High Elbows: What's the cause?

Everywhere you turn you hear something concerning high elbows (elbows above the shoulder)… Well I guess the question is what causes this? I have my beliefs and like you all know pitching mechanics is a lot like politics and religion, we all have our convictions and beliefs. For every study that becomes available there is another one that follows trying to disprove the previous. To me, I try and trust what I see based on the information I obtain. I thought a couple of interesting points were made by Roger and Jdfromfla. Roger mentioned that getting the hips started will clean up a lot of arm action issues and JDfrom fla asked what is most important for arm action, pre or post-foot strike? Great points from both gentleman.

I posted a video last week about a 5th rounder of the Astros. This kid is 97mph in velo drills but only 87 off the mound (filthy secondary stuff). Watch the position of the elbows in the video below.

Over the last week we have been working on making adjustments and it had nothing to do with changing or altering the arm action. You will see he has what I refer to as a 2 piece arm action, meaning he takes the ball out with the hand and arm extended but then gets the elbow up quickly. I am a firm believer in arm action and as of last week I knew the lower body effected the arm action but primarily with timing and didn’t alter the path so to speak. Here is the difference after two days of specific drill work. He isolated the lower body with intent to get moving earlier and being more aggressive rotating the hips into footplant. Pay special attention to:

  1. Hips getting moving forward earlier
  2. The hips staying in front of the feet
  3. Position of elbows at foot strike
  4. Landing at foot strike, toe versus heel
  5. Extension at release
  6. Finish

The high elbow more times than not has nothing to do with the action out of the glove or arm action or keeping the upper body connected. It is a product of the lower body. Most guys with high elbows (above shoulders) are not trying to get there and don’t know how to fix it. Most instructors are preaching that to get rid of the problem you should focus on the arms. I disagree. From studying hours of video and working with a guy that has that problem I took it in a different direction, I focused solely on the hips. What I have found is high elbows is a product of bad timing with the lower body forcing early hip rotation and the pitcher allowing the lead knee to get in front of the hip(which promotes early front hip rotation in most guys). It forces the rear foot to be the driving factor for momentum. When this happens, as the body is trying to transfer energy it transfers it vertically rather than moving it to the front side. What is the product? High Elbows!!!

For every reaction there is an opposite and equal reaction. (Tom House). The pitching delivery is like everything else in this world there is always a cause/effect relationship. So if you see a problem up top, look down. If you see a problem in the front, look in the back, etc…

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I agree with your theory of for and action there is a reaction I think there is so much positive a pitcher can get out of keeping this in mind.

I would think that when such things like high arm angle happen we should look earlier in the action, you can’t fix issues at the moment of the issue the real issue will be earlier in the action, we often (such as in this case) only look at what is happening at that instant and not before

I find it interesting that there’s so much talk about how to “fix” this “problem” but there still is no real evidence that this motion in fact is a “problem”.

I wasn’t really saying they were there was a problem, just agreeing with the post. I definately don’t have enough data to say if the high elbow, or inverted W is an issue or what. I will leave that to guys that see lots of players and deal with injury and rehab with those issues. Thnks, I hope someone has more input.

The guy would seem to have clear efficiency issues to have upper mid 90’s as a potential but only gets 87 on the mound…but the rub on this delivery method is usually a fast guy who is destined for injury…so your example is a contradictory one. All of O’Leary’s poster children have big ups…though how anyone could criticize the guys he cites is beyond me…we are talking about guys like Smoltz…ahh but likely better left to another day…Oh God PLEASE let my kid be so “bad” as to have John Smoltz’s success :wink: and I bring up that name as he is the only commonly heard name out there who does charactorize this as “bad”…or negative as a delivery method…that I’ve run across anyway…outside of Mike Marshall and groupies.

The example i have been looking at is Joel Zumaya vs Nolan Ryan. Nolan Ryan does everything baseballthinktank says to look for.

He leads with the hip and keeps them closed until the second before landing. Zumaya does not get the hip moving forward and his foot gets in front of the hip leading it to open early.

As far as i can see that is why Joel raises his elbows significantly above the shoulders, while Ryan does not. They both can(could) throw 100mph, so why does Zumaya have elbow issues while Ryan didn’t? Thoughts?

The point of my topic was not to say toy say that high elbows is a problem, I agree, no data or studies to back that up. Not saying that because he has high elbows has anything to do with him throwing 87 from the mound and 97 in velo drills. I repeat I said none of this.

The guy you are seeing was disconnected and in a bad way. Wasn’t able to transfer energy and link up the hips with the arm. If you read again you will see that we didn’t even talk about the high elbow in our sessions.

