Latest Victim of Pole-vault Pitching (Straight-Front Leg Landing)

This article concerns what I will refer to as Pole-vault Pitching: whereby the pitcher executes a heel landing of the lead foot, which in turn, forces the leg to straighten upon impact - similar in nature to the planting of the pole in pole-vaulting. As shown here by pitcher Justin Verlander - the lead leg reaches the point of hyperextension after the ball is released: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbVQc2gYjFQ

As Verlander’s throwing arm, which underwent Tommy John surgery last year, rotates forward to throw the ball downward toward the plate, we see that his straight-leg landing “pole vaults” his hips upward and actually backward with the hyperextension of his front leg. This in similar fashion to the pole in pole-vaulting, which shifts the vaulter upward as the pole bends backward: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFMVEYvZ7Pw

Pitching instructors who promote this type of delivery call it Lead Leg Blocking. It is a method of putting on the brakes, so to speak. A growing number of “lead-leg-blockers” incorrectly assume that more energy (i.e., power = work/time) will be transferred to the throwing arm by this straight-front-leg “pole-vaulting” motion than for example, a bent-front-leg delivery, which I will point to shortly.

As a physics professor involved with physics in connection with human biomechanics (for various swinging and throwing type sports) I see this all together as “physics nonsense” as the particular goals are distinct: The goal of pole-vaulting is to transfer forward moving energy to upward moving energy via the pole. The goal of pitching a baseball at high velocity is to transfer as much energy forward as possible and continue to transfer this energy forward through the release of the ball. Only after releasing the ball do you want to put on the brakes. In other words, if you want to pole-vault, then onward and upward. If you want to pitch, then onward and forward (i.e., keep on keeping on).

Pole-vault Pitching is a sharp reminder (at least to me) of the snapping of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) similar to the snapping of the pole in pole-vaulting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKPLU_sVWII

The latest victim of Pole-Vault Pitching is the LA Dodgers Dustin May who employs a heel landing and the Lead Leg Blocking strategy in his largely all-arm delivery:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mt_eYbyQXVI

Can you feel the searing pain in his elbow from his pole-vaulting delivery? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3Sf0EXSA1E

By contrast, the bent-front-leg delivery (used by so many of the pitching greats throughout the history of baseball) allows for the full (i.e., complete) and powerful rotation of the hips as Nolan Ryan demonstrates here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aZHPuss9jo

The durability of the pitcher will be enhanced by the bent-front-leg delivery and who better to demonstrate this for a full season than the last 30-game winner (31-6 in 1968) Denny McLain.

Finally, the fastest fastballer of all-time was a minor league pitcher few baseball fans have heard about Steve “Dalko” Dalkowski (1939 - 2020) who threw at least 110 mph (it has been reported by several reliable sources). Dalko threw with a bent-front-leg as shown below.

Dalko14a

To find out more about this one-of-a-kind pitcher feel free to read the following article, which also directs the reader to a documentary film about his life by filmmaker Tom Chiappetta:

New Britain, CT: Home of the World's Fastest Fastball

1 Like

You may have had a better argument about durability had you stuck with Dustin May as he is pretty young. But how does throwing Verlander into the argument help your thesis? The guy has pitched almost 3000 innings over 15 years at the MLB level. He won Rookie of the Year and a Cy Young award 13 years apart. Are you trying to make the point that his mechanics hurt his durability finally at the age of 37? Did he just start pole vaulting that year?

You may be right about the mechanics but as an academic it seems odd that you would lead off with an example that pokes a giant hole in your theory. The oldest video I found of Verlander was from 2009 and it shows the same “pole vault” mechanics so presumably he has been throwing that way pretty much his entire career.

Verlander has thrown just under 35,000 competitive pitches since his rookie year, more than any other MLB pitcher over the same period, and probably twice that many in bullpen’s, spring training and side work combined. That seems like a lot with mechanics that are a ticking time bomb…

Denny McClain, who you use as an example of preferable mechanics for longevity, had a 10 year career in which he threw under 1,900 innings total. Verlander threw about 2,400 innings in the 10 years between the time of the video I posted in 2009 and 2019 winning 2 Cy Young’s and an MVP along the way. Never mind that he threw about 500 innings in the three years prior to 2009. Perhaps if McLean hadn’t had his toes broken by the mobsters he associated with he could have pitched long enough to support your thesis.

Sorry Doc but that’s a big swing and miss on Verlander. I don’t know too many guys that wouldn’t trade their UCL for a 15 year big league career, almost $300 Million is career earning, a ton of awards and a super model wife! :joy:. You might want to do a little editing before submitting for peer review…

Thanks for tuning in:

Nonsense is nonsense no matter who is doing it. And it’s still nonsense no matter how long they (e.g., you) do it. In the end, they always get it - in the end, so to speak; If you can catch my drift, which I won’t hold my breath on that.

