this cutting edge science that has been right under our noses but now that it is documented, it will begin to impact the game.
The Science Behind Pitching and the RPM
The case study, a Biomechanical analysis of forearm pronation and its relationship to ball movement for the two-seam and four-seam fastball pitches was recently mentioned in my previous article called the Research Proving Pronation Supports Pitching Velocity While Preventing Injury. This study, along with the case study from the Department of Orthopaedic Biomechanics, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland called the Characteristic ground-reaction forces in baseball pitching and the new data coming from the Trackman’s 3D Doppler Radar, defines the link between the lower body movements of the pitcher and their vertical ball movements or RPM’s (Repetitions Per Minute). The chain that is made up of this link is called the kinetic chain. This is an old term that is the foundation of pitching velocity and a term that most conventional pitching coaches seem to ignore.
First understanding the make-up of the kinetic chain is critical to understanding how to increase pitching velocity. If you have never heard of the terminology then here is the definition:
Kinetic Chain – The body and its extremities consist of bony segments linked by a series of joints.
The reason this term is so important to pitching velocity is because pitching velocity is the result of power generating, multiplying and transferring into pitch velocity up the kinetic chain. If a coach does not understand the sequence of events that high velocity pitchers use to generate, multiply and then transfer power into pitching velocity up the kinetic chain, then what help are they to the young pitcher?
This link between lower body movements and vertical ball movements is also illustrated here in this film strip of the top RPM or ball spin rate pitchers in Major League Baseball. Out of all these pitchers listed in the RPM chart of the top RPM’s of MLB pitchers, from the Sports Illustrated Article by Tom Verducci called How a Danish tech company is revolutionizing pitching data, the pitcher’s with the highest RPM’s had more front leg extension. As the RPM’s decreased, so did front leg extension as seen in the film strip here. Notice Justin Verlander with the highest RPM’s and the most front leg extension at pitch release and then notice how when the RPM’s decrease the front leg begins to flex like with Brian Matusz.
To understand in detail why front leg extension is effecting the spin rates or the RPM’s of the baseball, let’s dive into these case studies above to understand this pitching velocity component known as 2X from the 3X Pitching mechanics. First the results of the case study called, a Biomechanical analysis of forearm pronation and its relationship to ball movement for the two-seam and four-seam fastball pitches:
A significant positive correlation (r = 0.583, p < 0.01) was identified between forearm pronation acceleration at ball release and the magnitude of vertical ball movement regardless of pitch type.
Read the entire study here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20093973
This study is proof that vertical ball movement or a high spin rate is the result of pronation speeds. Now let’s look into the case study called the Characteristic ground-reaction forces in baseball pitching. This was the final results of the study:
Pitchers were found to generate shear forces of 0.35 body weight in the direction of the pitch with the push-off leg and to resist forces of 0.72 body weight with the landing leg. Wrist velocity was found to correlate highly with increased leg drive. This study validates the clinical impression that the lower extremity is an important contributor to the throwing motion. Based on this study, strengthening of the lower extremities could be inferred to be important both to enhance performance and to avoid injury.
Read the entire study here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9474404
This study is proof that the drive forces of the lower extremity correlate with wrist velocities, or also referred to as pronation speeds, therefore it can be understood that the increased forces from the legs will increase the RPM’s of the ball. Based on the data from the Trackman’s 3D Doppler Radar from the Sports Illustrated article below, pitchers with higher spin rates have a higher strikeout (K) to “at bats” ratio.
Pitchers who don’t throw hard but have high spin rates on their fastball — such as Shaun Marcum of the Brewers and Koji Uehara of the Orioles — post higher strikeout rates than their modest velocity would otherwise suggest.
These increased forces from the legs that is effecting spin rate or RPM’s may just be more in the front leg as illustrated in the film strip. The last case study also listed that the group of pitchers studied produced more force from the front leg than drive leg. It is important to understand that the resisting forces of the front leg or dependent on the drive forces of the drive leg. This means to enhance drive leg forces the pitcher must use both legs to do this but the front leg may just have more of an impact on pronation speeds and RPM’s. Read this article to learn more about these 2X to 3X Factors to Pitching Velocity.
Don’t Forget the Power Pitchers Kinetic Chain
Before running off to work on front leg extension to increase your pronation speeds, don’t forget about the old kinetic chain. For these drive leg forces to effect pronation speeds the links in between these two pitching velocity components must be implemented correctly or power isn’t multiplied or transferred into pitching velocity. To learn more about this sequence of mechanical components that are occurring between the drive leg forces and pronation, purchase the 3X Pitching Velocity Program.