Have you read the most recent post from the always thoughtful and informative SB Nation Washington Nationals blog Federal Baseball? The thrust of it revolves around the upcoming matchup between the Nats and the St. Louis Cardinals, but what caught my attention was the accompanying photo:
OK, same pic, but with what jumped out at me highlighted – look at Cardinals phenom Shelby Miller‘s wrist at foot plant (red circle/emphasis mine):
What took me by surprise was the angle of Miller’s wrist as he is about to release the ball – he is ‘showing’ the ball towards the second baseman, what was called in my playing days the Cobra.
Let me recruit smarter and more knowledgeable folks to take over and explain, in the form of Chris O’Leary:
What’s more, by following this cue (‘showing 2b the ball’ – editor) you will significantly increase the risk of elbow problems, at least in young pitchers, by forcing them to supinate their forearms through the release point. This increases the load on the UCL (‘ulnar collateral ligament’ – editor), which can lead to growth plate problems in younger pitchers and Tommy John surgery in older pitchers.
This showing the 2B the ball, or however you want to call it, adds increased pronation of the wrist, increased supination of the forearm, while also exacerbating the valgus (outward) aspect of the movement at the elbow.
What does that mean?
While the additional torque provides a modicum of increased velocity for Miller and those who have this delivery quirk, it is probably at the expense of elbow injury down the road and possible Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery. A more relaxed wrist, with the ball being ‘shown’ to the first baseman for a right-handed pitcher (3B for a lefty), could alleviate some of this additional elbow and wrist stress and possibly delay any elbow injury matters. While the long-term success of those who incorporate this hitch in their mechanics is yet to be determined, if O’Leary’s research – who has recently shared his wisdom with the Nats on a consultant basis – is to be believed, the reduction of this mechanical quirk along with the dreaded ‘inverted W’ could alleviate many of the injuries encountered by MLB hurlers.
A picture is worth a thousand words; sometimes, it saves you a trip to Dr. James Andrews.