Home Blog Throwing Programs: The Top 4 Long Toss Mistakes

Throwing Programs: The Top 4 Long Toss Mistakes

Written on December 13, 2010 at 10:00 pm, by Eric Cressey

In part 1, I made the case for long toss as an effective addition to a throwing program.  Today, we answer the question, “Why don’t some pitchers respond well to long toss?”  Let’s look at the top four reasons why someone may not be approaching long toss optimally.

1. They structure it incorrectly.

By far, the biggest mistake I see from pitchers when they’re long tossing is that they don’t utilize compression/pull-down throws at the end of the session.  These throws teach the pitcher to get on top of the ball and bring the release point down to where it should be with pitching – but they do all this with the increased arm speed you get from long tossing.  Effectively, you use compression throws to transition from your longest throwing distance to a flat ground session (this is a practice you’ll see from a LOT of MLB starting pitchers in pre-game warm-ups before they ever step foot on a mound).

Typically, our guys use a compression throw every 45-60 feet on the way back in (it almost amounts to a brisk walk back in).  So, if a pitcher went out to 300 feet with his long toss, he’d take compression throws at about 250, 200, 150, 100, and 60 feet.  I joke with guys that the last throw at 60 feet should pretty much scare the crap out of their throwing partners.  If you’ve seen Trevor Bauer crow-hopping downthe mound for his last warm-up pitch prior to every inning, you know what I mean.  Not surprisingly, Bauer is an Alan Jaeger/Ron Wolforth long toss disciple.  Here’s what Baseball America had to say about it: “[Bauer] starts behind the rubber, runs over the mound and throws as hard as he can to the plate, from about 54 feet. I’ve heard reports that those throws have registered 100 mph…”

Some guys – particularly those with a history of control issues and the guys who are trying to tinker with their mechanics – are wise to go into a brief flat-ground (or regular) bullpen right after these compression throws.  It’s a good chance to transfer the arm speed and athleticism of long toss into a little more of a sport-specific action.  I’ve also seen quite a few pitchers who have improved their change-ups considerably by long tossing for part of the session with their change-up grip, and then integrating it into one of these post-long-toss flat ground or bullpen sessions.  It helps with keeping the arm speed up in pitchers who tend to slow down the arm for change-ups.

2. They become good throwers and not good pitchers.

I’ll be straightforward with this one.

If you can long toss 350 feet, but pitch at 80-82mph, you can definitely stand to cut back a bit on your long tossing to spend more time focusing on mound work to sync things up and use that general motor potential to your advantage.

If you can long toss 350 feet, but have a 1:6 strikeout:walk ratio and have pitches hitting the backstop, you can definitely stand to cut back a bit on your long tossing to spend more time focusing on mound work to sync things up and actually throw strikes.

If you can long toss 350 feet, but are getting shelled because you just throw a very straight 93mph and don’t have any secondary pitches, you can definitely stand to cut back a bit on your long tossing to spend more time focusing on mound work to sync things up and learn some other pitches.  The average fastball velocity is higher in low-A than it is in the big leagues, you know…

3. They think long toss covers all their needs.

There are a ton of different factors that contribute to pitching success and longevity.  Once you can throw a ball a long way, there is a tendency to think that you’ve done what you need to be successful, but in reality, there are a lot more things to address to prepare your body and long toss is still pretty specific, in the grand scheme of things.  As is often the case, the greatest benefits are usually derived from doing the things that you don’t do particularly well (yet).  Bartolo Colon, for instance, might be able to long toss 330 feet, but he might have a heart attack on the light jog to the outfield to partake in that long tossing session.

4. They don’t long toss on a straight line.

It seems like a no-brainer, but you should throw on a straight line.  If the guy 250 feet away is 20-feet to the left of “center,” you’re teaching yourself to either stay closed or fly open with your delivery.  Stand on the foul line or line yourself up between foul poles, if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to “get aligned.”

As you probably appreciate now, while long toss is usually a tremendously valuable inclusion in most throwing programs, it isn’t a perfect fit for everyone – and that’s why each unique case must be considered individually.

Don’t forget that long toss guru Alan Jaeger has put his popular Thrive on Throwing DVD on sale for 25% off for my readers for a limited time only.  Click here to learn more.

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  • Eric,

    What are your thoughts on frequency with throwing?

