The Advice from Professionals section of this website will focus on tips, tricks, and lessons directly from the source. Major League Baseball Pitchers, past, present, and future.
Who better to learn from about pitching, then from those who get paid millions to put in an arduous number of hours to hone their craft?
We will also throw in the occasional advice from pitching coaches throughout the industry.
The first installment will focus on right-handed baseball pitcher, Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers.
Pitching Mechanics, Rhythm, Tempo, and Timing
Justin Verlander talks about developing a rhythm that helps him follow a routine to easily repeat his delivery. You may be asking, what is rhythm exactly?
Rhythm is traditionally defined as a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement. Derek Johnson, in The Complete Guide to Pitching states that “rhythm links movements together”.
Justin Verlander explained how he adjusted his windup to create more rhythm in his mechanics.
When I first came into the league, I was stagnant with my hands. They just kind of stayed here and I’d kind of go through my motion and I had a tendency to get quick. I found that once I started bringing my hands down and up, that kind of motion of 1, 2 got me in rhythm.”
Tempo is defined as the rate or speed of motion. Derek Johnson stated that “tempo can help fix issues within the delivery because the body learns how to be more precise and fluid when the speed of delivery is accelerated at the right time”.
You can easily tell when a player has bad tempo, with a hitch or delay in their mechanics that does not follow a consistent speed. Think of sitting in the back seat of a car with someone who consistently changes lanes…not fun. On the contrary, good tempo can be seen in guys like Mark Buehrle, who had very little wasted movement.
Justin Verlander shared this sentiment, noting that without the mental checkpoints with his hands, he would get too quick, or ahead of himself. The result would be poor timing.
So why is timing important?
Let’s first breakdown a few mental concepts of throwing a baseball.
Releasing a baseball at the precise time to locate a pitch requires great muscle memory. The difference between releasing a ball at 1 millisecond versus 2 milliseconds can drastically change the trajectory of a baseball, which in return affects location. Timing of release is important.
Timing of movements is also critical. For example, baseball pitchers sometimes do not bring their throwing arm forward as the front halve of the body descents down the mound. In this situation, the arm is considered to be lagging behind which can cause the hips to open too soon or even lead to injury.
Tying all the pieces together, a baseball pitcher is effective when they find the correct rhythm and tempo that allows movements to mesh together. A lot can go wrong with a pitcher’s mechanics and delivery. So baseball pitchers should leverage timed rhythmical and symmetrical movements to help create an athletic and well balanced delivery.
Justin Verlander’s Pitching Mechanics
We will not do a complete analysis of Justin Verlander, as that is reserved for the MLB Pitcher Evaluation section of the website. We do, however, want to show the subtle differences of his mechanics, pre-hand movement checkpoints and post-hand movement checkpoints.
Let’s compare his pitching motion early in career to present day.
You can see in the clip, the mental and physical ticks with the hands to create good rhythm, tempo and timing throughout his pitching mechanics. These little ticks create mental checkpoints to ensure all his moving parts are aligning and syncing together at the proper time. Not all baseball pitchers have the hand movements like Justin Verlander, but the elite ones definitely have checkpoints throughout their delivery.
Now let’s examine Justin Verlander in 2005, as part of the Futures All-Start game.
The difference is uncanny. He is quicker to home-plate in 2005 and also slouches slightly, that messes with his posture and balance.
The result in the 2005 image…a homerun.
There you have it, rhythm, tempo, and timing, three of the many keys to pitching success.
Stay tuned for the complete breakdown of Justin Verlander’s 2016 mechanics with a comparison to his 2014 and 2015 campaigns. You will be able to find it in the MLB Pitcher Evaluation or Pitcher Analysis section of the website.
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