Updating the Windup vs. Stretch debate

There are a number of posts on the issue of pitching from the stretch vs the windup, but the last significant one I found was from 2014.  So I wanted to see if folks know of any new data or have a sense that the thinking on this subject has changed.  (My weak HSBaseball Web search skills are well documented.  So if there is a 2-day old thread on this topic, just let me know and I will go away...)

My son has pitched exclusively from the stretch since he started pitching at 9 years old. This is what I taught him (and what I taught all the little leaguers I coached, unless they had already learned another delivery), because it is (IMO) simple and easy to repeat, even when holding runners is not an issue. 

Son is now a 2020 HS student and occasionally a coach has tried to get him to work from a windup because coach believes this will improve his velo. This is not because of any flaw in son’s mechanics, but just because coach thinks a windup=faster pitches.  (Fortunately this is not an issue for son currently.)  Son has tried a windup for these coaches (with less-than-complete commitment), but never felt comfortable and never used it In games  

I know of two serious studies on this issue. One was biomechanical:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17986632

The other is statistical:  https://www.fangraphs.com/tht/...cher-fastball-speed/

I haven’t found any empirical evidence supporting the “windups are inherently faster” position. At most, some folks suggest that some pitchers are more comfortable with that delivery (and usually practice it more), and so are more effective throwing that way  

Is there any reason to introduce a completely new delivery for a successful 16 y.o. pitcher just because a coach thinks a windup improves velo?  Every P needs to learn a stretch at some point to hold runners, but is there any need to add a windup?  Do college coaches share the pro-windup bias, and does my son need to change his delivery for them?  The pro-windup camp seems to be mostly old school guys—the types who might well be head coaches...

Original Post

My first question would be, is he an effective pitcher in the stretch? 2nd would be, if so...why change anything? My kid is primarily from the modified wind up/stretch...hips are at 45 as he is a reliever and he was primarily a wind up guy in HS. I believe college coaches try to get kids to go to stretch from wind up to reduce moving parts and clean up mechanics for more repeatability and accuracy.

1  - If your son is seen as a starter, then you're going to be sailing against the wind of accepted baseball knowledge (even if it's wrong) to try to convince seasoned baseball guys that a SP shouldn't pitch from the windup with the bases empty.  If you listen to our local future HOF MLB broadcasters, they are always talking about getting the opposing  pitcher into the stretch.

2 - 1 short ASMI study and 1 Fan Graphs piece are hardly definitive.

3 - There could be any number of other factors not covered in either piece. For example from a comment on the Fan Graphs article: "My take would be that it’s more tiring to pitch from the stretch. Essentially the pitcher has to do the same amount of work to accelerate the baseball in much less time. Hence more power (work/time) is needed. Physiologically, this is more taxing since a higher level of muscle recruitment is needed."

4 - Agree on only teaching LL pitchers one motion, and it's true that the stretch is simpler.   But a HS player is different. If he were my kid I'd encourage him to try working on the windup, though not use it in games for now.

 

(Just a fan/dad's opinion, not expert)

JCG posted:

1  - If your son is seen as a starter, then you're going to be sailing against the wind of accepted baseball knowledge (even if it's wrong) to try to convince seasoned baseball guys that a SP shouldn't pitch from the windup with the bases empty.  If you listen to our local future HOF MLB broadcasters, they are always talking about getting the opposing  pitcher into the stretch.

2 - 1 short ASMI study and 1 Fan Graphs piece are hardly definitive.

3 - There could be any number of other factors not covered in either piece. For example from a comment on the Fan Graphs article: "My take would be that it’s more tiring to pitch from the stretch. Essentially the pitcher has to do the same amount of work to accelerate the baseball in much less time. Hence more power (work/time) is needed. Physiologically, this is more taxing since a higher level of muscle recruitment is needed."

4 - Agree on only teaching LL pitchers one motion, and it's true that the stretch is simpler.   But a HS player is different. If he were my kid I'd encourage him to try working on the windup, though not use it in games for now.

