Tim Lincecum and the non-existent "push"

If interested folks really examine the Lincecum video clip at this site carefully, you may learn some things that are not necessarily intuitive.

At his starting position, TL’s knee is pointed toward the camera, so it is difficult to see if he has a bend at his knees. However, pause the video and move the slider of your Windows Media Player about 1/3 along the delivery–there you can see his hips/torso have back-rotated to a more closed position. Note, the thigh of his post leg has also rotated back so that his knee is pointing to about SS position. At that point you can readily see the angle of bend in his post leg.

Moving the slider about 1/2 way along, the front hip is 3 - 4 feet in front of the rubber and the post leg still has the same bend in it.

Just past the 1/2 way mark, the stride leg is extending out, about 1 1/2 feet off the ground, and now the post leg knee is pointing directly at the camera because the thigh has begun to rotate open. Is there still a bend in the post leg at this point? You can’t tell because the vertex of the angle (knee) is pointing toward you.

Try a little though-experiment right here: You’ve glued two popsicle sticks together end-to-end fashion to make a model of a post leg with a 150 degree angle in it. Now, hold your creation in the fingertips of your hand and view it from the side–see the 150 degree angle? Good.

Now slowly rotate (or pivot) your sculpture until the “knee” is pointing directly at you. What do you see? Most of us will see a straight line at this point. Does that mean the angle has gone away? No…it means that the sculpture has pivoted to a new position where you cannot judge its angle. Now, keep rotating the sculpture–does the angle reappear? Yes, it does.

Now, back to Lincecum–Move the slider on your media player a little further to the right and–behold!–he’s further into the stride and his post leg has pivoted more toward home plate. Did you see the angle in his post leg reappear? Well, it never went away becuase he didn’t straighten his leg with a “push”.

As his stride foot touches down the post leg is fully pivoted toward HP and you can clearly see the angle in his post leg.

It doesn’t matter if individual MLB pitchers think that they “push” off the rubber. They get it done, but they may not always clearly understand what they do to get it done.

I would posit that in some way a pitcher “moves” towards the plate, some attempt to push, some fall, I see it as more of a component of stride, everyone has a stride, it is no static thing, it has many facets to the motion. From my laymans view, it is a transitional thing, at the start there is an impetus away from the former spot to propel the body to the ending/later spot. The composition of anatomy, genetics, training and practice all determine how it is we do this striding. Once we reach the middle part of the transition, our trailing leg ceases to cause/passively participate…whatever, this impetus and begins to follow the momentum it created…or pulls away. Now whether they do it in the way that TL, or not I think isn’t the issue, the goal is to get that to happen individually in the most efficient manner that particular person can do it.

Geez, a new thread on this? Anyways I think we can say that not all pitchers go about their business the same way. I use a push to get my momentum started… Just like most do… Then, for me, there is a constant tension in my back leg attempting to drive away from the rubber to finish off my momentum. My back leg will not reach full extension, my foot will have already been pulled off the rubber because of my momentum. Now I’m not sure how all big leaguers do it, but that’s my perspective.

As far as Lincecum goes there is a sudden late burst of energy to get his last bit of momentum before his foot pulls off the rubber. I believe it was dusty who called it more of a leap or jump, and wales also called this sort of movement still a push. It’s not the same continuous momentum he had been getting up until that point. It was more of an explosive movement which had to come from his back foot.

Nonetheless I will say that not all big leaguers are like TL… I would say that some don’t push and some do push… More of a preference for each pitcher.

I used Tim Lincecum for this discussion only because his specific mechanics had been brought up by someone in another thread as the clearest example of a pitcher who “pushes” off of the rubber. Yet another person looked at TL’s video and seemed to conclude that he pushes off so violently that he “jumps” forward.

I think dm’s analyses of the question, “to push or not to push”, also found elsewhere in this forum, are highly insightful. In my opinion, his “rotational push” idea is really just another way of saying that eccentric loading of the hips actually initiates forward momentum. Spencer also grasped the essential idea of the motive force arising from eccentric loading of the hips–i.e., the hip flexors initiate weight transfer and momentum forward.

