Unanswered Questions on Long Toss and Pitching Improvement
There are many questions about the value of long toss for improving pitching performance, pitching velocity, arm strength, pitching mechanics or for reducing the risk of injury.
So many questions still remain to be answered but the main question is, is long toss a good training workout to help pitchers improve?
Pitching Mechanics and Arm Injury
I find the long toss discussion somewhat frustrating as there is no evidence-based information to verify its value.
But here are some more of my thoughts on the long toss issue.
The arm strength issue I believe is a very weak one as studies at the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) in Birmingham have shown that the non-throwing arm is just about as strong as the throwing arm. With all the long toss, if strength were an issue, then the throwing arm would be much stronger.
If arm strength was an issue then which arm strength muscles are stimulated while doing long toss that are not stimulated doing mound pitching?
But Several Other Questions Remain
1. Why would a pitcher, whose release point from the mound must be one of the most refined skills is all of sports, practice a release point they will never use from the mound to produce maximum velocity with control of all pitches thrown at varying speeds and differing release points?
The release point doing long toss has the pitcher’s throwing arm positioned behind the line of his trunk while his head and shoulders are positioned behind his landing knee. This is considered a very weak position for a pitcher to be in at ball release from the mound. I have never seen a professional pitcher in that ball release position from the mound.
Gaining This Highly Skilled “Feel” Of Each Pitch is a Daunting Task to Say the Least
It must be honed using high volumes of “game-like” pitches over thousands of practice bullpens sessions.
Why would a pitcher, especially a professional, put his most valuable asset, practice time, into a practice activity that will not help him become a more polished and skilled “professional glove hitter” as Brewer’s pitching coach Rick Peterson himself often refers to pro pitchers?
2. How does the arm get any more stretched out (if this is actually valuable) in long toss than it would using a maximum effort pitch from the mound?
3. How does the pitcher efficiently use his back leg and hip correctly to shift his weight properly into a long stride so that he completes back leg drive at the right time if he is practicing a shorter stride with less bracing action in order to throw a must longer distance? Long toss throws create a shorter stride length with less trunk flexion angle and less external shoulder rotation (arm lay back) than mound pitching.
All pitchers doing long toss at these distances (180 ft and more) will stride shorter than mound pitching with less bracing action because of the required backward tilt of the trunk to throw with an uphill trajectory.
4. How does a pitcher get the proper feel of landing on the front foot and leg as well as the correct timing of bracing action which is another sensation that must be honed and refined if they are not practicing this action from the mound?
5. Does the release velocity of each pitcher at these long distances equate equally to their release velocities from the mound? I doubt it very much since little is the same.
This means that spending time trying to produce more velocity doing long toss is futile at best.
I believe a study must be done where each pitcher’s mechanics must be compared doing both long toss and mound pitching at game intensities. This is the only way we will find whether long toss has any benefit.
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