What are the elements of long toss that transfer to mound pitching and improved pitching velocity? How does it help with reducing the risk of arm injury?
Coming in contact with and videotaping hundreds of pitchers each year at the high school and college levels has made it impossible for me to understand why anyone bothers with long toss anymore. Every pitcher we see has faults which add stress to their arm because it is doing too much of the work during each pitch. I have yet to see one high school or college pitcher who could not benefit by improving their mechanics.
If long toss is beneficial and working and most high school and college pitchers are using it, why is it that nearly every one of those who are using it are all still crying out for more velocity to get them to the next level?
There is a huge database of MLB pitchers who never did long toss – those who pitched before long toss, which was first been used extensively in the early to mid 80s. There were thousands of those MLB pitchers who never practiced with the long toss and most of them probably pitched more innings and more often.
If a pitcher wants to warm up his arm by throwing long because he has been told that long toss helps then so be it. However, until we study pitching without long toss we will not know what works and what doesn’t.
Alan Jaeger uses Barry Zito as one of his long toss models. Barry used to hit 91-93 mph in college and has been stuck at about 85 mph average for several years now. Barry is a big long toss advocate who likes to throw from one foul line to the other. It clearly has not transferred to helping his velocity. Why not? Know that Barry spends a great deal of time conditioning properly during the off-season. He does work hard so commitment and sweat isn’t the problem.
Does Barry Zito still have 91-93 mph in him? I would say yes. When you compare his 91 mph mechanics from either college or during his Cy Young year to his mechanics of any of the past 4-5 years you can see the difference. Plus Barry’s 91 mph mechanics could have been improved further. So maybe he would have been capable of throwing 95.
It is clear that Barry’s 250-300 foot throws are not transferring to the mound. Why not? Long toss advocates cannot explain this.
Coaches use MLB pitchers as models for why they advise pitchers to long toss. But most MLB pitchers, who throw over 90 mph, understand how to use their lower bodies to generate momentum and then transfer that momentum to their trunks to speed up their arms efficiently. Most high school and college pitchers do not. Because of that, I think it is highly irresponsible for coaches and instructors to encourage them to long toss. But most coaches do not videotape and evaluate the mechanics of their pitchers to see what changes can help increase velocity and reduce the risk of injury.
Dr. Brent Rushall, a leading sports scientist, has said there are no skill elements of long toss which transfer to mound pitching. If there are, what are they? I think Barry Zito would especially like to know that answer.
The baseball itself seems to be the only common thing between long toss and mound pitching. Everything else is different, from the mechanics to the sequencing of the body. If timing, or proper sequencing, is one of the most important elements of pitching, how does long toss help a pitcher improve his timing? This could be the element that is holding him back and doing long toss will never help him improve.
Do many MLB pitchers use long toss? Yes. This is the sole reason why many coaches recommend it and yet there is no evidence that it provides any benefit to pitching performance or the reduction of injuries.
So, if Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay do long toss, then all pitchers should do long toss? What would happen if these same pitchers did not do long toss? Since we know that arm strength is not a factor in producing velocity or for reducing the risk of injury, what would the lose by quitting the long toss? Could it be that these MLB pitchers would not see a drop in performance but might see improved performance? Unfortunately, this is never considered, even though it could easily help even MLB level players to improve.
We will not know that answer until it is studied.
I only hope to be around when pitchers finally realize that long toss is not benefiting their pitching. Their ability to maximize their performance and get hitters out more consistently can be improved by working smarter instead of working harder.