Article on Strasburg's Mechanics (new stuff from ASMI)


#1

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/tom_verducci/03/08/stephen.strasburg.mechanics/index.html?eref=sihp

Lots of interesting stuff in here that hasn’t previously been talked about by Dr. Fleisig and others.

[quote]Here is the key to managing the torque levels in the late cocking phase: timing. The ball should be loaded in the late cocking phase precisely when the pitcher’s stride foot lands on the ground.

“If he’s too early or too late he winds up with more force on the shoulder and elbow,” said Glenn Fleisig, Ph.D., research director for the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Ala. “The energy gets passed to the arm before it was ready, or after.”[/quote]

[quote]There is one moment in this sequence when both of Strasburg’s elbows are higher than his shoulders, as if he were locked in medieval village stocks. Many people have frozen that moment of his delivery and assigned it as the point of risk. That’s not entirely true.

The problem is the timing associated with that move, not the move itself. When Strasburg gets his elbows above his shoulders and the baseball is below or about even with his right shoulder, his stride foot is hitting the ground. The ball should be in the loaded position at that point, but because Strasburg uses the funky “high elbow” raise, he still has to rotate his arm above his shoulder to get it there. The energy from landing on his stride foot has passed too early to the shoulder and elbow – before the joints are ready to use it.

“It’s not a case of too much armpit angle,” Fleisig said, referring to the moment when the elbows are raised. “It’s that the arm hasn’t rotated yet.”[/quote]

I wasn’t aware that Dr. Fleisig and ASMI knew this timing flaw could led to higher rates of injuries.


#2

But the shoulders don’t rotate until after foot plant. So how can energy transfer to the arm at foot plant if the shoulders aren’t ready yet? The energy has to go through the shoulders. Am I missing something?

I don’t think I’m buying this. Instead, I believe DM59 (admin on this site) is correct in his explanation that the later the arm gets cocked, the faster it externally rotates and that is was puts greater forces on the arm/shoulder.


#3

[quote=“Roger”]But the shoulders don’t rotate until after foot plant. So how can energy transfer to the arm at foot plant if the shoulders aren’t ready yet? The energy has to go through the shoulders. Am I missing something?

I don’t think I’m buying this. Instead, I believe DM is correct in his explanation that the later the arm gets cocked, the faster it externally rotates and that is was puts greater forces on the arm/shoulder.[/quote]

I think that’s what Verducci is trying to say.


#4

basically inverted W causes either a well timed arm, or a late arm… causing longer external rotation which causes more force that is misdirected to rotator or elbow


#5

Lincecum does the same thing with his timing. The arm is late but maybe a little less than this. There are some things that you read that make sense and others over time that just don’t. One thing that I have come to believe is engage the biggest muscles you can when you pitch. With the W when your elbow is high small scap muscles are being engaged instead of large ones. The elbow needs to come down just a bit to engage the large scap muscles.


#6

A lack of flexibility in the shoulder can contribute to an injury. Just like ankle pain, tight hamstrings or low back pain can be due to inflexible hips.

Everything links to each other.

Think of it like this, the greater something can stretch the less likely it is to snap apart.


#7

Paging Dr. O’Leary…


#8

Articles such as those by Varducci (attempting to enlighten regarding pitching mechanics) combined with commentary from the “theoreticians” such as Fleisig continued to keep the general baseball public (especially players, coaches, fathers) in the dark ages.

What the theoreticians fail to understand is that to maximally/optimally throw baseball is a very complex event. Fleisig and company engage in fragmentary mechanics. Their analysis is tunnel vision and myopic at best. At worst they shoot from the hip as evidenced by the commentary in Verducci’s article.

Case in point i.e. inability of Strasburg to get his arm up when his foot plants.

I’m not sure how Fleisig came to his conclusion but I will tell you how I came to mine. Quite simple. Its a process that I have used from day one with what I (and more than a few others) consider rational and effective.

