Pitching biomechanics to improve the velocity on baseball pitchers
Biomecánica del picheo para mejorar la velocidad en los lanzadores de béisbol
Biomecânica do lançamento para melhorar a velocidade nos arremessadores de beisebol
Sp. Osvaldo Leopoldo Fernández**
*Bachelor Degree in Physical Education Sport and Fitness Master Degree
in Kinesiology and Sport Science. Florida International University
**Bachelor Degree in Physical Educations Sport Science. Miami Dade Public School
Master in Methodology and theory of training for high performance athletes
Specialist Degree in Cycling Specialist Degree Track and Field
Universidad de las Ciencias la Cultura Física y el Deporte, en la Havana, Cuba
Reception: 01/11/2017 - Acceptance: 05/10/2018
1st Review: 05/08/2018 - 2nd Review: 05/08/2018
The application of a technique with a great velocity and a great use of its biomechanics characteristic will differentiate the quality of pitchers nowadays. We know that pitcher at any level, either high school, college, university and MLB have need to explode that explosiveness to be able to generate greater velocities. Empirical knowledge acquired through times suggests that to be able to pitch quick velocities and have great accuracy, pitchers need to have a well-trained technique and know its biomechanics components. The purpose of this research is to study, differentiate, and clarify the biomechanical, and technique components that influence the pitching velocity on baseball pitchers at all ages. Studies done to regulate the relationship of upper body work to pitching velocities show that variables like shoulder abduction during the acceleration phase, and trunk tilt forward at ball release will maximize ball velocities. Other studies have focused on ground reaction forces stating that the stride leg posterior forces are key elements to develop ball velocities. Documented data have shown that ball velocities have a relationship with an increase horizontal adduction of the shoulder and a decrease in time of internal rotation displacement. The literature review demonstrated that decreased stride leg knee flexion velocity during stride leg stance and increased stride leg knee extension velocity, it is positively associated with pitch velocity. I cannot forget that maximum pelvis, upper torso, and trunk twist angular velocities during acceleration phase, and forward trunk tilt angle at maximum external rotation at ball release can generate more pitching ball velocities.
Keywords: Baseball. Pitchers. Velocity. Biomechanics.
La aplicación de una técnica con una gran velocidad y un gran uso de su característica biomecánica diferenciará la calidad de los lanzadores hoy en día. Sabemos que el lanzador en cualquier nivel ya sea la escuela secundaria, la universidad, y la MLB tienen necesidad de explotar esa explosividad para ser capaz de generar mayores velocidades. El conocimiento empírico adquirido a través de los tiempos sugiere que para poder lanzar velocidades rápidas y tener gran precisión, los lanzadores necesitan tener una técnica bien entrenada y conocer sus componentes biomecánicos. El propósito de esta investigación es estudiar, diferenciar y aclarar los componentes biomecánicos y técnicos que influyen en la velocidad de lanzamiento en los lanzadores de béisbol en todas las edades. Estudios realizados para regular la relación entre el trabajo de la parte superior del cuerpo y las velocidades de lanzamiento muestran que variables como la abducción del hombro durante la fase de aceleración y la inclinación del tronco hacia adelante al liberar la bola maximizarán las velocidades de la bola. Otros estudios se han centrado en las fuerzas de reacción en el suelo, indicando que las fuerzas posteriores de la pierna de zancada son elementos clave para desarrollar velocidades de bola. Los datos documentados han demostrado que las velocidades de la bola tienen una relación con un aumento de la aducción horizontal del hombro y una disminución en el tiempo de desplazamiento de la rotación interna. La revisión de la literatura demostró que la disminución de la velocidad de la flexión de la rodilla de la pierna de la zancada durante la postura de la pierna de la zancada y la velocidad aumentada de la extensión de la rodilla de la pierna de la zancada se asocia positivamente con la velocidad del paso. No puedo olvidar que la pelvis máxima, el torso superior y el tronco giran las velocidades angulares durante la fase de aceleración, y el ángulo de inclinación del tronco hacia adelante a la máxima rotación externa en el lanzamiento de la bola puede generar más velocidades de bola de lanzamiento.
Palabras clave: Béisbol. Lanzadores. Velocidad. Biomecánica.