 

(Just a fan/dad's opinion, not expert)

I worry you are right about 1). Which frustrates me.  Because as to 2), Fleisig knows as much about pitching biggest mechanics as anyone (although no one knows much definitively) and, as the old saying goes, you can’t beat something with nothing. I have never found any empirical data supporting the windup over the stretch. 

Point 3) seems counterintuitive to me.  Most windups I see have the pitcher initially moving backward or toward a corner base.  It always seemed to me that changing direction was wasted energy.  But that is pure guessswork on my part.  Again, the Fleisig study has the only actual data I have found.

Anyone know of other studies / data?  

Any pitcher I've ever seen has significantly higher velocity from the windup....but that  may be partly because of the guys I've seen 99% of the time there is a runner on base when they were in the stretch and they aren't trying to overthrow a FB for fear of throwing it away and letting the runner advance.   I can give you my son's velo from Sunday....first inning...first batter, 90, 92, 91, 92, 91.....nobody on base.   He was 90 or over on every fastball that inning...3 batters....no baserunners.    Next inning....gave up a lead off HR at 92.  Got a ground out on a curveball to the next kid......then a single.  With runner on 1st, he was 88-89.  Was it because of the stretch, a runner on base,  tiring a little, or a combination of all 3.... I don't know I guess.   I'm not sure he's ever thrown from the stetch with a gun on him and no runners on base.   Would be interesting to know.   I will say that his command is usually better from the windup....but that could be because when he was younger (HS) he didn't allow many baserunners so he's got  alot more experience throwing from the windup.

Chico Escuela posted:

...

My son has pitched exclusively from the stretch since he started pitching at 9 years old. ...

 

...

Is there any reason to introduce a completely new delivery for a successful 16 y.o. pitcher just because a coach thinks a windup improves velo?  ...  Do college coaches share the pro-windup bias, and does my son need to change his delivery for them?  The pro-windup camp seems to be mostly old school guys—the types who might well be head coaches...

I think you answered your own question.  Yes, it is still largely old school guys coaching at the college level and yes, it is still the prevailing thought process that a SP should be going from the wind with no runners.  I'd say get him comfortable or risk running into concerns during the recruiting process... warranted or not.

I am sure all schools are different.  PC at son's school (LSU) has no preference.  Our Saturday starter pitches purely from the stretch.  He was mainly a bullpen guy his first two years.  I remember him pitching out of the windup, but at some point last year he went strictly to the stretch all the time.  I can remember the TV guys specifically pointing this out.  I just think he feels it simplifies his motion.  Has zero affect on his velocity.  Our Friday night guy is sort of a modified windup / stretch motion.  Has a very small step.  My son is pretty similar to this.  He does throw from the windup, but has a very small step.  Not sure this helps you, but to Buckeye's point, I think each pitcher is different.  Like I said, the one starter we have that pitches exclusively from the stretch throws 92-94 which is where he was last year when pitching from the windup.

My son gets to see his velo so little that it's hard to make a judgement on whether there's a difference or not.  I'm basing most of my thoughts on what I see with my eyes....not so much what I see on a gun.  Very few of the teams he's played the past 3 years have velo on the scoreboard....and for whatever reason his PC doesn't believe in guns....they may have them to chart pitches in the fall games....but none all winter and none in  the Spring.  Last Sunday the team we played had velo on the scoreboard.  They will this weekend too.  I'll see if I can get a better idea on whether there's a difference from his windup to stretch velo

The keys to generating extra velo from the windup are:

#1: Keep your head / chin over the rubber as you rock back, preferably straight back as opposed to a side step. The only reason guys have moved to the side step is that it is easier to set your plant foot in the slot, however, often this results in shifting your weight at a 45 to the plate. Why would you do this? Answer, you would not if you want to generate momentum to the dish.

#2: Stay in line with the plate. This is common sense. If I am walking towards a direction am I going to take a step to a 45, then head towards my target? No, I am not, only in pitching (flawed mechanics) would this be a valid theory.

