Arm action

To sum it up, what’s the “proper” arm action? I know their are many different ones, and they all vary, and their should be no cookie cutter mechanics, but what are the best mechanics(just arm, I’ve already heard enough about lower body, hip/shoulder separation, etc.) that will promote arm health and consistency? I’m not talking about arm slot, just things such as “keep your fingers on top of the ball, keep a bend in your elbow, show the ball to centerfield, swing arm down back and up, get your fingers through the ball,” etc. Thanks in advance.

There are a ton of schools of thought on this… what you mentioned are many “old school” approaches. The American Sports Medicine Institute wants you to keep a bend in your eblow(nothing extreme, just slight), and have the ball come through a horizontal “W” like some members on this site have commented. Basically, the elbow lifts to about shoulder height while the upper arm rotates so the hand is facing 3rd/Shortstop for RHP and 1st/2nd basemen for LHP. The forearm should nearly be vertical at foot plant. It sounds like it is really specific, but watching high speed video reveals many major league pitchers do something similar to this, and even many college and high school pitcher do.

There are really 2 major themes:

  1. Swingers/Slingers
  2. Lifters (Horizontal W, Inverted W or M)

After these 2 most prevalent themes you have some more funky things like submarine and then there’s Mike Marshall’s linear mechanics (have fun just trying to understand that one, let alone finding an example).

You have all sorts of variations on these 2 themes. Detailed differences abound. Today, in the majors, the lifters and their variations are by far the most common. You do have slingers or swingers but not as many.

Examples of W’s are Wagner (big detailed approach difference here but a W nonetheless), Clemens, Kazmir, Brown, etc., etc. Inverted W or M’s include Mark Prior, Smoltz (to a lesser extent) and many others. Freddie Garcia is probably a good example of a swinger.

Regardless of the type, they ALL go through what’s close to a high cocked position at footplant. No, the ball isn’t facing centrefield. That’s a misunderstanding by those who recommend it. It’s more like 3rd base in reality and toward SS at the most.

They also ALL go through full external rotation of the humerus (forearm laid back to horizontal just as the shoulders have squared to the target). This maximizes range of motion and makes full use out of the elastic properties of the muscles and connective tissues in and around the shoulder. Now, that one creates the paradox for pitchers. That which begets velocity also increases the risk of injury.

This is one of the “common elements” in all of the arm action types. Full external rotation is a “necessary condition” for optimizing velocity. There are others, of course, but this is one.

How you get to and through this point is what varies.

When we talk about throwing curves properly, we always talk about not twisting the hand and forearm. But when we talk about arm action and hand position we usually seem to contradict ourselves by saying the hand and forearm should be facing a direction that will require twisting. So I’d like to hear people’s opinions on the following:

If a pitcher is going to throw a curve and he is NOT going to twist his hand/forearm during the forward acceleration of the arm, then the hand and forearm need to be already supinated at the high cocked position in order to be in the karate chop position after the shoulders open up, the upper arm adducts, and forward acceleration of the arm begins. (Actually, I think it might be better to describe this as the moment when the elbow starts to extend.) Therefore, the hand/forearm positon will vary not only from pitcher to pitcher due to individual style but also from pitch to pitch for a given pitcher due to the mechanics required to properly throw different pitches. (A pitcher may also choose to pronate early when throwing a change-up or screwball.) And, for certain pitches (e.g. a curve), maybe all pitchers really should have the same hand and forearm position at the high cocked position.