A aplicação de uma técnica com alta velocidade e um grande uso de sua característica biomecânica diferenciarão a qualidade dos lançadores atualmente. Sabemos que o arremessador em qualquer nível, seja colegial, universitário e MLB, precisa explorar essa explosão para poder gerar velocidades mais altas. O conhecimento empírico adquirido através dos tempos sugere que, para poder lançar velocidades rápidas e ter grande precisão, os lançadores precisam ter uma técnica bem treinada e conhecer seus componentes biomecânicos. O objetivo desta pesquisa é estudar, diferenciar e esclarecer os componentes biomecânicos e técnicos que influenciam a velocidade de lançamento de jarras de beisebol em todas as idades. Estudos realizados para regular a relação entre o trabalho na parte superior do corpo e as velocidades de arremesso mostram que variáveis como abdução do ombro durante a fase de aceleração e inclinação do tronco para a frente ao liberar a bola maximizam a velocidade da bola. Outros estudos se concentraram nas forças de reação no solo, indicando que as forças posteriores da perna da passada são elementos-chave para desenvolver as velocidades da bola. Os dados documentados mostraram que as velocidades da bola têm relação com um aumento na adução horizontal do ombro e uma diminuição no tempo de deslocamento da rotação interna. A revisão da literatura mostrou que a diminuição da velocidade de flexão do joelho da passada durante a postura da passada e o aumento do comprimento da extensão do joelho da passada foram associa positivamente com a velocidade do passo. Não se pode esquecer que a pélvis máximos, parte superior do tronco e o tronco rodar as velocidades angulares durante a fase de aceleração, e o ângulo de inclinação do tronco para a frente para a rotação externa máxima na libertação da bola pode gerar mais velocidades de bolas de lançamento.
Unitermos: Baseball. Lançadores. Velocidade. Biomecânica.
Lecturas: Educación Física y Deportes, Vol. 23, Núm. 240, May. (2018)
In Baseball World, the great use of the technique, and biomechanics components most of the time make the difference between a good player, or a great player. One of the most explosive and complex skill in baseball is pitching. Empirical knowledge acquired through times suggests that to be able to pitch quick velocities and have great accuracy, pitchers need to have a well-trained technique and know its biomechanics components. As previously said, pitching is an explosive movement and a super complex skill due to it gather major muscle groups and work together to satisfy only one action. In other words, pitching is a high organized skill. Having known that, it is obvious that none pitcher when playing baseball throws slow, unless he is playing recreational baseball, or with friends. Little leagues, high schools, collegiate, universities, and MLB tournaments, pitchers struggle always to pitch at full capacity, in comparison of the fastball. The topic of this study is based on the need to find biomechanics characteristics that emphasizes and help pitching development. The literature review that is going to be presented continuously will try to show what certain points, movement patterns, coordination have anything to do with increasing pitching velocity.
With that in mind, baseball coaches struggle to find ways that can make their pitchers to become stars, dominate, and increase their fastball velocities. That is why the study of pitching biomechanics is so important in this field. With scientific knowledge, we will be preventing injuries caused by the pursuit of greater arm velocities. The purpose of this research is to study, differentiate, and clarify the biomechanical, and technique components that influence the pitching velocity on baseball pitchers at all ages. Biomechanical aspect of pitching in baseball can or cannot influences at great level the velocities of pitchers. A few studies have been conducted to gather excellent information about this topic. This literature review was done by gathering the findings obtained in research studies that will be presented below. The findings were studied, criticized, and analyzed.
While doing this search, articles were investigated using the Sport Discuss database. In this search more than 35 articles were selected for a more in-depth search. We used these keywords (pitching technique, pitching biomechanics, and mechanics). Those reports that demonstrated results about the characteristic of kinetics of pitching in baseball were included as well. In our review, we took advantage of most articles explaining the key components of lower and upper body movement to increase pitching velocity. Data extraction was done through a synthesis table which was created with a list of research reports selected, that was used to evaluate each study from this review. From this table, the included criteria were as follow: authors of the article and year, subject used, instrument used, results, and conclusion. From those 35 only 17were chosen from a variety of journals that best suited our main research question. Those journals were: International Journal of Sport Biomechanics, American Journal Sports Medicine, Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, and Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Two books were also used as referenced: “Paediatric Exercise Science and Medicine” and “El proceso de entrenamiento”. In our including criteria, we made sure that this literature review contained research reports from all over the world to group a worldwide opinion in the topic.
