CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
- STATEMENT RE: FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH/DEVELOPMENT
The present invention is directed to methods for assessing biomechanical efficiency as its relates to the performance of making pitching or throwing motions.
The sport of baseball is well-known in the art, and essential to such sport is the pitcher. The mechanics of pitching, although generally well understood, are complicated. Along these lines, not only are the biomechanics associated with the pitching motion complex, further complicating factors arise due to the specific physics and motions of the particular ball that is pitched, whether it be a curve ball, change-up, slider, knuckle ball, fast ball, and the like. In this regard, each particular pitch has its own unique characteristics and physics associated therewith.
Further compounding the complexities associated with the pitching motions is the unique “signature” motion that each individual makes when throwing a pitch. In this respect, and despite prior art techniques that are operative to teach uniform throwing motions, each individual pitcher will make distinctive throwing motions and exhibit unique biomechanical changes that are unique to that individual. As a consequence, in order to make a proper assessment of a pitcher's pitching ability, as well as to provide effective coaching, is it imperative to not only take conventional throwing biomechanics into consideration, there must further be considered how those mechanics apply to the unique throwing style of a specific pitcher.
- BRIEF SUMMARY
Unfortunately, however, there has not heretofore been available any type of methodology for assessing pitching performance (i.e., in terms of biomechanical efficiency of the pitching delivery) that not only takes into account the critical motions or points associated with the delivery of a pitch but also takes into account the unique “signature” of an individual in making this delivery. There is likewise lacking in the art any type of method for assessing the biomechanical efficiency of a pitcher making a pitching motion that can be utilized to evaluate all types of pitchers and pitching motions, and further can be utilized as a coaching tool to ensure the pitcher's biomechanical efficiency is conserved when making a pitching motion. Still further, there is lacking in the art any type of methodology for assessing the biomechanical efficiency of a pitcher making a pitching motion that can be used to not only evaluate, correct and improve pitching performance, but can further be utilized to predict potential injury that can arise with incorrect or suboptimal biomechanical pitching delivery as well as predict a pitcher's longevity.
The present invention specifically addresses and alleviates the above-deficiencies in the art. In this regard, the present invention is directed to a method for assessing the biomechanical efficiency of a pitcher's pitching delivery, regardless of the pitcher's unique “signature” throwing style. The methodology of the present invention further can be utilized as part of a coaching model to improve the pitcher's biomechanical efficiency of his pitching delivery, and may be likewise utilized as a tool to predict potential strain of a pitcher based upon his or her pitching motions, and can further be utilized to predict the longevity of an individual's pitching ability.
To that end, the present invention provides for a time line within which multiple critical points of a pitcher's delivery are identified and assessed. The critical points consist of balance and posture, lift and thrust, stride and momentum, equal and opposite, delayed shoulder rotation, stack and track, swivel and stabilize, and ball release, which when completed from start to finish defines the entire pitching motion. Crucial to the present invention is for the pitcher to perform or move through certain of the critical points within certain time frames. In this regard, lift and thrust and the stride and momentum points along the pitching delivery time line, which begin with a first forward movement to a foot strike position, must be made between 0.95 seconds and 1.05 seconds in order for the pitcher to optimize biomechanical efficiency of the pitching delivery. Similarly, the equal and opposite, delayed shoulder rotation, stack and track and swivel and stabilize motions must be performed preferably within 1.25 to 1.35 seconds from the initiation of the pitching motion. Still further, the pitcher optimally completes the release of the pitch by approximately 1.925 to 2.025 seconds from the initiation of the pitching motion.
To the extent a pitcher, using his unique signature throwing style, can perform the critical motions within the respective time frames, optimal biomechanical efficiency of the pitching delivery will be realized. To the extent one or more critical points is not properly made or made within the time constraints for achieving optimal biomechanical efficiency, appropriate coaching may be made to improve that particular aspect of the individual's pitching delivery. In this respect, regardless of which specific critical point is sub-optimally performed, to the extent each critical point can be performed within the time ranges specified for performing such motion(s) optimal biomechanical efficiency of the pitcher's delivery will be substantially conserved. Alternatively, to the extent these critical points cannot be performed within the specified time ranges, such inability can be indicative of a pitcher's incapability of maximizing biomechanical efficiency and thus can predict decline in performance and susceptibility to injury, the latter being caused by strain and overexertion of the pitching delivery.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Advantageously, the methods of the present invention can serve as extremely useful tools in evaluating pitching performance, especially in relation to recruiting and drafting pitchers on the collegiate and professional levels. The methods can further be used as coaching methods to correct and improve upon a pitcher's existing biomechanical efficiencies, and likewise as a means of predicting potential injury and loss of pitching talent. The methods are also capable of being easily deployed, do not require substantial biomechanical analysis, can be utilized to evaluate the performance of any individual pitcher regardless of his or her unique pitching style, and may be readily deployed using known, existing biomechanical assessment technology.