If any folks here are familiar with Jim Dixon’s interesting book, “Exceptional Player”–you will realize that he also understood very clearly that the legs do not “push” off of the rubber in an effective pitching motion.

On the other hand, there are also lots of confused and inconsistent notions rampant at this forum and elsewhere. But, I guess Luciano Pavarotti didn’t need to know the details of how his lungs and vocal cords work to be able to use them pretty well for singing.

The bottom line is, if any of your limbs push against a stationary surface with enough force to set your body in motion–the limbs doing the pushing must straighten out in direct proportion to the acceleration that their push causes. If the relevant limbs didn’t straighten at all, then they did not push your body into motion…something else was responsible.

In the pitching motion, that “something else” is internal musculature working against appropriate skeletal parts to cause an eccentric load of the hips and a subsequent pivoting motion on the post leg. Since you normally pitch down a sloped surface, gravity also helps to accelerate your body during the stride–that is, after you are no longer in a balanced stance with which you can easily resist gravitational force.

Here is a brief list of ‘thought-leaders’ in pitching who have published the opinion that pitchers “push off” of the rubber with their post leg:

(1) Mike Marshall

(2) John Bagonzi

(3) Tom Seaver

Here is a brief list of authors who have published the opinion that pitchers do not “push off” of the rubber with their post leg:

(1) Tom House

(2) Jim Dixon

(3) Dick Mills

I know there are more people with opinions out there, but here’s my take on the members of both of these lists:

Mike Marshall–a great pitcher in his day, he completely disavows the mechanics that made him great in hopes of converting the baseball world to a completely mystical and unsupported set of ideas about mechanics. What started as an intellectually stimulating project to understand the effects of pitching on the health of young pitchers has turned into a Marshall Crusade against ‘traditional mechanics’ in support of which he will do almost anything, honest or not. One of his many issues is a serious misinterpretation of laws of physics, even going so far as to claim that his secret pitching mechanics are supported by Sir Isaac Newton, while ‘traditional mechanics’ are not supported by Newton’s laws of motion. He has turned into a voodoo cult leader, with a few sad followers.

Bagonzi–Wrote one popular book that is more highly regarded than it should be. Doesn’t have a real clue about the nature of the pitcher’s individual arm-slot. Makes assertions about “pushing off the rubber” that are just that—assertions, without any reasoning to back them up.

Seaver–obviously one of the great pitchers, ever. Reading his one contribution to the pitching literature I was struck by the thought: Here’s a guy who was one of the pitching greats who either didn’t know why he was great, or couldn’t rationally explain why he was great, or both.

Tom House–His real claim to fame is as a pitching coach, more than his MLB credentials, which were only average. Has published more than 10 books on every aspect of pitching, which clearly show a pattern of learning, continued refinement of knowledge, and frank admission of errors as they become apparent to him. Has been involved in the cutting edge of motion analysis of elite pitchers since the 1980’s and he is still at the forefront of this field. Recently appointed pitching coach for USC, Tom is actively involved in the construction of a million-dollar research facility on the USC campus.

Jim Dixon–an insightful guy, literally from out of nowhere, who published a single book (“Exceptional Player”) and died not too long after.

Dick Mills–I don’t care for his personal style, and he spends a lot of energy attacking others in his unrelenting struggle to jockey for more clients; however, he does seem to get some things fundamentally right about pitching mechanics.

So, what’s the importance of this? Could it be that to train optimally for pitching, you should be aware of what the best pitchers actually do? In other words, do you want to train to “push off” with your legs, or should you be training your hip flexors for better rotational dynamics to improve your momentum to the plate.

Anybody else think that it is very interesting how little understood this centrally important subject is?

