Cole Hamels' Shoulder Problems


#1

Just this morning I was looking at a clip of Cole Hamels throwing…

I saw something I don’t like in that clip, and for that reason I added his name to a list of people that I suspect may have shoulder problems…

Just now I read a report that Hamels is having shoulder problems.

The thing that I see in that clip, and that I think may be related to his shoulder problems, is that he (like Kerry Wood) appears to start turning his shoulders before his forearm is vertical (which I define as rushing). I believe that this will increase the force with which his upper arm will externally rotate and will place a higher than average load on his shoulder.

The thing to notice is that he starts to rotate his shoulders between frames 2 and 3 (notice how you can see his numbers in frame 3 but not in frame 2), before his forearm is vertical.
He also appears to stride fairly closed, which causes him to throw back across his body.


#2

This is from the Phillies site (blog)

[quote]Here are his innings pitched per season as a professional:
2003: 101 IP
2004: 16 IP
2005: 35 IP
2006: 36.1 IP (so far…)[/quote]

and this…

[quote]Hamels was drafted by the Phillies in 2002 out of Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego. He was a much talked about high school prospect, but not just for his exploits on the diamond – a snapped humerus bone in his left arm during his junior year of high school made him the unquestioned biggest risk/reward gamble in the draft. In his own words (from 7/28/04):
“If it happens again, it’s all over for me,” Hamels, “I’ve progressed a lot since it happened…But if it even happens again, that’s it.”[/quote]

The kid seems extremely fragile…

Anyways, do you think that his delivery is what caused him to break the humerus while pitching? (that even sounds horrible when typing it out shudder)


#3

It’s possible, and not unheard of.

The traditional pitching motion puts a tremendous torque on the Humerus due to the rapid external rotation that is then brought to a quick stop. Do it badly and you could have problems.

Guys have broken this bone throwing baseballs, snowballs, and grenades.


#4

I see lots of things in that clip: uphill-aligned shoulders, late posture change, early shoulder rotation, shoulder over-rotation, not much separation between hips and shoulders, unstable glove. He does also appear to stride to the closed side and that could certainly contribute to the late posture change. But I’d have to see where he starts on the rubber and what his drag line looks like to know how much of an issue that is.

The early shoulder rotation will cause him to throw less with his torso and more with just his arm. That will put more wear and tear on the throwing arm regardless of whether the throwing forearm is vertical or not. The over-rotation will make his release point inconsistent.

He seems to have a “stay back” kind of delivery as evidenced by the “reaching out” stride and the uphill alignment of the shoulders. That gives him too much time in his delivery thus allowing the early/over rotation of the shoulders. Getting into foot strike quicker would help eliminate the early/over rotation of the shoulders by giving him only enough time to get the shoulders squared up. But then the closed stride might need to be addressed.


#5

FYI, Hamels has been placed on the DL.


#6

Roger
What do you mean when you say he has a “late posture change”?


#7

Chris
Can you please send me that video? Thanks.


#8

Looks like he is also throwing across this body.

Look at the stride foot compared to the back foot.


#9

I would estimate that he steps open roughly 1 foot.


#10

[quote=“dm59”]Roger
What do you mean when you say he has a “late posture change”?[/quote]

As Hamels’ throwing arm starts forward, his head appears to jerk to the right. This could be caused by just trying to throw hard, it could be related to the early shoulder rotation, or it could be related to the closed stride and having to change directions to square back up to the target.

As the head goes, so goes the shoulders and then the release point.


#11

[quote=“baseballbum”]Looks like he is also throwing across this body.

Look at the stride foot compared to the back foot.[/quote]

This might not be an issue. If Hamels (being a lefty) starts on the right side of the rubber such that his back foot drag line ends on the line between the center of the rubber and the center of home plate, then he will still be able to get squared up to the target without changing his posture. Tom Glavine does this.

In the clip/pictures, it does look like Hamels starts on the right side of the rubber and that his drag line extends off to the left. But I can’t see enough to say anything for sure.


#12

[quote=“Roger”]As Hamels’ throwing arm starts forward, his head appears to jerk to the right. This could be caused by just trying to throw hard, it could be related to the early shoulder rotation, or it could be related to the closed stride and having to change directions to square back up to the target.

As the head goes, so goes the shoulders and then the release point.[/quote]
My thought on the head movement is that it’s more related to his desired arm slot, which is fairly high, as much as I can tell from this one video. I don’t see it actually “jerking” to the right. I see more of a typical, and actually quite smooth, lean that way to allow for the high arm slot.


#13

[quote=“dm59”]Chris
Can you please send me that video? Thanks.[/quote]

Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the orginal source file, just the animated GIF that I posted.


#14

Roger, just wondering, but why do you think this is bad?

I ask because I have heard others say this but am not sure why they think this is a problem because many pros do it. However, I prefer that my guys keep their shoulders level.


