The Anatomy of the Baseball Pitch vs the Golf Swing
This post is based on three months of being exposed to the theory of, plus a few days trying to mimic the positions of, the baseball pitch, during a 100+ day stint as a student researcher at the American Sports Medicine Institute, Birmingham, Alabama.
Every knowledgeable person in baseball talks of the kinetic chain and pelvic rotation helping to create force from the ground up, which is identical to the requirements of golf! In other words, both movements are supposed to be essentially rotary movements that deliver linearly directed motion to the ball.
As with golf, I wondered at the very many extraneous, idiosyncratic movements of the baseball pitch. Why lift the knee up and put weight through the back foot when the purpose is to make a forward stride? Why have the hands up high while in the glove, to drop them down then raise them once again to shoulder height in time for foot contact? Can the forearm ever catch up to the shoulder from the excessive forearm lag? How can hip rotation take place efficiently when the lead hip and knee are significantly flexed? (see both forearm lag and lead hip and knee flexion of traditional positions in the picture below)
So, I proposed a theory to fellow student researchers at ASMI – no high-knee, set up in a narrow stride, then finally wind up the trunk and throw, with no further striding. With the radar gun out, and the ‘big-boys’ assuring no thrower or instructor bias, one student reduced speed from 60 to 55 and the other two from 70 to 60.
Of course we had no particular ‘method’ for just how to do this, so mostly the wind-up without an accompanying stride resulted in too much rotation, with the throwing arm’s latissimus dorsi taking it too far behind the thrower, with no ability for an eventual linearly directed throw in the appropriate direction. See below a pitcher with a lot of trail shoulder ‘horizontal adduction’ ie. arm too far behind body.
Theories based on other people’s throwing mechanics are all very well, but some practical experience is essential. So, after a week of actually throwing balls, with the handicap of a 100% left brain, the only way the balls would start off at the ideal trajectory, with a straight direction and maximum power, and not be released too early or too late, was when the throwing shoulder had translated as far towards target as possible, LINEARLY, and the ball was released, without volition, somewhere along the way. The ‘before’ on the left and ‘after’ picture on the right. In both shots, the ‘top of backswing’ position has been superimposed on ‘end of forward movement’ position.
Any attempt at a rotation-only move, often resulted in a too-early or too late throw.
My new theory, therefore, is that the baseball pitch/throw requires a linear motion of the throwing shoulder (the more distance travelled the better) for linear ball-flight, with rotation of the trunk over the lead leg serving only to decelerate the body (over the leg), towards the end of the motion.
The picture on the left (above) shows less shoulder forward translation and poor ball trajectory and distance, while the one on the right is much better.
Conversely, in golf, any lateral/linear motion (along the direction of the target), results in an imprecise divot, which is not always made at the same spot, as the golfer’s body slides past the lowest point of the club’s arc.
The picture on the left is the golfer’s original motion, and the one on the right shows how much more precise his impact can be with only rotation and no lateral motion (using merely the Phase I of Minimalist Golf Swing movements).
The baseball pitch is much more like gait (a side-on type of gait!), but with involvement of the hip abductors and adductors as well, along with the usual hip flexor and internal oblique of the lead leg acting as stabilizers, while the external oblique brings the shoulder forward.
The golf swing requires powerful rotation from the lateral rotators of the trail HIP, FOLLOWED BY a stretch-shortening of the obliques and the pectoralis major of the golfer’s TRUNK – all rotational motion.
The solution? Cut out all rotation in the baseball pitch and all linear motion in the golf swing, as well as excessive lag in both. Both movements can easily be made much more ‘minimalist’ so as to reduce the scope for injury, while improving ball-flight.
The BOTTOM LINE is that the body cannot rotate AND translate linearly at the same time, in an efficient manner, because the same set of muscles cannot easily act in two different roles – say of prime movers and stabilizers – simultaneously.