How Roger Clemens (Actually) Throws The Ball

It seems like I am continually being asked, and answering, questions related to how professional pitchers throw the ball.

As a result I just posted to my site a short document that describes how Roger Clemens actually throws the ball…

Hopefully this will clear up any misconceptions and provide a framework for discussing the traditional pitching motion.

Thank you Chris. That really helps alot :wink:

Honestly, everything you are saying is true, but you are focusing on the wrong stuff. First off, the first step to throwing the ball is not to break your hands, its to have a balanced knee lift and have your weight underneath your back leg. Then you start your stride and THEN break the hands. Watching Clemens throw, he will break his hands once his knee and front foot start to descend down the mound. Then you dont even mention how Roger gets his power, its through the upside down w, here is a great pic of that.

Also passing through the “L” position is just part of whipping your arm around, if your throwing arm is like a whip, then the “L” is like the middle of that whip, with the upside down w the beggining of the whip and you arm following through completly until it almost slaps you back being the “cracking” of the whip.

NOTE: Fixed the broken link. Missing “[url]” tags. C’OL

“Pitchers reduce pitching arm centrifugal stress with near vertical upper arm accelerations.”

Dr. Mike Marshall’s book…

http://www.drmikemarshall.com/ChapterFourteen.html

When looking Frame 3 and you state the elbow is below the shoulder, which should be less stressful on the arm, are you saying that Clemens has not entered the acceleration phase of the delivery? If not, are you disagreeing with Dr. Marshall on this point? And do you have any support for the idea?

Thanks.

Could you please give me a definition of what you call the “upside down w”. I want to make sure I know what you are talking about.

No.

I’m agreeing with him.

Notice that Dr. Marshall in his quote uses the phrase “near vertical upper arm accelerations”. In this case the key word is upper arm (not forearm). In the photo of Clemens in Frame 3, Clemens’ upper arm is is nearly horizontal and is accelerated in a horizontal plane. This is why his forearm extends as much as it does, when it does, and in the way it does.

In Dr. Marshall’s ideal motion, the upper arm moves in a more vertical manner (as does the forearm).

Just for the record, in frame 3 Clemens’ arm is just about to start accelerating.

The Upside Down W, or just plainly the W is when the pitchers throwing arm and glove arm come back to pinch the scapular muscle and it makes it look like a W. By pinching the scapular muscle in their back the pitcher can unleash much more power when exploding to the plate.

OK, so you’re talking about Scapular Loading.

There are a number of problems with your understanding of anatomy and how the body is able to generate power when throwing the ball.

First, there is no scapular muscle. The scapulae are two bony structures in the shoulder and back to which attach many of the muscles of the back as well as the muscles of the rotator cuff. These muscles play the essential function of rotating the shoulder and keeping it in the socket of the shoulder.

While I will grant that you that a pitcher might be able to generate a little more power via Scapular Loading, the primary source of power for any power pitcher (like Roger Clemens) is the rotation of the hips, torso, and shoulders. This is because of the relative size of the muscles involved; small for the rotator cuff and large for the hips, torso, and shoulder.

What’s more, there are several problems with trying to Scap Load (as opposed to just letting it happen)…

  1. By trying to do something with the Scapulae and the muscles that surround them, you could interfere with their essential function of stabilizing the shoulder in its socket. In other words, you might pick up a few MPH but destabilize your shoulder and injure yourself in the process.

  2. There seems to be a right way to Scap Load (elbows behind and below the shoulders) and a wrong way to Scap Load (elbows behind and above the shoulders) when it comes to injuring the Rotator Cuff. I have seen many people who are trying to Scap Load do it the wrong way, and it could be that they do this because of the use of the phrase “upside down w”. That phrase to me implies having the elbows above the shoulders, with the hands at the level of the shoulder.

As I have said before, because of the size of the muscles involved, and because of the potential injury risk, pitchers’ time is much better spent focusing on improving the timing, sequencing, and amount of the rotation of their hips, torso, and shoulder.

Chris,
…“trying to scap load as opposed to just letting it happen” is the key phrase here.
As evidenced on your site(Ryan: 23.2, 23.3, 27.1; Seaver: 14.2, 18.1, 23.1; Carlton: 18.1, 20.1; Maddux: 15.1, 16.2, 20.2; Clemens: 42.1, 43.2, 43.4), pitching coaches see professionals of the highest quality have these characteristics in common and look for a way to incorporate them into their own pitchers deliveries. It seems like a “catch 22.” You want your pitchers to use their bodies as effectively as possible, yet not force them to do something that might hinder the fluidness of the delivery and possibly cause injury. It seems that in an effort to “just let it happen”, you could also help them use their bodies more effectively. What if it just doesn’t happen?
Any suggestions?

If it doesn’t just happen, I wouldn’t worry about it unless there was a velocity problem (and Scap Loading is unlikely to not happen at all).

If there is a velocity problem, then lack of Scap Loading would be very low on my list of possible root causes (again because of the realtively small size of the muscles that are involved and their critical role in stabilizing the shoulder). Instead, I would first look for…

  1. Hips not leading shoulders.

  2. Limited separation of the rotation of the hips and the shoulders.

  3. Lack of reverse-rotation of the hips (different than RR of the shoulders).

  4. Glove side hip opening up too soon.

Here Are some quotes to back up what I am arguing…

"Opinion: You throw FROM the high cocked position.

Fact: Ninety percent of major league pitchers throw THROUGH the high cocked position. Throwing from the high cock position is the “infielders” throwing motion. The proper arm motion is totally misunderstood by most coaches and “pitching gurus”. " (FROM SETPRO.COM)

"Opinion: Hyper-flexing is bad for pitchers.

Fact: SETPRO was the first to sunderstand and show the difference between HORIZONTAL ADDUCTION or what SETPRO call “SCAPULA LOADING” and HYPEFLEXING. Almost all power pitchers SCAPULA LOAD. SCAPULA LOADING is vital to developing stretch reflex, storage of elastic energy and increasing the Range Of Motion (ROM) of the delivery."(FROM SET PRO.COM, key word here is the “elastic energy” which is what Mr. Oleary does not understand) http://www.setpro.com/finalwebsite/Main%20html/Pitching/Pitching%20Brochure%20facts%20or%20fiction1.htm

“Scapular loading may be the most critical phase in the entire pitching sequence. And one of the easiest to recognize.
Why critical? Because as soon as the shoulder blades are fully pinched back the throwing arm should launch its forward trajectory. Pulling in on the upper back, extends the pectorals, storing energy. But the transfer of moment through the shoulders to the upper arm must happen just as the hips have imparted their torque to the shoulders too.” (FROM WebBall.com) http://www.webball.com/bullpen/p3_scap.html

I know Dick Mills thinks scap loading is a waste of time, but then again he thinks his program is the best thing ever. My point is you cannot just ignore what is probably one of the most important phases in throwing the baseball.

Chris
A couple of items.

  1. Since the scapular complex includes the shoulder socket, pinching the shoulder blades helps to maintain humeral alignment in the glenoid during rotation (both internal and external). Having the elbows moving behind the acromial line without pinching the shoulder blades causes misalignment in the glenoid and thus the risk of injury to tissues therein. Dick Mills says that scapular pinching will happen naturally as the shoulders rotate and the chest is thrust out. This may be true but ensuring that it happens earlier can help to avoid it happening at the expense of humeral alignment in the glenoid.

  2. I disagree with your statement about Clemens getting into a “good fielding position” as evidenced by the pic of his front glove. Still images CANNOT portray what goes on in a dynamic motion such as pitching. If you review video of him pitching, you’ll see that his glove actually goes very far behind him during the follow through.

  3. Getting into a “good fielding position”. If a pitcher attempts to get into a specific fielding position, typically described as facing the plate, with the hands positioned as an infielder would, he is compromising what he’s on the mound to do, pitch. Pitchers need to pitch, completely, in the first instance. Any fielding that they may be able to do after that is a bonus. It depends on the location of the hit. Behind him, forget about it. To his glove side, maybe. Also, I’d rather him sideways, with the glove near his chest (not as Clemens does it) for the sake of protection. Facing the hit from such a close distance is treacherous, no matter what position your glove is in.

  4. Reverse forearm bounce. Firstly, Marshall’s comments need to be taken in the proper context. They are not always applicable to the “traditional pitching motion” since his own recommended mechanics are so different. The arm action that Clemens, and 99% of MLB pitchers, uses employs a “bullwhip” overall action (Nyman describes this well). It has a “loop”. No pronounced “bounce”. Again, stills do us a disservice in looking at arm action. Video of MLB pitchers shows that the forearm does not lay back and “bounce”. The hand takes a path that is curved from the “horizontal W” THROUGH high cocked, back and down RELATIVE TO the elbow which is now moving on a more or less horizontal arc, along a more or less horizontal arc, then smoothly up and forward to release and beyond. This is very difficult to explain in words. I have some very good video of Clemens, Mariano Rivera and John Smoltz which show this very well. Let me know if you want me to email them to you.

This arm action is best when it is done smoothly, with no pauses or “bounces”.

Let me know if you want video. I have many.

post some videos

dm59, are you disagreeing with Scap Loading or agreeing, not really clear.

Also I agree with you about the forearm “bounce”, arm action of a pitcher more like a whip as I described in one of my previous posts…

Redsox04
I’m agreeing with scap loading. It can add that extra little bit of range of motion and is potentially safe because it can help maintain humeral alignment in the glenoid.

longhorn
I don’t think we can post videos. Can we? If so, I’d gladly do it. How?

I would love to see the video clips. You can e-mail me, my address is listed here.
Thanks in advance!

Posted in wrong area. :o

baseballbum
Sorry but what does that little rant have to do with this thread?

