The so-called “natural” pitching motion
Anytime there’s a discussion of fastpitch pitching v. baseball pitching, sooner or later the phrase “natural pitching motion” will come up. There is a belief that softball pitchers can pitch every day, all day, because it is natural, whereas a baseball pitching motion is not.
The fact is, there’s nothing really “natural” about fastpitch mechanics. They do tend to work somewhat better with the construction of the shoulder, perhaps, but that’s a long way from natural.
I think it was my friend Coach Rich who pointed out the proof to me. Watch a kid pick up a rock and throw it. He/she throws it overhand. Watch a National Geographic special and see how the indigneous population in non-industrialized countries throw rocks at game they’re trying to get for dinner. They throw overhand. If you’re trying to knock over pyramid of milk bottles at a carnival, you’ll throw overhand. Even fastpitch pitchers will likely throw overhand.
The truth is, it’s a lot more natural to throw overhand than underhand. I’ve spoken to baseball pitching coaches who are just fascinated by the fastpitch pitching motion. These experts on pitching baseballs can’t figure out how anybody can throw a ball with the kind of speed and accuracy fastpitch pitchers do. Especially female ones. They understand the overhand throw, but the underhand motion is completely foreign to them.
There is also a belief that because the fastpitch motion (when properly executed) works better with the shoulder than an overhand pitch that it is stress-free. Or nearly so. That’s not true either. As evidence, I offer these photos (courtesy of Mike Zupec) of my own daughter pitching in a recent game:
Notice the muscles in her upper arm, forearm, hand and shoulders. Hardly looks like her body is not under stress. Actually, we all think it’s kind of gross, but it certainly illustrates the kind of strain the arm and shoulder have to endure when a pitcher is putting forth maximum effort. Understand she is not a “power pitcher” either. She’s small and light, more of a finesse pitcher who needs to hit corners, change speeds, and move the ball in order to succeed. Her speed comes from mechanics and effort, not raw strength like some.
The fastpitch motion is not stress-free, nor is it “natural.” One more reason why conditioning and rest are so critical to a pitcher’s long-term success. And why pitchers should shut down for a little while when their season is over.