First I find a “reference” to which I will compare the subject (player) in question.

What I have found very frustrating with much of the analysis that has been published is the level of players that are chosen to make/base their decisions on. Typically these are college low-level professional who have no or minimal chance of ever advancing to the highest levels of baseball.

I prefer to find what I consider the very best examples.

In the case of Strasburg I chose Nolan Ryan. Durable and threw hard his entire career.

This is a clip comparing Strasburg and Ryan frame by frame.

I have synchronized the clips to the point where both Ryan and Strasburg apply their full weight to their front foot. I don’t consider front foot first contact as being a viable reference point because there is no force transfer at initial contact is when the front foot “braces up” that the forces then transferred through the entire body i.e. has an effect on the shoulder/elbow and everything else.

This synchronization takes place at frame 12 of this clip sequence (I pause the clip briefly at this point).

To my “uneducated eye” I see very little difference in the throwing arm position at this point.

For the record I do not like how Strasburg breaks his hands. This is not scapula loading as I have defined scapular loading and it is also not the inverted W as I have defined inverted W.

Basically Strasburg breaks along the lines of a “slinging” type arm action. As opposed to what I have preached for a long time “breaking with the elbows” which is what Nolan Ryan does and which is where I first saw or formulated the concept of breaking with the elbows and not the hands.

Strasburg breaks with the hands not the elbows and therefore really never achieves inverted W or what I consider most effective scapular loading.

Also another premises of scapular loading is that the loading process takes place perpendicular to the spine i.e. pinching of the shoulder blades not elevating the shoulder blades but pitching the shoulder blades. Again this is what Nolan Ryan does and Strasburg really does not (Mark Prior also elevated his scapula i.e. did not really effectively scapula load).

I will also repeat for the umpteenth time that the main premise of inverted W and breaking with the elbows was to counter those who preached going to the “high cock” position. This seems to be what Fleiss it wants pitchers to do and which I consider a velocity killer as well as putting more stress i.e. you have to work harder to achieve the same velocity as the player who understands that the handbrake to release is a continuous process.

Also the handbrake wants to be dynamic or should I say the entire throwing sequence was to be dynamic to take advantage of the storing and release of elastic energy. Again this is one of the fundamental premises of the inverted W and scapular loading i.e. creating a dynamic whipping action of the forum (a rapid external rotation as opposed to hanging, there).

Developing high-level throwing capabilities goes far beyond mechanics. It is a mind-body exercise. Requires an understanding of how the body actually works i.e. motor learning along with biomechanics along with physiology along with understanding how to instruct or should I say effect the desired movement patterns. This is where research is like slicing fall very flat on their face or falls far short of understanding what it takes to maximally throw baseball.

As usual my not so humble opinions.


#9

Well said . Video clip is outstanding. I can’t imagine anyone can look at this and like the scap loading and how high his elbows are. That is more a factor for shoulder problems in the future. As far as the elbow I am going with this some elbows just can’t handle the stress the rest of the body can generate . This might just be a weak link issue . The rest of the body was stronger than the elbow can handle.


#10

Breaking w/ hands vs. Breaking w/ elbows…

Can you explain this a little more to help me understand the movement?

By doing one over the other, are you trying to shorten the glove and throwing arm paths following separation? How do you teach it when working with a kid… (thx)


#11

I don’t mean to try and take over for coachxj but I think I can shed some light on the breaking with the elbows vs. hands.

Breaking with the elbows is something that Ryan does as put before by Nyman. This does not necessarily shorten up the arm path but it can. Ryan breaks his hands relatively high so he has a shorter arm path. Earlier in his career he broke lower towards his belt so he had a longer arm action. If you look at his arm action it’s nice a dynamic with uninterrupted movement.

Strasburg on the other hand looks very herky-jerky. Notice how long it is out of the glove. Compare how the glove is broken. Ryan’s elbows stay higher than his hand as they come out. Strasburg is pulls the ball out with his hand and straightens out his arm before scap loading.