Why not pick Verlander for my “thesis” as you put it? He does the pole-vaulting thing almost as ridiculously as Lincecum did it without the eventual hip injury. That’s the problem with people who don’t understand the power of physics versus the power of celebrity worship (you obviously have fallen victim to such a notion). Will you be cleaning Verlander’s backyard pool while keeping your good eye on his model turned actress wife?

And poor Denny McLain: you spelled his name wrong not once, but twice. Denny had from 1968-1969 probably the two greatest years you will find in MLB history (should have won two Cy Young awards - not just one) with a combined record of 55-15.

Finally, read my article about Steve Dalkowski. And then ask yourself: Did Verlander’s pole-vault pitching mechanics allow him to throw his fastball 110 mph? Do any modern day pitchers with their “lead-leg-block” inspired mechanics have the slightest chance of throwing 110 mph (some say Dalko threw even harder)?

BTW: When I played briefly, I could throw upwards of 95 mph on a good day, but can’t imagine throwing 110 mph. You can read about me and my throwing technique Power-Pronation here: Power-Pronation

And about my 140 mph tennis serve here: New York Times (Sports - 2018)

Not worshipping anyone or trying to promote anything either, can you say the same?

Was your whole point not that certain mechanics, as demonstrated by Verlander, were bad for you and hinder longevity. I am no PhD. but that’s just a dumb way to peddle whatever movie or book you are trying to push on us. You could have easily used a dozen other modern example of pitchers who have had TJ and use the mechanics you preach against.

Again, you might be right as I stated earlier but your shockingly poor choice of examples kills your credibility.

No, I can’t say the same, but then why would I? For me - the physics professor - ignorance is always an obstacle when I try to engage the public about my work, which may be of great value - to some of them - if only they knew. How will they know if I don’t try to enlighten them? Further to the point: while some people seek the light of enlightenment most people remain in the dark isolation of ignorance within the comfort of the herd. You will never be heard in the herd - so try venturing out.

Perhaps I struck an ulnar nerve with you when I used Mr. Verlander as an example. As I have mentioned elsewhere - there are many candidates (to take the place of Verlander) who use(d) pole-vaulting pitching mechanics and have found their way to Tommy John surgery: you can find them within this ridiculously long list: Tommy John Scars

Concerning credibility: if you ever stumble upon a dictionary perhaps you will find that the word credibility evokes notions of trust and belief. As the physics professor, I trust in what I can prove through measurement and experiment - unlike most folks who will believe in just about anything and trust in just about anyone whether they can prove it or not; especially in a court of law - where anything goes- right OJ?

Dr.Strangethrow,

Coach Newton is not happy. First you use known anecdotal diagnosis by non experts (the current baseball establishment) as you’re premise and nomenclature use.

I believe you are missing a great point that is the basis for forwards rotational to linear power production that is Human gate. It is what drives or limits pinnacle force production.

You have noticed that many pitchers whom achieve great velocity are staying tall, striding shorter and rotating faster. Coach Newton likes this approach much better.

Now if we can teach them to not intuitively fly out and supinate the forearm all the better

Extending the glove knee has nothing to do with lateral tension (pole vaulting) where tension memory is loaded into the pole to be used later. Coach Newton sad here.

This has nothing to do with valgus stress on the UCL, being late in Humeral/forearm arrival timing does, it causes vertical forearm backwards bounce micro tearing on every rep.

The glove leg is firmed up to use as a ground force foundation to rotate against, this is how gate is neurally switched then contracted against just like we walk trot and run, heel to toe. Only a sprint do we lift up off of and land on the ball of the foot.

When rotational signals are sent the glove side of the Pelvis pulls against the core at the opposite side and this is why firming up and pulling back against that hip side creates increased Velo. Now add in the fact that you are using both legs instead of one to forwardly drive. Coach Newton really likes this.

Good luck and keep the forearm pronation talk alive!

Nobody yet has answered this basic question to me, you’re a math guy, maybe you can answer?

How do you calculate cost of rotational redirection from centrifuging the arm path, with the traditional motion? Coach Newton knows.

Lon J. Fullmer

You are free to contact me through my Tennis website: www.ProfessorTennis.net

Unable to throw 95 mph as I did on a good day, I took up a tennis racket as suggested by Prof. Howard Brody (Father of the Science of Tennis). I was a postdoc at UPenn (The Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter - LRSM). Now more than 20 years later, I’m throwing softballs and baseballs pretty hard again for an old man based on my research. You are welcome to agree or disagree with some or all of my findings. That’s what “real” science (in my case physics) is all about; the opportunity to agree or disagree without as they say in the movies “extreme prejudice.” Whether you are Dirty Harry or Dirt Berry. Salute.

I like your article. Something to think about. Tom Seaver also had a bent front leg. What I like to know is where did you get that perfect picture of Dalkowski profile about to let go of the baseball? Ive look everywhere online for Dalkowski images and videos with not much luck. Do you have anymore images of him throwing the baseball. If you want to improve your velocity then no one better to study his motion than Steve D.

I conducted a study of Dalkowski’s mechanics:

New Britain, CT: Home of the World's Fastest Fastball