As with most things, there are varying opinions on what makes a successful pitcher. The current generation of players and coaches seems to have a sort of tunnel vision when it comes to the topic of velocity. The trend in baseball now, when working on velocity, centers around the involvement of weighted balls. Personally, weighted balls aren't my first choice for velocity training, but in some cases, I can agree there can be benefits. If you are physically strong, have efficient movements through your delivery, and maybe a little lazy with your conditioning using weighted balls could gain you a few MPH on the radar gun.
However, and this is extremely important, using a weighted ball program, simply to add velocity to your pitching, will not make you a better pitcher. From my experience, throwing weighted balls tends to lead pitchers to throw up in the zone and/or create a higher risk of injuring your arm. Either one of those will have negative consequences on your pitching career.
What I do not like about these programs is that, after purchasing them, buyers receive no monitoring or coaching of their pitching mechanics. I believe it is irresponsible for companies to push weighted ball programs on a pitcher who may not understand what good pitching movements look like.
If you are looking to purchase weighted balls or have started one, there are a couple of questions to ask yourself:
- Are my mechanics efficient enough to start one?
- Has the program improved my overall pitching?
In most cases parents, players, and coaches are not able to answer. The only way to ensure the answers to those questions are positive is with a mechanics-monitoring program. Take the idea of lifting weights. If you have bad form completing a lift, adding weight puts more stress on the body and increases the chances of injury. That is why I am reaching out to all pitchers/throwers considering or already using a weighted ball program.
As part of an evaluation of your mechanics, I will assess your risk of injury, shed light on the deficiencies, and provide feedback towards fixing them before you add weight to your throws. At Baseball Rebellion we aim to utilize each players skill set in order to develop healthy, repeatable mechanics. Our program works on strengthening your body properly in order to create more support through your arm. Performance and arm health are promoted by utilizing proper, efficient mechanics.
In this video, Baseball Rebellion breaks down the pitching mechanics of 14-year-old Cyle Phelan. The clips are just one week apart and in the middle of a velocity development program. His pitching mechanics after throwing weighted balls changed significantly and was having trouble with his command. His intent to throw the ball hard is there, but his arm action suffers because of an inefficient follow through. In this video, you can see a major difference between the use of his core through the throw. Monitoring your mechanics in a velocity program is a way to keep your movements in check and stay healthy.
This is Cyle, April 5 2017, three weeks after the video of his in the yellow shirt. In addition to weighted balls, he is also getting stronger by lifting weights and conditioning. A well-rounded velocity development program, like Cyle's, should not just consist of throwing weighted balls. It needs to be a balanced mixture of strong, efficient movements, physical and mental conditioning, and a mechanics monitoring system put in place in order to develop and keep an effective and healthy delivery.
Velocity is important, you must be able to throw hard to play at higher levels. This monitoring program will not only check in on your movements but will also create a progression of movements to help hone your mechanics efficiently. Learning how to translate energy through the chain of your movements, while monitoring your mechanics.
"Dave, if you hadn't pointed out Cyle's arm position had changed at foot strike we never would have known why his location was so off. With your help we got that corrected and through your video analysis of Cyle's weighted ball throws, we were able to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the velocity development program. Thank you for all you do, Cyle and I appreciate you and all your continued advise. He is starting to get it, and will be fun to see where this goes. We are in it for the long haul." - Curt P. (Father of Cyle)