These and other features and advantages of the various embodiments disclosed herein will be better understood with respect to the following description and drawing, in which like numbers refer to like parts throughout, and in which:
FIG. 1 is a pitching delivery timeline for assessing biomechanical efficiency of the pitching delivery.
Referring now to the drawing wherein the showings are for purposes of illustrating embodiments of the present invention only and not for purposes of limiting the same, there is shown in FIG. 1 a pitching delivery timeline 12 for use in assessing biomechanical efficiency of the pitching delivery 10. In this regard, the teachings of the present invention are set forth in the Applicant's publication entitled The Art and Science of Pitching as most recently published by Coaches Choice™ and the National Pitching Association, the teachings of which are expressly incorporated herein by reference.
The pitching delivery timeline 12 is dissected into multiple critical points of a pitcher's 14 delivery. The pitching assessor coach can determine strengths and weaknesses for each critical point in the pitching delivery timeline 12 or the assessor may determine strengths or weaknesses for a combination of critical points along the pitching delivery timeline 12. The pitcher 14 with inefficient mechanics and poor timing is limiting his/her potential control, consistency, and velocity, as well as exposure to an increased risk of injury.
In this regard, the pitching motion is a complex movement that requires the body to coordinate and time the energy transfer through the body and onto the baseball; however, the optional pitching delivery is comprised of a set of events that happen, as discovered by the Applicant, in a set sequence within specific timing parameters. To maximize the efficiency of the delivery, each of these respective events must be executed in the correct sequence within the right timeframe. Thus, the delivery timeline 12 provides an assessor with a method for assessing biomechanical efficiency of the pitching delivery 10 to determine the pitcher's 14 potential, regardless of the pitcher's unique throwing style.
The first critical point is a balance and posture 16 position. The balance and posture 16 position initiates with a setup 18 also commonly referred to as a pitching stance. The setup 18 is an initial starting position that will facilitate absorbing, directing, and delivering energy. The setup 18 requires balance which involves aligning the pitcher's 14 head, spine, and belly button between the ball of the foot at the start of delivery, when the knees are flexed and the weight is equally distributed between the feet, which are spread within the width of the torso. Posture involves finding a spine to hip angle, as well as an angle of flexion in the knees that will stabilize and maintain the head and spine, while the body remains in-line to the plate with little or no head movement throughout the pitcher's 14 delivery. The balance and posture 16 position is completed with a first forward movement 20. The first forward movement 20 initiates a time t0 22, for assessing the critical points of the pitching delivery. The time is used for comparison with the established time requirements of the method for assessing biomechanical efficiency of the pitching delivery, as will be discussed in further detail below. The assessor uses the first critical point, balance and posture 16, to determine if the pitcher 14 can facilitate absorbing, directing, and delivering energy to the baseball before the pitcher 14 makes any movement in the pitching delivery.
The first forward movement 20 leads into the second critical point along the pitching delivery timeline 12 known as a lift and thrust 24. The pitcher's 14 first forward movement 20 must accomplish shifting total body critical mass toward home plate by leading with the rear end. The lift and thrust 24 concludes with a maximum leg lift 26. The maximum leg lift 26 is the maximum height or the maximum distance toward second base reached by the pitcher's 14 lift knee. The maximum leg lift 26 occurs when the pitcher 14 lifts the front leg as high or as far toward second base as possible. For example, if the pitcher 14 is pitching right-handed, the leg that is lifted off the ground is the left leg. Both the first forward movement 20 and:the maximum leg lift 26 must be accomplished without compromising balance and posture 16. A proper maximum leg lift 26 will maximize stride length and stride speed, thus optimizing the available energy created by linear weight transfer into later points on the pitching delivery timeline 12. This second critical point helps the assessor determine if the pitcher 14 transitions from the first forward movement 20 to the maximum leg lift 26 in a manner that will optimize the velocity and control of the baseball.