“Opinion: You throw FROM the high cocked position. Fact: Ninety percent of major league pitchers throw THROUGH the high cocked position.”

I agree with this.

“Opinion: Hyper-flexing is bad for pitchers. Fact: SETPRO was the first to sunderstand and show the difference between HORIZONTAL ADDUCTION or what SETPRO call “SCAPULA LOADING” and HYPEFLEXING. Almost all power pitchers SCAPULA LOAD. SCAPULA LOADING is vital to developing stretch reflex, storage of elastic energy and increasing the Range Of Motion (ROM) of the delivery.”

The problem is that most pitchers do not exhibit hyperflexion. You can clearly see this in photos of them. Instead, they clearly move their elbows behind their Acromial Plane, which may put too much load on the muscles of the rotator cuff.

“(FROM SET PRO.COM, key word here is the “elastic energy” which is what Mr. Oleary does not understand)”

No, I do understand it. This idea is generally covered by such terms as “countermovement”, “pre-stretch”, and “stretch-shortening cycle”. My question is whether the “elastic energy” is stored is enough to make a significant difference. I don’t think it is.

“Scapular loading may be the most critical phase in the entire pitching sequence. And one of the easiest to recognize. Why critical? Because as soon as the shoulder blades are fully pinched back the throwing arm should launch its forward trajectory. Pulling in on the upper back, extends the pectorals, storing energy. But the transfer of moment through the shoulders to the upper arm must happen just as the hips have imparted their torque to the shoulders too.”

I think the validity of the statement is highly questionable because hyperflexion would do little to additionally stretch the Pectoralis Major.

Here is the anatomy that we are talking about…

http://www.rad.washington.edu/atlas/pectoralismajor.html

“I know Dick Mills thinks scap loading is a waste of time, but then again he thinks his program is the best thing ever. My point is you cannot just ignore what is probably one of the most important phases in throwing the baseball.”

I completely disagree with this statement.

If one of my guys had a problem with velocity, lack of Scap Loading would be far down on my list, not at or near the top.

“1. Since the scapular complex includes the shoulder socket, pinching the shoulder blades helps to maintain humeral alignment in the glenoid during rotation (both internal and external). Having the elbows moving behind the acromial line without pinching the shoulder blades causes misalignment in the glenoid and thus the risk of injury to tissues therein.”

But why do it at all? It is unlikely to have little in the way of significant benefit.

“2. I disagree with your statement about Clemens getting into a “good fielding position” as evidenced by the pic of his front glove. Still images CANNOT portray what goes on in a dynamic motion such as pitching. If you review video of him pitching, you’ll see that his glove actually goes very far behind him during the follow through.”

You’re right. He starts off in a good fielding position with his glove at his pec, then gets into a poor fielding position with his glove behind his back, and then finishes in a mediocre fielding position with his glove more to the front but far from the ideal.

“3. Getting into a “good fielding position”. If a pitcher attempts to get into a specific fielding position, typically described as facing the plate, with the hands positioned as an infielder would, he is compromising what he’s on the mound to do, pitch. Pitchers need to pitch, completely, in the first instance. Any fielding that they may be able to do after that is a bonus. It depends on the location of the hit. Behind him, forget about it. To his glove side, maybe. Also, I’d rather him sideways, with the glove near his chest (not as Clemens does it) for the sake of protection. Facing the hit from such a close distance is treacherous, no matter what position your glove is in.”

I kind of agree. I think the real key is that the pitcher is balanced and in a good position to react to the ball. What I mostly don’t like is when people finish completely off balance.

“4. Reverse forearm bounce. Firstly, Marshall’s comments need to be taken in the proper context. They are not always applicable to the “traditional pitching motion” since his own recommended mechanics are so different. The arm action that Clemens, and 99% of MLB pitchers, uses employs a ‘bullwhip’ overall action (Nyman describes this well). It has a ‘loop’. No pronounced “bounce”.”

I completely disagree. When Dr. Marshall talks about Reverse Pitching Forearm Bounce, he is talking directly about pitchers who use the traditional pitching motion. All traditional pitchers experience it to one degree or another. It is a consequence of having the pitching forearm at or near vertical at the moment the shoulders start to turn. Nyman may describe this as a bullwhip action, but there is a clear and pronouced bounce in every pitcher’s motion.

“Video of MLB pitchers shows that the forearm does not lay back and ‘bounce’.”

I completely disagree. It could be that the frame rate of the video that you are looking at isn’t high enough. If the frame rate is high enough, then you can’t miss it (which is why I rely in part of still frame analysis).

“The hand takes a path that is curved from the “horizontal W” THROUGH high cocked, back and down RELATIVE TO the elbow which is now moving on a more or less horizontal arc, along a more or less horizontal arc, then smoothly up and forward to release and beyond. This is very difficult to explain in words. I have some very good video of Clemens, Mariano Rivera and John Smoltz which show this very well. Let me know if you want me to email them to you.”

I would love to look at this video.