By Eric Cressey
Ask almost any pitcher, and he'd tell you that he'd love to increase his stride length on the mound in hopes of increasing pitching velocity. And, this is certainly an association that has been verified by both anecdotal and research evidence for years. Look back to the best pitchers of former generations, and they figured this out even without the benefit of radar guns.
On the anecdotal side of things, hitters often comment on how pitches get on them faster with a guy who strides further down the mound. This is a no brainer: a pitcher who releases the ball closer to the plate has a competitive advantage. ;That's perceived pitching velocity. However, what about actual velocity; meaning what the radar gun says?
The truth is that it's somewhat tricky to prove specifically that a longer stride directly equates to better actual velocity, as it really depends on how the pitcher gets to that point. You see, a pitcher can effectively delay his weight shift to create better separation in fact, keeping the head behind the hips longer correlates highly with pitching velocity. This separation is the name of the game and he'd throw harder.
Or, that same pitcher could simply jump out letting his body weight leak forward prematurely and completely rob himself of separation and, in turn, velocity. So, that's the first asterisk to keep in mind:it's not just where you stride, but also how you stride there.
Additionally, in that second scenario, this modification may cause a pitcher to shift his weight forward excessively and wind up landing too much on his toes. While the point on the foot at which the weight should be centered is certainly a point of debate among pitching coaches, it's safe to say that they all agree that you shouldn't be tip-toeing down the mound!
Lastly, even if the weight shift is delayed perfectly, a pitcher still has to time up the rest of his delivery when the ball comes out of the glove, how high the leg kick is, etc to match up with it in "slightly' new mechanics. These adjustments can take time, so the velocity improvements with a long stride may not come right away because other factors are influenced.
Of course, keep in mind that not every hard thrower has a huge stride. Justin Verlander doesn't get too far down the mound, but he's still done okay for himself! Verlander seems to make up the difference with a ridiculously quick arm, great downward plane at ball release, and outstanding hip rotation power. There's no sense screwing with someone who is a reigning Cy Young and MVP and has two career no-hitters under his belt. However, YOU have to find what works best for YOU.
So, without even getting to my list, you can say that mechanical proficiency is the #1 factor that influences whether a long stride will improve your pitching velocity. Dial in what needs to be dialed in, and it could work wonders for you if your body is prepared.
To that end, in part 2 of this series, I'll outline five physical factors that will help you improve your stride length and increase pitching velocity.
Originally featured at EricCressy.com and re-published with permission.
Eric Cressey, MA, CSCS, is president and co-founder of Cressey Performance, a facility located in Hudson, MA. Eric has worked with clients from youth sports to the professional and Olympic ranks, but is best known for his extensive work with baseball players; more than 70 professional players travel to Massachusetts to train with him each off-season. Cressey publishes a free blog and newsletter at his website, www.EricCressey.com