#3: There is no "balance point." This is poison to Velocity. Why would I generate momentum, stop, pause, then head to the plate? Answer, only if I wanted to toss softer than I really can.  You "collect" yourself at the top & then continue rolling towards home.

Look at old clips of Gibson, Ryan & Kofaux from the "full" & you will see it clear as day.

Aside from this approach, you should just stay in the stretch as there is no benefit to the full, only misdirection & more moving parts.

There is a trend within the MLB to go away from the windup. If you break down the mechanics of throwing a baseball hard there is no logical reason to have to throw from the windup. The primary reason for the decrease in velocity from the stretch (with runners on) comes from the "slide step" and shortening up the delivery time to the plate. Many of the hardest throwers in the MLB throw exclusively without a windup. 

My son converted to stretch only pitching his Sr year in college and threw harder than he ever had from the windup. 

Thought about this some more today while offline:  I guess I will advise my son to give a little thought/effort to a wind up, so that if a college coach is pro-windup, then Chico Jr. can honestly say “I have worked some on that, but I still feel more comfortable from the stretch.”

Since most starting Ps usually practice primarily from a windup (at least in my experience), I would expect many of them throw harder that way because it is more familiar.  And vice versa for relief Ps.  But I still think that even the old school guys don’t *really* believe a wind up is inherently better, despite what they say.  Don’t just about all MLB relievers pitch from the stretch even with no runners on? If MLB PCs truly believe a wind up is good for an extra mph or three or will deceive batters by hiding the ball, wouldn’t they insist relievers use it?  Maybe some relief Ps couldn’t learn to be effective from the wind up, but would teams (or players) really leave any extra velo on the table if it’s there for them?  I’m trying to imagine Mel Stottylmeyer telling Mariano Rivera, “Mo, you look pretty good out there, but let’s try a wind up.”  Not even when Rivera was a set-up man and only an aspiring closer.

It also occurs to me that when my son pitches with no runners on, he lifts his front foot about waist high.  With runners on, he uses a slide step.  So in effect, he’s using a sort of half-windup.  And I have never checked, but I expect he throws harder with the leg lift.  Which is contrary to my thesis that there is no difference... 

This is why I stopped giving him pitching advice when he was 11 years old...

There is nothing a pitcher does prior to leg lift that adds to the momentum being generated towards the plate. All of that movement that is not heading directly to the plate adds nothing to velocity.

Pitchers lose velocity because they change what they do post leg lift - not before.

Teach your pitcher to do everything the same way from leg lift on and their velocity will remain the same.

Obviously convincing a coach may be an uphill battle.

If I take a step back then return & jump as high as I can will this result in a higher jump than taking no step back, both feet remain planted & jump? The answer is yes.

The reason is you are creating elastic energy by putting the body in motion, even though it is lateral into a vertical jump. So......If I step back in the windup (properly in line with the plate) generate energy, then transfer it to the delivery, I will have more forward momentum, a more explosive stride & be able to generate more velocity.

Why does a golfer take a back swing? Why not just start from the top if there is no benefit. The answer is that there is benefit. You are putting the body on stretch & generating power that is transferred to the swing. Same with a baseball swing. Why not just start stride early & start from the launch point? Because you would have virtually zero pop.

Pitching tosses this concept all out the window & the reason is because it is a more complicated move & you may lose command. You also have a tendency to "rush" as opposed to control the move. So everyone goes to the stretch or rocker step because it is simple & you can still throw gas if you have efficient mechanics. However, there is more there for the taking if you can sort out a dynamic full delivery.  

Steve A. posted:

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However, there is more there for the taking if you can sort out a dynamic full delivery.  