The maximum leg lift 26 leads into the third critical point along the pitching delivery timeline 12 classified as a stride and momentum 28 movement or motion. Stride is the distance and direction the pitcher's body travels from back foot into front foot contact. Stride is affected by lift leg height and lift leg angle with the head and spine staying upright, in line, and behind the body from first forward movement 20 throughout the stride and momentum 28 critical point. Momentum is maximized when the body only moves forward on stride and direction line. Stride and momentum 28 concludes with a foot strike 30. The foot strike 30 occurs when the first foot contacts the ground with the pitcher's 14 stride leg. The foot strike 30 is a critical measuring point along the pitching delivery timeline 12 because it corresponds to a time, t1 32. The elapsed time between the first forward movement 20 and the foot strike 30 is represented by t1-t0. The time elapsed between the first forward movement 20 and the foot strike 30 should be between 0.95 seconds and 1.05 seconds. Thus, the lift and thrust 24 and the stride and momentum 28 points along the pitching delivery timeline must be between 0.95 seconds and 1.05 seconds in order for the pitcher 14 to optimize biomechanical efficiency of the pitching delivery 10. The time requirement between the first forward movement 20 and the foot strike 30 is an essential assessment tool, because if the pitcher 14 is outside the required time range, this will notify the assessor that the pitcher has a weakness. That weakness may manifest itself by way of decreased ball velocity, decreased control of the ball, or it may make the pitcher 14 more prone to injury. This information may prove very valuable when assessing the pitcher 14. Conversely, if the pitcher 14 is within the range of time required by the pitching delivery timeline 12, this will notify the assessor that the pitcher's 14 movement between the first forward movement 20 and the foot strike 30 is solid and should be considered a strong point in the pitcher's 14 pitching delivery.
The foot strike 30 leads into the fourth critical point, namely, equal and opposite 32 arms position. The equal and opposite 32 arms position is important for balance and timing throughout the delivery, and refers to the “mirror imaging” in position of the glove arm to the throwing arm. In other words, from the time the hands separate the ball and glove, to the time the ball and throwing forearm lay back into external rotation, every joint in both arms, hands to wrist angle, forearms to elbows angle, elbows to shoulders angle, will be equal on both sides of the body. The equal and opposite 32 position helps coordinate body balance, posture, stride direction, and momentum with the timing and translation of weight transfer and kinetic sequencing during a pitching delivery. The equal and opposite 32 position concludes with a maximum shoulder separation 34. The maximum shoulder separation 34 is required for maximizing and stabilizing the optimal angle difference between the front hip and back shoulder. If the maximum shoulder separation 34 is done properly it may optimize the translation of energy generated by total-body linear momentum into hip and shoulder rotational momentum.
The maximum shoulder separation 34 leads into a delayed shoulder rotation 36 critical point. The delayed shoulder rotation 36 requires the pitcher to refrain from allowing the back shoulder to start rotating forward until the body is as close to home plate as stride, momentum, strength, and flexibility will allow. Optimal energy translation requires efficient total-body timing and sequencing on the stride line, keeping the hips and shoulders separated, and delaying the rotation of the throwing shoulder as long as possible while the torso moves toward home plate. The delayed shoulder rotation 36 contributes substantially to the rotational momentum of the pitcher 14.
The delayed shoulder rotation 36 ends when the pitcher 14 is in a position where the shoulders are squared up perpendicular to home plate 40. The next critical point is referred to as a stack and track 38. The stack and track 38 occurs when the hips and shoulders rotate and shoulders square up perpendicular to the home plate 40, the lower back is in full extension, head and spine stay upright as legs deliver torso on stride and direction line to the home plate. Stack refers to torso posture staying upright and vertical with the head over the shoulders, as the hips and shoulders sequence their rotation around the spine. Track refers to the torso continuing to move forward, while the legs deliver the hips, and the hips rotate the shoulders and square up to home plate. The stack and track 38 concludes with the pitcher's 14 forearm back in external rotation 42.
