Sandy Koufax

Alright guys, I’ve heard innumerable times of how good Koufax’ mechanics were. I have no qualms with placing Koufax in the top three lefties of all time, probably numero uno, but to say his mechanics were the best is a stretch if you ask me.

Long stride for a short man, and when he releases the ball he often falls back toward the back of the mound instead of following through to the plate. I am amazed by his ability to throw so hard while so much energy is lost by this action.

No doubt an amazing man, especially pitching with traumatic arthritis (caused by sliding into 2nd) of the elbow for 5 of his best years. But I question looking to him for mechanics to emulate.

The Hose

I just missed him as a fan. He finished right before I became a hopeless baseball fanatic, 1969 Cubs…whatta year! Lost it to the “Miracle Mets” on the last day of the season…I was 9. Never forget Randy Hundley (Todd Hundley’s dad) screaming at the ump on a tag out at the plate that would have won it for the Cubbies…I was screaming at the TV…anyway :oops: I was more familiar with Drysdale…(Man was HE mean…he was also a “great”)
The word or rumor was always that the curve killed Sandy K’s future. He looks like Lincecum to me and a poster kid for the proponents of “Big Mo” pitchin. Much merit can be agued at the success of pitchers who throw wit de mo. Some could also argue higher injury risk. I think a human being can only throw like the 20 or 40 best pitchers in the world for a finite amount of years one way or the other…and if you can make it chunkin cheese at 96…well ok…junk at 90…what ever…you made it. He was top of the top by all accounts. He did special things for the years he threw and then he was done. Maddux, Rocket and Glavine will likely be the last of the guys who get that sort of longevity. My thinking has evolved on this to…Making the show is more difficult than winning the lotto…many many pretty darn good pitchers line the pathway…some had better mechs and some had worse, the several factors that came together to get the “one” or 40 into the bigs this or that year…well mechanics was some percentage of it…along with desire, and physical and mental make up…just blind luck and coincidence, genetics…Once there…unless you have another “perfect storm” of things falling into place…right team, right year, no freak accidents…like the “greats”, you’ll be real lucky to get more than 3-5 years. Sandy K threw as long as he did, throwing in the way he did…I see good coaches, coachin de mo…kinda approach…Mills, Dusty Delso, DM all like mo, I’m wit de mo too. To a degree. I think the great Sandy K, by the stuff I’ve seen hi-light fashion was as good as they came. I don’t see all the motion he included in his delivery coached today, but supposedly we have a higher incidence of injury today…it’s a paradox. I say if you are successful they don’t care if you throw like Dantrell Willis as long as you get major league hitters out. :lol:

great post JD!! :applaud: :applaud: :applaud:

Here’s a post I put on ASMI.org about Sandy Koufax and the response. Dr. Fleisig,

In the Sandy Koufax biography “A Lefty’s Legacy” it is mentioned that Dr. Jobe had interest in doing a pitching video with Mr. Koufax because he was “biomechanically perfect.” It never happened but early in the book you do get a glimpse of what Sandy Koufax believed as far as pitching mechanics is concerned. He uses different terms than what I’ve read in lots of various books and articles. Very interesting couple of pages. I was wondering if you have ever analyzed his motion using old footage. He strongly believes in driving off with the back leg and explains briefly how he did it.

A sidebar. Some point to his arm troubles but in an interview Mr. Koufax said with modern medicine his problem would have dealt with by arthroscopic surgery and he would have been fine.

Thanks.

Kent

kent,

At ASMI we’ve never gone back to look at old pitcher’s videos. It certainly would be interesting. We’ve spent our time and effort on digitizing three-dimensional high-speed data - in other words, calculating the athlete’s motions. Unfortunately old video can not be analyzed in this way.

I do not know Sandy Koufax personally, but I do have great respect for him. Without knowing his personal medical records I think it’s safe to safe that if he pitched nowadays, modern medicine would have given him a chance to pitch much long and add to his Hall of Fame career.

I do know Dr. Jobe personally, who is still involved with sports medicine and the Dodgers. Dr. Jobe is a fascinating person - professional and friendly. He never wrote the book on Koufax’s mechanics, but he did contribute to the seminal studies in baseball biomechanics. The Jobe and colleague papers are especially noteworthy for the EMG (muscle activity) data they presented, which is still some of the best data in this area.