Which is brought to the next point, notice how Strasburg when he scap loads seems to “rise” this is what Nyman means by elevating the shoulder blades. Ryan on the other hand, loads rather effortlessly and pinches the shoulder blades rather than raise them.

This can be directly correlated with breaking with the elbows as I have discovered through my own experimentation with arm action.

Paul if you see anything wrong with my explanation by all means correct me, I am simply trying to understand and that’s what I got from your reply.


#12

Paul:

Fleisig is careful to say that the horizontal shoulder abduction is not the issue; only that the amount of internal/external rotation of the pitching upper arm (timing) is the issue. So I don’t think it’s valid to say they want to go with a Mills-like “high cock” position concept.

Verducci does a poor job explaining pitching mechanics in that article, I would agree with you.

However, you point out the elevation of the scapula as a potential problem. Can you elaborate on that?


#13

Priceless you did a very good job of describing handbrake in scapula loading. Thank you.

[quote]Breaking w/ hands vs. Breaking w/ elbows…

Can you explain this a little more to help me understand the movement?

By doing one over the other, are you trying to shorten the glove and throwing arm paths following separation? How do you teach it when working with a kid… (thx)[/quote]

Velocity efficiency (throwing with the least amount of wasted efforts) requires a continuous development and transfer of momentum. Tom house did an analysis on Aroldis Ghapman (http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=5661690&categoryid=2378529[/url]) and if you factor out his belief in long stride and effective velocity what you end up with is the real secret of Chapmans throwing ability i.e. the speed at which he uses his body to throw the baseball.

To anyone versed in the most elementary physics this is as rudimentary as falling out of bed i.e. the change in momentum relative to the change in time is equal to force applied. And force applied equals acceleration. And acceleration begets velocity. Elementary physics.

So the point of breaking with the elbows is twofold by mechanically or should I say from a physics perspective it’s to quickly and efficiently enter into the throwing process (get to the point where external rotation of the throwing arm begins). Secondly it’s precursor to developing eccentric action of the scapula i.e. pinching the scapula in preparation for unloading the scapula.

Focusing on breaking with the elbows and or lifting the ball out of the glove with the elbows in my opinion is important in achieving efficiency and loading.

[quote]Paul:

Fleisig is careful to say that the horizontal shoulder abduction is not the issue; only that the amount of internal/external rotation of the pitching upper arm (timing) is the issue. So I don’t think it’s valid to say they want to go with a Mills-like “high cock” position concept. [/quote]

No I don’t think so. This is what Fleisig is purported to have said:

[quote]There is one moment in this sequence when both of Strasburg’s elbows are higher than his shoulders, as if he were locked in medieval village stocks. Many people have frozen that moment of his delivery and assigned it as the point of risk. That’s not entirely true.

The problem is the timing associated with that move, not the move itself. When Strasburg gets his elbows above his shoulders and the baseball is below or about even with his right shoulder, his stride foot is hitting the ground. The ball should be in the loaded position at that point, but because Strasburg uses the funky “high elbow” raise, he still has to rotate his arm above his shoulder to get it there. The energy from landing on his stride foot has passed too early to the shoulder and elbow – before the joints are ready to use it.

“It’s not a case of too much armpit angle,” Fleisig said, referring to the moment when the elbows are raised. “It’s that the arm hasn’t rotated yet.”[/quote]

There is no mention of scapula loading (horizontal shoulder abduction) or for that matter the inverted W (maybe he’s implying or hinting but doesn’t specifically use the terminology).

And secondly as shown from the video that I posted comparing Nolan Ryan and Strasburg, to my “uneducated eyes” I do not see Strasburg’s not having rotated yet.

One of the problems I’ve had for many years with attempt such as Fleisig’s to predict injury based upon his inverse dynamic analysis is it inability to predict what’s actually happening within the body. All I can do is calculate what torques and forces are occurring at the joints. There is no ability to predict exactly what the soft tissues are experiencing. All that can be said is that at the joint there is X or Y amount of force/torque.

