For the last eight years every player that has come in for baseball or fastpitch softball pitching lessons use mainly their arms to throw the ball. When I talk to these players I am surprised at what they have taught by their coaches, pitching instructors, and at pitching camps. Almost everything pitchers are taught take away their body and makes them use mainly their arms. This puts way too much stress on their elbow and shoulder. This is why so many young players get sore arms and even quit the sport because they hurt their arm.
I keep reading about Tommy John surgeries being performed on pitchers in Major League baseball, High School, and College and even younger pitchers (as young as 12 yrs old) more than ever. Sadly I have had many baseball and softball hitters come in that aren't pitching anymore because their arms hurt so much. Why are more and more pitchers hurting their arms? When you throw with your arm it puts too much stress on the inside of the elbow especially during the acceleration towards the plate. This damages the ulner collateral ligament (UCL) that connects the bones of the elbow and helps stabilize the joint. The harder pitchers try to throw, mainly with their arm, the more likely they are to damage the UCL and hurt their arm some ending up even needing reconstructive surgery.
A couple years ago I watched one of the Little League Regional games and there were two pitchers same age and height throwing against each other. One pitcher used mainly his arm to throw and the other used mainly his body. The one that used his arm threw as hard as he could looking jerky. He was able to get up to 62mph on his fastball and got tired during the fifth inning. The one that used his body looked effortless and routinely threw 70 mph fastballs, looking strong the whole game.
One pitcher used so much effort to barely reach 62 mph on his fastball and the other looked so effortless throwing 70 mph fastballs consistently. Why the difference, did one pitcher have a stronger arm than the other? No, the simple reason is one pitcher used his body to generate the energy and the other tried to throw hard using mainly his arm.
In football you hear the quarterback didn't throw a good pass because he didn't have his feet set. This makes him throw the ball mainly with his arm. When he sets his feet he throws the ball so much harder and is more accurate because now he can use his body. For example Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers would be so much better if someone would show him how to correctly throw the ball with his body. He throws mainly with his arm, even with his feet set, which causes weaker with much less accuracy. That is why he can throw three passes 20 yards and one hits the receiver in the chest, the next one goes ten feet over his head and the next pass hits the ground in front of his feet. If he would throw the ball with his body he could be much more accurate and consistent. The game would become slower to him because he would be more effortless.
Tim Lincecum at the beginning of his career used his body very well. When the two time Cy Young winner said "the arm comes along for the ride", I liked him even more because he actually knew what he was doing. His body was creating all the energy that he then released with his arm. That is how at 5 feet 11 inches and 175 lbs he could throw fastballs at 95 mph in 2008. In 2012 he lost about 2 mph on his fastball from the first four years because he started using his arm more and his accuracy also suffered because of this. He fell behind in counts more often causing him to come back with pitches that were hit much harder. According to Fangraphs.com in his career he had a home run per fly ball rate of just over 7% which means hitters rarely hit the ball solid. That year 14.6% of the time a hitter hit a fly ball it was a home run. Batters hit the ball harder that year because of his control.
In four years 2008-2011 Lincecum pitched an averaged of 220 innings giving up 69 earned runs per year. In 2012 he pitched 186 innings giving up 107 earned runs. His ERA was 5.18 almost twice as high as his average year. Why the sudden decline in velocity, control and production? He started to throw more with his arm. If he would go back to letting the arm come along for the ride while using his body to generate the energy he would do as well as he did the previous 4 years.
I watched the College Regionals Fastpitch Softball Tournament and Tennessee had a pitcher that had the fastest motion and arm speed I have ever seen, as she released the ball she flipped or snapped her wrist and the fastest pitch was 61mph, she was pitching with her arm. When the reliever came in to shut down the other team her motion and arm speed looked so much smoother and effortless. She didn't flip her wrist and her top speed was 68mph, she was using her body. In baseball and fastpitch softball it is momentum not arm strength that helps a pitcher throw harder.
Don't do any pitching cue you hear that makes you throw more with your arm. Learning to use the body when pitching and even in the field for baseball or fastpitch softball makes such a difference in velocity and control. There is so much less stress put on the shoulder and elbow. When my students learn to throw the ball with the body they progress rapidly. Pitchers throw harder, able to spot pitches better and have much more success than ever before. The game slows down to them because they are so effortless. They develop amazing confidence that they can get anyone out no matter the situation.
I will write a few more blogs about other problems that arise when trying to throw mainly with your arm and how using your body can help in many different ways. If you would like more information about using your body to throw you can call Mike Sedberry at 304-722-6393.