By Guest Contributor Scott Warfe
After years of mechanical “tweaks,” Zito’s new leg-centric mechanics might be a step in the right direction.
I know: this discussion is all too reminiscent of 2011, when Zito was working on increasing his velocity by decreasing his grip on the ball or, better yet, in 2010, when he roguishly declared that pitching is “99 percent mental,” a skill-set he was working to engage.
But, legs are serious business.
According to Jordana Bieze Foster of BioMechanics, “[the] lower extremities and trunk provide extra momentum and power during hitting and throwing, as well as stability and agility during fielding and base running.” Lenny Macrina, PT, CSCS, confirms this, noting that “[the] more we break down the throwing motion, the more we see the importance of the legs, in the push off and rotational component that’s also part of most sports” (qtd. in Foster).
Still, the necessity of legs to create power is somewhat intuitive, so the question is: just how important are legs?
Well, David Wm. Yeager, ATC, CSCS has found that “60% of the forces originate from the hips and lower extremities and are transferred through the core to the upper extremity.”
This seems pretty important, which speaks well to Zito’s newest get-velocity-quick-scheme.
Zito described his mechanic tweaking as “getting in [his] legs a little bit,” which is cryptic, at best. But, the converting leg momentum to arm speed theory holds up under scrutiny. In the study “Relationship of Pelvis and Upper Torso Kinematics to Pitched Baseball Velocity,” researchers found that “average pelvis velocity during arm cocking and average upper torso velocity during arm acceleration increased as ball velocity increased.” In other words, the more torque generated by the lower extremities, the more velocity created in the upper extremities. The National Pitching Association Velocity Study is in accordance, finding that “80% of a pitcher’s real velocity comes from rotational momentum.”
That said, I am not willing to suggest that Zito is ripe for redemption just yet. But I do think that if he were ever going to regain his velocity, this off-season’s adjustment would be the one to do it. That is, for the first — in a long time — Zito appears to have the right focus.
However, the NPA Velocity Study illustrates one major caveat to velocity: the need for efficient movement.
Aye, therein lies the rub. To read about the efficiency of Zito’s wind-up, click here.