Hitting and pitching at the competitive level requires the application of a tremendous amount of kinetic energy (KE) in a very short period of time. The generation of energy over time is defined as Power, and the shorter the time the greater the power requirement. Thus, a pitcher needs a very efficient source of power and, in the human body, power comes from our muscles.

Now you might initially assume that arm muscles play the major role in accelerating the arm/s ball and bat, but try hitting a ball or throwing a pitch while sitting on a stool and you would quickly realize that the arm alone is completely inadequate for this task. In fact, the results of our thirty-seven years of research into pitching mechanics show clearly that only through a coordinated pattern of muscle contractions involving the entire body can a hitter or pitcher achieve the arm/s speed required to take a quality swing or throw a quality pitch. And it’s not just the muscles (pistons), but also the body segments (connecting rods) and joints (pivots) and connective tissue (springs) that work together in this remarkable assembly we call the human body!

If what we’ve described sounds a bit like an engine, that’s exactly what it is! Within every hitter and pitcher’s body is an engine that can potentially power the baseball swing and pitching delivery. However, unlike the engine in your car that comes from the factory pre-tuned for driving, our engine does not come pre-tuned for pitching a baseball. Our engine is more complicated (more pistons, connecting rods, pivots and springs), but also way more adaptable, as long as we train (tune) it correctly.

Pitch Out

Baseball professionals from both the coaching side and the analytic side often describe hitting and pitching mechanics in terms of upper body movements, lower body movements or as a series of mechanical “snapshots” or static events. Some have coined cute phrases for pitching mechanics, such as a “symphony of synergy.” Beethoven’s Eroica is a symphony of synergy. Hitting and pitching is raw power controlled and directed to a precise location! Those same professionals present the most minute details of movement, but often miss the “big picture” – what is the true PURPOSE of that movement. Our research has led us to define the pitching delivery in a very different manner – one that clearly shows WHY our bodies need to move in a certain way in order to hit and pitch successfully. We call those Movement patterns (not Positions), and those patterns create the Linear Engine and the Rotational Engine. We use the term Engine because that is the standard term for a mechanism that generates, concentrates and directs power for a specific purpose. Why resort to a metaphor (symphony) when there is an actual term that promotes a better understanding of the concept?

The hitting and pitching cycles consist of an initial stride phase that transitions into a rotational phase. The stride phase primarily involves linear movement of the body segments and we describe the mechanism for power generation in the stride phase as The Linear Engine. The rotational phase primarily involves angular movement of the body segments and we describe the mechanism for power generation in the angular phase as The Rotational Engine.

The movements described in The Linear and Rotational Engines are presented in the approximate order they happen; however, they should not be interpreted as a series of static events. They are a series of fluid and coordinated muscle contractions/transitions from large to small, proximal to distal, and most fixed to most free and, on occasion, overlap in time. Remember, “No one component of the pitching delivery is any more or less important than another. An efficient baseball pitching delivery is the result of all the body’s segments working in tandem.”

As we explain the Linear Engine, we describe the bio-mechanical function and efficiency of the body’s component segments during the stride phase or linear portion of the hitting or pitching cycle. The Linear Engine generates power using muscles in the legs and lower torso (large, powerful muscle groups, prime movers), and momentarily stores this power in the connective tissue (big spring) of the torso. This engine only works efficiently if movement remains linear – that is, if the beginning of the rotational phase of the trunk is delayed by counter rotation of the upper torso, until AFTER the hitter or pitcher’s foot strikes the ground. That is why, we make a clear distinction between the Linear Engine and the Rotational Engine. These two engines are indeed linked and do work together, but only in the proper kinematic sequence.