Fastball Fact and Fiction

Every pitcher wants to throw harder. Professional scouts and/or college recruiters will tell you that 90mph is a magical number when they're looking for fastball talent.

Here at the National Pitching Association we performed a scientific study to better understand what contributes to the velocity of a fastball. These findings may just challenge the way you think of fastball velocity, and help young hurlers master their fastball potential.

What is Velocity?

There are three ways to look at the velocity of a pitch.

  1. Real velocity or the actual MPH read on a radar gun.
  2. Perceived velocity or the way a pitched baseball is read by a hitter because of real velocity and deception.
  3. Effective velocity or how a previous pitchs speed and location affects a hitter's read on the next pitchs speed and location.

Obviously, since we wanted to determine what generates velocity in a delivery, we had to come up with valid and defendable testing protocols. We chose to isolate and measure the contribution of hip/shoulder rotation to real velocity by quantifying pitch speed from our NPA two-knee drill position, which has the pitcher down on both knees facing the target at approximately a 45-degree angle. Putting a pitcher on two knees allows us to:

  1. Minimize and/or eliminate any directional weight shift.
  2. Isolate and measure the impact of hip/shoulder separation and rotation for correlation with maximum ball velocity on each throw.

Where Pitchers Get Their Momentum

Once we quantified a pitcher's maximum velocity on his knees we moved him to a mound. Pitchers move farther and faster directionally, when they stride down a hill. By charting his maximum velocity pitching on the mound and comparing the maximum velocities generated in each test we could calculate the percentage that rotation and the percentage that direction contributed to his maximum real velocity.

Our biggest surprise came with the revelation that the larger percentage of total velocity comes from a pitcher's rotational momentum (hips and shoulders) and not his directional momentum (legs)!

Lets take a look at how the different body parts work in the pitching delivery and what the study showed about their contribution to the velocity of the ball.

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