What constitutes effective throwing mechanics?
Before attempting to answer this question it’s important to distinguish the
difference between pitching and throwing: You can throw a baseball without pitching it, but you can’t pitch a baseball without throwing it. This emphasizes that pitching is all about defeating the batter. And throwing is an integral component of the pitching process.
But throwing in itself does not constitute pitching. And this is where the water begins to muddy; i.e., the difference between pitching mechanics and throwing mechanics. In reality, there should be no difference, but more often than not what is deemed as good pitching mechanics is more about defeating the batter than it is about throwing a baseball.
Effective throwing is efficient use of the body to throw the baseball. Effective throwing is the least amount of wasted effort necessary to achieve the desired throwing result.
There are two primary components at work in throwing a baseball: strength and mechanics. The strength component can manifest itself in several ways. The good way is when the strength component works in conjunction with the mechanical component primarily in the form of maintaining what is called connection during a transfer of momentum from the larger body parts (torso) and the arm itself.
One interesting aspect of throwing is that once the momentum has been drained out of the torso, the action of the arm is far more passive and active. The arm behaves more like a whip (buggy whip “popper”) that has been driven by the body.
The negative aspect of arm strength is when the arm itself becomes the primary mechanism to throw the baseball. This can also be described as “disconnection.” Disconnection means the arm has lost its ability to receive/transform momentum from the body. A consequence of this disconnection forces the arm-shoulder complex to become more active than it should in terms of throwing a baseball. The player is trying to make up for the lack of efficient transfer of momentum by “muscling” the ball to the plate.
The kinetic chain or kinetic sequence…
All attempts to analyze the throwing process require understanding what is called the kinetic chain or kinetic sequence. When coaches and instructors are talking
about using the body to throw the baseball. they are talking about the kinetic chain.
Figure 1. The Kinetic Chain
The kinetic chain/sequence is the development and transfer momentum from the larger body parts (muscle groups) such as the legs, hips and torso to the smaller body parts such as the shoulder, upper arm, forearm, hand and finally the ball. This is also described as the distal to proximal sequence, distal being the most distant point from the ball (the feet) and proximal being the closest point to the ball (the hand/fingers).
Efficiency of throwing is not the same as throwing velocity. Efficiency simply measures how effective momentum is developed and transferred from segment to segment, the ultimate destination being the ball. Velocity not only depends upon efficiency of transfer, but also the magnitude of momentum created during this process.