This is the third entry of a four-part series about the science behind sports.
One of the most heated debates among pitching coaches is regarding ways to increase velocity for pitchers.
One side argues strictly pitching from the mound is the best way to increase speed. The other side argues throwing the ball at maximum effort at longer distances than the sixty-and-a-half feet lying between the pitcher’s mound and home plate.
Kineseology professor Dr. David Szymanski said this is one of the greatest debates he’s seen between pitching coaches.
“[Coaches favoring mound only] want their pitchers to work on their pitching mechanics, not throwing mechanics,” Szymanski said, who is an expert in sports science. “On the other hand, there are pitching coaches who believe that long toss will strengthen the pitcher’s arm since they are throwing at maximal effort.”
Brian Rountree, assistant coach for the Louisiana Tech University baseball team, said he prefers to use a combination of the two.
“Pitchers are explosive like sprinters,” Rountree said. “They explode when they throw the ball and then they rest.”
Rountree said the long toss is a beneficial way to help train pitchers to use their full bodies in those explosions.
“If I’m making a throw that’s 250 feet, I’ve got to be able to coordinate all of the muscles in my legs, arms and the rest of my body,” he said. “If I’m making a throw from the mound, I don’t need all those muscles most of the time.”
He said training your body to use all those muscles by long tossing transfers well to the mound and allows for an increase in velocity over time.
Szymanski said some pitching coaches worry about long tossing changing the pitcher’s mechanics when he pitches.
“In order to throw for maximal distance, an individual changes how they throw the ball,” he said. “For example, they will probably drop their back shoulder to throw to create leverage and throw the ball on an arch to travel farther. This is completely different than throwing downhill from a pitching mound.”
However, he said if pitchers use the same mechanics in both long toss and pitching, there should be a carry-over effect, which would cause an increase in velocity.
Szymanski and Rountree agreed that long tossing from a maximal distance does not work as well as long tossing for sub-maximal distances.
“I recommend throwing from the pitching mound at maximal efforts,” he said. “As well as throwing for sub-maximal distances relative to the players age.”
Rountree recommends the same type of workout for pitchers.
“I won’t necessarily put an exact number on distance for a pitcher to throw,” Rountree said. “I want them to do what feels comfortable to them and listen to their arm.”
Email comments to ktc...@latech.edu.