[quote]Direct measurement of muscle forces in vivo is usually limited to minimally invasive measurements in superficial tendons such as the Achilles (Finni et al., 1998; Komi et al., 1992). Otherwise, in vivo measurements can be conducted in the operation room where a force transducer can be placed on a tendon, following data collection and the removal of the device before the completion of the surgery, e.g. flexor tendons of fingers during surgeries of carpal tunnel (Dennerlein et al., 1998; Dennerlein et al., 1999; Dennerlein, 2005; Schuind et al., 1992). Such approaches may not necessarily be feasible in a clinical setting; therefore such tendon force measurement techniques have been utilized mostly in research laboratories (Ravary et al., 2004; Fleming and Beynnon, 2004).

Non-invasive methods rely on the basic principle that muscles produce skeletal movement and ground reaction forces. Clearly, none of these observable variables provides information on any single muscle. Instead, a technique known as inverse dynamic analysis has been developed, based on computational modeling of the dynamics of linked body segments. The analysis produces estimates of joint torques, each of which represents the resultant action of all muscles crossing a joint. While inverse dynamic analysis has become a routine tool in clinical gait analysis (Vaughan et al., 1992; Winter, 2005), muscles are not represented and the approach provides no information on muscular load sharing, agonist– antagonist activity, energy transfer between joints via biarticular muscles, and dynamic coupling (van den Bogert, 1994; Zajac et al., 2002). Electromyograpy (EMG) data can support a clinical inverse dynamic analysis to more effectively interpret joint torques, but there are no estimates of individual muscle forces (Zajac et al., 2003).

Actual estimates of muscle forces can only be obtained with computational models in which the skeleton and muscles are both represented. Implemented in a variety of forms, musculoskeletal models have been used in conjunction with non-invasive measurements to obtain individual muscle forces during a number of movement tasks. Within the current article, we have attempted to critically evaluate those studies that have combined musculoskeletal models, optimization methods and movement data to estimate individual muscle forces. A review of literature is first provided with the necessary methodological background, followed by the applications of the various techniques with a discussion of limitations. Novel strategies that attempt to improve understanding of muscle function are also presented. We will conclude with recommendations, for clinical applications and for further research that may increase the applicability and validity of these techniques in clinical practice. [/quote]

The bottom line at least as far as I’m concerned is that throwing a baseball is a whole body effort. And all it takes is one small part of the kinetic sequence to be out of whack to totally screw things up. This includes what stress is applied to what parts of the muscular skeleton system. In other words all it takes a small change to dramatically affect the stress on connective tissue and joints. In other words the magnitude of what is happening may not change but how it actually is applied does potentially have a significant difference depending upon what precedes.

For example how many times have we heard about the player who can long toss 300+ feet which equates to 90+ mph at launch and yet has a hard time breaking 80 mph off the mound? It all comes back to something that I have preached for many years that the intent or the goal dictates how we use our body to achieve that goal.

As usual my not so humble opinions.


#14

[quote]One of the problems I’ve had for many years with attempt such as Fleisig’s to predict injury based upon his inverse dynamic analysis is it inability to predict what’s actually happening within the body. All I can do is calculate what torques and forces are occurring at the joints. There is no ability to predict exactly what the soft tissues are experiencing. All that can be said is that at the joint there is X or Y amount of force/torque.
[/quote]

I would certainly agree with this. I’m still not sure that Fleisig “prefers” a pause at the top high-cocked position; ASMI has definitely said in the past that the pinched shoulder blades position is common in pitchers with elite velocities (80+ MPH).

Any comment on the upwardly-rotating scapula with regard to injury risk and/or performance that you mentioned in your original post?


#15

I don’t think anyone can accurately predict injury based upon what they think is happening internal to the body. I’ve observed many pitchers who I think are accidents waiting to happen and yet continue to perform injury free.