We get it… you love Tom House… and Tom Seaver doesn’t know what he’s talking about even though he’s a walking legend and hall of famer…

Fact is, everybody has different opinions on pitching. Believe it or not some people don’t subscribe completely to everything Tom House teaches. Honestly I hear alot of guru’s like to hop from one side of the fence to the other. You gotta remember that guru’s are marketers, they are trying to make cash.

Personally, all I know is that I do push off the rubber, but my forward momentum does pull me away from the rubber. Yes it’s possible to do both. I’m 6’3" and have a stride over 6’5". A push away from the rubber along with sideways momentum is necessary for me to have a stride that long. But again, everybody is different, and different pitchers subscribe to different theories.


Thanks for your opinion.

I’m not so sure that you are the best representative of “we” on this forum, but if you think so, that’s fine.

Everybody has their own set of litmus tests for knee-jerk b.s. versus authentic dedication to learning, Hammer. I consider my own standards fairly stringent and I don’t blindly accept the opinion of self-proclaimed experts like you. Sorry if that infuriates you.

Even if you are, as in your own words: light-years of experience ahead of me, I guess I’ll continue to think for myself.

You can refuse to critically examine what you believe in, and you can even take pride in your position, I don’t care.


Thanks for your opinion.

I’m not so sure that you are the best representative of “we” on this forum, but if you think so, that’s fine.

Everybody has their own set of litmus tests for knee-jerk b.s. versus authentic dedication to learning, Hammer. I consider my own standards fairly stringent and I don’t blindly accept the opinion of self-proclaimed experts like you. Sorry if that infuriates you.

Even if you are, as in your own words: light-years of experience ahead of me, I guess I’ll continue to think for myself.

You can refuse to critically examine what you believe in, and you can even take pride in your position, I don’t care.[/quote]

Wow man, take it easy.

I just stated in that post that guru’s like house and mills and all those guys jump around on their ideas alot over the years.

Also, wow, I never said I was an expert. Not once will you hear that out of my mouth. I just simply told you what I do from personal experience. Take it easy man, this is a friendly forum.

You tell me I’m not comprehending what your saying… Well you still haven’t answered why TL’s body has a jolt sideways a sudden thrust right before his foot pulls off the rubber… Again, I’m not a physics major, I took a couple courses in high school but I do know that the only thing touching the ground at this point was his back foot. Therefore, when his body is thrust towards the plate much faster than his previous momentum allowed, it must have been a thrust from the back foot.

ps… You shouldn’t accept all theories tossed around on this board. That’s why pitching is so brilliant is because nobody, not even Tom House, has everything figured out yet. His prodigy used to be Mark Prior, the guy who supposedly had the best mechanics possible… Now the guy can’t throw a ball 84.

[quote=“laflippin”]Here is a brief list of authors who have published the opinion that pitchers do not “push off” of the rubber with their post leg:

(1) Tom House

(2) Jim Dixon

(3) Dick Mills[/quote]Actually, Mills, the “anti-push” advocate, is now the “push” advocate.

[quote=“laflippin”]Bagonzi–Wrote one popular book that is more highly regarded than it should be.[/quote]I certainly agree with that one.

[quote=“laflippin”]…do you want to train to “push off” with your legs, or should you be training your hip flexors for better rotational dynamics to improve your momentum to the plate.[/quote]I propose it’s both.


I didn’t know Mills switched over to being a “push” advocate–interesting if true. He always has seemed a little flighty to me, ever since I saw a copy of his 30 page so-called “pitching report”. IMO, he generally writes like a race-track tout, whether he is making good mechanics-sense or not.

If you go to his website you can find a published article where he says in straightforward language that he believes pitchers do not push off from the rubber and should not try to do it. If he “corrected” himself on that point, more’s the pity.

As to the proposition that “push off” with the leg(s) is a real part of momentum generation–that seems like a compromise proposal that is only tenable if there is clear evidence that a pitcher’s post leg straightens out during his “push”.

How can it be otherwise? If you are pushing only to maintain a static position that is isometric–no change in position results from it and no change in the angles of your limbs result from it either.

