Velocity Creation in Pitching: Biggest Myth in Baseball

Velocity Creation in Pitching: Biggest Myth in Baseball

by Nick Wingbermuehle

If you asked baseball people what to name the biggest myth in baseball, I am sure that the answers would be varied. Some would point to the myth of a clutch hitter, some would say that the sacrifice bunt is overvalued, and others may say that players are still being judged by antiquated statistical measures.

However, I believe that the myth of “God-given” velocity is the biggest myth that is perpetuated in baseball today.

This myth exists at every level and discourages players from working to become better. Coaches who believe in this myth are placing a block in the way of their players’ performance.

While in high school, I attended a baseball camp at a top-25 Division I school with a reputation for developing pitchers.

After attending the camp, I would not recommend that any pitcher of any skill level or age listen to the instruction offered by an assistant coach and the pitching coach. At the camp, they had us do pitching drills, including the towel drill, which emphasized slow and controlled movements. Even at 18, I felt like I was wasting my time. This was not how I was going to pitch. This was not how successful, hard-throwing pitchers threw the baseball. In fact, the movements that they had us perform in the drills did not even reflect how their own pitchers played. At the end of the drills, the assistant coach told us that practicing them could really help us as pitchers. But, he added, “These won’t add any velocity, that is just God-given.” His comment reflects a commonly shared belief among many players and coaches.

Velocity is God-given and there is nothing that a pitcher can do to substantially improve it.

It persists even at the major league level. I remember reading an article in Sports Illustrated a few years back, which polled major leaguers on who they thought, “Got the least out of the most.” Kyle Farnsworth’s name was on the list, presumably because he can 98 MPH, but only gets mediocre results. Even the major league players considered velocity a God-given gift. We need to think of velocity in the same way that we think of control; as a skill that can be worked on and improved.

But, instead we often hear comments like the one that the assistant coach made to me. I am fairly certain that the assistant coach never took the time to consider how his “advice” might affect the players that he was advising. The day he told me that his drills would not add any velocity; I was clocked at 75 MPH. According to him, at that velocity, I had very little potential to go onto college and play successfully, unless God gave me some velocity. My future success was completely out of my hands. Fortunately, I did not listen to that coach. But, another guy may have thought, “Well, this guy coaches at great Division I baseball program, so he knows what he talking about. I guess I really do not have a chance to be a good pitcher.” What kind of coaching is that?

After high school, I was 6’3 and weighed in at 150 pounds. Because I was so thin, I had a shoulder problem. My right shoulder blade often “winged out” while pitching and performing everyday activities like picking things up off the ground. My first practice in college, my fastball topped out 74 MPH, but sat at about 72 MPH. After physical therapy for my shoulder, and through practice, I was able to get up to 89 MPH this past fall. If I had listened to the coach, I would have never pursued college baseball and I fear that some kids may give up baseball because coaches do not even listen to what they are saying. Ironically, after working hard to increase my velocity, my coach told me that I was one of the most “naturally talented” players on the team.

Coaches that should be preaching the importance of hard work, instead discourage kids from trying hard.

After all, what is the point of trying to get better if the other pitchers will just be “given” from the heavens? They will feel that some players are predestined to pitch well, while others are not. We need to re-think how we talk about velocity and think of it as a skill, just like control. In my next article, I will discuss how I came to believe that velocity is a skill, besides my anecdotal story.

Visit our Saint Louis Baseball Clinics and Saint Louis Baseball Camps page for how to get in contact with us and learn more about pitching and our seminars and  clinics.  Baseball from the Ground Up Resources are  incredibly informative and answers a great deal of your pitching questions.  Some of the questions are: What is the importance of good mechanics?  How do you pitch “backwards?  What should we teach our kids about pitching?

The more I see the results of Coach Nicollerat’s pitching and baseball resources, the more I have come to appreciate the art of pitching.
-Nick Wingbermuehle

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Leave A Reply (17 comments So Far)

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