Mack - I'm starting a series of posts about the mechanics of baseball. There are a lot of high school players that follow my draft coverage and I thought they would love to hear the opinions of some of the pros. What are your thoughts on long tossing?
Rustich - Hey Mack, I don't believe in long tossing really.
I've always thrown hard my entire life and I firmly believe long toss has
absolutely nothing to do with it. I do however believe in a email I wrote a fan
(young 14 yr old HS pitcher). He asked me how he can throw harder and here it
what I wrote that night in a reply email.
"Hey Colten, I've heard a lot
of people ask and ask me, "how do you throw hard?". Well there is a lot that
goes into throwing a baseball hard. It's more than just arm strength and
technique. Obviously some people are gifted to throw a baseball hard, but I do
think people can train their arm to throw as hard as it is capable of throwing.
A pitcher who can throw a baseball hard is all about getting max arm
velocity. Some tall pitchers have long levers(arms) which helps to increase
centrifugal force. For instance a golfer swings a club the head speed of that
club head is over 100mph while their hands are moving MUCH slower. The speed is
due to the club shaft length and that is centrifugal force. Well a pitcher with
long arms who is strong and athletic has the ability to move his long arms at a
fast velocity creating even more centrifugal force on the baseball. Although,
opposite from a tall pitcher with long arms are shorter pitchers who also have
the ability to throw very hard like Billy Wagner, Tim Linceum, and Pedro
Martinez. Although they are smaller, they are still creating the same arm speed
as a tall pitcher using that uses centrifugal force, only they are doing it with
even more speed and explosiveness which are typically due to even greater
athleticism. Here are some ways I think a pitcher can help increase his velocity
and train his arm to throw hard.
FIRST. When you play catch and when you
pitch, the only way to train your arm to throw hard is to throw HARD. I often
hear people tell kids the importance of throwing strikes while telling them to
take some off. While that is important of course, creating arm strength at an
early age will help propel a player in his career. Sorry to say, but velocity is
important. Those who say otherwise are foolish. The only pitcher who makes the
big leagues with below average fastball (average FB is 90-91mph) are lefties or
established veterans who have already had careers in the big leagues and know
how to pitch. Breaking in otherwise seems to be non-existent. Train your arm to
throw hard, by telling yourself you are going to throw it as hard as you can.
Call me crazy, but it's what I believe.
2. Lower body strength and fast
twitch muscles. Being explosive is the key to throwing hard. Some people just
have slow twitch muscles and cannot explode towards home plate. You can train
fast twitch muscles by doing explosive exercises like plyometrics and agility
drills. Understanding that there is a chain to throwing hard and it starts with
your legs. Your legs, then your core, then your arm. Think of it like a coil,
the faster your hips rotate and the stronger your core is, the faster it can
propel your arm.
3. Balance and staying back in your delivery is huge.
So many people, I even see in professional baseball lose so much power by going
home before their arm is ready. Typically just staying over the rubber a half
second longer will immediately give your arm time to be in position to throw
with max velocity. Staying back you create a coil of energy. If you drift
towards home plate before your hands are completely separated, you will lose
power. Your stride leg drops and drives to the target, while still maintaining
your weight (energy) on your backside. When your arm is in position to throw,
that is when it is time to drive towards the target with your weight
4. Compact delivery. I see a lot of big lanky guys pitch with
long arms who can't use their power because they are too long in their motion
and delivery. If you notice in still pictures of the hardest throwers in the
game their hand comes in a circle with their hand going right next to their ear
when they begin to throw towards home plate. You can almost call it short arming
the ball while still creating a complete proper circle. While you want to use
your long arms to your advantage, power is created like a ball of energy, and
the only way to increase torque it have the baseball come as tight to your body
as possible. You'll see a lot of pitchers who drag their arms causing stress and
injuries due to it. They are also losing a lot of velocity. The more compact
someone can stay in their delivery the harder they can throw with also more
command of the baseball. Think of it like a rifle scope and looking down the
bulls eye. The further your eyes get from the target and your scope, the less
accurate you will be. Easier said than done.
5. Staying on top of the
baseball. The best pitchers in the game have the ability to stay on top of the
ball and pitch with a downhill plane towards home plate. When you stay on top of
the ball, you keep the ball down in the zone, and also get maximum follow
through in front of your body where max arm velocity is created. The moment a
pitcher lets one fly high it is always slower than a pitch a pitcher typically
powers down into home plate. That is simply because they powered through the
baseball when he threw it low. Also, keep your fingers close together on your
fastball. There shouldn't even be much of a gap between your index and middle
finger if any at all. This makes it so you put all your power behind the
baseball, although sacrificing control of the ball in the process until you can
master that feel.
6. Shoulder and Scapular strength. If you don't have an
arm band or some sort of rubber tubing to strengthen your rotator cuff, get
some. It is very important to strengthen all the shoulder muscles. Especially
the rear rotator cuff muscles. Also your scapular muscles around your shoulder
blades need to be very strong. Those muscles stabilize your entire arm. They
keep your arm in tact, not to mention right before you deliver a pitch your
scapular muscles load to put yourself in a position to deliver the ball. Your
back should be a priority and this will keep you from getting injured in the
future as all arms will catch up to a player eventually. I'm sure you can find
images how to properly use small dumbbells to strength your scaps.
Core strength. This is so very important as it is the connection between your
legs and arms. If your legs are strong but you have a weak core, you will be
losing everything you have in your lower body. Core strength should be a
priority as it rotates your hips when you explode towards home plate. Faster
your hips rotate, the faster your trunk rotates and the faster you throw a
8. Be Linear, not rotational towards home plate. While I'm
mention hip rotation and centrifugal force is the key to velocity, it is
important to use the mound to your advantage. You want to step directly to your
target. Not closed and not open. Opening up early will force you to lose all
power completely, closing your stride will keep you from getting maximum hip
rotation and speed. You want to try and as linear to home plate as possible.
Linear is a straight line. While you are creating torque by rotating your hips,
you also want to create leverage with your follow through and direction using
the mound as a lever to propel yourself over your front leg. This is where the
velocity comes. It's the combination of rotational speed and linear leverage.
These are just some things I've learned over the years that I know have
given me the ability to throw a baseball 98 mph. You gotta train and practice to
give yourself the best chance to be successful. Hope this can help you.