To start reviewing the following researches, it is important to clarify the movement of pitching. Pitching is an explosive movement that has too many steps. Messing up one of those will result in either the decreasing of accuracy or velocity, and sometimes both. The first step is called the wind up, which is when the stride leg (contralateral to the throwing arm) is lifted to create a “Peek Knee Height ‘(PKH). In this phase, there is only one-foot contact with the floor as support. Second, the same leg that is lifted makes a stride linearly going front with a transfer of center of gravity initiating pitching momentum. It is called stride foot contact (SFC) At this point, there are both feet on contact with the floor. Third, the pitcher having both feet on the ground starts doing the arm cocking. This occur by having the throwing arm separated as horizontal abduction and maximum external rotation (MER) of the shoulder. Baseball scientists like to divide this phase in two processes: one when the arm starts and two, when the arm obtains a full range of motion at the shoulder. Fourth, the arm acceleration phase starts at the point of maximal external rotation and ends when the ball leaves the fingers. In this phase, there is also a transfer of energy forward and a tilt of the pelvic, initiating the transfer of potential energy through the upper extremity. The scapula protracts to maintain a stable base as the humerus undergoes horizontal adduction and internal rotation. Fifth, ball release and deceleration phase are connected by contracting the same muscle prior contracted, but this time eccentrically. And last, but not least the follow-through phase, in which pitchers try to give a continuity of the movement by stopping it in a sequence. This phase it is very important due to it will prevent pitchers from getting injured. Avoiding following through, will make the movement to stop immediately, and a make ligaments and tendons to hurt themselves.
Research are categorized depending on what division of the body they examined pitchers’ movements. Studies done to regulate the relationship of upper body work to pitching velocities show amazing results. According to Stodden et al. (2005): 19 healthy male baseball pitchers were required to throw a fastball pitch at least 33.5 m/s (75 mph) during testing. In addition, they were required to have at least 1.8 m/s (4 mph) of variation in ball velocity among their maximal effort pitch trials. Those pitchers were asked to complete 10 maximal effort throws from a pitching mound. A reflective band wrapped around the wrist on the throwing arm was used to mark the joint center of the wrist. A reflective marker was also placed on the ulnar styloid of the glove hand. Participants wore spandex shorts and no shirts so as to limit movement of the markers from their anatomical landmarks during the pitching motion. The reflections of these markers were tracked individually by four electronically synchronized 200-Hz charged-coupled device (CCD) cameras (Motion Analysis, Corp., Santa Rosa, CA). Three-dimensional marker locations were calculated with Motion Analysis Expert Vision 3D software, utilizing the direct linear transformation (DLT). They got to the conclusion that while the ball velocity increases, the horizontal adduction of the shoulder should also increase. At the same time, internal rotation displacement time of the shoulder has to decrease for velocities to increase. As they evaluated the upper body biomechanics, they stated that variables like shoulder abduction during the acceleration phase, and trunk tilt forward at ball release will maximize ball velocities. In addition, other two variables showed the opposite outcome. As ball velocity increased, shoulder horizontal adduction at stride foot contact and shoulder abduction during the acceleration phase decreased (Stodden et al. 2005). After looking for some other variables that can help to develop the desire outcome of the research, they got to the conclusion that elbow flexion torque, shoulder proximal force, and elbow proximal force are also related to increases the velocity. Elbow flexion torque is 25% greater that extension, according to Stodden et al. (2005), As pitchers’ velocities increased, elbow flexion torque, shoulder proximal force, and elbow proximal force all increased. These findings match the outcome of Aguinaldo et al. (2009), Aguinaldo et al. (2007), Conte et al. (2001), & Fleisig et al. (1995) who stated that the increase in elbow proximal force is provided by the musculature supporting the elbow joint as well as the ligaments. The increased proximal force at both the shoulder and the elbow is directly related to the increase in pelvis and upper torso rotational velocities (Stodden et al. 2005) and opposes the resultant increases in centrifugal force acting at both the glenohumeral and elbow joint. This research discovered that as pitchers threw faster, greater horizontal abduction at stride foot contact will happen, which occurred before the rotation of the upper trunk.
