Brad Penny and the Intent to Throw HARD
I want to talk a bit about intent. Intent is defined as how hard one is trying to throw the ball. Intent is a major–and often overlooked–factor in producing velocity.
You hear about relievers “letting it loose” because they can throw to their max almost every pitch, while a starter must pace their self to so they can last 6+ innings. This relates to intent.
Another area where you’ll see a pitcher’s intent vary is when a pitcher returns from injury. When Brad Penny returned from a shoulder injury earlier in the year, Penny looked to be holding back. Before his injury, Penny would routinely hit the mid-90′s with his fastball.
I have two clips below. The clip on the left is of Penny on August 8th, in his first start back after injuring his shoulder. The clip on the right shows Penny in a start on May 13th. The May 13th clip shows Penny throwing a 97 mph fastball (which was Penny’s max for that day) and the fastball thrown during the August 8th start was clocked at 90 mph
Penny’s average fastball velocity during that August 8th game was 88 mph, while the average fastball velocity in Penny’s May 13th outing was 93.3 mph.
Now, does the intent that each pitch is thrown with account for the entire 7 mph difference? Probably not…but you can bet that it accounts for a major chunk of it.
You’ll notice in the clip on the left, Penny is further along in his delivery. Yet, the release points are virtually the same. This tells us that Penny’s tempo is faster in the right clip than on the left. This should account for some of the difference in velocity though it all relates back to the intent Penny chooses to throw with.
Penny’s arm action is also a little more whip-like when he has the intention to throw hard. A whip-like arm action is very important when it comes to generating velocity. Here are some other noticeable differences, all of which come after release:
1. At release – the head jerks to the left when there is an intent to throw hard, while it is much more still, without much movement when the intent isn’t there.
2. Follow through – again, take note of the head movement. The force from throwing with intent shows up in the movement of Penny’s head.
Where is Penny’s head facing as the ball travels to home plate? In the clip on the left, Penny’s head is more or less facing home plate though his body is tilted to the left.
In the right clip, Penny’s head is buried down and to the left, looking somewhere in the direction of the mid-point between home plate and first base. Again, this violent jerking of the head is an indicator that he is trying to throw HARD.
3. Recoil – Penny’s arm recoils no matter what kind of intent he throws with, but it’s much more violent when throwing with more intent. Recoil in the arm is something that increases the injury risk of a pitcher.
4. Glove arm – Penny’s glove arm is more forcefully moved back after release when throwing with more intent
5. Back leg – Penny’s back leg swing is much more violent, which is one of the biggest cues when looking for the intent to throw hard.
So sometimes generating velocity isn’t about mechanical changes or filling out one’s frame; sometimes it’s about the intent in which one throws with. Does that mean all pitchers should go out and “let it loose”, all the time? Obviously not, but it’s something that should be considered for a pitcher that is working to increase velocity, especially if that pitcher is able to maintain they’re command/control.
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References used for this article: MLB Advanced Media
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