This entry was posted on February 1, 2012
Posture positions while throwing a baseball is a commonly discussed topic among those in the baseball world. Poor posture can result in a decrease in velocity and command while increasing a pitcher’s chance of injury. But what is proper posture for a pitcher? Should the shoulders be level and the head centered over the landing foot/knee at release? Is it okay for a pitcher to have his shoulders slightly tilted and the head to be slightly outside of his landing foot at release? What about a pitcher who is so tilted over that his shoulders are almost vertical with the ground and his head is nearly sideways at release?
Now I’m sure if I asked most baseball coaches to pick which of the previous descriptions of pitching postures they want their pitchers to have it would be a nearly unanimous choice for the first description. The “perfect posture” to most coaches has some common theme of shoulders level and head vertical over the landing leg/knee at foot plant to release. This normally entails a pitcher’s chin staying over or in front of his belt throughout the entire delivery.
Well, as a disclaimer, the title to this blog is somewhat of a misnomer. I do not believe there is any such thing as “proper posture” when pitching. Let me explain why I believe this is the case. Each individual athlete has their own set of constraints. For example, some pitchers might have poor hip flexibility, or thoracic spine mobility, or perhaps tight groins or hamstrings. Additionally, each athlete will have his own set of strengths. Perhaps he has no flexibility issues, or he is tremendously strong. The individual pluses and minus that a pitcher has is going to affect his movement patterns and the way he innately generates momentum, force and power. As we should all know by now, no two individuals perform the same movement the exact same way. Most people find out how they are able to accomplish a movement or exercise and it is slightly different than others performing the same movement.
With that being said, we cannot expect every pitcher to look identical when trying to generate velocity. Some pitchers are able to generate velocity simply because of their size and brute strength, while others may generate the same velocity through momentum and tremendous flexibility. One only needs to think of Roger Clemens (above) and Tim Lincecum for that illustration. Both can throw 95+, yet generated that velocity in different ways.
Unfortunately however, many pitching coaches either don’t realize this or don’t buy into it. They believe that every pitcher should look like Nolan Ryan or Roger Clemens through the delivery – specifically at release. Now don’t get me wrong, these are two of the greatest pitchers the game has ever seen and there is certainly nothing wrong with a young player emulating their delivery. But coaches like to teach every player the same way – or as it is sometimes called, taking the cookie cutter approach. As Trevor Bauer likes to say, the only thing a cookie cutter is good for is cutting cookies – not developing pitchers.I have had numerous discussions with pitching coaches over the years and many believe in their heart of hearts that there is one perfect way to throw a baseball. And they will often show you a picture of who their “model pitcher” is and say that is the way they want their guys to look. And usually it is a shoulders level, head over the front foot kind of model. My response to that is usually by asking about a big league pitcher who looks nothing like their model – usually Tim Lincecum works to accomplish that.
Many of these pitching coaches respond to Tim Lincecum’s mechanics in a single word – “FREAK.” Coaches want to bracket a guy with mechanics like Lincecum into a separate, set-aside column with the title of freak. This is really just taking the easy way out – they can’t justify their position so they claim that somebody doesn’t fit into any paradigm at all because he is different and therefore doesn’t count. This is not a good argument, never has been and never will be. But I won’t belabor this issue – it in and of itself has enough substance for a blog.
But I do think it is important for coaches all around the nation at all levels to realize they are harming, not helping pitchers, when they try and place them into a specified movement pattern that may not work for them. I wrote a blog almost two years ago discussing the issues that are associated with over coaching. There is a reason why the professional game is being dominated by Latin players. These players don’t have coaches who are trying to change their innate movement patterns and fit them into some mold. Instead, they are constantly trying to figure out how they can throw harder, without any notion of “right” or “wrong” mechanics. American baseball players and coaches should take note of this method of training/coaching – let athletes figure out things more on their own based on feel and results.
However, there are benefits that can be realized from grouping pitchers into categories with other successful pitchers who have similar movement patterns. This can help athletes see how their movements can become more efficient, thereby generating more velocity and power. Further, by grouping pitchers into categories, you are not cookie cutting, but helping pitchers become the most efficient and best model of their own unique pitching style.
Next week, I will discuss the 3 categories of pitchers that have been identified by Coach Ron Wolforth at the Texas Baseball Ranch to help his athletes improve their movement patterns.
Until next time,