Like the above research that studied the upper portion of the body and their contribution to ball velocities and movement efficacy. Other studies have focused on ground reaction forces (GRF), leg trunk kinematic, and power to explain the relationship of their job on the kinematic chain on pitching velocity. According to McNally et al. (2015): eighteen healthy former competitive baseball players with previous pitching experience at high school or collegiate level were recruited to participate. A pitching mound was custom-built out of 4 isolated platforms bolted into 4 triaxial force plates (4060-10; Bertec Corp., Columbus, OH, USA) to measure three-dimensional ground reaction forces throughout the pitching motion. When participants were ready, 54 retro reflective markers were placed bilaterally over the fifth and second metatarsal heads, posterior calcaneus, medial and lateral malleolus, lateral mid-shank, medial and lateral knee joint line, lateral mid-thigh, anterior superior iliac spine, posterior superior iliac spine, acromion process, lateral mid-upper arm, medial and lateral epicondyle of the elbow, mid-forearm, radial and ulnar styloid process, and second metacarpal joint. Additional markers were placed over the sternal notch, xyphoid process, seventh cervical vertebra, and 10th thoracic vertebra. An initial calibration was collected to define local segment coordinate systems of the body and measure each participant’s static body weight. For all pitching trials, three-dimensional marker locations were recorded at 300 Hz using 10 Vicon MX-F40 motion capture cameras (Vicon Inc., Oxford, United Kingdom) and synchronized with analog ground reaction force signals collected at 1,500 Hz using Vicon Nexus software. Each participant threw 15 fastballs from an instrumented pitcher’s mound into a net placed approximately 9 m down the target line, McNally et al. (2015). They got to the conclusion that the stride leg posterior forces are key elements to develop ball velocities. However, different styles of pitching may differ among pitcher in determining how much force is needed to have the ability of generating enough force form the stride leg, depending on long or short strides and different mound. Based on McNally et al. (2015), quantifying the link between ground reaction forces and ball velocity further demonstrates that pitching is a full body kinetic chain motion beginning from the foot ground interaction, and training more proximal aspects of the kinetic chain may help in the generation of maximal throwing velocity. Like the studies shown by Crotin (2013); & Elliot, Grove, & Gibson (1988) which proved the importance of explosiveness strength in the development of velocities, this study demonstrated that stride leg ground reaction forces in the posterior, medial, and vertical directions were strongly correlated to wrist velocity during both the arm cocking and acceleration, the action of posterior-directed ground reaction force during the arm-cocking phase was most predictive of wrist velocity. The observed association of stride leg mechanics to wrist velocity agrees with previous studies, which have found decreased stride leg knee flexion velocity during stride leg stance and increased stride leg knee extension velocity at BR, to be positively associated with both pitch velocity and javelin throwing distance (McNally et al. 2015).
Similar to this study was a research done by Kageyama et al. (2014), in which thirty male collegiate baseball pitchers were asked to throw baseballs from a portable pitching mound towards a strike zone marked on a home plate. The group was separated depending on high velocity group (HG) and low velocity group (LG). Ball velocity was measured using a radar gun (2ZM-1035, Mizuno Corporation, Tokyo, Japan) positioned behind the strike zone and adjusted to the position of the ball release. This research showed that there were no significant differences between the HG and the LG in the duration of each pitching phase and stride length (Kageyama et al., 2014). The study also discovered that during the arm acceleration phase that begins with maximum external rotation and end with a ball release, the HG extended their stride knee with greater angular velocity and greater range of motion than the LG. In addition, the HG increased maximum pelvis, upper torso, and trunk twist angular velocities during phase 2 and forward trunk tilt angle at maximum external rotation and ball release than LG. In other words, pitcher that obtained a greater velocity demonstrated an increase in momentum of their trunk.
These researches have explained in detail about how well-developed biomechanics actions can help pitchers increase their velocities. The recent results may generate the necessity of looking for a better relationship of pitching velocities. The studies above have shown that ball velocities have a relationship with an increase horizontal adduction of the shoulder and a decrease in time of internal rotation displacement. Also, as ball velocity increased, shoulder horizontal adduction at stride foot contact and shoulder abduction during the acceleration phase decreased in timing of movement. In addition, stride leg ground reaction forces in the posterior, medial, and vertical directions were strongly correlated to wrist velocity during both the arm cocking and acceleration, the action of posterior-directed ground reaction force during the arm-cocking phase was most predictive of wrist velocity. Last, but not least, the literature review demonstrated that decreased stride leg knee flexion velocity during stride leg stance and increased stride leg knee extension velocity, it is positively associated with pitch velocity. I cannot forget that maximum pelvis, upper torso, and trunk twist angular velocities during acceleration phase, and forward trunk tilt angle at maximum external rotation at ball release can generate more pitching ball velocities.