If you push with your limbs and your body moves in some direction as a direct result of that pushing motion, that requires the relevant limbs to straighten proportionally with the body movement.

If you are looking at video of pitchers with the aim of trying to decide that their post leg straightened by only a degree or two as a possible source of some actual “push” from the post leg…that’s missing an important point, in my view. It’s like trying to keep the word “push” on artificial life support. Generation of the level of momentum pitchers get coming off the rubber requires significant motive force–the kind of motive force that is nowhere to be seen in a “straightening event” in the post leg.

The “push”, as you seemed to recognize very clearly in your thoughtful essay within the 11-yo pitcher’s thread, comes from musculature working on the hips to create an eccentric load and a weight shift forward. There’s no real need to invoke a “push” with the post leg–because even low quality video evidence doesn’t support it.

High quality motion analysis done with 10-camera Vicon systems also doesn’t support the idea that the post leg straightens to motivate the forward momentum pitchers get coming away from the rubber.

It wouldn’t be much of a big deal one way or the other I suppose, except what we believe does have an effect on how we train and condition pitchers, right?

I think it is important to get this right, and I also think that high quality motion analysis has the best chance of getting it right. That’s why I like House’s approach more than the assertions of a much greater MLB pitcher like Seaver–House studies this stuff seriously. Maybe 500+ pro pitchers in his Vicon motion analysis database are lying about this, but I’m persuaded that it’s the best information available.

Lest you think that I’m talking through my hat, my son has enjoyed a couple of motion analyses with the Vicon system at NPA, so I’m familiar with the technology and the contents of House’s database.

TL’s body has a jolt sideways a sudden thrust right before his foot pulls off the rubber… Again, I’m not a physics major, I took a couple courses in high school but I do know that the only thing touching the ground at this point was his back foot. Therefore, when his body is thrust towards the plate much faster than his previous momentum allowed, it must have been a thrust from the back foot.

Any response to this yet?

That long winded treatise of mine :blah: :blah: spoke of the change in angle of the femur relative to the upper body. There’s a definite angle there which changes in the moments before landing. The angle at the knee doesn’t, I agree but at the hip, it does. It completely straightens out, despite the knee remaining bent.

I propose that, if you look at the timing of the knee move and the extension of the femur at the hip joint, it’s active, not just passive. I have no science to back that up but that’s my theory.

Now, combine that move with momentum from the stride leg being “swung” forward during the stride and it turning over into landing. Add to that the core working to rotate the hips and a very holistic conversation can follow, which I’ve always recommended on this board. I believe that we’re “chunking” things too much in our discussions on this motion. There’s a real dynamic interplay of some very complex actions in the core and the legs.

There’s something happening to get the centre of gravity moving in the stride. I really don’t care what it’s called. If one were to simply lunge sideways, away from the rubber, keeping the angle of the knee constant, what’s causing it? A push? Depends on the definition. In the pitching motion, more than one thing is happening. If the pitcher comes out of the step back and doesn’t go to the “balance point”, he’s potentially generating momentum or simply overcoming inertia enough to facilitate the next part. Then there’s any potential contribution of the lift leg as it comes back down and out in the stride. Then there’s the hip flexor idea. Combine all of those. Dynamic interplay. Not a single focus on any one thing. Dynamic combo. Then, as the stride leg moves out and the back knee turns down, the core kicks in and the front leg turns over to land. Again, all things going together to result in momentum into landing.

So, is there a push? Don’t really care. There’s motion away from the rubber. I believe there are many things happening here and we really don’t get ourselves very far by micro-analyzing this because it’s really a dynamic, holistic series of factors that are involved.

Yours truly,
Attempting to sound smart…
…and failing miserably. :tongue:

“…a jolt sideways”…would that be the motion when his post leg, still with an apparent angle of 150 degrees in it, pivots so that the knee is pointed directly at the camera? Since, he went into that position without straightening the post leg, and came out of that position without straightening his post leg, the conclusion is that he never straightened his post leg.