The reason for the post is relating to what Beaver26 had posted the other day about him having high elbows and my point was that it had nothing to do with the arms but the lower body.

Keep it going fellas, love the discussion

We were placing 100% of our focus on getting the hips in a better position to throw. In the process I found that high elbows can be directly related to the lower body and energy transfer.

The Express did have bone chips removed but true he didn’t have catastrophic elbow injury…for Zumaya, my opinion is that over the course of his dumb injuries (Game controller caused hand issue and moving a couch back issue) his conditioning has likely receeded somewhat…at 100 mph giddy-up…a small amount of non-focus is recipe for injury. The big fella has no history of issues so I’d slant that way if I was betting.

And Thinktank I agree with the premise of timing controlling many things.

The velo difference could be a simple as a difference in goals.

I’m not sure what type of drill work he is doing to reach 97, but if he is focused on hitting a target (locating his pitches) off the mound he could be altering any or all of the hundreds of muscles involved in throwing the ball and the intensity to do so (enough to lose 10mph)

Subtle enough changes to be very difficult to see with the naked eye but the radar gun “sees” it.

…that this player is able to throw 97 mph. 87 mph maybe.

Why do I say this?

Other then his initial handbrake i.e. appears to get reasonable scapula loading, there is nothing else in his delivery ( that I can see) that would even suggest that this player can throw 97 mph.

If he is able throw 97 mph is not with these mechanics, my opinion. and by mechanics I’m not talking about our maximum talking about what the rest of his body’s doing.

As far as the high elbow goes I think it’s a witchhunt i.e. after his arm gets to the what might be called the high cocked position there is no difference in arm action between the before and after clips. If elbow injuries a going happen it’s when the arm goes into extra rotation i.e. after the high cocked position where valgus elbow stresses at its maximum.

As usual my not so humble opinions…

[quote=“coachxj”]As far as the high elbow goes I think it’s a witchhunt i.e. after his arm gets to the what might be called the high cocked position there is no difference in arm action between the before and after clips. If elbow injuries a going happen it’s when the arm goes into extra rotation i.e. after the high cocked position where valgus elbow stresses at its maximum.[/quote]Thanks coachxj. This is exactly what I contended several years ago here when O’Leary first started talking about this. The talk was, and seems to still be, that having the humerus rotate in the glenoid at the angle this position appears to show is dangerous. I would actually agree that such an action would create problems, IF it actually were happening. The elbow stays up there only momentarily and then gets back down to where everyone else has it long before the humerus gets into any relatively extreme degrees of external rotation.

I did propose at the time, with no real evidence to support it, that this arm action might still cause problems but for a different reason. That being the speed of external rotation borne out of its delayed timing. Theory only though folks. I’d be happy to have this refuted though.

I think you were on the right track with your earlier post tying the arm path to the timing established by the lower half. But this post seems amiss. Intead of focusing on getting the hips into a better position to throw, you’re really focusing on better timing. :wink:

:allgood:

I think you were on the right track with your earlier post tying the arm path to the timing established by the lower half. But this post seems amiss. Intead of focusing on getting the hips into a better position to throw, you’re really focusing on better timing. :wink:[/quote]

But wouldn’t the hips have to be in a position to throw to establish proper timing?

I think you were on the right track with your earlier post tying the arm path to the timing established by the lower half. But this post seems amiss. Intead of focusing on getting the hips into a better position to throw, you’re really focusing on better timing. :wink:[/quote]

In regards to timing, the hips have to be in a position to throw. Timing can be altered by SOOOO many variables and when working on “timing” I think there has to be a goal for the movement. What’s the goal? get the hips in a position to throw to give the upper body a chance to link up to the hips at their highest speeds. By the hips getting in a position to throw the player will have a 'chance" to link up the shoulder rotation with high velocity hip rotation, if the hips aren’t getting there on time then neither is the rest of the body. Timing can be present, but sometimes timing can be a bad thing, look at the video in the post regarding the towel drills. Timing is there to reach extension but is that the timing you are looking for? Is that the same goal or intent? . If the pitcher gets his hips in a position to throw, well then timing was present in the lower body and now the upper body has a chance to link up and connect to finish the most important area in the delivery, the END.

Not sure if I offended you but the end of your last post makes it sound like mabe I did. Sorry. Wasn’t my intent.

I think we’re on the same page - just using different words. My thinking is that you want to get the hips in the position and with the timing that allows the most efficient energy transfer to the next link in the chain. In other words, the hips have to have timing that allows good timing of the next link (i.e. the hips need to allow the shoulders to stay closed and rotate late).

No offense taken whatsoever. We are on the same page just using different terminology. Perfect example of how cues can be interpreted though.