The results of this study help us comprehend the pitching technique and how to maximize velocities. By increasing internal rotation displacement pitchers generate a lot of power and quickness that can improve velocities to a greater degree. To be able to perform this skill by certain efficiency a lot of practice is required. Internal rotation velocity is related with the amount of forced produced by the arm cocking which at the same time can hurt the Ulnar collateral ligament, which becomes stronger as we age, and prevent injuries and help velocity maximization. Because wrist velocities were related with stride leg reaction force, it is important for the pitching coach to train the skill as a whole since appear to be that a coordinated movement will generated more power than a none-coordinated one. this is related to similar findings like from Matveiev (1982), which stated that the criteria for developing and master a skill are related with the assumption that perfecting the technique needs to be directed to an optimal movement efficiency similar to the ones used in the game or sport like situation. The general preparation phase of the skill development should be focus on creating the coordination of movement efficiency. That will avoid injuries later in season. Results state that the decreased stride leg knee flexion velocity during stride leg stances positively associated with pitch velocity. Seeing it from a biomechanics’ perspectives, it makes sense. By having the stride leg extended while standing alone at ball release, it makes the trunk to transfer its power from ground up and allows a quick twist that produces the power. Maintaining this posture, pitchers do not lose the balance, accuracy, eye ball control, and keep a closed transfer of energy. By flexing the knee, pitchers may lose it momentum, which at the short run will decrease velocities.
The objective of this paper was to study, differentiate, and clarify the biomechanical, and technique components that influence the pitching velocity on baseball pitchers at all ages. It showed how some movement patterns, and coordination execution of the technique have an extreme connection with increasing pitching velocity. In this brief review, increase horizontal adduction of the shoulder and a decrease in time of internal rotation displacement made velocities to go higher. In the same matter, stride leg knee flexion velocity during stride leg stance and increased stride leg knee extension velocity, it is positively associated with pitch velocity. Because if these findings, it is worth to say that coaches need to change methodology of training pitching velocities among different ages of development. While training with young children, it is important to work on coordination, and a maximization of technique and forget about power and explosiveness. Based on Armstrong et al. (2009), while younger, children have a better capacity to generate aerobic enzymes than anaerobic, due to a higher distribution of fiber type 1. This leaves the coaches to focus on explosiveness and power development on athletes passing peak height velocity. I believe that future work should be focus on flexibility training and range of motion of maximal external rotation help increase pitching velocities. Another purpose for further research is to know how long the stride leg should be displaced in order to generate enough velocity depending on height and weight of the pitcher, and the importance of keeping that stride leg while stance in extended position.
By using this knowledge, coaches can assure that pitching is a full kinetic and explosive movement that needs to be worked with close kinetic chain exercises that develop ground reaction forces. To contradict myself, it is important to reiterate that it is not the force that makes pitching velocities, it the explosiveness of the movement that generate that power. I know that force is the key that generate power with help of displacement. It is my opinion that strength coaches should focus on working with Olympic lifting, plyometric that mimic the pitching movements. However, stabilizing lower limbs during pitching plays an important role to increase the rotation and forward motion of the trunk (Kageyama et al., 2014). Eccentric exercises after mimic the movement should be work on the general stage of the periodization cycle. It is important to work on single leg exercises drills like plyometric, hops, and agility. Another example of single leg exercise for developing strength can be single leg RDL with dumbbells, Bottoms-Up Single-Leg Foot and Shoulder-Elevated Hip Thrust, combined step-ups with shoulder press, single leg dumbbells row, and single leg dead lift, among others. As said earlier, different ages must be considered when working to generate velocities while pitching. Younger one should focus coordination drills that help them consolidate cognitive enhancement of the technique. On the other hand, late adolescent pitchers can of course focus on generating all that power. These conclusions correlate with those of Fleisig et al. (2009), Beunen et al. (2008), Dun et al. (2008), Dick et al. (2007), & Murray et al. (2001) that encourage parents and coaches to extend the healthy pitchers arm as long as possible by not rushing the athletes into obtaining maximal velocities and younger ages.
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Lecturas: Educación Física y Deportes, Vol. 23, Núm. 240, May. (2018)