Where does the release point come from?

In a recent article on xkcd.com, the author writes,
[i]
Throwing is hard. In order to deliver a baseball to a batter, a pitcher has to release the ball at exactly the right point in the throw. A timing error of half a millisecond in either direction is enough to cause the ball to miss the strike zone.

To put that in perspective, it takes about five milliseconds for the fastest nerve impulse to travel the length of the arm. That means that when your arm is still rotating toward the correct position, the signal to release the ball is already at your wrist. In terms of timing, this is like a drummer dropping a drumstick from the 10th story and hitting a drum on the ground on the correct beat.[/i] http://what-if.xkcd.com/44/

which is pretty interesting, so I’ve been thinking about it. I’m wondering if the arm/hand actually does anything actively to release the ball, or if all that we do is set certain geometries and tensions in the fingers that we know will cause release to occur at the right point in the throw.

If you have played with a trebuchet (a model one hopefully), you’ll find that you can control the release point with (for example) the angle of the pin that releases the sling. I wonder if the arm works in a similar way. You set a certain tension in your fingers and when that force is exceeded, the ball flies out.

But then, you can think about the release of things besides a regular ol’ fastball. What does the hand need to do to throw a curveball, or a slider, or a knuckleball? Does it have to play an active role? What about throwing an instrument with a handle, like an axe? Or maybe the hand has to take an active role in throwing some things, and not others.

What do you think?

Very interesting. Unfortunately, it’s way over my head to be able to ponder things like that.

I can say that timing is critical to success, and release point is a combination of feel and timing. There isn’t much margin for error if it just takes one millisecond to miss the zone.

I was working with my son’s control yesterday. His last outing he struggled with the zone a bit. I haven’t caught him in almost two weeks. In that time, his slide step from the stretch has become a bit of a sweep step. I hadn’t really noticed because we’ve been in the first base dugout a lot lately. When I caught him, I immediately noticed his stride foot sweeping across instead of down the target line. We spent about 2 minutes fixing that, I had him throw about 50 pitches, and he’s dialed in again.

I look at the stride and foot plant sort of like I’m interpreting your description of the release point. If you have to pick up and place your foot in the exact spot each time for consistency, is it easier if that foot is moving in a straight line with the target or in an arc crossing the target line? Imagine the forced precision required to land precisely while employing the arc / sweep method.

In my opinion, the same thing would logically extend to release point. Another big nod to releasing all pitches from the same place, I suppose. If a pitcher has a different release point for every pitch (fastball, curve ball, change up, etc.), then the pitcher must be totally in control of his body to switch from pitch to pitch, and release point to release point. I would imagine it would be easier to “lose” a pitch for a short while before inexplicably “finding” it again if the pitcher has many release points to keep sorted.

This line of thought may also be relevant to the cause of the yips for catchers. One just has to maintain confidence and keep throwing until everything syncs up again. Another big reason to throw bullpens between performances.

I’m not sure that an activity that takes place in such a short period of time as the release can easily be willfully manipulated with precision as much as the proper release can be stumbled upon via exhaustive practice and repetitions.

I wonder if any of my post makes sense :roll: :?: