Is Your Pitching Velo or Exit Velo Stuck at 82 mph? Let’s Find Out Why…

Most often, pitchers and position players associate their pitching velocity or exit velo with their mechanics. As our understanding of the body and technology has improved over the years, it is now more apparent than ever that your velocity ceiling, whether it’s pitching or hitting, is limited by your physical ability more than anything else.  Whether you’re a position player or a pitcher and your velo is stuck… let’s find out why.

But first let’s be clear, there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to coaching pitchers on the mound or in the weight room. As a result, our in-house assessment (inspired by S&C coach Graeme Lehman, an incredibly smart guy, and a good friend), covers an extensive range of topics that helps us determine the overall mobility, elasticity, physicality, and strength and power production of our athletes.  The information provides an excellent guide when developing a customized training program catered to the needs of each individual. These information / metrics include:

    • Anthropometrics
    • Mobility – Lower Half
    • Mobility – Upper Half
    • Strength
    • Power – Lower Half
    • Power – Upper Half
    • Speed
    • Elasticity – Lower Half
    • Elasticity – Upper Half
    • Deceleration
    • Body Fat % and Mass Ratios

By the time an athlete has completed our evaluation, we have an excellent idea of where his strengths and weaknesses are from a physical standpoint.  There is NO better blueprint.  Given our historical intake of this type of information and data, we have assembled target ranges for each, and every metric based on age and training experience.  This in turn allows us to not only develop a complete plan, but also immediately identify the lowest hanging fruit to improve performance.

The metrics listed below are based on a Scale of 100. These ratings allow us to identify the areas with the greatest room for improvement. As each athlete relies on different degrees of these metrics to create athleticism, being able to see room for improvement at-a-glance is key in order to create a more efficient program that addresses each athlete’s individual needs.  It also provides the athlete with an aha moment, when they are stuck at a given velocity.

Let’s take a look…

Anthropometrics

Anthropometrics is a term used to describe the physical measurements of an individual’s size. The measurements tell us about the athlete’s overall frame. Would you tell a short pitcher to train and throw the same way as a tall pitcher? Two pitchers can deliver Major League velocity but do so with completely different frames and mechanics. Thus, mechanics can and will vary between taller and shorter pitchers at various stages of the delivery.

Tall Pitchers (approx. 6’4” and taller)

    • Generally, have longer limbs
    • More mobility / flexibility (laxity)
    • Generally weaker from a strength standpoint in the weight room

Shorter Pitchers (approx. 6’0” and under)

    • Generally, have shorter limbs
    • Less mobility
    • Much stronger in the weight room

Since anthropometrics is the least trainable trait, it becomes the major factor to base the overall training program, in both the weight room and on the mound.  Below is an example of what is measured:

Mobility

The next time you watch an MLB pitcher throw 100+ mph, watch closely how his body moves through the delivery.  You can’t generate power and perform at your highest potential in these types of positions without adequate mobility in all the right places. An important thing to note is more is not always better, especially when we are dealing with taller, “looser” athletes with longer levers (limbs). In this case too much mobility can create instability and a lack of control in their mechanics as well as increasing the chance for injury.

Strength

Your strength levels are a big part of your maximum potential as a pitcher or a position player. The deadlift, squat and bench press are generally the gold standards for gauging overall body strength. Without adequate levels of body strength, it’s difficult to perform at higher levels. But, once again, there is an upper limit on this range, meaning that you can have too much of a good thing, especially for our taller, looser athletes that rely more on elasticity and mobility to be successful. For these guys, maybe focusing on using loads that are a bit lighter and are closer to the velocity end of the force-velocity curve is more optimal.

Speed

Although, this is a measurement generally associated with position players, we believe that it provides us with good measurement for overall athleticism, which is important regardless of what position you play on the field. While we do keep this lower on the totem pole of things to address, a good dose of speed never hurts anyone.

Power

Power is the combination of strength and speed.  Whether it be throwing, hitting or running, all power initiates in the core, transferring to the lower body prior to being transferred up the kinetic chain and ultimately into the arm and hands.

    • Lower body power (along with lateral power) is the biggest determining factor for throwing velocity as well as first-step quickness and change-of-direction abilities.
    • Upper body power is also a great indicator as to how fast we can produce strength up top. This is directly correlated to trunk rotation as well as a harder and faster transfer from lay back to pronation during the throw. This allows us to maximize the highest amount of power being transferred from the lower body as well as not overusing the arm. Ironically, this is one metric many pitchers perform poorly on. With the introduction of the Proteus Motion machine, we can now also measure power production in the upper half as well. This is a game changer, especially when it comes to assessing and training rotational athletes like pitchers and position players.

Elasticity

Elastic energy is the body’s ability to store and release energy from connective tissues, namely the tendons. How quickly this process happens is due to the large “cross-sectional area” (CSA) of the shoulder tendons and is vital to explosive performance on the mound and the field.  Different type athletes will possess different degrees of CSA of these tendons allowing some to have naturally “whippier” arms. Athletes with good tendon strength (stiffness) can guard from exceeding their passive restraints and are less likely to get injured as well. As a result, we use several tests to see how fast or “elastic” each athlete is.

We implement the CMJ/Squat test for elasticity bilaterally (2 legs) and the back leg Heiden for unilateral. This helps us determine the athlete’s ability to use the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) in transitioning from eccentric to concentric movements. It also helps identify what type of loading speed for the back leg an athlete may be more efficient with -either a longer/slower load or a later/quicker load.  We can also gauge which level of plyometric training is appropriate and program accordingly. All testing for upper half/core elasticity is performed on the Proteus Motion machine using counter and non-counter movements.

Deceleration

This is basically the athlete’s ability to “hit the brakes” when the front foot lands at foot plant. An athlete will only hit the gas coming down the mound based on his ability to put on the brakes. The quicker we can stop the body (decelerating), the more efficiently the arm can get into layback and ultimately unwind into release. From a mechanics perspective, an athlete with less efficient deceleration properties on the front leg will many times be more successful with a bit of a “heel first” landing. This makes deceleration one of the major players in all things velo.

Body Fat % and Height and Weight Ratio

In a study from 2019-2021, of the 39 MLB pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched who averaged 96+ mph, only 7 were listed under 200 lbs. and only 2 under 185! To move explosively through space requires an optimal level of power (a solid amount of muscle) and a minimal level of dead weight (body fat). Most major league pitchers sit anywhere between 12-15% body fat. Lean body weight is always a contributing factor to throwing velocity and in fact it is right up there with lateral jump distance as being the best predictor of throwing velocity.

With respect to height to weight ratio, we are generally looking for a 2.5-3.0x ratio for high performance athletes.

Summary Report

The summary chart listed below provides us with an excellent roadmap for tracking the lowest hanging fruit.  You can see from the chart below, there are 5 areas that we consider in this category.  These will be the primary areas we begin to address in this athlete’s programming, while using anthropometric measurements to better understand the levers the athlete may need to adjust to get into more successful positions. The bottom line is, different athletes rely on different attributes to be efficient. Understanding that and “maintaining” those metrics while bringing up others can help create more healthy and explosive athletes with higher ceilings.

See ya’ in the gym…

Source: Graeme Lehman “Pitcher’s Physical Profile Testing Sheet”

By Nunzio Signore and Bahram Shirazi

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