Using Weighted Baseballs Guide

Your son is around the age of three years old and he picks up his first little Tykes Wiffle ball and starts tossing it around your home, possibly providing a glimpse to you that your child may someday be an athlete in a sport that involves a throwing motion. He then starts swinging a bright red Fisher price plastic bat, his face glowing with happiness and joy as he swings towards you for attention.

A year passes by and the beginning of T-ball season begins where your son is beginning to learn the 5 fundamentals of the game: learning how to catch, throw, bat, field, and baserunning. During the T-ball season, you venture upon a great family trip to the ballpark to catch a game of the Boston Red Sox and your hometown team the New York Yankees featuring budding stars in Aaron Judge and Gaby Sanchez, as well as veterans such as Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, and Aroldlis Chapman.

It’s a 4-3 ball game top of the 9th inning with one out, with the Yankees leading the game. Manager Joe Girardi sends in closer Aroldlis Chapman to finish off the game for Yankees. The first batter up to the plate is leadoff Mookie Betts, who is batting .279 with 11 home runs and 37 RBI’s. Chapman blows by him with three consecutive 100 mph fastballs, electrifying the crowd as they taunt Betts on the way to the dugout.

Weighted Baseballs Guide:

The next batter is longtime veteran Dustin Pedroia, who has one career at-bat against Chapman, which unfortunately was a strikeout. Chapman pitches to him with back to back sliders that hit 90-91 mph, that are both fouled off down the first baseline. On the third pitch, Chapman throws an unbelievable heater right down in the hitter’s sweet spot, but completely blows by Pedroia’s bat head, pounding catcher Gaby Sanchez’s glove at 103 mph.

After the game, instead of talking about Aaron Judge’s monstrous home run into deep center field, your son asks you about how Chapman throws so hard especially in comparison to all those pitchers that pitched before him and the other team. The immediate idea that comes to your head is consistent practice, but that seems like a vague answer to provide your son because he would surely be interested in what types of drills and baseball instructional videos that the pitcher studies.

However, you find this warm up video of Chapman using a weighted ball before he goes out to pitch, which makes you begin to correlate speed with this tool. Is a weighted ball the right approach to learn how to throw harder as a pitcher? What are the pros and cons that we must weigh before drawing to a conclusion about such a phenomena? I have listed below both pros and cons of utilizing a weighted ball and how it may not be the complete solution for velocity and instead a component of it.

Pros:

  • According to Driveline baseball, overweight balls help condition the arm. They state “Weighted baseballs will decrease the kinematics of the throwing motion while likely increasing the kinetics on the shoulder and elbow joint.” This assists in creating a different physiological response to the tissues responsible for accelerating the arm and also decelerating the baseball.
  • Beneficial for Hitters: One common issue that arises with batters is finishing their swing and having a proper follow-through. Utilizing weighted balls helps clean up this dilemma because it is a great tool for reinforcing follow thru swings as well as making sure your hands are getting through the zone and not rolling over. In doing soft toss drills, batters will begin to make vast improvements in their swing because they will learn that in order to have a successful drive, you will not halt at contact.
  • Has proven to increase velocity. Throwing velocity improvements were proven to increase by approximately 5-10%. This was proven by a study conducted following a specific training regime that first included a 10 min warm-up throwing with a 5 oz. baseball, 15 throws of gradually increasing velocity with an 11 oz. baseball, 10 throws of maximum effort with an 11 oz. baseball, and finishing with 10 more throws of maximum effort with a 5 oz baseball. This routine consistently performed 3x a week over a 12-week span will display results for the pitcher.

Cons:

  • For many pitchers weighted balls only train the arm. Driveline states that “good pitching training trains the athlete to use the whole body to accelerate the arm to the target minimizing injury risk.” Weighted balls are a tool but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they train movements. Drills are the means of training movements. Using a tool like a weighted ball temporarily manipulates the mind that the load a pitcher feels when throwing the baseball. Weighted balls are components that help aid pitcher velocity but they have to work hand in hand with other pitching drills that specialize in nailing down mechanics.
  • Must be thrown on flat ground and not the mound. The added height of the mound will increase the stress on your muscles, which can lead to huge problems in your throwing arm and delivery. The one negative that can be taken out of not being able to throw on the mound, is that you will not be able to gain a true indication how hard you throw going downhill from the mound.
  • Overusing velocity programs that use weighted balls has shown to possibly result in an increase in Tommy John or any elbow/shoulder surgeries. Research shows that the chance of youth baseball injuries increases by various multipliers:

-Pitching > 100 innings in one year= 3x greater risk of injury
-Averaging > 80 pitches per game = 4x greater risk of injury
-Pitching > 8 months per year = 5x greater risk of injury
-Regularly pitching with arm fatigue > = 36x greater risk of injury

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