PDA

View Full Version : Understanding Pitcher Fatigue



Homer Bailey
07-14-2010, 11:22 AM
As a former baseball player, there are a lot of things about the game that I understand thanks to my time playing the game that I wouldn't have knowledge of had I not played. However, one thing that I do not understand is pitcher fatigue. Let me explain.

I never pitched until 13 year olds, when our team was down to our last pitcher in the regional championship game. I was messing around before the game, and throwing some submarine pitches. My coach saw me, I ended up pitching the last 4 innings of the game, and the rest was history. I pitched that way throughout my high school career, and probably majorly screwed up my arm in the process. This is why I think my perspective on pitcher fatigue is not accurate. After an inning or two of pitching, my arm would hurt pretty much all over. I could never really pitch more than 4 innings in a game.

That is why, for the life of me, I can not understand how professional pitchers can throw the ball 95+ MPH on their 120th pitch of a ballgame. I understand that they obviously condition their arms to handle that type of stress, but it is still just amazing to me. How Roy Halladay can pitch in the All-Star game on 2 days rest is also mind-boggling.

This leads me to my ultimate question. When a pitcher comes out of a game due to "fatigue", is it overall body fatigue that forces them out of a game, or is it that they finally get to the point where their arm starts to hurt? After pitching, my arm would be sore for at least 2 or 3 days after that outing. Do major league pitchers not experience the same soreness?

I remember attending a Reds game back in '07 or '08 and sitting right by the Reds bullpen on a day when Volquez was starting. I was blown away by how many warm-up pitches Volquez threw before a start. My arm would have been ready to fall off after pumping 90+ MPH pitches, and this was just warmups! This lead me to wonder how many times a pitcher actually throws the ball on days that he starts. I would guess between pre-game warmups, long toss, pre-inning warm ups, and actual pitches, it's gotta be over 200 times. I realize that game pitches and warm-up pitches require different amounts of effort and energy, but do fans/players/managers vastly overrate the magic pitch count "rules"? If Mike Leake throws 130 pitches, is his arm going to be more sore the next day? Or is it body fatigue? Like I said, I have no perspective on this, because I'm pretty sure my arm is torn to shreds.

I've introduced a ton of questions in this thread. Any insight that any of you have on any of them would be appreciated.

kaldaniels
07-14-2010, 11:28 AM
Not being a MLB player I've always just assumed it was a tired arm...although on a hot day it certainly could be the entire body.

How do they do it. In my opinion 2 things.

1) They are blessed. Think about it. These are the top 500 guys or so out of say, 6,000,000,000 people. I think many are just freaks of nature, in a good way.

2) Years of building up arm strength for the others.

RedsManRick
07-14-2010, 11:34 AM
I pitched for just a few years, 11-13 year old. For me, my arm wouldn't get sore day of. It would just feel tired -- like your legs feel after a long bike ride. The next day it would be sore, 2 days our it would ache a bit, the third day was much less (just took a while to get it loose) and the 4th day I felt fine.

I was not a hard thrower by any means, even by that age's standards, and I had a 3/4 delivery. The first year I pitched, the only way I could throw accurately was to pretend like I was fielding a ball at short. So I ended up with a funky delivery where I'd keep my hand and glove together and loop them down below my waist, bend my knees quite a bit, and then bring my arm all the way around. If kids were allowed to steal on me, it would've been a disaster.

To your question, I think conditioning is the #1 thing. As general athletes, their body's are honed towards quick recovery. But as pitchers, they really build up their arms to handle the sort of workload pitch takes.

I've also found that there's a sort inverse exponential relationship between how hard I tried to throw and how quickly I got tired. If I went all out, I'd be gassed after 15 pitches. If I went 90%, I could go 30-40. At 75% or so, I could throw 60. Some of that was probably my bad mechanics, but I think there's something to be said for not throwing at max effort.

Hoosier Red
07-14-2010, 11:39 AM
Not being a MLB player I've always just assumed it was a tired arm...although on a hot day it certainly could be the entire body.



I think fatigue is a word meaning a lot of different things. Because if you're pitching correctly, you're using your whole body, the whole body will eventually get tired.
But even getting tired isn't really the issue. The issue is that when your body gets tired, you stop doing the repeatable mechanics you've been coached to do. All of a sudden your stride may be shorter, or you can't turn as far back on a wind up, or 100 other things that since I'm not a pitcher I don't even know.

Then, you either a) start missing location because all of these 100 things throw off your release point by 1/2 a cm, or b)you start having to concentrate on one or two or ten different mechanical things so you can't actually focus on where you want to put the ball.

This happens in golf all the time, by the 18th hole, you feel tired, so you don't bend your knees as far on a chip shot, or if you do remember to bend your knees further, you're focusing on that, and not where you want the ball to go so you flub a chip.

bucksfan2
07-14-2010, 11:41 AM
First of all I agree with kal in that pitchers more than often are freaks of nature. How can a guy like Johnny Cueto throw the ball so fast when he is smallish is stature? When you get to the major leagues you are talking about a select few players who are supreme athletes in the first place. Then you just have God given gifts that pitchers have that ordinary people don't.

As in fatigue it is overall body fatigue. Pitchers run, they build up their leg strength, there really isn't much you can do to your arm in general to increase velocity and arm strength. I may be wrong but most of your arm strength comes from your joints, which is very difficult to strengthen. You also don't want to become too bulky in those areas because it may impede your delivery.