The following critical point is a swivel and stabilize 44 movement. The swivel and stabilize 44 movement combined with the stack and track 38 make up the final phase of timing and sequencing in the pitching delivery. As the shoulders rotate and square up perpendicular to the target, the throwing forearm lays back in external rotation 42, and the glove swivels to stabilize over the landing foot, somewhere in front of the torso between shoulders and belly button. Done properly, the swivel and stabilize movement helps maximize the efficiency of directional or linear momentum and the rotational momentum of the hips and shoulders. The glove must stabilize and then stop to direct and help the pitcher time the final sequencing of energy coming up through the body into the throwing arm. Sequencing the swivel and stabilize movement 44 involves stopping the glove over the front foot in front of the torso; swiveling the glove at that point to a “glove up, palm to torso” position; stabilizing the glove elbow in a slot straight under the armpit; and squaring the shoulders up as the torso tracks to the glove. The swivel and stabilize 44 movement ends with a ball release 46. The ball release is the exact position and moment the baseball leaves the pitcher's 46 hand.
The ball release 46 is another critical measuring point along the pitching delivery timeline 12, because it corresponds to a time, t2 48. The elapsed time between the first forward movement 20 and the ball release 46 is represented by t2-t0. The time required by the pitching delivery timeline 12 to elapse between the first forward movement and the ball release 46 is 1.25 to 1.35 seconds. Thus, if the pitcher 14 is outside the time range, the assessor will know that the pitcher 14 has a weakness in the pitching delivery between the two movements. Additionally, t2-t1 represents the time elapsed between the foot strike 30 and the ball release 46. Therefore, the assessor may dissect and critique a certain sequence in the pitching delivery timeline 12. For example, the pitching delivery timeline 12 requires a time between 0.2 and 0.4 seconds elapsed between the foot strike 30 and the ball release 46, also known as the pitch cycle. The pitch cycle is an important part of the pitching delivery because everything that happens prior to the ball release simply prepares the pitcher to be in the optimal position to deliver the ball effectively. Release point happens after the foot strike 30 from the ground up, efficiently timing and sequencing each successive link of energy in the pitcher's body out onto the baseball. If the pitcher cannot complete the critical points between the foot strike and the ball release within the required time, the assessor may conclude that the pitcher has weaknesses in that particular area of the pitching delivery.
The ball release 46 should occur as close to home plate as genetics, biomechanics, strength, and flexibility will allow. The ball release 46 occurs at the end of the swivel and stabilize 44 critical point and initiates the final critical point, a release 50. If the release 50 is efficient it demonstrates proper timing and sequencing of the pitcher's 14 kinetic energy chain. An efficient release 50 point occurs 8 to 12 inches in front of the landing foot and is sequenced when torso has tracked as far forward as strength, flexibility, and momentum will allow, shoulders have squared up perpendicular to the target, throwing arm has laid back in maximum external rotation and glove has swiveled over front foot. At this point and time the low back initiates flexion and throwing forearm snaps forward with internal rotation to deliver the ball in an arm path unique to each pitcher. The back foot should not come off the ground until the baseball leaves the throwing hand and the back foot drag line should end on the center line between the middle of rubber and the middle of home plate. At the end of the release 50 point is a follow through 52. The follow through 52 should take place with little or no head movement. The pitcher's eyes remain stable and focused on the target until the ball crosses home plate. The follow through 52 is an important point because it allows the assessor to determine whether the motions prior to the follow through 52 are efficient. Basically, the more efficient the pitcher 14 is until the ball is released, the more efficient the follow through 52 will be after the release 50. At the end of the release 50 a time t3 54 is recorded which, concludes the pitching delivery timeline 12.
The time t3-t0 represents the time elapsed from the first forward movement 20 until the follow through 52. This time should be between 1.925 and 2.025 seconds for that range of motion to be considered efficient. The time t3-t1 represents the time elapsed from the foot strike 30 until the follow through 52. This time should be between 0.875 and 1.075 seconds for that range of motion to be considered efficient. The time t3-t2 represents the time elapsed from the ball release 46 until the follow through 52. This time should be between 0.575 and 0.775 seconds for that range of motion to be considered efficient. If any of the times along the pitching delivery timeline 12 recorded for the pitcher 14 is not within the ranges discussed above, then this signifies an inefficient range of motion for a particular set of critical points.
While an illustrative and present embodiment of the invention has been described in detail herein, it is to be understood that the inventive concepts may be otherwise variously embodied and employed. It should further be understood that the invention described herein may be utilized in a wide variety of applications that will be readily appreciated by those skilled in the art, which can include recruiting/drafting players, rehabilitation, and pitcher training, among others. It should also be appreciated that the present invention may find applications for other sports where the optimal ability to throw, such as football, plays an important role.