    When I was in the DR I couldn’t believe how often the kids there throw. All day, almost everyday. They never went down with elbow or shoulder pain, and the majority threw with great velocity.

    If you were to compare throwing strength to some kind of gym derived strength what would it be, if any? What about gaining endurance on the mound, to something we do to gain general endurance.

    I.E. Speed Work to Max Effort Increase as Compression throws is to Mound Effort? Sled Work is GPP increase as long toss is to increase of throwing endurance?

  • Tim

    Eric, I don’t know if your going to do a part 3 but another important factor for proper long toss would be the rate at which you stretch out to max distance. As Alan Jaeger explains it take your arm on a walk, and allow time for it to wake up. I have found that if players move out too fast they will have a bad experience with long toss.

    Also, maintaining an accuracy measurement (try to keep the player catching the ball from taking more then one step to the right or left) like Ron W. does helps prevents all the flying open and arm lagging behind issues.

    For those players that throw it 320ft and only throw 80-82, they can use the blending model where once the player reaches max distance, have them step on a portable mound and throw 3-4 throws 60’6 to a catcher or target, then let them step back out and work to max and repeat to get the feel of letting it go to blend to their delivery. Ron’s work is awesome!

    Great topic Eric, Thanks for all your work, Ever sense you spoke at the EPCBC in Houston, the past two years; Its been an awesome ride of information. Thanks!

    Tim Campos
    Gallup, NM

  • Tim

    Eric, I don\’t know if your going to do a part 3 but another important factor for proper long toss would be the rate at which you stretch out to max distance. As Alan Jaeger explains it take your arm on a walk, and allow time for it to wake up. I have found that if players move out too fast they will have a bad experience with long toss.

    Also, maintaining an accuracy measurement (try to keep the player catching the ball from taking more then one step to the right or left) like Ron W. does helps prevents all the flying open and arm lagging behind issues.

    For those players that throw it 320ft and only throw 80-82, they can use the blending model where once the player reaches max distance, have them step on a portable mound and throw 3-4 throws 60\’6 to a catcher or target, then let them step back out and work to max and repeat to get the feel of letting it go to blend to their delivery. Ron\’s work is awesome!

    Great topic Eric, Thanks for all your work, Ever sense you spoke at the EPCBC in Houston, the past two years; Its been an awesome ride of information. Thanks!

    Tim Campos
    Gallup, NM

  • Jeff

    Hello

    Can you describe or porvide a link to describe compression throws?

  • Michelle

    Eric,
    I have a pitcher who just stopped pitching November 1. When would it be appropriate for him to start long tossing?

  • Larry

    Eric – Great article. What is the difference between a long toss throw and a compression/pull down throw?

  • Ryan

    i fall under number 2 i was a thrower. i was an outfielder who always wanted to pitch, coach always brushed it aside though because i was a pretty good outfielder and had back problems he didn’t want to risk my health with pitching. i love throwing the ball, it’s like an obssesion. i could toss upwards of 350 ft on a good day but probably only topped off around 85 mph. i never really was told of programs though. i made my own loss toss workout. the pull down phase to me is a no brainer. there’s nothing like the feeling of coming into 60 ft after throwing over 300 ft. the way i would play was to throw it on the line to start then add arc to get the feel for distance then on good days i could put it on a line on the long ones.sorry to blab just saw this post and it really apprealed to me.
    i haven’t tossed much since fall ball for college when i had to quit because of school.i feel right now that a piece of me is missing because i haven’t tossed in a while. last time i threw in a gym around christmas, it felt good, but tired quickly. do you think i can gain back my original strength if i start tossing again regularly and working out my core,legs, and butt. what i mean by regulary is 5 days a week.

    Ryan
    Detoit,MI

  • Lin

    Would it hurt a sidearm pitcher to throw long toss?

  • Lin,

    Depends on the guy. Some sidearm pitchers with whom I’ve worked like to long toss (from a higher arm angle), and then do their pull-down throws up closer from the sidearm set-up. Others like to keep it at 120 feet or less. It’s really and individual thing, and I think it depends a lot on how long some pitchers have used the sidearm approach. The longer it’s been, the more they can get away with it.

  • Eric I agree with both articles on the long toss program. Great Job.

  • Bobbie

    What is the argument for an arch in long toss. My son’s high school pitching coach is completely against throwing with an arch.

  • Bobbie,

    Concerns about inconsistent release point, I’d imagine.


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