One of the most frequent objections to my theories about the root cause of the pitcher injury and Tommy John surgery epidemic is a common one.
What difference does it make?
I'll be the first to acknowledge that I'm focused on and talking about subtle, relatively small differences. As a result, many people have a hard time believing that they can be as consequential as I believe they are. My answer?
When you're moving as fast as modern pitchers do, and throwing as hard, small differences can be hugely consequential over time.
In particular, small changes to a pitcher's arm action can have a disproportionately large impact on pitchers' Timing.
That admittedly often leads to quick, easy velocity gains. However, in my opinion those gains come at a (still largely hidden) cost; they increase the load on the arm, leading to the increasing numbers of elbow and shoulder problems we are seeing in pitchers.
In this piece I sum up the two, in my opinion most important and visible, differences I see when I compare dominant and durable pitchers and modern, injury-prone pitchers at Foot Plant...
- Premature Pronation: A problematic and ahistorical movement, often taught with the cue "Point the ball at second base," that can cause elbow and, in the worst case, shoulder problems.
- Flat Arm Syndrome: A severe Timing problem in which the pitching arm is FLAT, rather than UP, at Foot Plant.
What Difference Does It Make?
I am seeing two critical, and increasingly common, differences when I compare dominant and durable and modern pitchers.
The first difference is the degree of twist in the forearm, and in same cases also the degree of external rotation, of the pitching arm side forearm at Foot Plant.
Verlander vs. Buehler
At Foot Plant, Justin Verlander's pitching arm side forearm is loose and at a neutral pronation/supination angle. In contrast, Walker Buehler's pitching arm side forearm is twisted and in a position of what I call Premature Pronation at Foot Plant. Walker Buehler's pitching arm is also internally rotated less than Justin Verlander's, which can also increase the distance and thus the force with which his pitching arm externally rotates.
I can't yet say for sure whether Premature Pronation is a problem in and of itself of whether it is problematic because it can also cause a Timing problem
Flat Arm Syndrome
Eddie Butler is a perfect example of Flat Arm Syndrome and my concern with what I see in the current generation of starting pitchers; they think they are starters, but don't have the pitching mechanics, and more specifically the Timing, to last as starters.
If you compare Eddie Butler and a Dominant and Durable pitcher like Nolan Ryan, you can see significant differences in their Timing at foot plant.
While so many, and increasing numbers of, current pitchers' arms are flat or nearly so at Foot Plant, that is not the case when you look at so many of the most dominant and and durable pitchers to have played the game.
As I explain in my Matt Harvey's pitching mechanics, I was expressing concerns about Matt Harvey's pitching mechanics before his elbow failed.
Harvey vs. Seaver
The problem is apparent if you compare Matt Harvey to a dominant and durable pitcher like Tom Seaver; the positions of their forearms at Foot Plant, and thus their Timing, is significantly different.
I saw both Jose Fernandez's elbow and shoulder problems coming in advance, I believe due to the fact his Timing is even worse than Matt Harvey's.
Fernandez vs. Price
As I explain in my analysis of Jose Fernandez's pitching mechanics, the issue is that his pitching arm is flat when his front foot plants, rather than up as is the case of David Price.
In my 2014 podcast with Will Leitch, I expressed concern about Ivan Nova, whose elbow then failed.
What did I see.
In the comparison below of Ivan Nova and Mariano Rivera, notice how, just before Foot Plant, Ivan Nova's pitching arm is FLAT while Mariano Rivera's pitching arm is UP.
Nova vs. Rivera
Part of the difference is due to what I call Premature Pronation; how the thumb of Ivan Nova's pitching arm is pointing down toward the ground, and internally rotated, into foot plant.