I think common sense comes into play here i.e. the harder one tries to throw the more susceptible at injury.

With respect to elevating the scapula I believe it’s not as efficient as a more horizontal break (horizontal abduction of the shoulder) because you are loading in one direction (vertically) and then unloading in another direction (horizontally).

My fundamental rule of thumb is forces need to be “coplanar”, i.e. the stretch and contraction need to be in the same plane for efficiency purposes. Also the shoulders are going to rotate in a plane perpendicular to the spine for maximum efficiency and therefore scapular loading should also take place in this plane.


#16

coachxj, your theory seems to be very solid…of course like you said, in the real world it’s kinda like a crap shoot.


#17

I really like this description. :allgood:


#18

Hey Paul, I know this isn’t the point of discussion, but do you ever plan on getting the Setpro forum back up and running? Or, are there still ways to get some of your products? Please let me know.


#19

This has been a very informative thread. Enough that it got me to join the site. Kyle, Ive read a lot of things you’ve wrote, and I really appreciate your thoughtful approach to pitching and strength training. I think I first heard of Eric Cressey on your site, and reading his stuff has made me better at what I do-working at a sports enhancement facility. Paul, I’ve been trying my best since last fall to learn all of the stuff you’ve taught over the years. You’ve helped an old war horse (32 yr old) pitcher to pick up about 5 mph towards getting his college fastball back again! I wish I’d been introduced to your Setpro principles when I was about 14. At any rate, thanks! I do have a question about the scap loading, though, if you get the chance. When looking at Strasburg and Ryan, one thing that I think i notice is the difference in when they get to the point of maximum stretch on the chest area. If I’m not mistaken, the whole point of the scap load is to utilize the elastic quality of the muscle in the pec area like a big rubber band, right? It looks to me like Strasburg pulls his elbows up and back early enough that, by the time he gets to the frame where you pause the video, his arm and shoulder complex has already partially sprung back, but Ryan is just entering the point where he’s at maximum stretch. My thought is that this might make Ryan’s scap load-unload more efficient than Strasburg’s, as if Strasburg has already “used up” some of the potential elastic energy by the time he gets there. I’m just wondering if that’s something you see, or if I’m totally off. Thanks.


#20

[size=9][quote] I do have a question about the scap loading, though, if you get the chance. When looking at Strasburg and Ryan, one thing that I think i notice is the difference in when they get to the point of maximum stretch on the chest area. If I’m not mistaken, the whole point of the scap load is to utilize the elastic quality of the muscle in the pec area like a big rubber band, right? It looks to me like Strasburg pulls his elbows up and back early enough that, by the time he gets to the frame where you pause the video, his arm and shoulder complex has already partially sprung back, but Ryan is just entering the point where he’s at maximum stretch. My thought is that this might make Ryan’s scap load-unload more efficient than Strasburg’s, as if Strasburg has already “used up” some of the potential elastic energy by the time he gets there. I’m just wondering if that’s something you see, or if I’m totally off. Thanks.[/quote]

It is my “belief” that scapular loading has or should I say contributes to the throwing process in a number of different ways listed in the order of what “I” believed to be importance/priority.

  1. Provides a rotational pivot point that is necessary to maximally unload the arm i.e. scapular adduction or the reverse of the pinch.

  2. Is important link in the kinetic sequence i.e. picks up and transfers momentum from the shoulder rotation.

  3. Provides some additional segmental velocity increased due to the storage and release elastic energy.

The storage and release elastic energy requires stretching of the connective tissue. Typically this is done through a countermovement i.e. the reversal of momentum of a body segment(s). And you are correct when you say that a pause in the delivery will dissipate this elastic energy. And yes I believe that Nolan Ryan with a quick pinch and then maintaining the load on the scapular through shoulder rotation has greater potential to develop and conserve elastic potential energy.

But I do not believe this is the primary benefit of scapular loading as stated/noted above.

Thank you for your kind words and I wish you continued success in your journey.[/size]