#15

Roger, just wondering, but why do you think this is bad?

I ask because I have heard others say this but am not sure why they think this is a problem because many pros do it. However, I prefer that my guys keep their shoulders level.[/quote]
An uphill alignment of the shoulders means the following to me:

(1) The head probably moves away from the target. Head movement other than towards the target pulls the release point away from the target.

(2) The extra movement required to get up and over and back down to release point makes it harder to be consistent.

(3) The extra effort required to get up and over and back down to release point will make the pitcher tire faster. That will lead to either not going as deep into games or not being able to maintain good mechanics as long (which could lead to injury).

I’m fully aware some pros do this. Andy Pettitte is a good example. I know that its possible to get good at doing things in bad ways. But I’d never teach this to the kids I work with. In fact, I normally have kids correct this.


#16

[quote=“dm59”][quote=“Roger”]As Hamels’ throwing arm starts forward, his head appears to jerk to the right. This could be caused by just trying to throw hard, it could be related to the early shoulder rotation, or it could be related to the closed stride and having to change directions to square back up to the target.

As the head goes, so goes the shoulders and then the release point.[/quote]
My thought on the head movement is that it’s more related to his desired arm slot, which is fairly high, as much as I can tell from this one video. I don’t see it actually “jerking” to the right. I see more of a typical, and actually quite smooth, lean that way to allow for the high arm slot.[/quote]

Maybe “jerk” was too strong of a word. But I think that if you could stop the video clip right when Hamels gets to his release point you’d see his head cocked to the side pretty significantly. Of course, I follow Tom House on the arm slot thing which means the head stays upright to get the release point as close to home plate as possible and arm slot is just a biomechanical inevitable that is determined by one’s physiological make-up. I certainly don’t teach the young kids I work with to tilt the head/shoulders to change arm slots. Geez, they have enough trouble being consistent with level eyes and just one arm slot. :wink:


#17

The animated gif is fine. Quicktime recognizes it.


#18

[quote=“Roger”]…I follow Tom House on the arm slot thing which means the head stays upright to get the release point as close to home plate as possible and arm slot is just a biomechanical inevitable that is determined by one’s physiological make-up.[/quote]I know House recommends certain things as almost absolutes, like this and the arms being “equal and opposite”. If the eyes must stay level, then it becomes difficult to have a high arm slot because the shoulders must tilt for that to happen. With “equal and opposite” arm action, I can’t accept that as an absolute or even a strong recommendation because there is only a brief period where the arms are like that in many, many pros. The upper arms often come close to that but the lower arms being equal and opposite just isn’t something that has to happen. Reference Nolan Ryan or Kevin Brown or Scott Kazmir. Those are just the ones I checked. I’m sure I could find more. Actually, I had a hard time finding “equal and opposite”. Wagner’s close, as is Clemens and Smoltz. Even then, it’s for only a very brief period of time. So, my point is that it isn’t NECESSARY to have equal and opposite or level shoulders or the head on line. There are just too many examples of these “rules” being successfully broken. Just like Wagner shatters all of the statements I’ve heard over the years that you must reach back on the windup to generate power from leverage and avoid shortarming the ball.

As I’ve said before, “absolutes aren’t”.

[quote=“Roger”]I certainly don’t teach the young kids I work with to tilt the head/shoulders to change arm slots.[/quote]I also wouldn’t teach that with the specific intent of changing arm slots. If they want to throw with a higher arm slot, they’ll find the right tilt on their own. They pretty much have to. Level shoulders do not beget high arm slots. Now, if the shoulder tilt / high arm slot is being forced by a kid and it’s inhibiting the learning of the 200 other more important things, I’d suggest a change to a lower arm slot with less tilt but I’m not going to get hung up about shoulder tilt. There are more important things to worry about.


#19

FWIW, Tom has backed off on the “absolutes” thing. He now calls them imperatives - things you should do. He freely admits that the absolutes aren’t.

Tom feels that the difference in release point between tilting the shoulders and not tilting the shoulders (8"-12"?) when compared to the distance from the release point to home plate (50’-55’?) is insignificant.

Actually, you’re right on track. The arms are only in an opposite and equal position for a moment at foot strike. Further, the forearms do not need to be in the same position. That is, one can be up and the other down. What’s important is that the angle between the upper arm and forearm be the same for each arm. That positions the weight of the arms equidistant from the torso. You can see how that would benefit balance.

Correct. Many pitchers have gotten good at poor mechanics. The guy that kills me is K-Rod - the guy falls down after every pitch. So, while it’s not necessary to do this or that, it’s probably a good idea to try. Noone will ever be perfect but there’s no harm in trying.

No doubt things need to be kept in perspective. Everyone is different and what’s important for one person isn’t so important for another.

They aren’t anymore. :smiley:


#20

Good discussion, as always, Roger.