I’m a big Koufax fan myself, and I still think Koufax and Drysdale were the best one-two in history

J.D. I agree with everything you said. Especially the part where you were 9 in 1969 - me too :shock: we’uns is getin’ oooold - but you didn’t address my main interest, and perhaps I was remiss…er maybe I didn’t say it good…why would folks claim Sandy’s motion was perfect when he fell back towards second after many pitches…particularly the FB…which brings up another question. If his mechanics were perfect, why didn’t he do the same thing every time? I’ve looked at a ton of old Dodgers film (you can find a lot on YouTube) and about every third clip he’s landing differently, i.e., not falling back toward second after release.

…my position has always been that there is no perfect way to pitch, that folks like Dontrell Willis, Tim Lincecum, Koufax, and Mike Marshall (grenade! :shock: ) are the perfect examples of that, and it is one of the beauties of baseball that a guy like Mark Fridritch can make the show and entertain with a talent from left field - excuse the pun.

There is a lot about Koufax that I would use as an example of how to pitch, but “perfect mechanics”?

Hose

"Mark Fridritch "

I coached with and against his old man for 4 interesting years. :shock:
He had a grandson who he was coaching in a league comprised of the exceedingly well off (I coached Steve Melnicks (CBS golf announcer) kid in the 80’s and had the number 1 lobbying attorney in the state as my “assistant coach”…I was in my late 20’s :lol: ) and military kids, interesting mix to say the least…50 year old little league, whole nine yards deal. To say the least I could see where Mark got it.

The bird was definitely a lefty in a prior life…

lol

if you read the lefty’s legacy book, koufax addresses how he recoils backwards toward 2nd base. he also tells how he attempted to get his fastball to rise. i can say that i have studied koufax extensively over the last 3 years. his motion and understanding of how to apply force to a baseball and then explain how to do it is amazing. some thought on the comments on this thread:

if he didn’t do virtually the same thing and same motion once he “found it” hall of fame hitters would pick it up and i don’t think he could have been virtually unhittable for a 5 year period.

the way he uses the recoil does not cost him any velocity (it actually maximizes it). if it did he could have throw in the 100 -110 mph range (he was estimated by those who faced him and then watched the flamethrowers today that he threw high 90s with incredible movement. when most guys throw the ball that hard it straightens out. koufax and bob gibson threw high velocity with late movement. that’s what made them so special. late movement is also what makes maddux so special but that is a different post.

[quote=“dusty delso”]

if he didn’t do virtually the same thing and same motion once he “found it” hall of fame hitters would pick it up and i don’t think he could have been virtually unhittable for a 5 year period.[/quote]

Look at the tapes.

Please explain this.

go to the pitching clips thread on this site. the sandy koufax clips side by side of koufax throwing a fastball and curveball synchronized side by side are outstanding. i’m sure if you find different clips from different years or games they may look different. these clips are from his perfect game and they are identical to my eye.

the recoil is a bit tough to explain, he does in the book but i’ll try to give you one of the short answers. if you flex or extend the spine to maximal levels using extremely fast movements like pitching, it is acceptable and actually normal for the spine to try to snap back to a more normal position. koufax pushed as hard as he possibly could off the rubber and when his front foot hit the ground and the knee flexed, after it flexed he pushed against the ground with his front foot to stop his trunk and transfer all the energy into his shoulder, arm and hand. this caused the two-armed catapult effect he talked about and also what he called the law of the flail which increased his arm and hand speed by 6 or 7 times. i’m not exactly clear what he was refering to with the law of the flail and actually e-mailed robert adair the professor who wrote the physics of baseball from yale university. he is a great man and didn’t know what koufax was talking about. i hope to get this answered someday.

anyway, when he transfers that much force from the back foot to the front foot and the back arces and then moves that far forward in a direct line to home plate, after the releaseand the arm slows down to the glove hand side of the body. the front leg will recoil energy backward as the back and trunk raise back up. this happens long after the ball is gone.

if you also notice, his back foot drag line is nowhere near straight toward the plate. it is angled toward the first base dugout. this is especially apparent in the footage of him striking out the yankees in the world series at yankee stadium. mantle never took the bat off his shoulder. he simply stated “how the @$^& you supposed to hit that”. enough said.

