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Does the pitcher really push off the rubber....

Traditionalists have lent a lot of color, romance, and know-how to the national pastime and they deserve to be loved, honored, but not always obeyed. Their hearts are always in the highlands, but their heads are sometimes left in the parking lot.

They are critical of anything that challenges the way the game was played in 1911. And so we weren't surprised at the way they received a new concept about the application of force in pitching.

A small but ardent band of free thinkers are claiming that the back foot does not push off the rubber, but is pulled off by the powerful rotation of the hips and trunk.

Strangely, it isn't a young turk who is spearheading the non-conformists. It is a respected former major league pitcher named Dick Mills (Boston Red Sox, 1970). He explained it all very clearly and persuasively in one of his special newsletters from Scottsdale, AZ.

We have to admit, he impressed us. But we had a reservation. Since we are not scientists and have no laboratory for experimentation, how could we validate the new theorem?

We started with the technical baseball literature. As we expected, every author claimed that the pitcher achieves velocity by pushing off the rubber with the back foot.

We then called up a few veteran pitchers whose judgement we respect. They all endorsed the push off the rubber. We then called several of the younger college coaches we know.

Bingo! They believed that Mills had it right, and they also told us that even Nolan Ryan, the venerable traditionalist, has become a convert.

We knew what had to be done. The debate needed a big voice - a supreme arbiter, someone who had done it all on the field and in the laboratory, someone who commanded instant respect.

The answer came to us immediately. Nobody had better credentials than Dr. Mike Marshall - a Cy Young winner, a genuine scientist with degrees in kinesiology and related sciences, a pioneer in high-speed photography at Michigan State University, and who had even taught science in the classroom.

We put together a few samples of the new thinking and dispatched them to the good doctor at his pitching school in Zephyrhills, FL.

A week or so later came the typical Mike Marshall response - succinct, positive, absolute, inarguable... Check the slightly shortened version of the letter he sent us on June 18.

The pivotal thought remains: Is it a push from the rubber with the back foot that supplies the force for the pitch or is the force generated from a powerful rotation of the hips and trunk that lifts the back foot off the rubber?

RELATED ARTICLE: A letter from Mike Marshall on the principle of pushing off the rubber with the back foot.

When I discuss any scientific aspect of pitching, I never offer opinions. I interpret the relevant scientific principles.

Question: During the forward application of force in the pitching motion, should the pitcher apply force against the rubber with his ipsilateral leg?

The relevant scientific principle is Sir Isaac Newton's third law of motion - the law of reaction.

My textbook cites Newton's law of reaction as, "To every action force, there is an equal and opposing opposite reaction force"

I interpret this for pitchers (Marshall's third law of force application) as follows:

"For pitchers to increase the force they apply to pitches toward home plate, they must increase the force they apply towards second base."

Since the primary body part used in applying force toward second base is the feet, I have to conclude that pitchers should apply force against the rubber with their ipsilateral leg.
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Title Annotation:pitching mechanics; Baseball
Author:Masin, Herman L.
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Sep 1, 1999
Previous Article:Correct positioning: key to a tough defense.
Next Article:The punting game: the unnoticed phenomenon.

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