Not trying to argue—I’m genuinely puzzzled and want to sort this: If a windup inherently equals faster pitches, why don’t most MLB relievers use it when they have no runners on? Most I have seen go from a stretch all the time. These are professionals at the highest level of the game: if they could throw 2 mph harder, you have to assume they would do it.  Maybe some just can’t put the moving parts together, but most of these guys were starters In their amateur pitching careers, so they likely have used a windup before. Starters use both windup and stretch in the same inning all the time, so moving from one to another isn’t the issue. Take closers: most of the time they start the 9th (or 8th now and then) with bases empty.  Why don’t all, or almost all, of them use a windup? It’s unusual to see ANY of them do so.

There seems (?) to be an increasing move by MLB starters to stretch-only, or at least to windups that are almost stretches. The interviews I have read cite simplifying the delivery to aid repetiton, sometimes pitchers claim that simplification may help avoid injury.  Maybe that trade off is worth a slight drop in velo for a guy already throwing 90+.  Maybe.  But then wouldn’t pitchers be more likely to go to a windup as they get older and their velo starts decreasing?  An extra couple of mph could mean another year or two of MLB pay for a marginal reliever.  

E.g., this article on Alex Wood: https://www.mlb.com/news/alex-...p-windup/c-267311348

Is it possible that this is a case where the theory says one thing (a windup ought to be faster), but in the real world there are so many confounding factors that most pitchers don’t see a meaningful benefit and should just go with what feels most natural?  (I still haven’t seen any empirical data supporting the windup.  What little evidence is out there says stretch vs windup doesn’t matter.)

Chico Escuela posted:

Not trying to argue—I’m genuinely puzzzled and want to sort this: If a windup inherently equals faster pitches...

Because it doesn't.

For some guys going from the stretch causes them to lose velocity - but those aren't the same thing.

If those guys did everything from leg lift the same way in both deliveries, the result would be the same. Usually they shorten their leg lift and stride and rush their delivery. It's the introduction of inefficiencies that causes the lack of velocity - not the delivery itself.

It's only after the leg lift begins that momentum used in delivering the ball is created. In both the windup and a properly done stretch the leg lift will be the same - what is done before that point doesn't matter. 

Look at these videos of Chapman to see what I mean - windup or stretch, everything from leg lift on is the same.

hsbaseball101 posted:

Some pitchers will throw better (faster, more accurate) from the windup because they practice that more.  We abandoned it this year because they only get to use it against the first batter of the inning. 

I will give it one more shot & then let it go. The answer as to why MLB does what it does with their pitchers is that when you get to MLB they are not going to "command" you to alter your routine. If you decide, as I did as a reliever, that the simplest thing to do was go 100% stretch, then you are not going to get much pushback, if any. It's about results. If the stretch simplifies mechanics & helps a guy get people out without a loss in velocity (largely because everyone has a horses*#t full windup), then 100% that will be the trend.

One last example to illustrate why " nothing matters before the leg lift" is incorrect. If I was pi##ed off & was going to slam a door, how would I do it most effectively? Would I pull it back, stop (arrest all forward momentum & elastic energy at top of leg lift) & then crank it shut? Or would this instead be one fluid motion of cranking that door back, stretching the core, arm, leg & back muscles, creating energy & slamming the door in one dynamic, fluid motion? Yes, this would shatter the hinges.

Just PLEASE go pull a Nolan video from the full windup & come back & tell me there is no energy generated, that translates to the delivery, before leg lift. This is all I ask & I am done.


Thanks  

Steve A., I respect that you said you’re done, but let me throw this out there:  I don’t think this is an issue of PCs “commanding” pitchers to change their deliveries.  Just looking at MLB relievers, it is clear that most do not use a windup, even with bases empty.  There is also no trend I can identify of relievers who are aging and losing velo switching to a windup to gain speed. Maybe Mariano Rivera never needed the extra mph from a wind; but what about all the marginal guys? To agree with you, don’t I have to conclude that the guys who are the best in the world at what they do, and who have access to the best coaches, don’t act on what seems obvious to you? No disrespect intended (and I am no pitching expert), but I can’t reconcile what I see in real life with your explanation.

