So I happened to catch some of a Rays/Yankees game a couple weeks ago, and it was my first glimpse of a rising young star… Chris Archer. He pitched a 2 hit shutout.
Have you seen this guy pitch yet?
I had to do a double take. His motion is slow, smooth, almost effortless… but then the ball just explodes out of his hand. The thing that really struck me was his stride – he hardly seemed to be striding at all. And then BAM!!! 96 MPH…
And for a lot of us who spend time analyzing mechanics and working to help young pitchers maximize velocity, some of the things we tend to focus on (because you see it a lot among hard throwers) are good tempo, momentum, and all the things that usually lead to a long, powerful stride.
[h5]So it really got me thinking, “How is this guy throwing so hard?”[/h5]
To give you an idea, here’s the only really good sample I was able to get of his delivery. Unfortunately it’s from his warm-up pitches last year, so not totally max effort. But while he definitely gets more momentum and power in the game, based on what I saw the other night, it’s not dramatically different.
And here are a couple of photos from game action – not a long stride, by any measure.
But, what’s also clear is that he’s obviously doing enough things well to generate a lot of power and whip in his delivery.
Take a look at his torque or hip to shoulder separation. Notice his front knee action in the video above and at pitch release in the photo. Take a look at that intense facial expression – no doubt Archer understands training with the intent to throw hard.
Are there benefits to a longer stride? Sure. One of them is the idea of greater perceived velocity. The ball gets on the hitter quicker (it’s said that every foot closer you release the ball to home plate equals 3 MPH in terms of a hitter’s reaction time).
But with his easy delivery (akin to the great Mariano Rivera) Archer almost lulls the batter to sleep, causing the ball to jump on the hitter with equal effect. And it really highlights something I’ve talked about before. When it comes to velocity, it’s not all about a longer stride: Why a Longer Stride Isn’t Always the Answer
Might Archer be leaving a couple MPH’s in the tank by not getting more momentum towards home plate? Possibly, but 97 isn’t too shabby…
And you also have to consider other factors:
[list_item]Maybe he doesn’t have the mobility or flexibility needed for a longer stride.[/list_item]
[list_item]Maybe he’d wind up overstriding and losing some of that great rotational power and whip.[/list_item]
[list_item]Maybe if he sped up he’d get out of sync and lose command of his pitches.[/list_item]
[list_item]Maybe a longer stride would make it tough to finish off his breaking ball.[/list_item]
[h5]Every pitcher is different. Everyone has their own strengths and weakness[/h5]
It’s why I like to focus on helping pitchers develop a solid foundation for a good pitching delivery rather than adhering to set of “pitching mechanics.” That way they can work on the important things like Balance, Timing and Power and develop their own style around that.
Here’s another look… An “easy” 97 MPH…
PS – When it comes to managing your stride, one of the things to consider is how it affects your curveball. Shortening up a little with your stride can help you get over your front leg and avoid the dreaded “hanging curve.”
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