One of the things we pride ourselves on here at RPP is constantly studying, collecting data and trying to figure out better and more efficient ways to help our athletes achieve the greatest amount of success, both on and off the field. I feel it’s a big part of what separates us from many of the training facilities in our area, and the country for that matter.
This off-season we continued our research into achieving speed and power by building individual athletic profiles on all of our athletes (I’ll get into this more in a future blog). Our biggest “ah-ha” moment though came in the area of video analysis, analyzing pitching mechanics, correctives and velocity. It was the catalyst in forming our Pitching Rx program.
Today, we’re going to look at Pace University pitcher Dan Wirchansky, who came to me with a specific agenda. I will take you through part of our journey that’s helping him get to where he wants to be.
Let me start by saying that there is no success unless an athlete has the desire and determination to get his or herself there. Dan has just that. He came to us 5 years ago at the age of 13 after experiencing some shoulder pain and realizing he needed to get stronger. Now at the age of 18, he’s developed into quite the pitcher and has committed to play ball at Pace University.
His father mentioned to me that his coach loved the movement on Danny’s ball but would like to see his velocity come up into the 90’s (he was topping out at 87).
Touching on the topic of velocity, there are programs that focus on mechanics, others focus on velocity, and others that focus on strength. I believe you need a combination of all three to reap the greatest reward. As for the old saying, “Let players grow into their velocity” that’s great if you’re a 13-15 year old kid, but telling that to a 16 or 17 year old kid can very likely put them into a position where they begin to struggle to compete at the higher levels.
The harder you throw, the higher your chance of injury and anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t being honest with you.
We needed to get his velo up while not jeopardizing command or the movement of his pitches but first, we had to correct the mechanical flaws in his delivery that may be preventing him from throwing harder. I suggested that Danny enter into our Pitching Rx program followed by a 9-week throwing / strength training program. Throwing programs without strength training are just plain stupid. PERIOD.
Ok, let’s get this show on the road.
First up for Danny was a thorough movement assessment. This is where it all starts. Here we can tell where Dan may have some insufficient movement patterns that need to be addressed with the proper correctives prior to starting any high volume throwing. These correctives can be done at home as well as during his strength training program at RPP.
After assessing his movement on the table and on the field, it was time to watch him on the mound. With the use of our 4-camera video analysis we looked at Dan’s mechanics from all sides, including overhead. From that, I analyzed his delivery with him and his father locating among other things what I believed to be the three biggest issues in his delivery: Low Glove Side, Lead Leg Shin to Ground Angle, and Rotation of Back Leg Around Front Hip.
Low Glove Side – An “open” glove side forces the torso to rotate prematurely, affecting hip and shoulder separation which in turn can lead to reduced velocity and anterior shoulder and medial elbow pain.
Lead Leg Shin to Ground Angle – A flexed knee at foot strike will create a small shin to ground angle. This will place significant stress on the quads to slow the body down instead of allowing the pitcher to effectively transfer power through the hips and core into the arm. Velocity is lost.
Rotation of Back Leg Around Front Hip – Continuing to rotate around the front hip allows the pitcher to “buy more time” avoiding a “slam” or “bang” on the posterior shoulder. If the body stops rotating, the arm will keep going, straighten out and put stress on the medial elbow as well.
Throwing Correctives Program
We now had to prescribe Danny his throwing program to re-pattern his mechanics. These are performed 21-days in a row at home or at RPP using a “throwing sock” (making a lack of throwing space a non-issue) and weighted balls.
Ok, let’s touch on weighted balls. Let me start by saying this. I am a believer in weighted baseball and long toss programs and we use them in our Pitching Rx throwing correctives. It’s not the weighted balls that are the problem; it’s really how many of these programs are being implemented. No one in my facility under the age of 15 and without prior lifting experience enters into a throwing/velo program. I see many coaches and facilities trying to implement these programs without a clear understanding of anatomy or what is safe and effective for any individual pitcher. The bottom line is this:
They are not utilizing or even aware of how to select the appropriate dosage
Athlete come in different ages, sizes and weight room experience. Their throwing correctives and dosage should reflect that. Many athletes will not use weighted balls at all.
Throwing with heavier weight encourages adaptation, increases awareness and problem solving through better connectivity.
Throwing with underweight ball lets the arm move faster than it ever has…
Here is what Dan’s finish looked like on Aug. 8th at his initial assessment and 3 weeks later after his correctives/throwing program:
A few Notes:
Glove Side – Getting the glove side up enabled him to rotate more efficiently. Combined with the other two fixes, he now has a much later release point (look at his head position) giving him a higher “perceived velocity”.
Lead Leg – Fixing the lead leg helped get the back leg up and around, allowing more time for his throwing arm to decelerate.
More Athletic – Notice how much more “athletic” Dan’s body looks being in a great finish position. Being that these photos are only 3 weeks apart, we can’t credit strength training. It’s purely mechanical.
Oh yeah, and last but certainly not least:
In closing, every situation and athlete is different and so should their roadmap. Simply telling everyone to “grow into their velocity” or that “weighted balls will get you injured” is just as bad as telling everyone to go “long toss” or that “everyone needs to use weighted balls”. It’s all about the individual needs of the athlete and applying the appropriate dosage. Remember, there are no absolutes.
See ya’ in the gym…
By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, NASM, CPT, FMS)