Whatan Arm Analysis Shows How Pitchers Addheat to Create a Blazing Fastball

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 2, 2010 | Go to article overview

Whatan Arm Analysis Shows How Pitchers Addheat to Create a Blazing Fastball


Byline: Rachel Saslow The Washington Post

What makes Washington Nationals rookie Stephen Strasburg such an intimidating pitcher? The 22-year-old can throw triple-digit fastballs while guiding the ball to an exact spot in, or not quite in, the strike zone. His curveballs seem to fall off a cliff. His changeup -- a slower pitch, meant to confuse the batter -- clips along at 89 mph, the speed of some pitchers' fastballs.

To his fans, coaches, teammates and especially his strikeout victims, Strasburg's talent seems inexplicable, a supernatural force: "There's no rhyme or reason. He's just better than everybody else," says Rob Dibble, a MASN-TV commentator who once threw 99-mph fastballs of his own.

"It's a God-given talent," says Steve McCatty, the Nationals' pitching coach.

But, in truth, baseball is a game of numbers and physical laws. Experts on pitching and biomechanics say that Strasburg is a genius at moving energy through his body, never making a motion too early or too late, never creating an angle in his body that's too acute or obtuse.

Strasburg's complex series of perfect motions starts when he raises his left foot. The energy moves from the legs to the pelvis, to the trunk to the shoulder to the elbow, to the wrist to the fingertips -- and, finally, to home plate. Scientists call this the kinetic chain, or the process of transferring energy from one link in the body to the next. Coaches call it coordination.

"His mechanics are sound and very fluid," Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo says. "The effort he exerts to get to maximum velocity is very minimal for his miles per hour. a The effortless delivery translates into more command over the pitch." In other words, Strasburg makes throwing a ball 100 mph look easy.

Unfortunately, the rookie right-hander was placed on the 15-day disabled list last week by the Nationals because of inflammation in his pitching shoulder. The move is retroactive to July 22, a day after he made his last appearance. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft was scratched minutes before he was to make his 10th major league start because his right shoulder felt stiff while he was warming up in the bullpen.

Mechanics

Glenn Fleisig, the research director at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Ala., has analyzed the mechanics of about 2,000 baseball pitchers since 1987. (ASMI was founded by orthopedic surgeon James Andrews to understand and prevent injuries in sports. "The mission was to put himself out of business," Fleisig says.)

Major league coaches send pitchers to the ASMI laboratory, which has a regulation-size space to throw the ball: 60 feet, 6 inches, from rubber to plate. (Little League, high school and college players also go to ASMI for evaluation.) Fleisig sticks about 25 sensors on the pitcher and points eight cameras on him while he throws the ball. It's the same technology used for creating special effects in movies and video games.

The sensors and cameras connect to a computer, which spits out a 15-page document called a "biomechanical analysis of pitching delivery." How fast does the pelvis rotate, in degrees per second? What's the angle of the lead knee when the foot hits the ground? Is the trunk tilted forward at the moment of ball release, as it should be? (The ideal tilt, for example, is in the range of 37 to 44 degrees.)

"What makes a good pitcher is not that he bends his elbow or knee the right way," says Fleisig, who has not analyzed Strasburg in the laboratory. "What makes him good is that he doesn't have a weak link in his chain of events or a mistimed motion."

Aspects of Strasburg's anatomy, including his height, hands, legs and the soft tissue in his shoulder, help him throw the ball faster, but there is no paper-doll ideal for what a great pitcher looks like. The 6-foot-10 Randy Johnson, who retired this year, didn't have a big lower half to power his windup, and the Astros' Roy Oswalt, who is listed at 6 feet tall, doesn't have height.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Whatan Arm Analysis Shows How Pitchers Addheat to Create a Blazing Fastball
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.