"smooth" arm action

what does it mean to have a “smooth” arm action. I hear coaches/scouts talk about smooth aka “easy” or “loose” arm actions and am interested to know what they mean by this

any examples would be great too

This terminology is used to describe how a pitcher “breaks” his hands and delivers the baseball to its release point. Many pitchers have many types of arm action. Scouts look for how fluidly the arm swings up and the elbow works forward to that release point. A good rule of thumb is the less herky jerky and the less pauses in the movement there are, the more “smooth” your arm action is said to be. That being said, there are tons of good pitchers that don’t have “smooth” arm action. CC Sabathia, Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Dan Haren, and Dontrelle Willis all have varying degrees of non-smooth arm action, but they have all enjoyed Major League success at some point in their career.

On the contrary, Johan Santana, Josh Beckett, John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, Chris Carpenter, and Derek Lowe all have pretty solid arm action. You can check out a bunch of videos of a lot of these guys and my analysis of their deliveries at my website (see address below).

The point though is the smoother and looser you can be with your arm swing, the less likely you will be to create arm injuries and hopefully the more likely you will be able to repeat your delivery and throw strikes.

I think its interesting how you point out that Sabathia, Lincecum, etc. have poorer arm actions than guys like Beckett, Smoltz, and Carpenter. Yet Smoltz and Carpenter have both had arm surgeries, Beckett has had a few arm problems (granted not huge, but some) while Sabathia and Lincecum have never touched the DL. While throwing the most innings in the past 2 years.

I see a smooth arm action is one that is more of the longish side and less “whippy”. My examples would probably be Jon Lester, Haren, and Jon Lackey.

It was pointed out that there are just about as many arm actions as there are pitchers, and no one arm action is better than any other. A pitcher’s arm action is good if it suits his (or her) style of pitching, whether the pitcher throws overhand, high 3/4, low 3/4, sidearm, submarine or standing on one’s head, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s “smooth” or herky-jerky as long as the pitcher gets the batters out, throws strikes and has control and command of his (or her) arsenal. So I don’t see what all the fuss is about. 8)

All things being equal, what Zita said is correct…if you get batters out then it doesn’t matter how you do it. However…that wasn’t really what the original post was asking. He was inquiring about what scouts look for when they say “smooth” arm action. Furthermore, when you get down to it…when comparing two pitchers with similar numbers (ERA, velocity, ectera), a scout will prefer the pitcher with less perceived effort in his delivery. Many times this translates into the guy with the smoother arm action that I am refering to.

Also in reply to the other post…

You raise a good point that smoltz and carpenter both have had arm trouble. Regardless, they both have smooth arm action. I also have to acknowledge that both Lincecum and Sabathia are work horses for their teams. However, neither of their arm actions are particularly smooth…it is what works for them however.

I do disagree however about Haren. His elongated pause after handbreak would prevent me from describing his arm action as “smooth.”