You’ll have to go back to an earlier post in this thread, read it, and do the thought-experiment…you can create a fixed angle between two straight objects and view the angle from the side. Then, merely by pivoting the object you can observe an apparent angle change if you point the vertex directly toward your point of view. If you actually did this experiment it would look something like this to you: < to I to > with your eye perpendicular to the plane of the screen.

Lincecum’s post leg is doing the same thing–it starts with a 150 degree angle, it pivots while maintaining a 150 degree angle, and finally the knee of the post leg points toward home plate, and you can see that the post leg still has not straightened out at all.

Therefore, there was no “push” with the post leg. Just asserting over and over that you believe differently will not change the evidence, which is actually very clear (in my opinion, of course).

Well I guess we just have different opinions on this whole topic… It’s clear that your set in your ways of teaching, which is fine. Me personally I just have a different view. I guess there are alot of people who have different ideas on this topic. Heck, Dick Mills has been on both sides of the fence on this one… AND HE’S STILL TAKING PEOPLES MONEY FOR HIS THOUGHTS! ha, someone explain to me how that one works?

Oh well, I’m kinda tired of this topic though… How bout this one, you guys hash all this stuff out, I’m not physics major by any means, and then report back to me how I can get the utmost efficiency out of my body. I want 2 mph for christmas.

Nice post, DM. I think your post and Lee’s posts are starting to get to the meat of the matter.

BTW, I think that if we’re going to continue using the term “push off” then it needs to be defined. I’m not convinced that everyone who’s used it so far has the same exact definition.

I’m gonna’ throw something out for you all to consider. Let me know what you think…

A large part of Lincecum’s appearance of lunging is just that - an appearance that is created by his front leg motion, not by actually lunging or “pushing off”. If you look at his stride leg, it bends as it reaches the peak of his knee lift. Next, as it drops and swings out and around, it straightens out. Finally, as it approaches it fully-open position right before foot plant, it bends again as if he’s stepping over something. I think it’s this “stepping over” movement that creates the appearance that he’s lunging or leaping.

Try this: Look at the video clip of Lincecum on this site. It will load into QuickTime. Then move the QuickTime slider back to the start and play the video again by holding down the right arrow key which will cause the video to play slower than normal. Using your hand or a piece of paper, try to cover up his stride leg once it gets out in front of his body. Do this a few times and then decide whether he still looks like he is leaping/lunging when you can’t see his front leg action. I don’t think he does so that’s why I think it is his front leg action that creates the appearance that he lunges/leaps.

ok, to push or not to push: one last time. you got me to go in the attic and retrieve part of my library. let’s see what’s sitting here with me

the art and science of pitching - house and the npa
fastball fitness - house and the npa
nolan ryan’s pitcher’s bible (with house)
the science and art of baseball pitching - mills
bob feller’s little black book of baseball wisdom
sandy koufax - a lefty’s legacy
my 101 favorite pitching success secrets-mills
pitch like a pro - leo mazzone (pitching coach of the braves during the glory years)

i’ll pull some quotes, background information and summary statements where needed. this should be fun:

house: you may be surprised to learn that not one of the following … is based on science:
. push off the rubber (art & science pg. forty-eight)
. push off the rubber (art & science pg.48) don’t know where the smiley came from.

in our opinion factors such as … maximizing momentum, and having a strong lower body are essential to maximizing velocity and linear momentum during the pitching delivery. However, we are now convinced that MOST of a pitcher’s velocity does not come from these areas, rather it comes from other sources - specifically hip/shoulder separation (fastball fitness pg. 15)

[note that he said most, 80%, not all. i have no trouble with this statement and do not dispute it, even though i think the experiment used to arrive at the numbers may be questionable]

i’ll post this and start another

nolan ryan: tom house teaches this tall and fall approach … it’s opposite of the old dip-and-drive method- you would drive or push off the rubber to gain momentum. …I was somewhat similar to seaver and koosman back in the 60’s, but not quite as exaggerated as they were.

