What the wrist really contributes in pitching
I’ve written before about the myth of the wrist in pitching — how coaches and players put so much emphasis on developing a hard wrist snap through drills despite the fact that the wrist actually contributes very little to power. This past weekend I had the opportunity to see a good example of that in action.
Having some free time on my hands, I went to check out a local tournament. I thought I might get an opportunity to see a couple of students or former players playing (which I did).
While I was there, I saw one girl pitching who to me was the epitome of the “snap your wrist honey” school. She would step off the pitching rubber, make her arm circle, then pretty much stop the circle at the bottom and snap her wrist violently.
As you might expect, her pitches were rather slow, and had somewhat of an arc to them. But I’m sure someone, somewhere taught it to her and thought she was doing a great job. Despite the fact that she was getting pounded pretty hard.
The wrist’s main jobs are to transfer power from the rest of the motion to the ball, and to impart spin in the right direction. It is not a power source in and of itself. Think of it like a car.
The body, the arm, the whipping motion are all the things that create power; they are the engine. The wrist is the transmission that delivers that power to the wheels. While both are essential, by itself the transmission doesn’t do diddly. If you have the world’s greatest transmission and a weak engine, your car isn’t going to go very fast.
Performing endless wrist snap drills to develop power is a waste of time. Especially since there are no actual muscles in the wrist; the muscles that move the wrist extend from the forearm to the hand. Keeping the wrist loose and allowing it to snap quickly at the end of the windmill chain will work far better to impart speed to the ball.
But what about all those exercises to develop the wrist, like the forearm curl? They work because they’re building strength in the forearms, not the wrist, which provides greater stability to the wrist and allows more efficient power transfer.
If you want to increase speed, forget the wrist flips. Focus on developing the whip, and allow the wrist to do its thing.