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The 100mph Fastball

Posted on 01-05-2016

One of the things I hear from parents on a very regular basis is that they are worried their son doesn’t throw hard enough to pitch.

The fallacy that you have to throw hard in order to pitch is something I would like to address.

There are many reasons why throwing hard is not a prerequisite for pitching in Little League and why it ranks very low on my list of important traits in a young pitcher.

The biggest reason why I think it makes no sense to worry about your son’s velocity is that there’s really nothing MAJOR that we can do to improve it. Of course, having correct arm and pitching mechanics will help maximize their potential velocity, but BY FAR, the biggest contributor to big increases in velocity over the next several years is going to be your son growing from a boy into a young man.

Any random 16 year old (including those who don’t even play baseball) will throw harder than the best 9 year old pitcher.

Why is this? Obviously, it’s because the 16 year old is bigger and stronger.

So, between Little League and High School, the single biggest reason your son will start throwing harder is his natural growth.

Does this mean growth alone is the only way to increase velocity? No. But it is absolutely the biggest.

Ways to increase velocity include:

1) Improved arm mechanics
2) Improved pitching mechanics
3) Long Toss
4) Weight lifting
5) Growing
6) Steroids

Of the above, #1 and #2 are absolutely a good use of time in Little League and should be the primary developmental focus.

#3 can be productive, but as long as the season is, as many games as the boys play, and the fact the all pitchers play other positions when they aren’t pitching, I don’t think a long toss program at a young age is a good idea for overall arm health.

#4 is absolutely a great way to increase velocity, but serious weight lifting and core strengthening shouldn’t begin until High School.

#5 will happen naturally.

#6 needs no discussion.

(Ok, I can’t help myself: if MLB truly wanted a 100% clean game, they would just make the punishment for a 1st steroid offense a lifetime ban. It worked with Pete Rose to guarantee that not a single MLB bets would ever bet on baseball and there’s no reason to believe it wouldn’t work for steroids. When Dee Gordon – the latest violator – returns from his 80 game suspension, his $50M contract will be waiting for him. The earning potential still FAR outweighs the risk in getting caught. If Dee knew the punishment for getting caught taking steroids was an immediate and permanent lifetime ban from baseball, do you think he still would have juiced? Not a chance).

Ok, I feel better now, thanks.

Back to our original topic.

Improved arm and pitching mechanics at a young age can definitely increase velocity – but only by a few MPHs. A 9 year old kid throwing 40 MPH with bad mechanics might very well throw 45 with better mechanics. But that same kid will throw 70 MPH when he’s 16 by literally doing nothing other than growing.

In my 15 years doing private instruction, I have never had a 9 year old throwing 40 MPH all of a sudden start throwing 65 MPH…and I never well.

However, when I go watch my former students pitch after they’ve grown up (one of them is now hitting 92mph on the radar gun at Pepperdine!), I see a huge increase in velocity. 20 year old body vs 9 year old body.

All of that said, what is the only TRUE prerequisite for getting time on the mound? The ability to throw strikes!

This is true at all levels of the game.

One of my Dominican teammates with the Tigers could literally throw a baseball 100mph. In fact, according to my teammates who played with him for years after I was released, there was one stretch of 13 or so consecutive game pitches where hit hit 100mph or more on the radar gun.

So why wasn’t he sent straight to The Show?

You guessed it; he couldn’t command his pitches (aka throw strikes consistently). Possibly the best single best fastball on planet earth remained in the Minor leagues until he learned to tone it down a little, throw in the mid-90s, and execute his pitches.

And once he did that where did he end up? Yup. The Show.

If had my own team, I would build my pitching staff around who throws the most strikes, not around who throws the hardest.

Now if you have a kid who can throw hard AND throw strikes, then awesome, nice job during the draft!

But if I had to choose either the ability to throw hard or the ability to throw strikes, I choose strikes every single time.

Let’s teach our boys how to pound the strike zone with fastballs and worry about their velocity after they’ve hit their big growth spurt and start turning into men.

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