Increasing Velocity Through More Efficient Landing Positions
Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015
In today’s article, we’re going to look at a high school prospect, who was demonstrating some classic inefficiencies in his throwing motion. This will allow us to discuss some changes he made to his landing position, which helped him improve both his command and velocity in a relatively short amount of time.
For starters, I think people commonly make the mistake of thinking that you can’t improve both velocity and command at the same time. This is because they associate velocity with increasing intent or effort in the delivery, which if applied recklessly, can certainly lessen the ability to command the ball. In reality, there are a lot of ways to improve velocity, but sometimes it simply comes down to increasing the efficiency of an athlete’s throwing motion, so that their body works more in sync.
In a second, I’m going to show you some clips of an athlete, who was able to do this by changing his “Angle of Attack”, which in turn put his delivery in some more advantageous positions to apply force from landing to release. Now when I discuss, “Angle of Attack”, I’m kind of encompassing a lot of different components in the delivery. It essentially boils down to an athlete’s stride direction and how their delivery maintains leverage from landing to release. This allows them to create a more efficient and consistent path of acceleration through their target line. If it’s a little nebulous, I apologize, but you’ll get a feel for it by watching the videos below. Before we get there though, I should probably give you a little context for what you’re looking at in this athlete’s delivery.
In the older videos, which I’ll show first, you’ll see an athlete in the fall of 2014, who was 16 years old, and about 6’4” 160lbs, throwing an inconsistent 82-84. When you see this athlete’s frame and motion, its not hard to project more velocity, so I certainly don’t consider myself a rocket scientist for seeing it, but the rate at which he developed and refined himself, was a little surprising.
After we walk through the older clips, I’ll show some more updated videos. One of them being from the tail end of the winter of 2015, before he went to Florida for his first HS start, and the other being from this past August, where he’s throwing 86-89 touching 91 at times. In the winter clip, he was weighing around 175 and then in the late summer clip closer to 185. So, that is certainly a variable to take into consideration as you watch these clips, but lets take a look and see what’s been adjusted.
Here is the 2014 Front and Side shot first:
As you can see, there were a lot of positive qualities to like in this athlete’s delivery with a general sense of looseness, some present athleticism and quality movement patterns that were just raw in their application. With that said, any time I look at deliveries of high school athletes, I’m always trying to consider what level of mobility and stability an athlete is working with, as well as their general level of awareness for quality movement as a whole. With this age group in particular, you’ll get a wide range of presentations depending on their level of maturation and the training environment they’ve been exposed to up to that point, so its important to establish a baseline to work off.
In this case, it was apparent that this athlete had plenty of mobility to achieve the desired positions and presented a little on the unstable side. More importantly though, he probably lacked a general awareness for where he should be in space to create advantageous positions for himself to move through. This is important because these athletes can get tangled up in their excessive range of motion and will get diminishing returns from trying to do too much in their delivery. These types of athletes can do a lot for themselves just by learning a quality dynamic warm-up that teaches them proper ranges of motion and low-level bracing strategies before you even need to layer on a strength program.
After a few fall throwing sessions, some general discussions about quality movement and proper sequencing in the delivery, this athlete made some pretty significant strides in optimizing the efficiency of his actions on his own. In most cases, I like to give the athlete just enough information to work with, and then get out of the way, and allow them to organize their actions with some basic external cueing to help reinforce the feeling they’re getting on their own.
Without me belaboring the point any further, lets take a look at the adjustments this athlete made in the videos below. I broke out these clips so you can see the side comparison in the first video and the front comparison in the 2nd video below.
As you can see in this side shot, more isn’t always better. This is true from both a coaching standpoint and a movement standpoint. You can see we didn’t really change the “feel” of this delivery and a lot of his “signature moves” are still evident in this motion. Simply discussing positions of strength will go along way towards getting an athlete to organize his body into more centered positions that allow him to deliver force more effectively.
By shortening up this stride a touch, this athlete was able to control his leverage on the ball much more consistently and create a more consistent “Driveline” to his target. By not fighting himself left and right, he avoided “blocking” himself out of throws and had less wasted effort in the delivery.
One of the things I didn’t touch upon in the video that does deserve discussion here though is the bracing pattern you see in the lead leg. A lot of the research suggests you need to see a level of knee extension in a “high-level throw”, which I don’t disagree with, but the quality of knee extension and where its being driven from is also crucial in the discussion.
As you’ll see in the previous delivery, there’s a more aggressive “knee extension” from landing to release. This is partly due to game speed vs. bullpen, but also in my opinion, this is more of a product of the aggressive heel landing and getting “hung up” on his front hip than it is an active bracing pattern using muscular restraints to create pressure into the ground. We’ll save that thought for a bit lengthier discussion down the road.
That being said, there’s a good chance this athlete already had upper 80’s hand speed, it was just being misdirected, and at times locked up in poor stabilization patterns using bony blocks & passive restraints, which is why you initially saw lower 80’s and inconsistent command.
With that said, let’s continue looking at this progression by looking at his front shot here:
As you can see, there’s still some work to be done in that Winter delivery, but it had made some decent progress from the Fall.
As this athlete continues to gain ground in improving the efficiency of his actions, a large window of adaptation now lies in getting him stronger. This will allow him to create and sustain more force in his lower half, and use his back leg more effectively during the initial portion of the stride phase. Its scary to think what this athlete might look like at 6’4 200lbs with an increased level of stability to transfer forces more efficiently.
To give you a sense of what this delivery looked like at full speed, here are a few pitches from that February bullpen:
At the end of the day, this is a pretty common theme that I run into with our amateur pitchers. Most of them lack efficiency in their sequencing, and can start by simply suring up their footwork into landing. To reiterate, some of the easiest ways to improve your throwing motion are by simply paying attention to the quality of your landings on the mound, and probably more importantly your footwork while you’re playing catch on a daily basis.
I know we didn’t really get into a lot of the drill work we used with this athlete, but I think that’s less important than conceptually understanding the focus on being strong in your landing and centered over your base. Just simply thinking about these few things on a daily basis will go a long way in spinning the baseball at a consistently high level.