Why Throwing Programs Increase Velocity
If you are in the baseball community you have heard it, “396 milliseconds. That’s how quick a pitched ball traveling at 100mph arrives in the catcher’s mitt, don’t blink (100-300 milliseconds) you might miss it.” The 100mph fastball (or harder) is baseball’s new coveted goal for amateur and professional athletes, and they are reaching it on a routine basis. With baseball firmly out of the steroid era, the question remains, how are pitchers gaining velocity? There are many contributing factors, better scouting, some might even go as far as to say genetics, nutrition, and everyone would agree on weight training. An aggressive movement in the game of baseball currently is the Throwing Program Culture. Throwing programs have gone from a pitching staff concept putting each pitcher into the same bucket, into more of an individualized approach.
What is a Throwing Program?
Before we dive deep into “throwing programs” and how programming could potentially be the leading factor driving MLBs Average Fastball Velocity higher and higher each year let’s talk about what a basic throwing program is. A “throwing program” is a broad term for a plan of organized throwing activities for an individual or a group of individuals to achieve their future goals. Those goals could be command, velocity, recovery, longevity, or delivery/movement-oriented. The “throwing programmer” or whoever writes the plan could be a coach, trainer, physical therapist, athlete or parents’ objective is to outline a period in which the athlete builds a solid throwing base, works on a specific goal, and then transfers training goals to competition goals. This road map, in conjunction with a strong commitment from an athlete's top stick to the throwing program with hard work, should allow for a change in velocity.
Most throwing programs that are individually tailored for Velocity have certain cross-training components between the weight room, the training room, and skill development on the field. In these environments’ velocity is known as a skill acquired through changing the athlete’s ability to move and developing more force on the baseball. For years pitching coaches have put players on the same throwing program, the same lifting program, the same conditioning routine, and the same pitching activities as if each player was cut like a cookie. The thought behind this has been that velocity is God-given and that it cannot be acquired. There have been many doubters to this philosophy as well as believers. As baseball evolved and fastballs have become faster and faster, a need to gain velocity has become a goal for professional organizations in the draft and has now moved to their player development departments.
The idea that throwing programs help create velocity comes from how they are built and how effectively the athlete can execute each activity. The throwing program regulates workload, measuring the throws made, adjusting the rate of perceived effort, the throwing program gives guidance to the athlete. Most modern throwing programs also have the holistic approach, where there is a strength phase to it, arm health, arm care phase to it, a technology phase, and a transition phase. “Phasing” and “Periodization” are key programming components utilized to help the athlete understand daily, weekly, monthly, and other time-oriented goals. For instance, there might be an “On-ramping” period where an athlete might be returning from an injury or off-season,” or a “blend to season” phase where all the goals are to get them to transition into their “In-season routine.”
Throwing Program Facilities
The modern throwing program culture has different elements, long toss, weighted balls, weight training, movement goals, and including high-end technology that you might expect to find in NASA or on Hollywood movie sets. Each element of the throwing program also has its own “Godfather” or “Guru.” Each of these “Gurus” works out of privately owned facilities promising big results from their individualized throwing programs. An originator of this idea is conceived Ron Wolfworth who owns and operates the Texas Baseball Ranch (Montgomery, TX), a facility credited with the amateur development of 2020 Cy Young winner, Trevor Bauer, as well as the revitalization of Scott Kazmir’s career in the mid-2010s. Ron and the Texas Baseball Ranch specialize in assessing what health and movement limitations an athlete might have and beings to immediately change each inefficiency in hopes this helps the athlete move through a proper sequence and maintain health. One of the most popular baseball development companies is DriveLine Baseball (Seattle, WA), which specializes in many different facts of player development but gained most of its notoriety through Twitter by creating content for amateur athletes and professional athletes hurling baseballs in hopes of throwing harder. One of Driveline’s founders has gone on to work for the Cincinnati Reds as a director of pitching development. DriveLine is known for using PlyoCare weighted baseballs, modern technology, and individualized programming to help each athlete reach their goals. One of the most modern training groups is the Florida Baseball Armory (Tampa, FL) owned and operated by Randy Sullivan, a licensed PT who first starts with a physical assessment and takes a health-based approach to velocity enhancement. Tread Athletics (Fort Mill, SC), owned and operated by Ben Brewster, is a strong company that works mostly through virtual lessons helping to get modern knowledge and training to athletes around the globe. Another man who has helped move the needle on baseball performance is Alan Jaegar, who has a long toss throwing program that pushes the athlete to throw the baseball as far as they can! This long toss throwing program is probably one of the most common throwing programs found from coast to coast, and also one of the most questioned.
In short, it appears throwing programs, the baseball pitching culture, social media, and social media influence are all driving forces in the rise of throwing velocity. The explosion of high-end throwers coming from all corners of the Earth is just a nod to Throwing Programs guiding players to better velocity. If your programmer is someone who has a process that follows tenants laid out by the best throwing gurus, and your athlete has a tenacity for work ethic, then you should begin to see velocity gains. If your athlete doesn’t work hard and doesn’t follow the road map off of the couch, then the throwing program becomes nothing more than a piece of paper or app on your phone.