Throwing Velocity while important is OVERRATED

Throwing Velocity is while important is OVERRATED

I always get upset at TV announcers glamorizing guys that throw hard.  A major league reliever gets in the game and the announcers drool with excitement as they talk about how hard this guy can throw it.

Then you look at his ERA and its often in the 4′s or 5′s.

I cringe at the message that this is sending our kids: throw the ball hard for the radar gun and get everyone to look at you in awe.

Unfortunately this is not what real pitching is.  Velocity is important in pitching, I am not denying that.  But what is more important than velocity is location and movement.  The very best pitchers of all time have all three elements – location, velocity, and movement. When announcers focus just on velocity, I cringe because I know many kids are going to think that velocity is the only important component of pitching.

I watch many kids in lower levels focus so intensely on throwing the ball harder.  Much of the time they succeed and begin throwing the ball harder, but if their baseball flattens out and becomes straight then they may be surprised that they probably aren’t going to be any more successful than when they threw the ball a couple miles slower but with more movement.

Unfortunately just throwing the ball harder is not the magic bullet that will lead to a hall of fame career.  Make sure your players understand that the best pitchers in baseball have all 3 equally important components – location, movement and velocity.

What I suggest your players do is train to throw the ball harder by developing a stronger core muscle group.  But also make them aware that when they practice pitching, they are not only practicing for the radar gun.

So what should you have them do in practice?

  • Playing catch during warm ups is not a time to mess around and go through the motions  - every pitch must have a purpose and a location
  • Also during catch is the time for pitchers to experiment with different grips, arm angles and pitches.
  • During bull pens – have pitchers throw at-bats to imaginary hitter and keep track of how they do.  Force them to focus on the location of every pitch.

Tell us what you think.

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  1. Nick
    7 years ago

    I’d have to disagree with this article. Think of the best pitcher on teams that you have played on. Think of the toughest pitcher to hit. Odds are that those pitchers are the ones who threw the ball the fastest. There is a reason that MLB pitchers pretty much all throw 90 MPH+, instead of 75; because it’s harder to hit.

    Velocity allows you to get away with worse location or movement. Pitchers should practice throwing the ball harder, just like they practice throwing with accuracy and movement.

    My message to young pitchers: work on throwing the ball faster, just like you work on locating and making the ball move. All three are important aspects of a successful pitcher.


  2. Jim
    7 years ago

    Nick,

    You have a good point. Velocity is what pro scouts look for. Are they right in doing so? Maybe and maybe not.

    This article is meant to highlight the fact that many coaches only preach to their kids to work on throwing the ball faster.

    Velocity is a good thing, and I understand why they teach this. However, velocity is NOT the most important component of pitching, and it should not be the only component of pitching that coach’s teach.

    Pitching envolves location, movement, velocity and changing speeds. Out of these compontents, velocity is actually the least important of the four, yet it is all we want to work on and talk about as coaches.

    Ask a major league hitter who he would rather face, 44 year old Tim Wakefield throwing 75 mph knuckleballs and hitting his spots, or some kid up from the minor leagues that throws a straight 90mph right down the middle.

    I would venture to say that every hitter you asked would rather face the minor league pitcher.


  3. jim d
    7 years ago

    As a former professional player I would rather face Wakefield anyday versus a guy that throws 90. I think the key is this- I would much rather face a guy that throws 80-85 and hits his spot versus a guy that throw 90 or 90 plus. The margin for error is much greater against a guy that throws 90. Also, about 6-7 hitters in the line-up for any given team might as well go up to the the plate without a bat. They are not going to have the bat speed to hit a guy that throws 90. Velocity is about 90 percent of pitching at every level. A guy that throws 82-84 in high school will be very successful in his high school games, regardless of his location. A guy in college D1, D2, and NAIA will be successful at 86-88 without great location. A guy in the big leagues will be more successful at 90 plus. A guy that throws 85 in the show will get shelled…even with spectacular location. Velocity is the key. Don’t let guys that never faced one of these 90 plussers fool ya.


  4. Jim
    7 years ago

    Love the discussion Jim. The main point of this article is that too often pitching instruction is centered solely around velocity when in late movement and location are more important than velocity. I have seen high school kids hit the ball hard off of guys that throw upper 80′s to lower 90′s when the ball is thrown right down the middle. And I have also seen the same high school kids get one hit by a kid that throws in the lower 70s. This happened because of location.