the older you get, the harder it is to push off the rubber…it flattens you out and makes it tough to throw a curveball (pitcher’s bible pg.57)

mills-fundamental mechanics: the force of the rubber is what drives the pitcher forward. one way of increasing leg drive is to apply greater force to the contact point of the foot with the rubber (pg. 5.17)

the stride off the pitching rubber contributes most to the velocity of a baseball. macwilliams et. al. studied one high school and six collegiate pitchers and compared all movement segements with ground-reaction forces throughout the pitch. a very high correlation between wrist velocity and leg drive supports the contention that throwing velocity is largely determined by the early, large-muscle movements…leg drive. …to gain more pitching velocity, a faster and longer movement off the pitching rubber should be sought (mills, pg. 5.26, the science and art of baseball pitching).

mazzone: he (glavine) plants his left foot in front of the rubber to drive and brings his right leg up with a more pronounced hip turn than maddux (pg. 41, pitch like a pro)

he (maddux) turns on his right foot and plants it in front of the rubber to drive with (pg. 42, pitch like a pro)

feller: the things a pitcher should know
if you don’t have a great arm, you can only improve your fastball one or two miles per hour, in spite of all the stories you might have read in advertisements … and heard coaches tell pitchers they can drastically improve their fastball … by tinkering with the way they shove off the mound or how they bend their elbow. usually these"coaches" are the ones who never got too far in the game themselves. you cannot teach a pitcher how to throw a fastball, and this is something a pitcher should know (pg. 91, little black book of baseball)

and finally, if i could only have one book on pitching, this is it. the lady who wrote it, jane leavy, knew very little about baseball. koufax was not interviewed for the book. it is written on the collection of interviews with 469 people (yes, that is correct 469) concerning koufax and including his teaching.

in feb., 1997, he was at dodgertown for a seminar on sports medicine. he had been recruited by frank jobe, the dodger’s team physician (inventor of tommy john surgery), to teach an audience of biomechanical experts how to throw a ball (pg. 1).

… he had come to see his body as a system for the delivery of stored energy, intuiting the principles of physics inherent in the pitching motion (pg. 3).

"everybody who performs an athletic event of any kind is a system of levers, … you can’t alter what the bones do. if you can make the bones work, the injuries to the soft tissue will be a lot less. it’s when the guys are in a bad position and now try to make the muscles do something to compensate for the bad position that they injure themselves (pg. 4)

today, biomechanical researchers like jobe’s colleague, dr. marilyn pink, use computer-enhanced telemetry to analyze a pitcher’s motion. … he (koufax) was biomechanically perfect …“there was absolutely not a wasted piece of energy there,” pink concluded. “he knew exactly what was extraneous and what was needed.” (pg.5)

the back leg is the controlling authority, in koufax’s view,“the single most important thing in pitching.” (pg. 11, a lefty’s legacy)

it remains a subject of esoteric debate in biomechanical circles (kind of like this thread) whether a pitch begins with a push or a controlled fall off the pitching rubber. Koufax pushed. (pg.11)

so what do you think guys? do pitchers push - looks like some more than others, but even house says 80% comes from hip and shoulder separation. where does the other 20% come from.

i’m still thinking about the comment that a limb has to extend to exert force (like a push). maybe a maximum push but does it on a less than maximum force (or push).

still very good discussion. i would like to see house and the guru’s evaluate and critique koufax. that would be fun.

one of these days i’m going to the pitcher’s boot camp in houston when wolforth has all the gurus in the same room debating pitching mechanics and how to train. if house, mills, marshall, nyman, wolforth and koufax if he would participate (i know the answer is no) were all there, i would pay to see that one. that is the pitching equivalent of the beatles reunion.

good luck to all. i just hope in all our passion, opinion and pride, we can teach young men to throw the baseball safely and effectively. i truly believe there is more than one way to do that. the key in my opinion is to combine the mechanics with proper agressive training and conditioning, and reasonable limits to prevent overuse. add diet and you have a dynamite program.

good night to all.