SPOT ON Mechanics Analysis from Tim McCarver


From my blog…

"Fox analyst Tim McCarver showed how little even baseball insiders know about the actual act of pitching a baseball early in Friday night’s broadcast.

After Carlos Delgado went yak off Chris Carpenter in the first inning, McCarver kept going back to the fact that Carpenter was “leading with his elbow,” and how that’s bad, and that Carp needs to “get on top of the ball.”

The only thing is, that’s not possible.

Every pitcher “leads” with his elbow. The number of motions that, put together, make up the pitching delivery, is referred to as the “kinetic chain.” The rotation of the hips leads the rotation of the shoulders, which brings that arm around. At the moment of maximum shoulder rotation, the arm is at “full external rotation of the upper arm.” The elbow lays back flat, which stretches the muscles, ligaments and tendons of the elbow to the maximum. This is when a pitcher is “leading with his elbow.” At that stretch, the body, as a reflex, sharply contracts those muscles. This motion brings the hand forward and delivers the ball.

So, for all you young pitchers out there, don’t listen to Tim McCarver. If you try to throw and “not” lead with your elbow, 1) you will lose tons of velocity, and 2) open yourself up for injuries to the shoulder. “Leading with the elbow” is a natural occurrence of the proper kinetic chain.

The problem MIGHT be, is the LEVEL of the elbow. I didn’t notice, but if Carp’s elbow is LOWER than normal, that can lead to a loss of velocity and movement. THAT is the proper problem that McCarver should be referring to. "

I heard him say the same thing last night as was boggled. I think he meant to say something else about his mechanics. Maybe they should have asked Carlos Delgado what he saw with Carpenters’ mechanics, because he was the guy who hit the home run off him.

That also shows you that some really good hitters school themselves on pitching.

On another note: I went to the 2nd game of the NLDS which Glavine pitched and was blown away by how fluid he was with his delivery. He made it looks so easy. It looked like he was playing catch with the catcher. Incredible, I also got a picture of Sandy Koufax as he was walking into the Mets office, that alone was worth the $120.00 ticket price I paid.

Leading with the elbow can be when the elbow is well out in front of the body and the shoulder is still externally rotated with the forearm tucked against the bicep instead of in line with both shoulders at full external rotation. I doubt very much if Carpenter was doing anything like that but I’ve seen it in some youth pitchers and it looks very ugly, and there’s no way to get velocity throwing that way.

This is not the strangest thing I have heard McCarver say over the years …

This isn’t exactly right.

What happens is that as the shoulders start to turn and the elbow lays back and externally rotates 90 degrees with the elbow also bent 90 degrees. As the rotation of the shoulders starts to decrease, the momentum that is built up (and the principle of conservation of momentum) causes the elbow to rapidly extend 90 degrees. This rapid extension of the elbow happens automatically and with such force that the Olecranon slams into its fossa.

This at least decreases the depth of the fossa and alters the range of extension of the elbow. In the worse case this causes chips to form in the elbow joint and/or causes the Olecranon to fracture. The muscles of the arm aren’t strong enough to withstand the force of the rapid extension of the elbow, although they try. This gradually decreases the flexion range of motion of the elbow (which is why many former pitchers can’t comb their hair or brush their teeth).

While a low elbow can be a problem (e.g. Mark Mulder), I think in general a low elbow is better than a high elbow.

By “low” I mean just below the level of the shoulders.

This is only a problem with younger pitchers.

With older pitchers, their shoulders rotate so fast that there’s no way they can keep their elbows in front of their shoulders.

Maximum velocity comes when the elbow is roughly in line with the shoulders with some shoulder tilt to the non-throwing side. Any time the elbow is far off that line, above or below, it puts added stress on the arm. If you watch most overhand or underhand baseball pitchers they get that way due to shoulder tilt and not by getting their elbows out of line with their shoulders.

Of course the elbow extends when you throw and that’s why virtually every pitcher pronates when they throw a fastball. It protects the elbow to some degree because it allows the elbow to remain slightly flexed or at least cushions the impact at full extension. BTW, virtually every pitcher ends up somewhat limited in extension as an adaptation to the stresses of pitching. It is a good thing for pitchers. Unfortunately, the rapid extension is part of what it takes to throw hard and some risk comes with attempting to reach high levels of performance.

There are two approaches you can take. You can avoid risk and accept lower performance or you can work on the edge of the risk area to build up the tendons and ligaments to the degree possible and hope that along with genetics it will allow a pitcher to perform at high levels without significant injury.

My son was forced to take the former approach due to a back injury and when he started throwing again injured his arm before he got back to pitching, while making throws across the infield while still in a back brace (unqualified freshman coach). The only other time he ever had even a minor arm injury it was due to atrophy/scar tissue build up after he stopped throwing for a few weeks while on vacation. He never had a problem when he was throwing on a regular basis.