Monday, April 27, 2009

So which is it: throw MORE or LESS?

At this point, I am not sure what's the best way to build long term arm strength for pitchers. Is it throw more, like Tommy John, Leo Mazzone and Nolan Ryan espouse, or is it throw less, as clearly the Yanks' BP coach (and Little League coaches from coast to coast) preach?

Well, score one for the Yanks' BP coach, this time:

Brian Bruney returned to Boston but is on the DL after being diagnosed with a strained flexor mass in his right elbow. "I don't feel like it's a serious, serious injury," he said.

Bruney said he plans to revise his routine between games and throw less. He said bullpen coach Mike Harkey has encouraged him to throw less in the past, but he did not listen. Bruney called the injury his own fault.
I'm generally from the school that would preach usage vs. rest, that you can't run a marathon by training in one mile sprints. You need to train your arm and body to handle the stress and strain of throwing and you can only do that by throwing. Not soft-tossing, but throwing from the bump and long tossing in the OF.

At least that's what I think I think.


JamesGang said...

I'd have to agree that throwing more and trying (under some control/supervision) to strengthen the arm seems like the most obvious way of gaining endurance and keeping healthy. I'm very curious to see how Nolan's new idea in Texas turns out, and really hope it doesn't blow up on him or his pitchers.(Disclaimer: Nolan Ryan = my boyhood hero)

Alex K said...

I go back and forth on this. I see both sides, and I can't seem to choose one over the other. I think it all really just depends on the individual arm. A guy like Rich Harden obviously doesn't want to throw too much between starts as he has a knack for getting hurt, so why not save the good ones for the times that count?

Bill said...

I think that generally, the "throw less" people have history and common sense on their side here.

There are a lot of things you can do to strengthen your arm, but pitching is a very unnatural thing for the human body to do, and I think it's only slight exaggeration/hyperbole to say that the human arm only has so many pitches in it. The number is different for everybody, and it's certainly not a blanket 100 pitches/start, but there's a number nonetheless. The biggest problem at the moment is that guys who had either extraordinary luck or extraordinarily high numbers in their own arms (like Ryan and Blyleven), and a lot of the people who grew up idolizing those guys, lack the perspective to realize how unique and special they really were.

If I were Neftali Feliz's agent, I'd be doing everything I possibly could to get him the hell out of the Texas system right now. Scary stuff.

Zach Sanders said...

I'm conflicted on this. As a former pitcher, I was encouraged to rest, and never really developed enough arm strength to be truly effective in multiple innings.

The key is how that arm strength is built up. Teams tend to try to do this too quickly, and throw a pitcher into the fire early.

If given enough time, pitching more to build up arm strength (at a slow rate) is the best way to go in my mind.