[quote=“dusty delso”]

if you also notice, his back foot drag line is nowhere near straight toward the plate. it is angled toward the first base dugout. this is especially apparent in the footage of him striking out the yankees in the world series at yankee stadium. mantle never took the bat off his shoulder. he simply stated “how the @$^& you supposed to hit that”. enough said.[/quote]

Please don’t take offense at my questions or think I am anti-Koufax. He’s my favorite lefty of all time and I like the fact that he did it his way. I just don’t think it’s something that can or should be taught. It’s unique to him and I doubt that many could have the same kind of success as he had with (or without) it.

As to the recoil, he’s the only pitcher I’ve ever seen who did this, and that includes some pretty hard and unconventional hurlers. Nolan Ryan reached triple digits without a recoil. Tim Lincecum tosses it in the high 90’s with a big push off the rubber and doesn’t recoil. Jim Palmer strided (sic) from Manhattan to the Bronx and ended up 3 inches off the ground but he didn’t have it. In sum, it’s not something I would teach, and it’s something I would try to change in a young pitcher…unless he was striking out Mickey Mantle III with it. :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

your post isn’t offensive at all. you may be right, what koufax did is not teachable and unique to him. i just know that when you look at major league pitchers and who they listen to when it comes to pitching, koufax makes that short list. i think there are some basic principles you can take from him and then add your own personal signature. most guys do that.

“As to the recoil”

Pedro recoils…it’s why, I thoerize, he makes the dl by the All-Star break most seasons…but you still can’t discount his greatness.

As to offensive or not…we should be able to talk critically about any pitcher on these forums without hurting anyones feelings…just don’t be sayin nothin negative about the “Great Greg” or you just might tick me off. :shock: :lol: :roll:

Ironically I just read a bit in the newspaper this morning about Billy Wagner calling up Sandy K for advice this week.

Hose

'Bout the only thing I can say about Greg is too bad he’s not Glavine…(hee hee hee running the other way…) 8)

[quote=“dusty delso”]go to the pitching clips thread on this site. the sandy koufax clips side by side of koufax throwing a fastball and curveball synchronized side by side are outstanding. i’m sure if you find different clips from different years or games they may look different. these clips are from his perfect game and they are identical to my eye.

the recoil is a bit tough to explain, he does in the book but i’ll try to give you one of the short answers. if you flex or extend the spine to maximal levels using extremely fast movements like pitching, it is acceptable and actually normal for the spine to try to snap back to a more normal position. koufax pushed as hard as he possibly could off the rubber and when his front foot hit the ground and the knee flexed, after it flexed he pushed against the ground with his front foot to stop his trunk and transfer all the energy into his shoulder, arm and hand. this caused the two-armed catapult effect he talked about and also what he called the law of the flail which increased his arm and hand speed by 6 or 7 times. i’m not exactly clear what he was refering to with the law of the flail and actually e-mailed robert adair the professor who wrote the physics of baseball from yale university. he is a great man and didn’t know what koufax was talking about. i hope to get this answered someday.

anyway, when he transfers that much force from the back foot to the front foot and the back arces and then moves that far forward in a direct line to home plate, after the releaseand the arm slows down to the glove hand side of the body. the front leg will recoil energy backward as the back and trunk raise back up. this happens long after the ball is gone.

if you also notice, his back foot drag line is nowhere near straight toward the plate. it is angled toward the first base dugout. this is especially apparent in the footage of him striking out the yankees in the world series at yankee stadium. mantle never took the bat off his shoulder. he simply stated “how the @$^& you supposed to hit that”. enough said.[/quote]

I found this (especially the bolded part) quite interesting. I decided to try ‘pushing back’ with the front foot today while I was throwing. The results seemed big. I did not lose any accuracy (maybe even gained some) and I seemed to be throwing a lot faster. This was on flat ground. My finish was also more complete with a full leg swing and follow through. I’ll try to get video sometime… maybe over spring break

Edit: If this is in fact what many major leaguers do, wouldn’t this have implications on the amount of force applied by the front leg? I thought the NPA was planning on testing the force of the front leg? Did that ever happen?

when you say pushing off your front foot… how would you do that?

It’s like when you jump. You can either just land or you can land and jump back up as fast as you can. I’m doing the latter. That’s the best I can describe it… Instead of a passive use of my front leg, I’m actively using it.