Pitching Mechanics 101

Constructing an efficient, injury-reducing pitching motion isn’t so much about figuring out what you’re doing right as about figuring out what you’re doing wrong. There are many, many ways to throw without putting undue stress on your arm, and there are many, many ways to throw in such a way that you’re likely to get injured. All credit to Driveline Mechanics for teaching me everything I know about this stuff.

Follow the jump to be overwhelmed by awesomeness.

1. Timing and shoulder-hip separation. Let’s use photos of Tim Lincecum and Rich Harden to illustrate how you can a) do this really well or b) royally screw it up.

Observe Exhibit A. Lincecum shows us proper shoulder-hip separation, with his hips facing home plate and his shoulders facing third base just after his front foot lands. Also note that although his elbows are behind the shoulder line, they are never above it:

Observing Exhibit B, Part 1 (Harden) shows us acceptable, if not superb, shoulder-hip separation:

But observing Exhibit B, Part 2 shows us a major timing problem, which combines with external rotation of the shoulder to paint a very concerning picture. If you look at his right arm, you’ll notice that it’s bent backwards at the elbow, which puts a lot of pressure on the shoulder (which sounds counterintuitive, but if you try to bend your arm back like that, you’ll see):

2. Pronation vs. supination of the wrist. Pronation, in which you turn the palm of your hand away from your body, distributes the force of the pitching motion more evenly along your arm, whereas supination, in which you turn the palm of your hand towards your body, snaps most of the force onto your elbow. Clayton Kershaw is the posterboy for proper pronation through release of a breaking ball (in his case it’s an absolutely devastating curveball), while the currently DL’ed Justin Duscherer (who also has a slight timing problem) supinates through release.

Observe Exhibit A, Clayton Kershaw, who has absolutely fabulous mechanics overall:

And then, observe Exhibit B, Justin Duscherer, who not only supinates but is extremely late with release:

3. Inversion. Forming the Inverted “W” (a.k.a. hyperabduction, or bringing the elbows above the shoulder line) or the Inverted “L” (a variant of this is known as the “hung arm” motion, which is clearly visible in Barry Zito’s delivery — hence, I have a hard time believing that it’s inherently injurious) usually lead to multiple problems, primarily injuries, loss of velocity, and timing issues.

Observe Exhibit A, B.J. Ryan’s Inverted “L”:

Observe Exhibit B, Mark Prior’s Inverted “W”. Yes, when you get your mechanics compared to Mark Prior, that’s a bad thing:

4. Now that your brain hurts from looking at all of that… here. Have a nice, medical-terminology-free photo of Barry Zito.

5. Attempt to explain why this post is under all the categories that it is. “Awesomosity” and “I think I’m in love” are for Tim Lincecum; “baseball ass” is for Rich Harden, and so is “Canadians”, and “nightmare fuel”, because that’s what his bad mechanics are to me; “God I hope this was a good idea” is for the fact that you’ve probably stopped reading by now; and everything else is obvious. Good morning.

14 thoughts on “Pitching Mechanics 101

  1. Hee, I believe my first post was under “God I hope this was a good idea,” too. Nice work, though. As often as the Cardinals pitchers get hurt, I think I’m going to be obsessively analyzing their photographs for a while.

  2. Crane, I really liked this post. I genuinely found that interesting. (not being sarcastic).

    Now who wants to post about Reynold’s number, Bernoulli’s equation, and the fluid mechanics of the curve ball?

    /mechanical engineer

    //Can you do batting mechanics next?

    • I might be able to do batting mechanics — I’ll see what I can find in the way of photos. The thing about proper form for hitting is that it’s extremely difficult to find a hitter with noticeably bad form, since it’s a lot harder to injure yourself swinging than it is to injure yourself throwing.

      But if you want to try and pull something meaningful out of photos you find on your own, I think Jason Bay has the best mechanics of any hitter I’ve seen. His swing is quick, he keeps his hands inside the path of the ball, and he gets most of his power from his hips.

  3. Awesome post! Definitely a good idea ;-P i wish harden could figure out his mechanics so he would stop getting hurt all the time and i could watch his beautiful assets play more!!

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