Home Baseball Content Increasing Pitching Velocity: What Stride Length Means and How to Improve It – Part 1

Increasing Pitching Velocity: What Stride Length Means and How to Improve It – Part 1

Written on February 14, 2012 at 8:01 am, by Eric Cressey

Ask almost any pitcher, and he’d tell you that he’d love to increase his stride length on the mound in hopes of increasing pitching velocity.  And, this is certainly an association that has been verified by both anecdotal and research evidence for years.  Look back to the best pitchers of former generations, and they figured this out even without the benefit of radar guns.

On the anecdotal side of things, hitters often comment on how pitches “get on them faster” with a guy who strides further down the mound.  This is a no brainer: a pitcher who releases the ball closer to the plate has a competitive advantage.  That’s perceived pitching velocity.  However, what about actual velocity – meaning what the radar gun says?

The truth is that it’s somewhat tricky to prove specifically that a longer stride directly equates to better actual velocity, as it really depends on how the pitcher gets to that point.  You see, a pitcher can effectively delay his weight shift to create better “separation;” in fact, keeping the head behind the hips longer correlates highly with pitching velocity.  This separation is the name of the game – and he’d throw harder.

Or, that same pitcher could simply jump out – letting his body weight leak forward prematurely – and completely rob himself of separation and, in turn, velocity.  So, that’s the first asterisk to keep in mind: it’s not just where you stride, but also how you stride there.

Additionally, in that second scenario, this modification may cause a pitcher to shift his weight forward excessively and wind up landing too much on his toes.  While the point on the foot at which the weight should be centered is certainly a point of debate among pitching coaches, it’s safe to say that they all agree that you shouldn’t be tip-toeing down the mound!

Lastly, even if the weight shift is delayed perfectly, a pitcher still has to time up the rest of his delivery – when the ball comes out of the glove, how high the leg kick is, etc – to match up with it in “slightly” new mechanics.  These adjustments can take time, so the velocity improvements with a long stride may not come right away because other factors are influenced.

Of course, keep in mind that not every hard thrower has a huge stride.  Justin Verlander doesn’t get too far down the mound, but he’s still done okay for himself!  Verlander seems to make up the difference with a ridiculously quick arm, great downward plane at ball release, and outstanding hip rotation power.  There’s no sense screwing with someone who is a reigning Cy Young and MVP – and has two career no-hitters under his belt.  However, YOU have to find what works best for YOU.

So, without even getting to my list, you can say that mechanical proficiency is the #1 factor that influences whether a long stride will improve your pitching velocity.  Dial in what needs to be dialed in, and it could work wonders for you – if your body is prepared.

To that end, in part 2 of this series, I’ll outline five physical factors that will help you improve your stride length and increase pitching velocity.

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6 Responses to “Increasing Pitching Velocity: What Stride Length Means and How to Improve It – Part 1”

  1. Stephen Thomas, PhD, ATC Says:

    Eric nice post! I think the best example of this is Tim Lincecum. He has a very long stride length and exceptional velocity for his size. I often described the long stride length as creating elastic energy in the lower extremity and hips like rubber bands that will increase rotational velocity of the trunk and shoulder when timed properly.

    The one thing I would be caution about is altering a pitchers throwing mechanics just to try and increase velocity. If these mechanics changes occur naturally with increased mobility or strengthening that is one thing but to attempt to change throwing mechanics that are well established in a player can be problematic. There have been stories of world class runners that had their running mechanics assessed and found that they were very inefficient runners. When attempted to improve the way they ran to become even better they developed several lower extremity injuries. Just something to think about!

  2. Derek Claussen Says:

    Eric, article hits home for me as I try to concentrate on several of these concepts during workouts with my clients. We have found much success in doing monster walks in both the sagittal and frontal planes followed by long stride cariocas and short stride cariocas where the focus is on hip and shoulder separation as well as quick hips. My pitchers also see a improvement in their bat speeds. I tend to phrase it as delaying the shoulder rotation, as part of sequencing, that gives them that added separation. Great article. I can’t get enough of these articles.

  3. Dave Coggin Says:

    Great stuff, after working as Tom House’s assistant after I retired, I was convinced longer stride always = harder fastball. But, I would say it is only true if the athlete can handle the demand it places on the body to stop momentum and transfer energy. Many of my tall young pitchers are more effective striding shorter, because it gets them to “stick” there landing quicker and transfer power and control. They hold there body wieght better which allows them to repeat delivery after they land. once their strength catches up with their quickier than usually growth, they can start to extend their stride. Bottom line……hit the wieght room more and be better at getting and stopping momentum.

  4. thomas luce Says:

    What should be the % of drag on the back leg compared to stride? I coach younger kids and try to eliminate any negative movements (drag) which in turn will lessen the stride, I get more accuracy from my players now should I incorporate longer strides? What’s acceptable drag length? Thank you

  5. Andrew Says:

    Can’t wait for part 2!

  6. Mike Says:

    “However, YOU have to find what works best for YOU.”

    THAT is some of the best advice players need to listen to and believe in and coaches need to create an environment for facilitating versus stuffing their own personal dogmas down each of their players’ throats.

    I hope people don’t scan over that line too quickly!

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