Most of the time I interpret fatigue to being tired or exhausted. It isn't necessarily your arm that is fatigued rather your entire body. You are zapped of energy and in order to make up from that you begin to press. You begin to try to make up for your energy by trying to throw harder. Most of the time when you do this your mechanics suffer. A starting pitcher will throw 80, 90, 100, 110 high effort pitches over the course of a start. That is a lot of energy used up there.

westofyou
07-14-2010, 11:54 AM
Guys with big butts/trunks are the horses, they tend to use the legs to carry their body through the mound, hence why so many pitching coaches (save Johnny Sain junkballer) like to make pitchers run. The fatigue factor will differ by body type and the move away from healthy mechanics might be perceived as being part of the fatigue factor and the leash might be shorter for the guys whose arms take more of beating when they stray from their mechanics. I don't think there is a blueprint for fatigue with hurlers that one can see without watching almost everyone of the guys pitches

Brutus
07-14-2010, 12:07 PM
Guys with big butts/trunks are the horses, they tend to use the legs to carry their body through the mound, hence why so many pitching coaches (save Johnny Sain junkballer) like to make pitchers run. The fatigue factor will differ by body type and the move away from healthy mechanics might be perceived as being part of the fatigue factor and the leash might be shorter for the guys whose arms take more of beating when they stray from their mechanics. I don't think there is a blueprint for fatigue with hurlers that one can see without watching almost everyone of the guys pitches

My pitching coach in high school once told me, "kids tend to pitch with their arms, professionals pitch with their legs."

I do believe this is a big deal. That's not to say that if you work hard on getting push with your legs you can't hurt your arm, but you most definitely minimize the stress/fatigue on your elbows and shoulders.

I pitched (ineffectively mind you) a ton in high school. I probably was overworked. I was one of the only guys on our team that constantly threw strikes, so I was used a lot despite a slow, looping curveball and a pedestrian fastball that I felt my grandmother could outrun. I did have a good circle change that got a lot of movement, but it most certainly wasn't a devastating difference in speed from my FB.

Point is, I threw an awful lot and my arm never got tired. When I say a lot, I mean it wasn't uncommon to start twice or three times a week and the first two starts I'd often pitch 5, 6 or even all 7 innings. I got tired once in a while, but never really became "sore" the next day.

My mechanics, despite not starting to pitch until I was 14 years old, were pretty good. Still, I attribute most of it to simply being able to handle the wear and tear. Obviously that's not to say this is remotely comparable to pitching over 200 innings at the Major League level, but I think it shows relative to my peers, I was able to handle more pitching than many -- an indication that pitch counts and charted innings can sometimes be overrated.

RedsManRick
07-14-2010, 12:36 PM
Roger Clemens was famous for pitching with his legs. The guy had tree trunks for thighs. When he pitched, you could see the power coming from that drive on his back leg.

TheNext44
07-14-2010, 02:24 PM
It's all in the legs, not the arm. The secret is in the length of your stride. Lincecum's stride is almost twice as long as other pitcher's, one of the main purposes of his funky delivery. Maddux, Clemens had big strides too.

But the one that sticks out in my mind was Seaver's. He used to wear out a hole in the right knee of his pants with every start.

http://www.jimmyscottshighandtight.com/files/Tom_Seaver.jpg

Homer Bailey
07-14-2010, 02:32 PM
^^

That's a crazy picture.

Redmachine2003
07-14-2010, 02:42 PM
Mechanics are the big thing like everyone has said but also learning to relax and take the tension out of it. Being stiff and rigid will wear you out in a hurry and make you very sore.

Spitball
07-14-2010, 10:23 PM
It's all in the legs, not the arm. The secret is in the length of your stride. Lincecum's stride is almost twice as long as other pitcher's, one of the main purposes of his funky delivery. Maddux, Clemens had big strides too.

But the one that sticks out in my mind was Seaver's. He used to wear out a hole in the right knee of his pants with every start.

http://www.jimmyscottshighandtight.com/files/Tom_Seaver.jpg

Seaver was a drop-and-drive pitcher, and that style is not as popular as it once was. Back in the '70s and early '80s (and surely before), there were a lot of rotator cuff injuries to those drop-and-drive pitchers because their arms were going forward after the body's explosive drive. They were not using their arms with their bodies. The drop-and-drive is extremely stressful on the rotator cuff and back shoulder muscles (see drop-and-driver Jake Peavy).

Compare Travis Wood's mechanics to drop-and-driver Tom Seaver. Wood rotates his core body muscles with his arm over a stiff front leg. Seaver is pushing powerfully forward and then launching at the end of the thrust. Wood doesn't throw as hard but is obviously exerting far less drive and stress.

Wood video:

http://redlegsbaseball.blogspot.com/2010/04/2010-top-prospect-list-4-travis-wood.html

Seaver video:

http://www.pitchingclips.com/players/tom_seaver.htm

TheNext44
07-14-2010, 10:37 PM
Seaver was a drop-and-drive pitcher, and that style is not as popular as it once was. Back in the '70s and early '80s (and surely before), there were a lot of rotator cuff injuries to those drop-and-drive pitchers because their arms were going forward after the body's explosive drive. They were not using their arms with their bodies. The drop-and-drive is extremely stressful on the rotator cuff and back shoulder muscles (see drop-and-driver Jake Peavy).

Compare Travis Wood's mechanics to drop-and-driver Tom Seaver. Wood rotates his core body muscles with his arm over a stiff front leg. Seaver is pushing powerfully forward and then launching at the end of the thrust. Wood throws hard but is obviously exerting far less drive and stress.

Wood video:

http://redlegsbaseball.blogspot.com/2010/04/2010-top-prospect-list-4-travis-wood.html

Seaver video:

http://www.pitchingclips.com/players/tom_seaver.htm

Good Stuff. Thanks!