Reinventing Pitching: Moving Beyond Velocity for Longevity and Success

Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

For decades, scouting and development have focused on pitching velocity as the ultimate measure of success. However, this narrow focus on throwing harder has resulted in numerous careers cut short by injuries and recurring health issues.

It is time for a paradigm shift in the approach to pitching, emphasizing control and longevity over sheer velocity.

The prevailing belief has been that higher velocity equates to more strikeouts and success on the mound. While it is true that increased rate poses challenges for hitters, this obsession has come at a cost.

Many talented pitchers have undergone surgeries, such as Tommy John, due to the repetitive stress placed on their arms from throwing at high speeds. This approach has limited the careers of promising athletes and hindered their long-term prospects.

Jacob deGrom, the star pitcher for the Texas Rangers, recently fell victim to a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). This injury, caused by the relentless strain of high-velocity pitches, has sidelined him for the rest of the season. Despite his exceptional performance, the overemphasis on throwing hard has taken its toll on deGrom’s health and raises questions about the sustainability of such a pitching style.

Another prominent example is Chris Sale, a pitcher who has battled numerous injuries throughout his career. Recently placed on the 15-day injured list (IL) with left shoulder inflammation, Sale’s struggles serve as a reminder that prioritizing velocity without considering the consequences can lead to prolonged setbacks and frustration.

Reinventing Pitching for Longevity and Control

Pitching must transform, shifting the focus from sheer velocity to control and precision. This approach aims to minimize the strain on pitchers’ arms, reducing the risk of injuries and allowing them to have prolonged and successful careers.

Rather than relying solely on overpowering velocity, pitchers should develop a diverse repertoire of pitches and focus on command and strategy. Mastering pitch location, changing speeds, and outsmarting hitters can be just as effective, if not more, than relying solely on raw power.

Proper pitching mechanics and physical conditioning play crucial roles in preventing injuries. Coaches, scouts, and organizations should prioritize teaching and refining sound mechanics that optimize efficiency and reduce stress on the arm. Implementing comprehensive strength and conditioning programs can also help pitchers maintain their health and performance over the long term.

The time has come to reinvent the pitching paradigm. By shifting the focus from velocity to control, precision, and overall health, pitchers can have longer and more successful careers.

Lessons from the injuries of players like Jacob deGrom and Chris Sale highlight the need for change. Embracing a new era of pitching will not only benefit individual athletes but also contribute to the overall health and sustainability of the game itself.

While velocity is still essential in the game, it should not be the sole criterion for evaluating a pitcher’s potential. Scouting and player development systems should adopt a more holistic approach, considering command, pitch movement, and the ability to adapt to different situations.

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