How to throw harder in baseball
Baseball throwing velocity is a product of genetics relative to ligaments, tendons, and the muscles associated with the rotator cuff. These physical structures determine arm speed. Arm speed equates to throwing velocity: the baseball can only go as fast as the speed of the arm at the point of release.
To take full advantage of the physical capacity to throw a baseball requires the learning and practicing of the following mechanics and technique:
The finger tips
The way in which the ball comes off the finger tips determines the ball’s rotation. Finger tips that are spread wide place greater length of each finger in contact with the ball increasing surface friction. Friction reduces velocity. Fingers that are placed more closely together minimize surface contact and allow the ball to leave both finger tips simultaneously. This release gives the ball a tighter, more consistent rotation. Rotation equals velocity.
Hand directly behind the ball
Think of this position as similar to delivering a high five. At the point of release the hand has to be behind the ball so that the target, the ball, and the hand are at the instance of release squarely in line with each other. This position promotes the most efficient ball rotation and takes full advantage of the wrist and finger tips.
Elbow higher than the shoulder
At the point of release the elbow must be at a point higher than the shoulder. This range of motion will allow the hand to stay square behind the ball and in addition will minimize negative stress to the biceps tendon.
Hand above the ball
At the load position, that point at which the ball is drawn back furthest from the body, the hand must be on top of the ball so that the back of the hand is to the sky and the palm is flat to the ground. This position will promote the most efficient rotation of the wrist to the cocked position prior to release.
Breaking the hands
Break the hands, the separation of the ball from the glove, at the same instance at which the front foot starts toward the target. This coordination of movement will ensure that the upper body mechanics stay in rhythm with those of the lower body.
Up, down, and out
The most efficient range of motion of the front leg is up, down, and then out. To initiate the throwing mechanics, the knee of the lead leg is drawn in a straight line up and towards the belt buckle. Prior to any movement forward, the leg is dropped 180 degrees to the ground, and then slides along the surface in a line directly toward the target. This motion uses gravity instead of working against it. As the point at which the front foot is lowest, and prior to any forward movement, the throwing arm must be at its highest point. This coordination of mechanics is essential for maximum arm velocity.
To complete the stride (or slide out) of the front leg, the lead foot contacts the ground with the ball of the foot at an angle generally referred to as closed to the target. This closed position allows for the rotation of the lead foot which opens the hips to square the upper torso to the target and pull the arm through with the desired speed. The greater this torque, the greater the arm speed and the greater the velocity of the thrown ball. In addition, by landing on the ball of the lead foot, the body’s transference of energy maintains continuity, contrary to if the heal lands first, which directs some of that energy into the ground.
The pitcher’s plate
More commonly known as the pitching rubber, the pitcher’s plate is the last remnant of daddy baseball lore. Pitchers do not consciously “push” off from the rubber, no more so than a basketball player pushes of the floor when taking a jump shot or going up for a rebound. Instead, the hardwood floor, which has little to no give, serves as the surface against which the body “bounces” the energy generated by the contracting and elongating of the leg muscles. It is this elongation of the leg muscles that pulls the body from the floor. To better understand this concept, simply consider this same action when attempted on the loose sand of the beach. The redistribution of the sand absorbs a degree of the body’s energy leaving less for the execution of the jump. The result is a jump of lesser height. The pitcher’s plate is simply the surface against which the body’s energy can be bounced, and without which, much like the sand and jumping, a significant percentage of this energy would be lost.
Were a pitcher to literally concentrate his efforts to actually “push” off the rubber with his back foot at the point of release, he would momentarily halt his forward progress in order to shift and hold his weight at that contact point, and in the process lock his hips thereby reducing the very torque the mechanics are designed to maximize. It is more efficient to execute this separation from the rubber as a “pulling motion“. To do so will maximize hip torque. Ultimately, the legs are applied not by pushing but by the leverage and vaulting action of the thighs and hamstrings against the downward slop of the mound, the resultant hip rotation, and the transfer of the energy generated by the motion to the release point.
Playing catch and running
There is no activity that better strengthens the arm then playing catch on a daily basis. The procedure should start at a distance of about thirty feet and extend to what is commonly referred to as long toss. At the shorter distances, the ball should be thrown as soon as it is caught incorporating a jab step. Following two to three tosses at a given distance, increase the distance by a stride or two. As the distance lengthens, the jab step is replaced by crow hops that increase in intensity relative to the distance thrown. As the distance reaches its limits, the process is reversed in an abbreviated form, the distance decreasing with each throw. Once the players are within fifty to sixty feet of each other, three to five more throws can be delivered at about 85-90% of full velocity, as the arm will be fully warmed and should perform at this level without any strain.
Given the role of the legs in generating arm speed, they must be kept strong and provide for endurance. The most efficient way of ensuring this strength is to have and maintain a running routine consisting of both distance and sprints.
The technical keys here presented for throwing harder in baseball are derived from the components of a drill called Rotation’. Although this drill is designed primarily for pitchers, the concepts that are practiced apply to every position. Infielders, outfielders, and catchers will discover that adapting these techniques to the range of motion particular to that position will improve both the velocity and accuracy of their throws.