 Nolan Ryan might be one of the best examples that what works for some won’t necessarily work for all.  The guy’s skill and longevity were incredible.  But even a really gifted P who copies Ryan’s delivery may not throw as hard as that P could using a different motion, and may end up injured. The more I read and study, the more mysterious pitching gets.  I’m reaching a point where I’m afraid to teach pitching to the 9-year-olds I coach, because I’m convinced I don’t know anything. 

Chico Escuela posted:

Steve A., I respect that you said you’re done, but let me throw this out there:  I don’t think this is an issue of PCs “commanding” pitchers to change their deliveries.  Just looking at MLB relievers, it is clear that most do not use a windup, even with bases empty.  There is also no trend I can identify of relievers who are aging and losing velo switching to a windup to gain speed. Maybe Mariano Rivera never needed the extra mph from a wind; but what about all the marginal guys? To agree with you, don’t I have to conclude that the guys who are the best in the world at what they do, and who have access to the best coaches, don’t act on what seems obvious to you? No disrespect intended (and I am no pitching expert), but I can’t reconcile what I see in real life with your explanation.

 Nolan Ryan might be one of the best examples that what works for some won’t necessarily work for all.  The guy’s skill and longevity were incredible.  But even a really gifted P who copies Ryan’s delivery may not throw as hard as that P could using a different motion, and may end up injured. The more I read and study, the more mysterious pitching gets.  I’m reaching a point where I’m afraid to teach pitching to the 9-year-olds I coach, because I’m convinced I don’t know anything. 

Ha! Too funny. Hey, you know more than you think & these kids should be grateful to have your help.

I actually think we agree. For me, as I stated the choice was stretch only as a reliever. Over 50% of the time you are coming in with guys on base so just simplify your life, learn one delivery & go with it. I thought Stephen Strausburg had a good full delivery but he canned it & went 100% stretch last year & was lights out.

My main point is that if I were teaching a youth pitcher, which I have many, I would get him 100% straight from the stretch before I even contemplated the full. Some kids & even Pro pitchers simply can never add anything by going full so why complicate things? Totally agree. But for those few who can pull it off, or learn it the right way at a young age, it is a benefit in rhythm & added velo if you have a full, dynamic, fluid, directional windup.

Again, this is just my 2c. Hell, who would have thought 10 years ago that we would be talking about Launch Angles & Second Basemen swinging like ferris wheels trying to hit 40 bombs a year with an entirely new hitting philosophy.

Steve A. posted:

I will give it one more shot & then let it go. The answer as to why MLB does what it does with their pitchers is that when you get to MLB they are not going to "command" you to alter your routine. If you decide, as I did as a reliever, that the simplest thing to do was go 100% stretch, then you are not going to get much pushback, if any. It's about results. If the stretch simplifies mechanics & helps a guy get people out without a loss in velocity (largely because everyone has a horses*#t full windup), then 100% that will be the trend.

One last example to illustrate why " nothing matters before the leg lift" is incorrect. If I was pi##ed off & was going to slam a door, how would I do it most effectively? Would I pull it back, stop (arrest all forward momentum & elastic energy at top of leg lift) & then crank it shut? Or would this instead be one fluid motion of cranking that door back, stretching the core, arm, leg & back muscles, creating energy & slamming the door in one dynamic, fluid motion? Yes, this would shatter the hinges.

Just PLEASE go pull a Nolan video from the full windup & come back & tell me there is no energy generated, that translates to the delivery, before leg lift. This is all I ask & I am done.


Thanks  

Okay,

You would pull the door back. That's loading the hips by lifting the leg. Does it matter if you do anything before pulling that door back? Take a step one way or the other, dance a Jig - it wouldn't matter.

I already posted video showing this exact point. You can't tell once the leg is lifted fully how it got there, and as far as the physics go - it doesn't matter. 

If a pitcher "needs" a full windup to get to a proper hip load - that's a matter of him needing to learn how to pitch properly from the stretch. You can do it either way - even Ryan did. Look at video of him in the stretch. Same big leg lift. Same engagement of the hips. Same torso separation.

Rob T posted:
Steve A. posted:

I will give it one more shot & then let it go. The answer as to why MLB does what it does with their pitchers is that when you get to MLB they are not going to "command" you to alter your routine. If you decide, as I did as a reliever, that the simplest thing to do was go 100% stretch, then you are not going to get much pushback, if any. It's about results. If the stretch simplifies mechanics & helps a guy get people out without a loss in velocity (largely because everyone has a horses*#t full windup), then 100% that will be the trend.

One last example to illustrate why " nothing matters before the leg lift" is incorrect. If I was pi##ed off & was going to slam a door, how would I do it most effectively? Would I pull it back, stop (arrest all forward momentum & elastic energy at top of leg lift) & then crank it shut? Or would this instead be one fluid motion of cranking that door back, stretching the core, arm, leg & back muscles, creating energy & slamming the door in one dynamic, fluid motion? Yes, this would shatter the hinges.

Just PLEASE go pull a Nolan video from the full windup & come back & tell me there is no energy generated, that translates to the delivery, before leg lift. This is all I ask & I am done.


Thanks  

Okay,

You would pull the door back. That's loading the hips by lifting the leg. Does it matter if you do anything before pulling that door back? Take a step one way or the other, dance a Jig - it wouldn't matter.

I already posted video showing this exact point. You can't tell once the leg is lifted fully how it got there, and as far as the physics go - it doesn't matter. 

If a pitcher "needs" a full windup to get to a proper hip load - that's a matter of him needing to learn how to pitch properly from the stretch. You can do it either way - even Ryan did. Look at video of him in the stretch. Same big leg lift. Same engagement of the hips. Same torso separation.

Ok, you win. I quit. Everyone did it wrong for the first 150 years. Ryan wasted his time in the full. Gibson, Koufax, Feller, Palmer, Seaver, Carlton, Clemens, all should have just gone from the stretch & let it fly. Except that they did not & ended up being among the greatest power pitchers of all time.

Steve A. posted:

Ok, you win. I quit. Everyone did it wrong for the first 150 years. Ryan wasted his time in the full. Gibson, Koufax, Feller, Palmer, Seaver, Carlton, Clemens, all should have just gone from the stretch & let it fly. Except that they did not & ended up being among the greatest power pitchers of all time.

Steve, this is exactly what has been wrong with the MLB... things were/are being done   just because "that's how we have always done it". This is dramatically changing now with smart analytical general managers now running teams, and people like Kyle Boddy up at Driveline, Alan Jaerger, and others questioning and asking "why" and looking for the "right" answer, not just what was done in the past.  All of those players were great in their time but can you imagine how good they would be if they had access to the data and high speed camera's and biotechnology available today. 

Here is just one small example:

 https://www.letsgotribe.com/20...be-changing-baseball

BOF posted: Steve, this is exactly what has been wrong with the MLB... things were/are being done   just because "that's how we have always done it". This is dramatically changing now with smart analytical general managers now running teams, and people like Kyle Boddy up at Driveline, Alan Jaerger, and others questioning and asking "why" and looking for the "right" answer, not just what was done in the past.  All of those players were great in their time but can you imagine how good they would be if they had access to the data and high speed camera's and biotechnology available today. 

Here is just one small example:

 https://www.letsgotribe.com/20...be-changing-baseball

There’s no doubt that there are a lot of things in baseball that could change for the better, but that doesn’t mean everything done in the past can be done better.

Your example is scary to a lot of us Tribe fans who watch Bauer and often scratch our heads wondering WTF he’s doing. Personally, I’d rather see Bauer perfect Trevor Bauer’s pitches than try to throw clones of Cory Kluber’s!

 

I used to love pitching from the full, but never felt I could throw faster, that way. I did feel I could come over the top on my curve better than when i pitched from the stretch. My first son pitched both ways. Son #2 likes to go from the stretch only. I've encouraged him to try the full during the off season, but he gets stubborn and refuses. The things he gets from his mother! 

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